by Burgundy Walters. This post is the second installment in Burgundy's blog series. Check out the first installment here.
So we’ve survived day one, onto day two! You have class at 8 am and 9 am. You’re not quite cleared to participate in practice or lift yet because the proper paperwork hasn’t been filed or signed but you still must go and watch. Lift is at 6 am and practice is at 11 am and 3 pm (it’s preseason which means 2 practices per day). Then you have study hall AND tutoring, you have to get your textbooks today and go to team orientation. Oh yeah…freshmen don’t have cars either (I walked 10 miles on my first day of college, and averaged about 6 every day after that). Once again, a jam-packed schedule that instantly induces stress. Food is probably the first thing on your mind because all you had yesterday was half of a granola bar, but it’s the last thing you know how to get accomplished. Your parents aren’t there to make food or remind you to eat. The dorm has a communal kitchen but it’s always dirty. Not that it matters because the only thing you really know how to cook is spaghetti but have none of the ingredients, no clue how to get to a store, and maybe 10 bucks to your name.
*deep breath* Okay, that’s a lot. It’s easy to get distracted and forget to eat. The problem is the stress and lack of time will be constant. If you don’t start practicing grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking early on during this adjustment period, it becomes a difficult habit to break. I have always had a strange relationship with food. When I started college, I realized that I really don’t know how to eat. My teammate and I would get to the end of the day and realize we had eaten absolutely nothing. Neither of us had a car and the only place open at 9 pm where we could use our meal plan was Subway. After a week of surviving off a footlong a day, Subway was no longer an option. So, sleep became dinner. Yes, sleep. It became like a competition to see who could go the longest without eating and not pass out at practice. Of course, we snacked here and there to make it through the day. But getting to the store required timing and communicating with an upperclassman which was just too intimidating at this point. Your body is already glued to the bed. There’s not even a kitchen to cook a meal in any way so what’s the point, right? We convinced ourselves that we didn’t need to eat that night. But one night becomes two which becomes a week and before we know it, the only things keeping us going are water and Cliff bars.
Knowing how to prepare for this can help build a good relationship with food, which is not just an important part of being an athlete, but also a needed life skill! Let’s tackle how to plan meals and snacks for your busy day. Personally, I am not a breakfast person (other than coffee). I learned that I could order groceries online and my roommate had a car. We decided we could order online to save some money and time. Once a week, we would take inventory of what we had already to replenish snacks. We both decided on a snack we would want for our morning walk to class, one for before practice, and one to satisfy our late-night sweet tooth. It was difficult to get in the habit of remembering the snacks were there…so we put them literally everywhere. In our backpacks, on the desk next to the laptop, right near the head of the beds, anywhere we frequently had to be as a visual reminder. Eventually snacking became part of the routine! Meals were a little trickier…
Of course, we had pizza night, would go out for dinner, and order in for girls’ nights. But we limited ourselves to those nights on the weekends. Which worked out perfectly because we would only get back to the dorm at a reasonable hour twice a week, too exhausted to leave the room. To counteract this, we would write down our dinners with the day we were going to cook them on the bathroom mirror. When it came time to cook, we followed a 20-minute recipe online and would make enough for at least 2 nights. Taking an hour to order groceries and plan dinners saved us hours of late nights and hundreds of dollars spent on junk food. While not all places have online grocery shopping, the same ideas can be helpful at the store! You can even look at the layout of the store online, so you know exactly where to look and avoid. Shopping becomes easier when you know what you’re looking for!
Let’s review what we learned to develop a healthy relationship with food!
Consider shopping online!
Pre-plan meals/snacks/trips to the store
Fit snacking into your schedule so it’s not as daunting
Remember you DESERVE to eat
Eating is not a competition. Yes, you’ll be busy and tired. But we get energy from food AND sleep, not one or the other. Figuring out what works for you may look completely different than my journey and that’s okay! The important thing is to keep trying until a method works. You need food and it shouldn’t be a burden. The time spent cooking and sharing a meal with your roommate becomes a nice time to talk and destress with someone who understands what you’re going through, to think about something other than practice and homework. Building this relationship is hard, but a strong foundation allows real habits to form that are permanent and not a band-aid.
Burgundy Walters (she/her/hers) is a senior Biochemistry student at Mississippi State University. As a student-athlete, she is passionate about making other student-athletes feel less alone and educating others on the particular struggles this group faces. In this blog series, Burgundy hopes to highlight her experience as a student-athlete to expand awareness of the unique stressors she's had to face throughout her college career.