I am 100% guilty of this. Food brings me so much joy and I’m sure it does for you too. But how many times have you eaten something ‘naughty’ as a treat to yourself? Or rewarded yourself after a long hard day at work? Or turned to the chocolate when you’re feeling low emotionally?

It’s not our fault. Western culture has brought us up to see food, usually sugary foods, as a reward. When we’re tiny our parents usually try and get us to do what they want by promising us a rewards afterwards - and do the reward culture is born.

Interestingly, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) food is not seen like this. True, it’s of course enjoyed, but it’s more of a medicine that’s intricately connected to our wellbeing than how we see it in Western culture: as external from the way we feel physically, emotionally and spiritually. One of the most profound things that a TCM doctor said to me once was:

“Balance equals happiness, not food.”

The reason for this is that in TCM our mental state is so intricately connected to our physical one - and this is something that, in my practice as a Nutritional Therapist, I wholeheartedly stand by. We have the ability to positively impact our health by remaining balanced in our thinking.

Emotions that are soaring all over the place equate to a body that is out of balance, which in turn means that it’s harder for us to heal. We are the only constant in our lives, we cannot control our environment but we can control our state of mind. By getting to a point where nothing affects your emotions and you can simply see the joy and happiness in everything, you will naturally be in a position to reap the biggest rewards.

A few years ago I was agonising over what to pack for a long trip abroad. I had an appointment with my TCM doctor at the time and I let on that I was already running through a mental packing checklist, thinking about taking the bins out, locking all the windows and turning the heating off before we left for the airport. He laughed at me and told me that the last time he had flown to China for 3 months he had come home to find a huge mushroom growing in his fridge, because he’d forgotten to clear it out before he left. He laughed and laughed, and, whilst I don’t think I could ever be the type of person that can just walk away and not clean out my fridge, the point of story was clear to me: the little things in life are not there to be worried about. Approach every situation with laughter and your body will thank you for it.

Now, back to food. If we can get to a place where what we put in our bodies is directly equal to stability and clarity rather than fluctuations in emotions or a reward or something to lean on when times are tough - then we can expect to feel more balanced in general in our everyday lives.

Happiness comes from this balance, from remembering that if a mushroom grows in your fridge it’s okay, and from learning that our bodies like routine and nourishing yet simple food.

Grace Bayley