With finals season upon us, stress levels are high and can lead to students falling into unhealthy eating habits.
Mairead Whitford Jones, a junior environmental science and technology major, notices that she eats more unhealthy food during finals.
“I had cake for breakfast the last two days,” she said.
During finals, Whitford Jones said eating sometimes helps her focus, but she unnecessarily snacks. She feels better when she eats healthier foods, but when she is stressed she eats worse and it becomes a cycle.
“I am a stress eater, and it doesn’t actually help, but I do it anyway,” she said.
Genevieve Tan, a junior fire protection engineering major, said that she mostly eats healthily during the year, as she usually eats Asian influenced dishes with rice and lots of vegetables. However, she indulges in far more desserts and snacks during finals.
When Tan lived in the university dorms she noticed she would choose to eat sweeter items such as cookies and ice cream. Having unlimited access to these foods in the dining halls made it easy to reach for them. Now that she is at home, she hopes to have intervention from her family in choosing healthier foods.
“The sugar rush could compensate for how disastrous I was feeling [at the time],” Tan said.
Tan also eats less when she is sleep deprived, but finds hunger does not affect her concentration. Rather, when she stress eats, she snacks out of habit rather than hunger.
The body produces more cortisol, when we are stressed, according to Rachel Shifflet, a registered dietitian from Courage to Nourish in College Park. Eating food can trigger dopamine which makes us happier and can help with the increased cortisol, the stress hormone, Shifflet said.
“Stress eating is a part of normal eating, and it is important not to beat yourself up over that,” Shifflet said.”
She said it is important to assess how your body is feeling in the morning and to make sure that you are eating when you are hungry. Additionally, everyone’s body is affected differently when they are stressed; some people overeat while others undereat or forget to eat.
It is important to eat meals with a carbohydrate for energy, protein to stabilize blood sugar, and fat which are macronutrients that keep you full, said Shifflet.
Some tips to stay healthy during finals are to stock up on a variety of food and snacks for the week. Set phone reminders to eat and drink water so you won’t forget a meal or to stay hydrated.
You can also tell your friends to check in on you to make sure you aren’t forgetting any meals, and don’t forget to check in on them too!
Finally, don’t forget to take breaks from studying, even if they are short ones, to destress from your upcoming finals.