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Steve Jobs, Macrobiotics and Facebook Discussions

October 25, 2011

20111025-111200.jpg Given the newsworthy relevance of Steve Jobs and macrobiotics, I have decided to share some excerpts of a discussion that is going on in the Facebook group, “Macrobiotics”, concerning Steve’s regret of postponing surgery and opting for a macrobiotic dietary approach to address his pancreatic cancer. I plan to write a full blog in addition to posting these excerpts. If you wish to follow these ongoing discussions please join the group, “Macrobiotics”, on Facebook. Comments have been edited and identities have been omitted.

[Facebook User 1]:

(CBS News) Apple CEO Steve Jobs refused to allow surgeons to perform what could have been life-saving surgery on his pancreatic cancer, says his biographer Walter Isaacson. In one of his deepest discussions with him, Isaacson says Jobs told him he regretted his decision to try alternative therapies and said he put off the operation because it was too invasive.
Complete coverage: Steve Jobs: 1955-2011
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Tonight at 7 Steve Jobs and macrobiotics…Channel 27
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Preview: Steve Jobs – 60 Minutes – CBS News
‎60 Minutes on CBS News: Preview: Steve Jobs – Apple CEO Steve Jobs refused to allow surgeons to perform what could have been life-saving surgery on his pancreatic cancer, says his biographer Walter Isaacson. Hear more of Isaacson’s revelations about Jobs in his first interview about his biography “S…
Sunday at 9:25am · Like · 1 person

[Facebook User 2]

Thank you for sharing this. I did find Steve Crofts comment “How could such a brilliant man do such a stupid thing” to be offensive. I give Mr. Jobs kudos for trying alternative healing modalities but here are times Western Medicine is an important part of healing. And lets not forget Faith.

[Phiya Kushi] ( me ):

I deeply regret the loss of Steve Jobs and others like him who may have been helped by taking a different path. But one can never know for certain the future consequences of actions never taken. A lot of people refuse surgery and some get well and some don’t. Likewise many opt for surgery and get worse while others may get better. It is highly circumstantial and individual. It isn’t a guarantee that Jobs would have been healed by surgery and conventional medicine. Certainly his symptoms may have been temporarily cut out and removed but without a total and trans-formative lifestyle change, and not one just limited to diet, his cancer would have most probably have come back.

Living a highly competitive lifestyle where, as in Jobs case, he declared “thermonuclear war” on Google for copying his iPhone and that he vowed to spend every last penny he made to destroy Google, is not really the healthiest of attitudes and lifestyles. I personally believe that such an all-consuming destructive attitude in itself, is/was a function of his illness. Would he have been willing to give that up for the sake of his health? Probably not since that was his life’s dream.

What bothers me more is that people mistakenly view macrobiotics as “an alternative” when it is embracive of all healing modalities. Macrobiotic healing emphasizes reflecting on and changing one daily life habits including what we eat and how we live, as the initial and fundamental steps to take but also considers whatever emergency medical procedures may need to be taken in serious cases (see: ) .

I also wonder who was guiding him macrobiotically and am wary that Jobs may not have received the best macrobiotic guidance available to him. It is unfortunate that this happened but I also believe that macrobiotic movement is deserved of such a blow from the media for its own arrogance and ego-driven competitiveness (or lack of cooperation) among its advocates. It will continue to receive such negative press until its leaders organize themselves, work together, cooperate and come to terms with each other by holding themselves and each other accountable for their successes and failures in helping others heal. Just my opinion.

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[Facebook User 3]:

Beautifully said, Phiya. But wherever you have human beings, you will have some flaws. I wouldn’t put all the blame on mb teachers, tho there could always be room for improvement, I agree. Changing society is a huge challenge and will, of course, meet with much resistance, which is how I see negative press.


