As a college student with limited time and a ridiculous amount of responsibilities, the easiest way for me to connect and catch up with friends is by meeting them for a meal in the dining hall or a restaurant on campus. It’s like killing two birds with one stone and my schedule is totally here for it.

And if no one is available for a quick bite, I’ll use the time to catch up on some Netflix or scroll through Instagram. However, after my meal is over and I’m walking home, I'll find myself hungry and resort to eating a snack sooner than I would have expected. Or I'll look down and realize that I'm out of gummy worms after watching a season of my favorite show.  I’m all about avoiding the infamous freshman 15 and just overall living a healthier life, so I did a little research and saw that a Harvard study found that this distracted eating could lead to potential weight gain.

To combat this distracted eating is the concept of mindful eating. Eating mindfully has a wide range of benefits, but a Cambridge study shows that eating mindfully can even lead to a decrease in binge eating, emotional eating and external eating. It can maybe even lessen cravings.

This week I’m challenging myself to eat all of my meals alone and free of distraction to see if this mindfulness eating lifestyle is truly legit.

Day One

rice, cereal, chocolate
Sarah Pravato

Not going to lie - day one of eating mindfully was hard. As soon as I walked into the dining hall for breakfast, I became very aware of just how many TVs are in each of the rooms. In order to fully eliminate all distractions, I had to find a spot that was not only free of people but also free of HGTV or nature shows on the screens. I put my phone face down on the table in front of me and faced the empty seat in front of me. It was awkward. It felt unnatural. I don't think I've stared at an omelet harder in my life.

For lunch, I stopped by the Chick-fil-A at the Hub and couldn’t find a spot to sit and eat (not surprising at all), so I decided to eat lunch at home. My dorm is relatively far from the Hub so as you can imagine, the walk home was torturous. All I wanted was to sneak a waffle fry from my bag, but just for Spoon, I controlled myself and called my mom to distract me. Usually I can polish off a 12 count of nuggets with friends, but after eating alone (despite being ravenous), I felt full with only 8 nugs. Is eating mindfully legit? Was I just lonely? Let’s see what Day 2 brings.

Day Two

interiors, Interior, Friends, people, cafe, coffee, Shanghai, China, decor
Denise Uy

With my head up and my phone face down, I have the ability to people watch and it seems like everyone around me is plagued by the same thing I am. Every single person in the dining hall (yes, I checked) either had a laptop open in front of them, their phone in one hand, earbuds in, or their eyes glued to a TV.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love using my phone as a distraction. Whether it’s to avoid the piercing gaze of a Turlington Tabler or appear less awkward in any situation, my phone is usually stuck to my hand with my eyes on the screen. And yes, it’s awkward to just sit there, eat food and not multitask, but do I really need Instagram as I’m eating my morning omelet? Not really.

Plus, because I’m zoned in on my meal, I have two hands free to use a knife AND a fork instead of struggling to cut with the side of the fork.

Keeping my head up also made me realize just how nice the dining hall staff is. Although they occasionally have to raise their voices to get the attention of distracted students, they are still patient and kind. The woman who swipes my ID everyday always says good morning and tells me to have a nice day when I leave. She even knows my name at this point because our connection is so real. Wouldn’t it be nicer if we interacted more with each other like that?

Day Three

smoothie, sweet, juice
Christin Urso

I love a good smoothie, so I hit up the Jamba Juice by the Hub on the regular. I usually drink these smoothies like flavored water while doing homework or studying and end up being hungry not even an hour later.

Smoothies are a great way to make sure that I’m getting the fruits and veggies I need, but some of them can contain more sugar than a candy bar. Yikes!

Instead of sipping on my "Apple ‘n Greens" smoothie mindlessly, I decided to sip mindfully. I took it outside “where palm and pine are blowing” and people-watched under the shade of some trees. And while there may have been more ants than I would have liked crawling on the table, it was a nice break from a stressful week and a great way to get some fresh air. Plus, I was finally full all the way through my next class. 

Day Four

water, phone, IPhone, music, earphones, working out, Work Out, cardio, exercise, Exercising, fitness
Denise Uy

With earbuds in or headphones on, I’m the DJ for my own life. I can listen to Ariana Grande on my way to class or some yoga beats when I’m studying in Marston.

This week, I went a majority of the time around campus without earbuds in and I learned that the places that serve food around campus play some serious bops.

You might not hear the music in the Chick-fil-A at the Hub because it’s so packed all the time, but Gator Corner Dining always has their signature playlist on when I walk in the door. The Jamba Juice near the Hub ALWAYS has great music on and the Subway in the Reitz Union plays some serious throwbacks that you just have to dance and sing along to with friends (or in my case, by myself).

And even just walking through campus amidst the sound of buses and scooters, you can even hear some birds and the wind rustling through the trees if you listen hard enough. This eating mindfully thing is really stimulating all my senses

Day Five

tea, beer, peach, bite, biting into fruit, outdoors, fresh fruit, Fruit
Julia Gilman

As I did research for this article, I came across the 30-50 chews rule. According to research, the best way to help digestion and maybe even help you lose weight is by making sure you chew your food properly. That means for every mouthful, you should be chewing your food around 30-50 times. It gives you time to process what you’re eating and get all the flavors out as you chew.

I spent the day chewing each of my bites 30-50 times and to be honest, I found it a bit tedious. Most of the time I could only get to 20 chews before having to swallow because my food had turned to liquid, but the whole process did give me something focus on while I was eating. 

It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full, so why not take the time to savor the flavor instead of scarfing down your meal and moving on when you don’t need to? I encourage you to try this out yourself next time you sit down to your next meal and see how many chews you can get to.

So What Does This All Mean?

girl eating, Smoothie Bowl, acai, delicious, berries, smoothies, Summer, Sun, outdoors
Julia Gilman

I used to think that my parents’ rule of “no phones at the table” was just straight torture to force us to talk to them, but it turns out that they may have been onto something.

It would have been sooooo much easier to have snacked while studying this week instead of closing everything up, eating, and then returning back to work, but as the week went on, I really did eat less than I normally would have and felt fuller longer

We all love a good snack while binge watching our favorite show or studying, but we have to be careful that this constant snacking isn’t leading to potentially harmful eating habits. And while eating to this "mindful extreme" this week wasn't really realistic or sustainable, we can all take the time to focus on what we're eating or the people in front of us by putting our screens down.

Eat what you want when you want, but don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “Am I hungry or just bored?”