Mrs Lima Ohsawa said she had been sickly as a young woman; at one point, doctors predicted that she would not live past 30. ''I was very weak,'' she said.
When she was 37, she attended a lecture on health given by Mr. Ohsawa. With his guidance, she changed her diet to reflect macrobiotic principles. ''He was very strict with me,'' she said. The two married about a year later.
The word ''macrobiotic,'' Mrs. Ohsawa said, was coined from the word macro, meaning big, and biotic, meaning life. ''It means big view of life,'' she said. Like many of the people who ultimately followed his diet, Mr. Ohsawa was initially prompted to look for a different way of eating because he was sick.
''When he was about 20 years old,'' Mrs. Ohsawa said, ''he developed tuberculosis and could find no relief from Western-style doctors.'' He bought a book by Sagen Ishizuka that examined macrobiotic principles. Mr. Ohsawa retreated to the mountains to try to cure himself. He did get better, Mrs. Ohsawa said, and decided that he wanted to spread the word about macrobiotic principles so that others could benefit.
Although in theory a macrobiotic diet allows some consumption of animal products, most practitioners believe the optimum diet emphasizes grains, vegetables and seaweed. Central to the diet is the concept of balance. When food from the sea is served, it is supposed to be combined with food from the land. Or when a ''yang'' food like grain is served, it should be combined with a ''yin'' food like vegetables.
Macrobiotic dishes may seem boring or underspiced to people who are not accustomed to them. In her cookbook ''Macrobiotic Cuisine'' (Japan Publications Inc., 1984), Mrs. Ohsawa attributes this to the Western diet that is common today. ''If your palate has been dulled by chemicaled, processed or sugar-rich foods,'' she said, ''it will take time before your sensitivity returns.''