(To Facebook User 3), the flaws of humanity and its resistance to social change, which are always present, are not excuses to avoid taking responsibility for the consequences of one’s claims and actions. Until macrobiotic counselors come together, define and create standards and procedures and collectively submit their data for unbiased and rigorous third-party review then all the recovery anecdotes in the world won’t help the movement shake its public image as a fringe, alternative healing modality and quasi-religious oriental diet. Nothing frustrates me more than to see self interested advocates justify their own inaction with rationalizations, like the ones you mentioned, to fail to assist those with valid healing experiences unsuccessfully help suffering family members and loved ones for want or lack of evidence and social reputation. As a macrobiotic promoter I am just as culpable as the rest.

[Facebook User 4]:

To say that Steve Jobs practiced macrobiotics is pretty much meaningless on its own. Ask 50 people how they practice it and you will receive 50 different answers. Most people still understand mb to be a prescription diet, like all other diets. One-size-fits-all. When did he start, how well was he supported, how long did he practice it, how accurately did he practice it? Even if he practiced it a long time, with support, guarantees nothing. What were the underlying causes of his illness? How late into is illness did he begin? Macrobiotics has been misunderstood since its introduction into the West (even by those practice it). The principles underlying the macrobiotic philosophy will endure.


(To Facebook User 4) , The clinical type questions you ask are valid and are or should be part of any legitimate counseling practice and ongoing research and case review for all cases.. But for me the question is not whether macrobiotics will endure, for which I have no doubt it will, but rather in what manner will it endure? Will it banned and outlawed? Will it be sidelined as a passing cult of religious fanatics who follow strange esoteric dietary rules? Or will it be seen as a valid force that has improved the health and well being of all people?

Also, on the other hand and from a totally different perspective, in embracing his own mortality, living life fully and actively pursuing his dreams against all odds, I believe that Steve Jobs led more of a macrobiotic life than many I have met whom claim to do so. Nothing could be a more simpler macrobiotic messages than his advice to young graduates to “Stay hungry, stay foolish”. It echoes of the best of Ohsawa’s teachings.

Read more on Facebook…

Other posts on this blog relevant to this discussion:

1.  What Is Macrobiotics?

2.  Macrobiotic Counseling: Issues and Concerns

3.  Cancer In The Family (Part 1 of 2 Parts)

11 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2011 3:51 pm

    I hadn’t read until today that Steve Jobs was on a macrobiotic diet and chose it over surgery to address his cancer. This makes me very sad and angry. As others have mentioned here, I wonder about the person who was counseling him. Someone mentioned the need for “macrobiotic counselors to come together, define and create standards and procedures and collectively submit their data for unbiased and rigorous third-party review.” I believe this is imperative, if macrobiotics is to go on. My personal experience with macrobiotics was, for the most part, not a good one. An ex boyfriend introduced me to it, he had been macrobiotic for over thirty years. I tried to diet for several of my health conditions and in some ways it was helpful, but after a year I had become underweight and anemic and over a year later am now still trying to regain my strength. I am not blaming the diet so much, which, in my opinion, does exclude some important nutritional foods… although that may be the macrobiotic diet as I knew it, based on that person I was very close to at the time. I think what made things worse was his almost ‘militant’ atitude that only macrobiotic foods were right for me (or his version of the diet), when I knew I needed more. Because of this experience, I will never go back to a macrobiotic diet, ever. There are certain foods in the macrobiotic diet that are very healing and I may make some of the dishes and use some of the remedies (lotus root tea, kuzu drink etc.) because they do help me. But an exclusive macrobiotic diet made me sick and it’s taking me more than a year to recover. I just had to share my own experience with macrobiotics. RIP Steve Jobs.

  2. October 25, 2011 3:51 pm

    Hi Phiya,

    This is an interesting discussion. Thank you for posting it here on your blog, and referring to Macrobiotics Facebook Group.

    Could you clarify a couple of points? I am having trouble separating out the various things you are meaning to say in the following sentence:

    “Nothing frustrates me more than to see self interested advocates justify their own inaction with rationalizations, like the ones you mentioned, to fail to assist those with valid healing experiences unsuccessfully help suffering family members and loved ones for want or lack of evidence and social reputation. “

  3. October 25, 2011 8:28 pm

    It is a very individual thing. The macro foods are healthy but everyone needs to follow their intuition about what foods are helpful or harmful. You can be allergic or senstive to the most healthy of foods…that is just you. To be attached to a dogma or judgmental is never good and puts a blind eye to reality. For serious illness I would trust an MD and maybe seek a second opinion. I think alternative for me means if the MD said there was no cure or hope for me. Just my opinion and what has worked for me so far.

