Picture this: it’s the week before finals and you suddenly develop a sinking feeling in your stomach as you realize how much cramming you’re going to have to do in the next few nights. You’re super stressed and you need something to make you feel better immediately. Who’s that one loyal friend you know you can count on to easily make you feel better? For most, it’s food.
Stress eating is one of the most common habits college students develop, especially during finals week when the pressure is on to learn the information you missed when you “got sick” and “had to miss class.” You get that immediate feeling of stress and anxiety, and all you want is for that feeling to go away.
“Food is one of the most common stress relievers,” said Dr. Jeanne Segal, a psychotherapist who specializes in emotional eating. “And unfortunately, the foods people choose are usually junk food and sweets, not healthy alternatives like fruit or vegetables.”
One simple way to avoid eating unhealthily is to not have that kind of food nearby in the first place, said Ithaca College senior Dena Dubofsky. “I just make sure not to buy any junk food around finals week, “ she said. “If it’s not there, then I can’t eat it.”
Segal added that if you feel the need to eat while studying, make sure to pick a healthy alternative that you can eat more of. Or — if you really need your sweet tooth fix — portion it out. “This way you know exactly how much you’re eating,” Segal said.
University of Maryland sophomore Ali Schumacher said her mother actually sends her “healthy finals packages” and that the more nutritious snack foods give her more energy to continue studying than the quick relief junk food provides.
Another solution to stress eating is to find a replacement for it. “If food is the only way of calming down, you’ll eat too much, so you need to find other things that work for you just as well,” Segal said. She added that listening to your favorite, relaxing music or spending some time with friends are easy study breaks.
Segal said, however, the best way to avoid stress eating is to manage your stress appropriately and not become dependent on food. “Stress is part of life, you can’t avoid it,” she said. “But you can learn ways to reduce stress in a healthier way. It’s fun to figure out what makes you feel good and relieves the constant stress you face as college students.”
Photo: at http://wheninlawschool.tumblr.com/post/21657116900/when-i-stress-eat-during-finals