My mom told me that food shouldn’t be emotional. And by that, I knew what she meant. Don’t fill the void of lost love with a cookie, a failing grade with a plate of fries from the dining hall or—my personal favorite—nacho cheese Doritos and cappuccino ice cream while watching Arrested Development after a bad day.

On the other hand, food is all about emotions: the first bite of a sandwich after a morning of hard work, for example. The clouds part a moment of peace in a time of absolute chaos when you eat ice cream on the hottest day of the year or enjoy happy hour and one too many french fries with friends. Some of my fondest emotional memories are linked to food. To me, food represented a connection to family, to friends, to wholeness and to love.

But sometimes, food provided me with my lowest emotional memories: the feeling of eating too much and gaining weight back, the scale never doing me any favors. It seemed impossible to balance.

I won’t tell you I’m anywhere close to a break through with my own health. But I did find something out along my journey thus far, to start from scratch.

Despite my intense love of food, I didn’t like to cook or bake growing up. Everything from homemade cookies to cream cheese spread on a bagel tasted better when someone else did it. But it was my mom who taught me the biggest lesson I could learn about food is that the key to healthy eating, at least in my case, was cooking my food from scratch.

This was a fact I only came to accept after my sophomore year of college. After two years of endless dinner buffets and late-night frozen yogurt runs, I knew I was getting heavier, feeling more tired, and my usually clear skin was sporting one too many pimples. When I went home the following summer, I knew I had to create new habits for myself in order to correct the harm that two years of unhealthy eating had done to me both mentally and physically.

I still loved muffins and cookies and sweet treats, and I knew I couldn’t give those up. I wanted to find a way to have treats that were both tasty and healthy. And that was when I discovered the granola muffin, a treat I still take pride in to this day.

But just a granola muffin itself isn’t the key to good health in my mind; it’s the idea that it held for me. The idea that if we create the foods that we desire, we can make them to fit our lifestyles. Cutting out butter for oil, whole wheat flour instead of white, it’s your preference and your choice. You are the master of your own domain. It taught me that I have power over what I eat; it doesn’t have the power over me.

Now, I have a different kind of love for food. A love centered around savoring the experiences that surround food, not just food itself. And as my brother once said (about a book report that didn’t meet the page requirement), it’s all about quality, not quantity.