  4. mercedes leon permalink
    October 26, 2011 1:00 am

    Phiya who are the the “leaders” in macrobiotics at the moment that you are referring to? It seems to me that the macrobiotic movement is made up of individuals sort of deciding that they eat this and that or they do this and that and therefore they are macrobiotic. Is Michio the “official” representative for macrobiotics? Should there even be an official representative for macrobiotics?
    It seems to me that movements or any other kind of philosophical, political, ideological organization has certain guidelines and representative who lead the movement, some kind of identity, which makes comunicating with this group possible. But macrobiotics IMO is a broader all encompassing idea. Who decides what is macrobiotic and what is not? Should it be decided? I personally feel comfortable in this “gray zone” called macrobiotics, but for the media, general public and other people seeing macrobiotics from outside, this “gray zone” is difficult to grasp, to categorize; not because the ideas are so esoteric or difficult to understand, but because it doesn’t fit the mold in which society seems to function(or not).
    How the healing approach that Steve Jobs took came out in the media is exactly how I see that people see macrobiotics: a strange diet using “vegetables and roots”, which keeps people from medical treatment, giving them false hope with fatal consequences. And, who stands up and says no this is not macrobiotics to the world? Nobody, because there is no accountability, no representation. Should there be? Is that a realistic possibility in the macrobiotic way of life?

  5. phiyakushi permalink*
    October 26, 2011 4:00 pm

    To give you a quick answer, Mercedes: The “leaders” I am talking about are those who willingly choose to earn a living as a professional macrobiotic counselor, healer, and also include macrobiotic chefs who cook for ill patients. Also included are those who create and run macrobiotic schools and programs that seek to develop macrobiotic counselors. They voluntarily take on a greater social responsibility for which they should also be held accountable for. The “leaders” are not the multitude of individuals who adopt a macrobiotic lifestyle for themselves nor are they those who try to help others as friends or peers without intent for gain and profit.

  6. October 26, 2011 4:17 pm

    Excellent insights … excellent remarks. Wonderful topic – Thank-you Phiya.

  7. November 6, 2011 4:58 pm

    I seem to hear this whenever there is a “miracle cure” based perspective and it meets with reality. Reality is that we are all going to die. Reality is that no one gets a guarantee no matter how much burdock or brown rice one eats. Reality is that most of the illnesses in the world today stem from unhealthy dietary ingestions (poisoned, pesticided, GMO foods and additives) and our bodies just cant heal as fast as they are being poisoned. Cancer is a natural progression from this and its why most ‘diets’ work. They emphasize not eating conventionally pesticided and processed foods in different ways.

    The aspect of macrobiotic alchemical awareness that is fundamental to its differentiation from a prescription diet is that one essentially can only choose for themselves what energies and foods we bring into our bodies. Yes there are standards which say organic grains and veggies along with soup and salad etc is a good start. There have been successful healthy groups of people for thousands of years. Healthy enough to live in jungles and deserts without air conditioning or anti biotics. Obviously if people in the amazon can live in shacks and even survive means they have relatively healthy balanced diets (for the last 700 generations or so at least).

    Our current first world populations are falling apart at the seams… why? The poisons we have gotten used to eating every day.

    Healing is not as simple as maintain the same habits and compulsions and punish oneself into gaining (possibly) a few more weeks or even years of life.
    Maybe if I walk and sing a happy song I will make it four or five…

    Healing is meeting a challenge and accepting what its telling us. When my body begins to fall apart and break down it is due to my lifestyle. …and I realize that if I continue to live the same lifestyle I will suffer. If I dont care enough about living longer to allow myself to heal and constantly push myself or ‘binge’ or try to use a magic pill to allow me to continue having rich meals or work 80 ours a week …

    Healing means I might have to work less hours. I might need to stretch in the morning and go for a walk thats leisurely rather than a pounding adrenalin push.

