I've only been in college for about one month and while I'm certainly no expert, I've already learned plenty. I've learned how many times I can snooze my alarm to make it to class just in time, that college tests are very different from high school tests, and that eating like I did at home is almost impossible. I also realized in the last month that while many aspects from home can stay at home (parents, etc.), thoughtful eating cannot. 

I spent my first week of college trying to indulge in the healthy options because they were relatively cheap and I intended on eating healthier. I was very set on not gaining the infamous "freshman fifteen".

The Problem

The biggest issue I've discovered so far has not been in the ability to gain weight, but rather the ability to eat mindlessly. It took me all of two weeks to fall into a very dangerous habit. I began passing up the boring and, often, bland healthy options and frequenting my dining hall's "Night Owl" every night at 9 pm. 

Night Owl offers crazy hours and tons of fatty and sugary foods to keep students satisfied ( from 9 pm - 4 am on weekends).

Danielle Cohen

In addition to Night Owl, there are many, many other unhealthy options that are just too damn delicious to turn down. As I have heard at many other schools, the healthy choices have either no taste, are too expensive, or don't meet dietary restrictions.

I've been compensating for the lack of healthy food in my diet by working out plenty, but I’ve come to realize that just working out is not enough. Something just didn't sit right with me as I recently took a bite of sugary cereal and tried to calculate just how much sugar I had consumed thus far. The answer? Far too much

As much as this story is about me and my spiral of non-thoughtful eating at college, it is one that is familiar to many of my friends at other colleges as well.  

We all know that it's never just one Mallomar...  

cream, chocolate
Danielle Cohen

It is very easy to blame colleges for not having better quality healthy choices. However, my idea is that it is just as much the school's responsibility as the student's to take control of his or her diet. If you take away one thing from this, let it be that under no circumstances should you be thoughtlessly eating in college.

While college is a buffer before living as an adult, I believe that it is a time to shape the adult you will become. Becoming an active eater (aka thinking about what you eat) in college can help develop the same habits as an adult. Choosing nutritious, financially smart options now can help you to do the same later.

The Solution?

The best way to kick the habit of snacking without purpose is to just take the time to acknowledge what you are eating. If you stop to question the value of your food options, it will bring you one step closer to thoughtful eating. Taking time to evaluate the nutritional purposes of your meal will begin to put health value over taste.

A little thought can turn boring granola into a pretty delicious breakfast...

chocolate, muesli, granola, cereal, milk
Ali Goetze

Once the thought is there, it is pretty easy to nix your bad habits. Small changes can really add up, such as getting some healthy snacks for your dorm so you don’t even need to see the unhealthy ones offered to you. I have started to bring back some meals from home so I know exactly what I am eating. It just takes a little will power to decide that no, I actually don’t need that milkshake tonight at all.

A waffle may taste better than granola, but it won’t help you get through the day the same way. Fries are undoubtedly better late-night snacks than trail mix, but they definitely won’t be there for you as many nutritional ways.

Food is a lot more than just something to satisfy hunger, especially in college. Thoughtful eating is the biggest difference between a healthy lifestyle or an unhealthy one with countless side-effects (illness and disease, obesity, etc).

spatula, ladle, platter, gastronomy
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

No matter what you choose to eat, just do it consciously. You can overdo it, even with healthy foods. The day that I took responsibility for my diet and started engaging in thoughtful eating was the day that I chose a healthier lifestyle.

I still go for the milkshake at Night Owl more than I’d like to admit, but I do it with an awareness. The more you think about it, the harder it will become to reach for the sugary cereal or ice cream until one day, you might just stop going for them at all.

College is a time of freedom, like the freedom to keep as much ramen in your dorm as you’d like, but that freedom also comes with responsibility. This is the first time that you are the sole decider of your diet. Your body will forgive you for a few unhealthy days, but not necessarily four years without thoughtful eating. Whatever you eat, eat it with thought.