One of the first New Year’s resolutions that students abandon is the promise of healthy eating. Indeed, as January progresses, and exams, essays, labs, and assignments mount, student vows to stick to whole foods and nourishing beverages are dismissed. It is well-established that stress is a primary trigger for overnourishment. Alternatively dubbed ‘stress eating’ or ‘emotional eating,’ students drift from eating salads to pizza, and toss the protein shake in favor of energy drinks. University cafeteria and food services staff can certainly testify to this phenomenon. Due to the amount of stress faced at university, students are more likely to snack, binge eat, eat late into the night, and generally overeat. Many students are so overstretched, divided between work, class, study, and extracurricular activity, that they fail to eat much throughout the day, depleting their reserves of stored energy, resulting in intense late-night cravings. When the body is thus depleted, it sends signals for high-calorie replenishment, which the student meets through sugary and fatty foods. These are precisely the kinds of foods that do not serve the intense intellectual requirements of university studies.
The following recommendations will help students maintain the cognitive functioning and energy levels required in higher learning. First, the student should focus on a breakfast high in protein and fiber. Every two- to three hours thereafter, protein should be consumed, and coupled with healthy fats and fiber. High-fat and high-sugar meals should be avoided, since they both result in sluggishness by shuttling blood to the digestive organs, and spiking insulin levels, respectively.
Students should also attack the stress which triggers over-nourishing. By adopting specific stress-reduction strategies, students can easily learn that stress can be reduced by means other than overeating. The first, and most pragmatic, method is simply to remove ‘comfort’ foods high in fat and sugar from the home. Next, the student should strive to meditate daily. Eating may, in itself, be meditation, when the student focuses entirely on the food consumed, eating slowly, and reflecting on its nourishing power. Finally, the student should also exercise daily, perhaps focusing on a physical activity that is also meditative in nature, such as yoga.