The first thing Polina Golovina does in the morning is search for their vape.
They go to sleep with it beside them, amongst their pillows and blankets, and as soon as they open their eyes, they search the bedding for it to inhale their fruit-flavoured nicotine. Then they proceed to get ready for the day—doing their makeup and getting dressed—before heading out the door on an empty stomach.
On the way to class at Mount Royal University, Golovina picks up a coffee, which is their only source of nutrition until they buy lunch in the cafeteria.
Skipping meals is a common in young adults, especially those attending post-secondary education.
This type of disordered eating can be a range of different things, from restricting certain foods, binge eating, or irregular eating patterns, and most times this is impacting one’s mental health negatively.
Most students find themselves skipping breakfast entirely and replacing the important meal with caffeine, like an energy drink or coffee.
Everyone struggles to find a healthy balance of time between their part-time jobs, social lives, commutes, classes, and homework. This leads to having difficulty finding time and resources to prepare proper meals.
A pattern followed by many students is that they skip breakfast, buy a meal at lunch, or eat a few snacks and then eat a bigger dinner when they get home for the day.
When it comes to eating out versus home cooked meals, students find that restaurants and fast-food places are much more convenient. Being out of the house all day means people are not home to cook meals, so they resort to the convenience of fast food.
“I never have enough time during the day for anything, because I am so focused on school,” says Golovina. “It’s like just so overwhelmingly busy all the time that like food becomes a second thought on most days.”
Being in classes all day, working all evening and spending hours commuting, some students rarely have time to fix this bad habit.
It can be difficult to find the time and money to get groceries, and often students living on their own resort to unhealthy options rather than fresh ingredients.
When Katie Lee lived on her own, she often found herself going straight to bed after her work shifts rather than cooking a meal.
On top of rent and other expenses, it was hard to afford good groceries. With the food she had, Lee would meal prep and warm up her meals when she got home and carry snacks with her to eat throughout the day.
This issue has caused many students to feel more burnt out than usual. Since they are running on less food or more unhealthy food, they can feel exhausted and overwhelmed more easily.
There are many ways to combat disordered eating. Most universities are offering the Good Food Box.
With this program, students can buy a box of fresh fruits and vegetables for a slightly cheaper price. Students can order a box directly through the program or through the school and pick up their orders on campus.
This helps ensure that students are eating healthier and have the resources to do so. Unfortunately, many students are not aware of this program.
“I think it’s easier to have a set meal throughout the week than decide the day of when you don’t know what ingredients you have to use to make food,” says Lee. Other ways to begin working on disordered eating is by getting into a food routine and sticking to it. Planning out meals and ingredients is a great way to ensure proper nutrition.
University of Calgary student Emily West has recently noticed her disordered eating habits of hers and is working towards fixing them.
Previously, she noticed that her disordered eating was impacting her mental health as she was feeling more burnt out more often, although since changing her routine, she has been feeling better.
With all her classes online, she is at home more which allowed her time to start a healthy breakfast routine and plans healthier snacks like oranges and apples to take while on the go.
Aside from online classes, West works a part-time job at the mall. When she is working, she often chooses to eat her lunch from the mall food court, and she eats a meal when she gets home.