There are many stressors for young adults heading off to college: How will I find my classes? Will I like my roommate? How do I prevent the Freshman 15?
Navigating a college campus and a roommate from h*ll are just part of the college experience. Worrying about managing their new independence with food shouldn’t be.
College is a time for self-discovery, growth, and learning, including how to manage the essential skill of nourishing one’s body. Without a doubt, most students are managing their food intake completely on their own for the first time.
They’ll have to learn how to contend with late night pizza deliveries, free food at special dorm and campus events, meal cards, and other opportunities to eat what they love. They’ll have to deal with the stress of homesickness, exams, and roommates, any of which could trigger emotional eating. They will face the pressure to fit in (good news: it was probably worse in high school!), make friends, and date.
And, through it all, they will be bombarded with confusing messages about nutrition, diets, and health that can lead to disordered eating and contribute to eating disorders.
Don’t make it about weight gain!
Fear of the “Freshman 15” by students and their parents puts young adults in a body-conscious, restrictive mindset. On top of all the new experiences that are an exciting part of starting college, they are made to feel vigilant about their body size and everything they eat.
Let’s switch the paradigm from worry about gaining the Freshman 15 to embracing the opportunity to learn how to make decisions about food and eating that will serve them throughout their lives.
Rather than college taking a toll on a student’s health and well-being, it is the perfect opportunity for them to learn how to listen to and trust their body’s wisdom about why, when, what, how, and how much to eat (and learn from the inevitable mistakes they will make along the way).
Here’s how one of the students in my Mindful Eating class (based on Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Students) said about this approach to eating:
At the start of the course, I was eating mindlessly on auto-pilot. I ate fast, and didn’t take the time to really enjoy the flavors and textures of good foods. I also was eating more fast food than I wanted to admit, but with extra thought, I learned that my body craved real flavorful food, and I learned that I appreciated the task of making it myself. This class has also taught me a variety of useful tools to help me work through the emotions of eating, so that I can recognize when my body is hungry versus when it is simply anxious. I also learned ways to help me navigate social situations, and how to prevent overeating. I have learned how to trust my body and the cues that it sends to me. Most importantly, I have learned how to put enjoyment back into eating. It is a sacred act that has gotten filtered down over the years. Enjoyment does not come in restricted dieting, and it definitely does not come with eating on the go. Rather, profound enjoyment can come in the smallest of savory bites.
15 Mindful Moments to Fuel the Life You Crave
Here are my Freshman 15 (which of course apply to any young adult, not just freshmen!). These are fifteen key messages from Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Students: A Mindful Eating Program to Fuel the Life You Crave.
1. Dieting makes your life feel smaller. Self-care makes your life feel bigger.
2. If hunger doesn’t tell you to start eating, how do you know when to stop?
3. Each day is composed of a series of conscious and unconscious decisions that lead you closer to or further from what you really want.
4. If you don’t like your results, ask yourself what you were thinking first.
5. The moment that you notice that you were mindless, you are mindful.
6. When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it.
7. Get rid of guilt and make eating for enjoyment an intentional decision.
8. When you are free to eat whatever you want, food loses its power over you.
9. Nutrition information is a tool, not a weapon—or a religion.
10. If you love to eat, act like it.
11. Set your intention to feel better when you’re finished eating than you did when you started.
12. Eating the right amount of food isn’t about being good, it’s about feeling good.
13. When you make a mistake, don’t miss the lesson.
14. We don’t all wear the same size shoes; why should we all wear the same size jeans?
15. Care for yourself because you love and accept yourself, not so you’ll love and accept yourself.
Mindful Eating for Students Resources