To eat or not to eat? That is the question

By on September 1, 2011
In my efforts to eliminate the last ten pounds I gained while pregnant with our son, I have spent the last few years trying every diet imaginable. Despite modest success, none of these plans seemed to stick – or rather I wasn’t able to stick to them – for any length of time. As each diet had its own version of what to eat, avoid, count, and curb, this diet experimentation caused me considerable confusion over what I should or shouldn’t eat.As I also began to notice that I was having issues with low energy and poor digestion, I sought the services of a holistic nutritionist. I was excited about her recommendations, but as they went counter to the rules of “healthy” eating proposed by the diets I had been on, I once again found myself feeling confused about what really was the best way for me to eat. In discussing this with my husband, I commented that when I lived in Japan I was the lowest weight and highest energy I had ever been, yet it had seemed effortless to maintain. He asked me a very profound question: What made it so easy for you to eat in a way that felt good in Japan?

I realized that there were two factors – my external and internal environment – that supported me in effortlessly adopting a style of eating that felt good for both
physically and spiritually.

In the external environment, certain foods such as the western-style bread and cheeses that I liked were either unavailable or cost prohibitive so I eliminated them.  I found Japanese-style coffee too strong for my taste and Starbucks lattes were nonexistent so I embraced green tea. Through my nutritionist, I now know these to be key factors in my excess weight, low energy and digestive issues.

My environment also made it easier to eat in a way that was in alignment with my values, thus increasing my energy in ways that went beyond simple physical health. My closest friends were very health and environmental conscious. When we went out to eat it was at places that served healthy organic food. In addition, because they tended to be cheaper, I naturally gravitated towards fruit and veggies that were local and in season. Not only was this a healthier way to eat physically, it felt energizing to be doing something good for the planet as well.

Finally, while in Japan I began studying Buddhism and practicing meditation on a regular basis. As mindfulness became part of my everyday life this external influence shifted my internal environment to the point that I was acutely aware of how the foods I consumed impacted my body. I stopped drinking alcohol when I noticed that even a few sips instantly started to make me feel tired. I slowly eliminated meat as I noticed how sluggish I felt after eating it. I ate more veggies, seaweed and brown rice as I became aware of how great my body felt when eating these foods instead.

Of course it is possible to live in Japan and not be impacted by the environment. One friend was in Japan because her husband worked for the US military. They lived in an American style house across from the American School in Japan and shopped almost exclusively on the American Military base. From the pasta to the Pizza Pops, once I stepped inside their house it was difficult to tell that I was in Japan. Rather than getting healthier and losing weight in Japan, she gained weight.

At the end of the day, I realized that all of the naturally occurring environmental factors that had helped me to be healthy and energetic in Japan were conscious choices I could make no matter where I was to create an environment that supported my whole health. I can choose to not keep those foods that steal my energy readily available in my house. I can choose to cultivate friendships with health conscious people who share my values. I can choose to walk or cycle rather than driving. If you are living in Japan and struggling with improving your health or energy, look to your environment and think about how you can consciously cultivate or align with it to support you in reaching your goals.

Andrea Jacques, founder of Kyosei Consulting International, has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of individuals and organizations worldwide. Five of these years were spent in Japan where the core philosophies of her work on the relationship between passion, performance, and profits took shape. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates leading eastern and western thought with top-tier leadership, engagement, wellness and sustainability consulting to build the capacity of people and business to thrive. Her clients represent a diverse cross-section of industries including banking, retail, government, insurance, academia and high-tech. She can be contacted through her website at

About Andrea Jacques

Andrea Jacques is the founder of Kyosei Consulting and the author of Wabi-Sabi Wisdom: Inspiration for an Authentic Life (available on She has spent more than 20 years developing the potential of people and businesses worldwide, five of which were in Japan. A dynamic speaker, coach, and facilitator, her work integrates spiritual insight with top-tier leadership, wellness and sustainability consulting to help individuals and organizations build thriving, purpose-driven cultures where employees know their work truly matters. She can be contacted through her website at