    Healing means maybe painting a watercolor painting every day and allowing the paint to move of its own accord across the canvas and listening to it so as to release stress from control issues and perspectives.

    I think for me the primary point is that one cannot gain health from a pill.
    One can gain temporary relief from a pill. One can only find health in ones own body when it is healthy. We know when we cut corners. We know when we work to hard. We know when eating the chocolate and drinking the red wine or beer that there is more than just the immediate effects of taste and giddyness.

    and if we dont we CANT be healthy. Because health is an awareness and a relationship we have with our own psyches, bodies and spirits. Perhaps mr jobs was advised but until he chose for himself he was still a witness to his own process and life. Subject to the whims of others and caught between his compulsions and desires and some alien “how to” book about life.

    Once I said something to the effect of “a council will be the death of macrobiotics as we know it”.

    I would like to add now. “perhaps it is time for macrobiotics to die .”

    We need macrobiotics to be rooted in helping the healing of the most people possible regardless of profits. We need this to be the first priority for all counselors and more so for the essence of macrobiotics as an agreement or precept

    This is where western medical science went wrong. It allowed the feeling of needing money and the fears of not having or getting enough corrupt it into a pandering modality seeking over welfare (although welfare is right up there) as an institution, profits being prioritized over making knowledge and clarifying the basics for people available to as many people as possible.

    I dont feel that we need an oversight punitive style board but rather a round table council wherein on some key issues we thoroghly discuss and consider macrobiotic principles, concepts, where philosophy ends.

    Mainly I think it would be good to have the people who are investing in being macrobiotic teachers and counselors to challenge and grow macrobiotics into something less folk and mysticism shaded and more accessable in simple down to earth manners to people who eat mcdonalds everyday.

    “dont eat poison. Here is a list of what has posion in it. Here is an explanation of what this and that extreme foods will result in (symptoms) when we are overindulging. Here is a list of extreme foods and what the results of eatin too much of them would look like.
    its still difficult to wrap my head around the idea as i have seen so many cultures become platforms for ego based control motives. I am very wary of this with macrobiotics as its my culture and my childhood. its not a diet for me its just principles and lifestyle apparoach so how do people decide on such choices?

  8. mercedes leon permalink
    November 7, 2011 2:58 am

    I totally agree with your last post Phiya. I think for macrobiotics to become a mainstream way of life, it may first have to dissappear as “macrobiotics”. In my experience I see many people who want a healthier lifestyle, who are willing to work for it, but for whom macrobiotics as it now is is not the answer. There are also many healthy and thriving people(not perfect people, just “human people”) out there who could serve as an example of what macrobiotics really could be “meeting a challenge and accepting what is telling us”, but the present macrobiotics keeps itself on the sidelines as a weird, often judgemental alternative, although the macrobiotic ideas and principles are the most universal, simple and flexible that one could encounter in any lifestyle.
    Making people aware of their freedom, of what foods can do for and agaisnt them, challenging people to try new things, not out of fear and dogma, but out of having found the love for life and nature is for me the spirit of macrobiotics
    I have been teaching cooking for quite a while now, and eventhough i don’t deny my macrobiotic training(which did change my life), I don’t hammer my students with it, for the sheer fact that I think is more important to inspire people to find their health and wonder of nature, rather than to have them join a club, in which they may not feel this freedom.

    Should this be done for free? In some cases, but in general I think that in our society the way it is now the idea of charging for lessons may reach more people than not charging.

  9. lynnclare permalink
    November 13, 2011 3:04 am

    Late to the discussion and surely have not read all the posts-
    A few Thoughts:
    For one- as a person that was helped through the work of your parents, Michio and Aveline Kushi- my heart aches a bit reading this post. My experience is deeply rooted in the intentions of both Michio and Aveline that were deeply indebted to the gift of service of humanity. As they embraced me- a mom of four children-(now five), with a breast tumor, a deep spiritual quest, and a way of studying at the KI with no money- for years-, I am so happy to embrace the gifts and deeply have gratitude for the years- being with them- the pioneers of a deep understanding of guiding principles- universal in heart, body, mind, and spirit- without a separation!!

