Nicky Clinch
‘Macro’ manager Nicky Clinch with Teia

Food described as ‘macrobiotic’ may sound, to the untrained ear, like something cooked up in the science lab.

But the origins of macrobiotics lie in traditional Chinese medicine, and can be traced back thousands of years.

The idea behind macrobiotics is that what one eats directly correlates to health, well-being and happiness.

Nicky Clinch is a Hackney-based chef, teacher and counsellor who is out to spread the word of macrobiotics to anyone who will listen.

“Macrobiotics was at one time very scientific and was specifically for healing illnesses,” she says. “But now there’s a new generation, which is trying to change it and bring it into the mainstream.”

Clinch has worked as a ‘natural foods chef’ (“it sounds a little bit more recognisable than macrobiotic chef,” she explains), for Tiosk on Broadway Market, and runs courses in macrobiotics at the Made In Hackney food kitchen.

Macrobiotic diets, Clinch tells me, are plant-based, and use only seasonal, locally-sourced and organic produce. For her, that consists of whole grains, sea vegetables and vegetarian proteins – with no refined sugars or dairy allowed.

“I find that cooking and eating this way is optimal for us not just physically but emotionally and mentally, and it also allows us to stay in tune with the environment we are living in,” Clinch says.

Whilst studying for three years at the International School of Macrobiotics in Devon, Clinch learnt about what she calls the different ‘energetics’ of both food and everything else around us, including emotions, body, jobs, lifestyles, the seasons and illnesses.

For the uninitiated, the main theory at play is that everything in the world is made up of energy that can be divided into two opposing camps. Yin is expansive energy, while yang is contracting. Together they create balance, which in macrobiotics is the key to health and well-being. Too much of one can spell trouble, either mentally or physically.

Clinch describes herself as a cross between a traditional Chinese doctor and a therapist. Her approach she claims works wonders with a range of problems, from unwanted cravings and digestive health to emotional problems.

“If you’re craving something sweet then it could be because you’re eating a lot of salty foods that makes you crave the opposite,” Clinch says.

“For example, I have one client who has very strong sweet cravings. That tells me that she needs some kind of inside transformation related to slowing down, taking care of yourself or self-nurturing. That’s the emotional aspect to it.”

Clinch was born in Hong Kong but went to school in the UK. Growing up she had a difficult relationship with food and developed eating disorders. Then, aged 20, she saw a therapist.

“I started to understand that it wasn’t really about the food. It was about what was underneath it all. I was using food to cover things up, to cope with situations. It was my way of trying to have some sense of control when I felt out of control. And so it’s become a real passion for me to really help others in this specific area as well.”

Macrobiotics is a lifestyle for Clinch, though one that is not rigid nor necessarily very scientific.

“For me it’s about finding balance and listening to your bodies,” she says. “I tell my students there are no gurus, that you should start listening to your own bodies rather than what you think is right or wrong.”

Nicky Clinch is holding a Supper Club on 11 August, 1 Westgate Street, E8 3RL. For details see nickyclinch.com

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