Whole30 at College


mrmacken

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I'm currently in my sophomore year of college. When I went home last summer, I did a whole30 and loved it. I have a pretty healthy body type, so the most significant part of the transformation for me was mental. I've always struggled with disordered eating habits, which I felt like I finally conquered. Now that I'm back at school, I'm struggling to ride my own bike. I live in the dorms, and don't have access to a kitchen so I have to eat all my meals in the dining hall. I'm not gonna lie, the food here is pretty good. I can always make a "big ass salad" with plenty of veggies and some hardboiled eggs or some kind of meat, and I can always ask the servers to leave the bread or potatoes off of my plate. I did pretty well the first 2 or 3 weeks, steering clear of the house-made desserts, high quality ice cream, and artisan-style flatbread pizza. I felt confident that I'd be able to keep up all the progress that I had made over the summer.

Then things started going downhill. I started having desserts a lot more often. Drinking on weekends (hey, I'm a college student!) always led to me binge eating when I got back to my room. Then on top of all that, I have been having serious challenges with my social life- tensions between my friends and I, and I also had a tough break-up. I was an emotional wreck for a few weeks, and my habits hit rock bottom. Eating has become a major coping mechanism for all the stress I am experiencing. On days when I feel lonely, I end up bingeing. Once, I found myself in the dining hall, and had 2 huge plates of pizza, then 2 huge bowls of icecream- because I felt alone and the food felt so comforting.

Even if I am staying paleo, I often find myself eating multiple apples or multiple packs of jerky in one sitting, when I was hardly even hungry in the first place.

I find myself in an endless cycle- I wake up in the morning, determined to "restart" a whole30. I do fine for a day, then the next day, come dinner time, I'm ready to binge on sweets and carbs again. I hate it, and I feel helpless. I just weighed myself today, and I've gained 7 pounds in the past month, which I imagine is largely due to these terrible eating patterns and habits I'm reverting to.

I'm afraid that all the progress I made last summer is gone. It's so much harder at school than it is at home, because while healthy foods are always an option, unhealthy foods are always there too.

I want to do another whole30, but "college edition-" not stressing about the fact that they use canola oil in almost everything, there might be traces of gluten in unsuspected places, or that the scrambled eggs come from a bag. There's only so much I can do, but I want to do my best. It's not as much about finding out if I have serious allergies to dairy or anything- because I've already done a whole30, and I don't. This is more about establishing better eating habits and not reverting back to my disordered eating habits.

So how do I do this? How do I get back on my bike, in the face of so many unhealthy foods, so many failed attempts, and such challenging mental and emotional circumstances?

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You are using food to cope with emotional issues. You need to learn better ways to cope and the most efficient way I know to do that is with the help of a psychotherapist. I spent years working on myself with a series of psychotherapists, so I know something about the process. For that matter, I made my living as a psychotherapist from 1983 through 1997.

In the past, I've been reluctant to recommend psychotherapy on this forum even when I thought it was the obvious choice for some of the issues that people have presented, but life is too valuable to squander by not taking the most direct route available to resolving problems. The forum is a great place to get support and to have a measure of accountability, but face-to-face support and accountability is more powerful, so why not find some.

Few of us learn to manage our emotions and personal relationships in a healthy way at home and there are certainly no good role models on TV or in the movies. Back when I was a psychotherapist I used to say that every educated person should spend some time in psychotherapy to learn the things that can't be taught in school. That didn't convince many of my friends or people I met at church, but that's what I still think, come to think of it.

You might find it easier to recommit to a Whole30-college edition if you have somebody to talk with on a regular basis along the way.

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Tomis right, the issue is stress,not food. Find a way to cope with the stress, because it will always be there. Always. Highly palatable foods do soothe the symptoms of stress, so in a way, you are taking care of yourself. Don't beat yourself up. You are doing the best you can. But, of course, you know that it's not a good long term strategy.

Most of my weight gain over the last 15 years has been because of stress (100 pounds! Nobody wants that.) Find a professional who can help you find ways to cope with not only the issues you're facing, but stress in general....it'll always be there, might as well figure out how to deal with it now.

{hug}

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I agree with Tom and Alana - and I'm really glad they posted these responses to you. In college, stress can be overwhelming and it's the most common time for young people to develop (or exacerbate) food issues and eating disorders. (First hand experience here.) Getting to a place where food isn't a way to deal with stress or uncomfortable emotions is really important - and very very difficult to do on your own. I'd also highly recommend talking regularly to a counselor. I talked regularly with a psychotherapist for a few years and it completely changed my life for the better. All of this is being said with a whole lot of love!

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I can totally relate to your post. I am a Junior in college as well and deal with stress and anxiety through eating in a similar way. You are NOT alone. In fact, I find many people on this site turn to the whole30 in hopes of concurring this. However, I want you to understand to not have unreal expectations for yourself. it is up to you if you can complete a whole30 in college. I did about 21 days and then caved and went out drinking but after a night of terrible sweets tonight and feeling awful I am looking to starting day 1 tomorrow. Whether you decide to do the whole30 or not, make that decision for yourself, but also realize that the whole30 may not conquer everything. However, it may make your head a little "clearer" in the process. Good luck!! Wishing you all the best! Also, its hard being surrounding by "off-limit" foods all the time so cut yourself some slack! We know a lot more about nutrition than our peers. :)

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Heymrmacken!

I also can relate COMPLETELY. I am a college student, no stranger to disordered eating.

I really need to jump back on this whole 30 thing and quit the bingeing.

Would you want a text buddy? I find that sometimes helps to keep you accountable. Let me know!

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Hang in there! I struggled much like you when I was in college too. My college offered various counseling services. Check your campus and if they don't have anyone that can help, they will know someone nearby that can. In the meantime, try spending time reading or listening to positive books/podcasts etc. I found that if I spent my lonely times doing positive things, I felt better without food. I actually enjoy being by myself now. I love spending time in coffee shops...reading, listening to music, drinking coffee...no cream/sugar. ;)

Just spend time working on your mindset and everything else will fall into place. Best wishes to you!!!

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  • 2 months later...

I can totally relate to your post. I am a Junior in college as well and deal with stress and anxiety through eating in a similar way. You are NOT alone. In fact, I find many people on this site turn to the whole30 in hopes of concurring this. However, I want you to understand to not have unreal expectations for yourself. it is up to you if you can complete a whole30 in college. I did about 21 days and then caved and went out drinking but after a night of terrible sweets tonight and feeling awful I am looking to starting day 1 tomorrow. Whether you decide to do the whole30 or not, make that decision for yourself, but also realize that the whole30 may not conquer everything. However, it may make your head a little "clearer" in the process. Good luck!! Wishing you all the best! Also, its hard being surrounding by "off-limit" foods all the time so cut yourself some slack! We know a lot more about nutrition than our peers. :)

I also did about 20 days and caved to drinking. But it was just straight liquor, no sugary drinks or snacks or anything like that involved. I wonder how other college students manage. I'd like to think drinking once a month and being totally whole 30 compliant is pretty darn good.

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