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Last modified: Thursday, 29-Jun-2017 10:50:24 EDT

University Counseling Center (UCC)

Mindful Eating on Campus

Deborah Engler, MSW
CollegeResponse Program Manager
From the article at Screening For Mental Health

One of the more stressful challenges for a college student is trying to practice healthy eating habits on campus. College life is full of obstacles to eating consistently: buffets in the dining halls; eating between classes and on the go; staying up until 4 am; social events involving food; and limited access to the grocery store or a working kitchen. One strategy is to learn the art of mindful eating, based on the concept of mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to the ability to bring one's awareness completely to the present moment. In contrast, mindlessness refers to behaving or doing things without much attention.

Consider the student eating dinner in front of the TV while texting friends, reviewing an article and browsing through Facebook. When this happens, it is common to eat more than normal because the student is not enjoying the food and is not in touch with the mechanisms in the body that tell us when to stop eating. In contrast, if a student sits down to enjoy a meal with a friend and eat more slowly, they will likely have an increased awareness of hunger cues. This style of eating is considered mindful eating.

Eating mindfully is an important skill because it allows us to eat exactly what the body needs in just the right amounts. Mindfulness involves trusting the body to maintain a healthy balance.

Individuals who struggle with disordered eating or those who have chronically dieted often lose touch with their body's natural ability to regulate food and eating processes. In some cases, students may need help establishing normal eating patterns and reconnecting to their bodies. When working with students, use the following key components suggested by Dr. Susan Albers, author of "Mindful Eating 101: A Guide to Healthy Eating and Beyond":