In a sea of a million women, it wouldn’t be difficult to spot Sitra Phanasomburna. Just look out for a woman with the brightest top – a true reflection of her sunny spirit – and it’s bound to be her. Diagnosed with cancer 24 years ago, she rustled up a kanom jeen sao naam lunch and chatted away about the macrobiotic diet, the art of being happy, and the importance of loud tops.
Q: Your bright clothes seem to contradict your soft-spoken demeanour.
Sitra Phanasomburna: (Laughs) I know. It’s because I wore only dull colours as a teenager so I think with age definitely comes the need for more lively colours to brighten up the spirit! They make me happy.
Q: How long have you been on a macrobiotic diet?
Sitra Phanasomburna: When I discovered that I had cancer in 1994, I came across this book titled “Recalled by life” by Dr. Anthony Satilarro - himself a cancer survivor – in which he highlighted the joys of the macrobiotic diet. The name speaks for itself - “macro” means great, and “bios” means life. Macrobiotic, therefore, means living a great life. I gave it a go and the results were overwhelming.
Q: What does the diet entail?
Sitra Phanasomburna: Basically it’s living life in moderation; to have a relaxed attitude towards life and eating fresh, seasonal produce - because listen, if you’re enjoying something that should be off-season, they must’ve put something in them to make them grow when they’re not supposed to be available, right?
Q: What has the macrobiotic diet taught you?
Sitra Phanasomburna: To think about what I put in my mouth to help my body find its healthy equilibrium; To listen to my body, for example, in a tropical country like Thailand, the heat will make you sweat. Most Thais would turn on the air-conditioning but that’s preventing the body from detoxing naturally. Let your body attain its equilibrium and you will feel the difference.
It has also taught me not to fear death. Be at peace with it and you will live a stress-free life.
Q: Any tips for the modern generation?
Sitra Phanasomburna: Youngsters should cook their own meals because they’ll know exactly where their food came from. That’s why I started to create and cook all these recipes based on the Thai macrobiotic diet myself.
Q: How did that lead to a book deal?
Sitra Phanasomburna: A friend in the entertainment industry came over for dinner, tried one of my steamed pumpkins and went, “Damn, these pumpkins are good!” The next day, she went to a publisher and got me a book deal which was followed by several more.
Q: How do you spoil yourself?
Sitra Phanasomburna: I enjoy good food, so I do occasionally spoil myself by going to Michelin-star restaurants. It’s definitely one of life’s most affordable luxuries.
Q: What makes you happy?
Sitra Phanasomburna: Ah, but did you know that we can’t actually choose? We can only be happy with what we have. We must be able to see the beauty of whatever life throws at you. That’s the secret to health and happiness. That’s macrobiotics.