It’s the time of year when students are back in school and if you’re a college freshman this can be one of the biggest ‘back to school transitions’ you’ll experience – a new community, class schedule, location, rules, etc. In this new environment, things that may have felt natural before (e.g. your relationship with food) may be challenged.
Dining halls, meal plans, campus cash and more can feel confusing and overwhelming when you’re trying to nourish your body and take care of yourself during this new phase of your life! Though it may not always feel like it – intuitive eating is simple. It’s listening to your body and your own unique needs, operating from a point of allowance, compassion and curiosity rather than restriction and shame.
If you’re looking to practice an intuitive eating approach in your college experience or nurture your existing intuitive eating practice – try these five tips:
- Pack snacks
Relying on the dining hall can sometimes mean you’re relying on their hours. This can be tricky depending on your hunger cues and is a practical part of life (e.g. you’re hungry at 8:30am but the dining hall doesn’t open till 9am or lunch is served 12pm – 3pm but you have a seminar then). To work around it, make sure you keep some snacks on hand to have during or in between class if you start to feel hungry and in your dorm room! You’re a human, not a machine that operates on strict hours so it’s best to be prepared and keep yourself properly fuelled for the busy day ahead.
- Eat before going out
A common practice in college is to eat very little before going out for the evening in order to feel the effects of alcohol more acutely and/or ‘save calories’ from drinking. Don’t. Enjoy your college experience however that looks for you, but eat a proper meal before doing so. There is no such thing as ‘wasted calories’ and being properly fuelled will help you be more present in the moment.
- Avoid comparison
Eyes on your own plate. When eating in lots of group settings, it can be difficult to stop comparison from sneaking in. But ultimately, it’s unproductive – everyone has unique needs, and you’re not meant to eat, move and look the same as everyone around you! It’s okay to be hungry when your friends aren’t. It’s normal and valid.
- Learn outside class
Use experiences around food as a learning opportunity, like you would in the classroom! Did you overeat after a night out? That’s okay. Reframe it as a learning experience (e.g. after going out that late night pizza made my stomach hurt – maybe I won’t eat that next time but try a different food or eat more before going out so my hunger doesn’t get so acute).
- Let food be fun
Food is not only fuel, it’s also connection, tradition and memories! It’s the late night cheesy bread ordered during the library all-nighter or your first date at the iconic corner bagel shop. Food in college can be FUN, so let it be.
Remember, there is no right or wrong – just your unique, personal experience. If you’re interested in further developing your intuitive eating journey in college, our therapists would be honored to help! You can book a free consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Wildflower Therapy LLC