One of the top challenges for a college student is trying to develop healthy eating habits. In college, you may have unlimited access to food by going to the dining halls, eateries around campus, or even food delivery services like Door Dash. The food options can be endless. On top of having this food freedom, finding time for classes, activities, and work can also be a challenge. Being in this new space can create a different relationship with food, where you may lose touch with healthy eating habits, leading to a pattern of mindless eating. This can look like:
- Consistently eating until you are overly full or feel sick
- Finding yourself eating food without really tasting it
- Not paying attention to the foods you are eating and frequently eating surrounded by distractions
- Rushing through meals
- Having trouble remembering the taste, smell, and look of the meal you have just eaten
Mindfulness is an intentional focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment. It targets becoming more aware of one’s situation and choices. When we apply this practice to eating, we use our physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy our food choices. We can also start to have more gratitude toward our food, which can improve the overall eating experience. Here’s an example: Think about what you do while eating a meal… scrolling on social media, catching up on assignments, or watching a show. Distracted eating can cause us to eat more because we are out of touch with our body cues that tell us when to stop eating. Mindfully eating allows us to experience and enjoy our food choices without distractions fully.
Why is mindful eating important? Practicing a mindful eating approach can:
- Enhance the enjoyment of your meals
- Reduce overeating
- Aid in good digestion
- Reduce anxious thoughts surrounding food
- Improve your relationship with food
- Aid in a regained sense of hunger and fullness
- Increased self-esteem
- Lead to a sense of empowerment surrounding eating
- Reduced emotional eating and eating in response to external cues
Tips for practicing mindful eating:
- Engage all senses: Notice color, texture, taste, smell, sound, and how you feel when eating. Allow yourself to experience the food fully.
- Live in the moment: As a student, you have a million responsibilities that take up your attention, including eating. With your next meal, try making small adjustments that will help you stay present. This can look like putting your phone down, turning off the TV, and shutting your laptop while eating.
- Take your time: Taking your time with a meal makes recognizing fullness and satisfaction cues easier. To slow down, serve your food on a plate or bowl, sit down for your meal, and avoid eating on the go. Try savoring every bite and chewing thoroughly.
- Tune in to internal and external cues: Internal cues are your hunger and fullness cues. This means learning what it feels like to eat until you are satisfied, but not overly full. External cues are things like time of day or seeing a food advertisement. Learn how to be mindfully aware of how these cues affect your eating habits.
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- Chealsea Knight. Mindful Eating. The Psych Professionals. https://psychprofessionals.com.au/mindful-eating/
- Nelson JB. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174. doi:10.2337/ds17-0015
- Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutr Res Rev. 2017;30(2):272-283. doi:10.1017/S0954422417000154