By: Selena Shanahan, ’18, University Health Center Nutrition Peer Educator
We’ve all been there before, you’re up late studying for a big exam you have coming up soon. Before you finally go to bed, you peer across your desk at the wreckage of empty bags and containers of everything you ate over the past few hours. Then come the thoughts, “That can’t be from just me! Did I really mindlessly eat all of that? I wasn’t even hungry, and I definitely didn’t know I even had (fill in the blank) in the house!”
Research shows that identifying and reducing non-hunger eating is key for maintaining a healthy body weight. Non-hunger eating is exactly what it sounds like- it’s eating food for any reason other than hunger. This can include, but is not limited to, eating out of boredom, to procrastinate doing work, avoiding thoughts or feelings, or to relieve stress.
Eating is a perfectly normal response to stress. After all, how many of us were actually taught how to manage stress before coming to college? For many of us, this is the most stressful time we have experienced. And even though eating out of stress isn’t always a bad thing, using food as the only way of coping with stress could lead to some unwanted weight gain.
Next time you feel like diving into the Ben & Jerry’s after a stressful day, try these five tips instead.
- Determine whether you are really hungry or not. Often times we can confuse thirst signals with hunger signals. Try drinking some water, and waiting a while to see if that helps.
- Go for a walk. Exercise has been proven to improve mood, help relax, and improve sleep.
- Call a friend or family member. Venting or just catching up with a friend can improve your mood or maybe even give you the confidence to face your problem head on.
- Try meditating. Meditation can help you relax during this stressful period of your life. Free individual and group meditation sessions are offered at the University Health Center (UHC) for students interested in trying it out!
- Make an appointment for relaxation training & stress management. Relaxation training, an appointment that uses biofeedback technology while practicing deep breathing, is another great, FREE service at the UHC!
If you find you are truly hungry, don’t deprive yourself! This will only make the urges stronger until you have eaten everything that is not nailed down. Instead try eating a purposeful snack. These snacks will give you the fuel you need to get through the late night of studying and keep you fuller longer.