    – that thus far- I have not seen anyone that has come close to either of their understanding and internal dedication- to sharing, embracing, and creating a life- filled with community that was embraced world wide.

    So, the post on Steve Jobs- was yet- another brother– with human efforts that each one of us-continues to strive for as being human- and for me- each one of us- is touched- by someone, something, or some extroidinary moment of meeting people on the path in each moment.

    We are here on this planet for such a short time- We touch a few lives, we share in many, and we unbelievably long to be with one another in a deep and meaningful way.

    As I studied and embraced Rudolf Steiner in my twenties, Macriobiotics in my Thirties along with Buddhism, Native American principals and earth based cultures in my forties, and further study now- a deeper Christian understanding in my fifties- mixed with all of my life–I see in all of these a thread- of human growth and determination, a grace, and an embrace of a people who want connection.

    I see that sharing with the elders of each of these cultural identities, or what I would say- way of life identities, the elders shared with me that the road is internal and with grace, you will share with many. Each one of us is an embrace of today- Thoughts and emotions of how one heals, or does not heal is but a moment in time. Steve Jobs is a man who embraced many ideas, many thoughts, and many gifts while he was physically here.

    The gift for me is not about the why, how, what, where, yet an embrace of being present to the moment- Somehow- we want to stop a person in the now- with the embrace of yesterday and tomorrow- and for me- it is only now- that I hope to see the person in front of me.

    Like music, we embrace the same song in so many different ways- as we exchange the multiple ways a song may touch us in the moment we hear it. Thus is the person- that touches us in the moment we meet, we exchange, we embrace.

    Oh- friends- thus- the Kushi family- the embrace- the gifts- the shared wisdom- is the best wisdom that continues to embrace many of my moments of each and every day. This is a gift of grace.

    So – As I get off philosphizing- I say- I did teach, I did cook, I did share with cancer patients, I did charge, I did empathize the macrobiotic principles in all I did for 14 years, and then- went fully into academics- NOW- I teach as an RN, I cook as an RN, I did share with others about cancer etc-

    is there a difference-
    well- I decided to go to school so I was not a “quack”(my internal dialogue at the time), I wanted to just find out- what this was all about- this western way of life- after practicing many traditions-having conversations with many physicians while hanging out with many friends who were dying, had cancer, and trying to figure out- the whys of life, etc.

    What I found out- was that conventional medicine is so much like macrobiotics- yet there seemed to be more “quackery” in modern medicine- of pharmaceutical- man made drugs- then anything that I have ever seen in my brothers and sisters practicing the principles of macrobiotics or other modalities of alternative health- including the many modalities that have been embraced in the name of healing. What I was told- early on in understanding- macrobiotic is embracing all of life- Charging physicians day in and day out-the world of pharmaceutical embrace is what I live in now and as I see it- It all brings the multiple questions for me-

    What I do know- and have experienced- personalities, people, and sharing with one another in a deep and precious way is wonderful. Sharing natural remedies- with outcomes- is very similar as outcomes in modern medicine- yet one of my clients says- “oh- do you have to give me that poison” referring to pills. If I could only help her to see that the custurd pie________!!! This women is 88 and her partner 91- both open to body scrubs- exercises- and yes- some of the principles- shared to me- about healing-by Michio. They may just have a dance- as I told them what a great idea- SO

    What I love the most- is that God gave me the gift- of seeing the beauty of the earth- and with this- the earth- the people- of the earth- is the greatest day to day gift- that Grace has given- and through this- I share

    Steve Jobs Shared- and as it was, as what people will make it out to be, what people think about it, what people realize in there own thoughts- are only thoughts- of that moment- and as they pass- those thoughts- may we embrace that this person lived, loved, hurt, was sick, was healthy, was angry, was sad, was happy, was glad-and yes- Steve Jobs- LIVED-

    Each day – as I wake up- may I LIVE- and may my brothers and sisters LIVE with me- and embrace- this precious time we share together- in the moment- of living.


  1. Steve Jobs, Macrobiotics and Facebook Discussions – faithhealingblogs
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