As midterm season has crept onto campus, so has one of the student body’s most terrible diet-related habits: stress eating. For me, the habit coincides with late-night snacking, which makes it so much worse.
It’ll be turning midnight, by which point I’ve already eaten all my meals for the day, but somehow my stomach still thinks there’s room for more. And not just a little bit more but a family-sized-bag-of-chips type of more.
It honestly feels like a magic trick at times. One moment I’m sticking my hand into the bag to grab a handful, and the next, I stick my hand in only to grab air. If my workload disappeared as quickly as food does around me, I’d be getting 16 hours of sleep per day.
The more I think about this habit, the worse it really sounds. On a typical late-night study session or homework cranking session, the first wave of snacks won’t be enough. By the time I’m done with them, I still won’t be anywhere near done with the work I have to get done that night. Cue more snacks.
Of course, I’ve tried substituting chips with other equally delicious and crunchy snacks like nuts, granola and cereal. I’m totally happy with snacking on these healthier substitutes, but at the end of the day, they’re still bad in high quantities.
Carrots and celery sticks would be ideal snacks to munch on for a good hour or two without too many consequences, but I still need a sweet or savory flavor to go with every bite I’m taking.
Sadly, carrots and celery sticks alone don’t provide enough flavor for me unless I add a dip. But when you add a tub of hummus to the mix, it’s no longer healthy.
When it comes to stress eating, I’m only “full” when I tell myself that I’m full. My snacking will usually go on until one of three things happens: I’m out of food, I’m full or I’m out of work to do.
The first thing that’ll happen for most people is that they’ll feel full, so they’ll naturally stop snacking. From what I’ve read online, it seems like it should take about half an hour after eating for the mind to signal that the stomach is full, but it feels longer than that for me.
I could go snacking endlessly for an hour or two, especially when it’s something that comes with a nice crunch.
If I didn’t stop myself at some arbitrary point, I could probably go on snacking for a whole night. It’s pretty scary to think about, but it also makes me wonder why I stress eat in the first place.
It’s not that I’m hungry. Snacking somehow gives me comfort when I have to stay up late with a lot of work to do in the hours ahead of me until dawn. If my hands aren’t writing or typing, they’re holding snacks.
Snacking might provide me with an illusion that I’m doing something, even if I’m not working. Of course, eating delicious food is also something that never fails to put a smile on my face.
It’s probably during the somber hours of readings I have to catch up on or problem sets to crank out that I’m most in need of some steady source of happiness in the background to keep me going.
Although snacking might put me in a better mood for my work, I don’t think it actually helps me get stuff done more efficiently. I can’t really “multitask”; that word is meaningless to me. I can hardly even pay attention to a conversation or lecture unless I’m looking directly at the person who’s talking.
So if I’m eating something, it’s probably going to distract me and divide my attention from whatever else I need to be doing. It’s worsened by the fact that whatever I’m snacking on is probably loud, thanks to the crunching.
I might be in the middle of a sentence, crunch, have to pause and remember what I was even doing, crunch, and just sound totally incoherent and, crunch, have to redo whatever I was just doing.
Late-night snacking isn’t unhealthy for me just for weight reasons. It’s also unhealthy because it prolongs my nights by making homework take longer than it should.
That leads to lack of sleep, general lethargy, a slow-functioning brain (slower than usual, I mean) and a need to nap and push the things I have to do later into the night. This leads to scrambling to finish things at night, which leads to snacking and… Well, I think I just found one of the roots to my suffering at Hopkins.
But denying myself food is also suffering. There’s no easy way out. There never is.