Hello loves! So, since the majority of college classes are starting back up soon, if they haven’t already, I thought I would write something geared more towards college and how I handle my eating disorder while in school. During my undergrad career, I cannot think of many times where I was actually in recovery from my eating disorder. In fact, I spent most of my time entrenched in my ED. This year is different, however. I am happy to say that I actually feel comfortable writing a post like this for you guys, and I hope these tips for meal planning can help whoever may need it!
Meal planning…This is something that many people dread, I know I do at times. However, it is a crucial element to recovery for those who suffer from various types of eating disorders. It has taken me years to learn (definitely the harder way) that if I do not meal plan, I slowly slip back into eating disorder behaviors. If I do not incorporate some form of structure into my day, then that leaves just enough room for my eating disorder to sneak back in and leave it’s two sense. When that happens, do I listen to my eating disorder? Sometimes…okay, I do not want to lie. When there is no structure or planning going on during the day, I listen to my eating disorder probably 98% of the time. This is why it is so important to have some kind of plan! I spent most of my college career listening to this eating disorder voice that still haunts me at times. Mind you, I am much better now and am on the path of recovery, but it used to wreak havoc on all aspects of my life, including school.
When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, I would plan everything around food, including when I would eat, what I would eat, when I would use behaviors and how I would use behaviors. School did not come before my eating disorder; anorexia was my number one priority, and I used school as a way to engage in more behaviors. In college, you have A LOT more freedom than you do in high school. You don’t sit down with all of your friends every day at the same time for lunch, and you do not have teachers and faculty watching you and keeping a close eye on you. Eating becomes more ‘on the go’ so to speak, and you eat when you have the time in between or during classes. You have full accountability. Even if you do not go away to school and commute like I do, you still have much more responsibility. Yes, I get some help and support from my parents when I am at home, but when I am out and about if I eat or not is ultimately on me.
Here are some tips that I want to share on ED recovery with all of my high school friends preparing to go off to college:
- Meet with a dietician. Now, I don’t know about every university out there, but I know my university offers free services including meetings with a dietician however often I need. When I discovered this, it literally changed my life because this nutritionist is amazing! If your university offers this service, please please take advantage of it! It can only help and a nutritionist is a great person to confide to in how your eating habits are going while in college. If your university does not offer dietetic services, maybe consider seeing a dietician outside of school. If you are open minded and willing to recover, it can really help!
- Plan out your meal times. This is something I did not do in the beginning, because well, I just didn’t care to. Now I know how important it is to make sure that I schedule time to eat, because for me if I do not literally pencil it in, it might not ever get done. Once you get your school schedule, look at it and figure out times that you can fit in your meals and what you have time for. Do you have time to sit down and eat somewhere like in the dining hall or the student union? Or are you rushed for time and need to grab something quick? Figuring this out ahead of time will definitely be beneficial.
- Ask a friend. If you know people going to the same school as you, or if you have made some friends, ask them to eat with you! This is really important, especially if you are still struggling with your eating disorder. I know that the times that I ate with friends were some of the most helpful because I had a normal meal and used less ED behaviors. When you eat with others, you are kind of forced into normalized eating habits. Eating with someone else also helps you to stay more accountable! So ask anyone – your room mate even! Find people who you can eat with. Guaranteed it will make your life so much easier and will make meal times that much more enjoyable!
- Think about what you would like to eat ahead of time. I am not one to make a super strict meal plan. For me, that pushes me further into disordered thinking and disordered ways of eating. My best option is to have a loose plan. I have figured out over the years that it is important to have some guidelines, but I should not have every single food I eat and the amount planned out, it fuels my OCD. If this works for you and helps to keep you accountable, by all means go that route! What helps me, though, is to have a flexible plan in which I figure out what I would like to eat the night before. That way, you are not getting to the dining hall or student union and trying to figure out what you want on the spot. That is always so hard, especially when you are with other people. I know I can be very indecisive, so if I know what I would like to eat the night before, I can feel a little less stressed about the whole process of buying my food.
So, those are my four main tips for how to eat/meal plan in college. I hope you found them helpful! I just wanted to reiterate that I am NOT a professional; I just speak from my own experience.
Stay strong lovelies – your life is worth so much more than your eating disorder!