From the drugstore shelf to your social media feeds, thousands of products can promise to give you an ideal body. There are diets and supplements to help you get bigger, smaller, leaner, bulkier or somehow “better.” But nothing creates true physical and emotional freedom like changing how you relate to food. If this sounds too simple to be effective, I understand. I’ve been there.
When I was a kid, running around and playing with friends was my only goal. Food was simply replenishment. When my mom called me in for lunch or dinner, I would inhale whatever was in front of me. I never thought about nutrients, portion sizes, calorie intake, or how different foods affected me. My priority was getting back outside, as fast as possible.
My childhood relationship to food was playful, because each meal gave me the energy I needed to have fun. I never second-guessed or planned what I would eat. My insatiable appetite for sports and the outdoors enabled me to maintain this free-thinking attitude well into my teen years.
My home life, however wasn’t quite as healthy. My stepdad was a mean-spirited alcoholic who yelled, hurled insults at my mom, and left for weeks at a time without notice. These experiences were unsettling, uncomfortable, and traumatic. Not until I was older did I realize that those days outside with my friends were a critical escape.
When I moved out and started college, new thoughts about how I ate, who I was, and who I was supposed to be started to change my behavior. Instead of eating to nourish the next six hours of exercise and exploration, I ate to fit in. Every meal felt stressful, as I tried to mold myself into the person I thought people expected me to be.
By my late 20s, I realized how my early childhood experiences had shaped me, and explained why I often felt inadequate – like I wasn’t worth sticking around for. I lost myself, and food became a way to deal with the anxiety and depression that had slowly crept into my life.
A heaping plate of food enabled me to drown in the TV shows and movies I watched on repeat. I ate unconsciously, as a distraction. Anxiety hit like a ton of bricks when I turned 25, because I had relentlessly ignored who I was and what I really wanted. In retrospect, I can see that my body and mind were trying to tell me, “you need to get on the right path, because what you’re doing now? This ain’t it.”
Over the course of a single year, I had transformed from a functioning human being to a hermit cocooned on the couch or in my bed. But, I still didn’t know what was causing these deeply unsettling feelings of distress and discomfort. I had panic attacks that landed me in the emergency room. I tried counselling. I also tried anxiety medications, which didn’t help me at all. Eventually, I gained 50 pounds – and I still wasn’t any healthier, mentally or physically.
One day, a friend asked me to join him for a run. Alarm bells went off as I stammered out a series of excuses as to why I couldn’t go. Eventually, I conceded, despite my overwhelming fear (anxiety works in strange ways). We ran about three kilometres. I huffed and puffed and wanted to quit the entire time.
While I’d love to tell you that I had a major breakthrough during that run, it didn’t quite happen that way. But, a small window did open. I realized that I had the opportunity to feel like a kid again. It was within my power. I could move and eat simply for the joy of it. So, that’s what I started to do.
I didn’t diet or exercise for the “gains.” Nor did I obsess about portion sizes, macronutrients, or burning off every calorie I consumed. I was determined to feel the same freedom and openness I had experienced earlier in my life. Some days I stumbled, but eventually, I rediscovered that playful relationship with food – and I wanted to share what I’d learned.
Once I started Savor, friends, family members, and even total strangers would tell me about their pursuit of the “perfect body.” I heard emotional stories about success, failure, and in a few cases, the significant damage they had inflicted on their bodies and mind.
We know that nearly 99% of all people who start a diet will fail, meaning they’ll regain the weight they lose – and then some. Yet, almost all of us have been told that our bodies aren’t “good enough” in some way. Whether it’s from photoshop-enhanced abs on a magazine cover to an offhand comment on the playground, we internalize negative messages from a young age, and they cause so much unnecessary suffering.
Mindfully eating allows us to make food choices without guilt, fear, or other negative emotions. This approach respects hunger and fullness and promotes the pleasure of eating without judgment. Once I began practicing mindfulness and noticing what drives me to restrict or binge eat, all the cultural and social baggage eventually fell away. It didn’t happen overnight, but I learned how to listen to my body again – and you can, too.You have the power to change how you look at food. You can find freedom, joy, and peace with what’s on your plate. At Savor, our mission is to help you develop a healthier relationship with food, one meal at a time.