Chef Rodney Bowers
As a teenaged Air Force brat, Rodney Bowers would run cross-country amid the inland dunes, pine woods and heather marshes of the Teverener Heide near where his family was based in The Netherlands. The Newfoundlander was a highly ranked squash player and running was a major part of his training. Then came competitive kitchens and running was exchanged for the chopping block.
Now a familiar personality on television and social media, Bowers spent years building up his expertise and credibility with celebrated restaurants The Rosebud, The Citizen and Hey Meatball. As his food star rose, his physical fitness took a nosedive.
“I call those 15 years my ‘Dark Period.’ I was immersed in work, opening new locations, there were a lot of late nights, and I was not taking my health seriously,” recalls Bowers, a father of two.
In 2015, Bowers hit 440 lb. and could no longer deny that his weight was preventing him from enjoying activities he used to love. So he returned to the gym and started running. These days, he focuses on interval runs and strength training, though his favourite time is spent outdoors.
“I’m more of a waddler or a quick shuff ler,” Bowers laughs. “I shuff le through High Park with my dog Lucy and it takes me back to my teenage years when I would lose myself in the woods and the sounds of the forest.”
Bowers says he had to address an addiction to sugar and being a food and work addict. These habits were ways to cope with the pressure of entrepreneurship i n the cutthroat food and restaurant industry. At moments of stress or duress, Bowers would eat without even enjoying it.
He still has those urges, but a renewed resilience – supported by a mindfulness course and a regular meditation practice at a local Buddhism centre – helps him stay on track ( and remain kindhearted and encouraging if he backslides). Today he is 370 lb. and inspiring others with his weight management journey on Instagram and The Marilyn Denis Show.
“We have so many escapes and mine was eating. I would wait for Dairy Queen to open so I could get a peanut butter cup Oreo Blizzard. Now I can talk about this and throw loving kindness at it. I have compassion for myself, and, subsequently, a new power and strength over those urges.”
Running is another part of Bowers’ transformation to balance negative thoughts and behaviours with positive ones.
"IN 2015, BOWERS HIT 440 LB. AND COULD NO LONGER DENY THAT HIS WEIGHT WAS PREVENTING HIM FROM ENJOYING ACTIVITIES HE USED TO LOVE."
“Meditation keeps me grounded, balanced and allows me to be totally immersed in the moment. Running is a different type of meditation for me. You don’t have to talk to anyone and I’m 100 per cent aware of what I’m doing, and it takes me back to my athlete years. I’m in a good place when I’m running.”
In addition to High Park ’s hills and valleys, Bowers runs around 8k in Toronto’s west end on Thursday or Friday nights to witness the club goers and late night troublemakers. He prefers running by himself but says he will consider running with a crew when he’s more confident with his cadence.
“I’m still finding my way in terms of tempo and pace. It’s sometimes a walk and jog, other times a shuff le. But it’s always moving forward and I’m getting out there. That’s what matters.”
Bowers finished his first 5k in 2016 and then returned again this spring for another 5k.
“I didn’t realize how much great energy is at an event like that. Running can be such a solo sport, with an intense and very hardcore community. But on race days everyone is there for their own reasons and the love of the sport. It’s inspiring.”
Bunny’s, Bower’s latest bistro, recently opened on Queen Street East in Toronto’s Lesleville neighbourhood.