Macrobiotic nutritionist, gut health expert, chef, instructor, author—the feathers in Shonali Sabherwal's cap are many. Starting in marketing research, she became India's first certified macrobiotics counselor from the Kushi Institute in Becket, Massachusetts, US. She is also India's first Solomon Yogalates teacher, receiving training from Louise Solomon in Byron Bay, Australia. In 2020, Sabherwal was the recipient of the Best Nutritionist Award from Vogue, India. We sat down with Sabherwal for a brief insight into the world of macrobiotics and meditation, and why we should live in the moment.
Thank you so much for your time! The name Shonali Sabherwal has been a leading figure of macrobiotic nutrition in India for the past 15 years. Yet, many may not be aware that you had a long and illustrious career in marketing research before that. How did that shift happen?
My father was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 1998 and this prompted me to shift to macrobiotics, as it's the only food lineage that claims to put it into remission. I was also looking for my true calling in life, and was already engaged in Vipassana meditation and understood the implications of using food with its energetic principles in place. So it made sense to align myself with a food philosophy that also worked not just as a short-term diet but all the time for anyone who had a health issue or wanted to stay fit.
You have three titles on macrobiotics— The Beauty Diet, The Detox Diet and The Love Diet. Tell us a bit more about your "Yin and Yang" approach to food and holistic lifestyle.
'Macro' means large and 'bios' means life, it's a larger-than-life view to eating healthy all the time. The principle of macrobiotics is to use the Yin and Yang energy (in simpler terms expansive and contractive energy) of foods to achieve balance. So not only focus on the physical aspects of what the food groups do for you but also go a step further and dive deep into the energy aspects of each food group.
You cover a variety of wellness topics on your website—targeting mind, body and soul. How does macrobiotics marry the medical and spiritual benefits of plant-based nutrition?
As I mentioned, 'one universal energy' splits into two polarities 'yin' and 'yang'—that means everything coming from the earth also has this energy. So if you are going to eat mainly plant-based foods, then you can use the energy of the food groups to achieve balance, or put into remission any disease. As far as spirituality or being secular is concerned, we all need to vibrate at higher frequencies—first coming from clean eating to have a cleaner energy field— you, me and everyone else is also made up of this 'one universal energy.' Hence the concept of 'one universal energy' is what ties deeply within every human being and everything you eat.
Congratulations on your new book Vipassana: The Timeless Secret to Meditate and Be Calm! What has been your biggest takeaway from meditation?
Meditation cleans up our consciousness in a sense. We all need to play out our wordly dramas, and we need a lighter (less carrying of baggage) consciousness to do this. Plus, we all need to become better versions of ourselves to contribute to society. Meditation helps achieve all of this, including lessening our own stresses, as they come from being tied to ego.
In your book, you mention that your spiritual journey started as early as when you were six, and spreading the benefits of Vipassana with the world has been an old dream. Now that you've written this book, are you working on any future projects?
I have many and they are in the planning stages, so when it's a plan it still remains in the future. I'd like to focus on the now, as I always do—squeeze the juice out of these questions that you're giving me to answer. So I will say this: any plan that you make is futuristic, no point mentioning it as it remains in the future. You only have the present moment in your hand. I am trying to live in the moment, as that's the only thing I have in my hand.
Vipassana: The Timeless Secret to Meditate and Be Calm is available on Amazon.in
Related story: The Joy Of A Plant-Based Diet