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Students - How do you do it?

I'm a prof., and I read the Chronicle of Higher Education forums as well as PeerTrainer. One frequent topic of conversation over there is "disrespectful" behavior in class. While some of the things described are worse than disrespectful, eating comes in for a lot of comment by professors.

Personally, I've never thought about it twice. I've had many students who worked straight through lunch in my lab (which is a biohazard zone -- no eating) and if they didn't snack on something in one of their classes they would be going 12 hours between meals. So if a student pulls out the trail mix while I'm lecturing, no big deal. However, it appears that I am seriously in the minority -- most take it as a personal insult.

So for those of you who are full-time undergrads (or med students, for whom I think this is also true), how do you accomplish the several-small-meals-in-a-day recommended for losing weight? Offend your profs? Eat while walking between classes? Specifically schedule your day with time for food?

Sun. Jul 2, 9:06pm

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I am a recently graduated engineering student and I generally went 18 hrs a day and definitely pulled my fair share of all-nighters. I also graduated a full year ahead of schedule so one might say I brought it on myself.

My professors were totally understanding. However my diet was aweful. I ate a snickers with a diet coke during my first class for breakfast, I would grab something at the dining hall for lunch and then I would have snacks and dinner in the lab (which was also no food due the presence of electronic equipment that stops working if you spill pop on it in the right spot). As long as we ate our food at one of the long study tables in the middle of the lab and had bottles with lids fastened, no one would say a thing. Even the library had a designated place where students could study and eat (but no library material was allowed).

I should note that I went to a school that offered only engineering and science degrees which tend to be rigorous, and although food could be disruptive in some environments, most professors knew very well how large a workload most students had and I never had a professor get pissy if I needed a snack during class. Certain classes were only offered at certain times, so although I tried to schedule a lunch hour it wasn't always possible. I did draw the line at eating a 'meal' in class though. However sometimes the best I could do would be to grab something and get into the room fast enough to have 5-10 minutes to eat before class started. I was hardly the only one to do so either.

As for losing weight? I didn't. I gained 45 pounds while I was in school. I've lost 20 of it and would like to lose 10 more. A saner schedule and more nutricious food in the dining hall would have helped. Also my choices for snacks were limited to vending machines since I rarely left campus and only went back to my room to shower and sleep.

Sunday, July 02, 2006, 10:40 PM

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I used to have profs that would freak out if you had food. I would litterally leave the class " going to the washroom" and go grab an apple or something and eat it on my way back. Most students gain weight. This year I plan on using our school gym and working out. Also bagging lunches helps a lot.

I find planning my meals and NOT bringing cash is the best way not to fill up on food that you can buy at school. You save probably hundreds of dollars a year by taking food from home and you are saving your waist line too!

I'm glad a prof is concerned about their students! You should come teach at my university!! =)

Monday, July 03, 2006, 10:17 AM

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During my first 2.5 years of undergrad, I gained about 20 pounds. I worked out regularly and walked everywhere, but ate WAY too much with the unlimited dining hall access (3-4 bowls of cereal, or 2 bagels loaded with peanut butter was typical for breakfast, for example). When I also started working 25 hours in addition to classes, I basically ate around the clock just to stay awake. So, despite 4-5 hours at the gym, walking and horseback riding twice a week, I still gained weight.

I lost some weight in the last two years when I switched schools, lived in an apartment and was commuting with a solid 50 min of walking to get to and from school. But, I'd still do things like eat 3-4 Luna bars for "lunch" because it was easy to eat during or between classes.

I didn't really lose weight until started eating a more balanced diet and just eating less in general.

Monday, July 03, 2006, 11:14 AM

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In 4 years of college, I maybe had one or two professors that didn't allow food in their classrooms. So, I didn't eat in their classes. Otherwise, students ate in every class.

I found it annoying when people would eat loud or smelly foods, so I'd avoid crunchy foods or, like, tuna fish. I never thought it was insulting if you weren't interrupting or bothering anyone. I hope I didn't offend too many professors, but really I had no idea it would bother them!

Monday, July 03, 2006, 11:19 AM

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You put your body through more than it should go through when you go to school. Late nights, early mornings, poor food choices available for my budget, plus no time to eat.... I guess it's just one of those life experience things people talk about.

I went to school full time and worked full time so I may be a little different.. but I made time to eat- on the shuttle, walking to class, I found study halls where you could eat (or where you could hide so people wouldn't know you were eating), I even had to juggle eating at work- because of my hours there were no breaks so I had to sneak food in the backroom (food wasn't allowed there either), and I always drank lots of water (thank you Nalgene for your 64oz bottles that you can clip to the outside of your bag). All this time I was activly trying to loose weight- it worked quite well. Not sure why, maybe smaller portions and a lot of calorie burning.

All in all if I had to do it again I couldn't. I put my body through hell for 4 years- I don't want to do it again. College and healthy lifestyle don't mix.

Monday, July 03, 2006, 12:37 PM

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I am a fourth-year undergrad in a school where the classes are usually pretty small. A first year class may run up at 150 students, but by the fourth year it isn't unusual to have a class with only 10-15 students in it. In the bigger classes it isn't such a big deal if you eat, there are tons of other people to hide behind and most of them are eating or sleeping or playing video games on their laptops. In a small class, though, it's painfully obvious if you eat. I am usually at school 10-12 hours a day and I need to eat during class, otherwise I ouldn't make it. I try my hardest to be respectful, although that often means eating junk food. You can eat a chocolate bar much more quietly than you can eat carrot sticks, and a tuna or egg sandwich might disturb your classmates, never mind a peanut butter sandwhich which could send someone into a allergic reaction. I have never had profs complain about eating, but I am pretty self-conscious of it. I have learned to bring things like yogourt and granola bars to snack on in class or between classes.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006, 1:38 AM

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Food in Class

I've only had a few teachers who minded if we ate in class, and generally for those of us with work and demanding class schedules, people did it anyway. I've tried to "drink my meals" with Alba and other protein shakes in a Nalgene, but I'd love ideas for what to do. I am starting graduate school in the fall and those few professors are who I have for classes. I also will be working in public schools (no eating) as part of a research project all day before classes. Any ideas?
I think it will take some professors such as yourself bringing this to other's attention to change it unfortunately. I think a lot of people fail to realize that student schedules are busy (academically, not just by choice) and that eating in class does not denote boredom or disrespect, but more a lack of time to eat.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006, 4:57 PM

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I am a current biochemistry student.. I have gained 50lbs since going to college.. its sad because I had to make poor food choices.. I wish I could eat in class but I think it is rude to eat in class the noise and the interruption to everyone.. plus sometimes foods leave odors.. also that most of my classes do not allow food at all.. since of the biohazards in chem or bio... I usually eat whenever I can and alot at once.. I wish I could eat smaller meals and space it out but between lectures and labs its impossible and it doesn't make my body happy when I am starving either half the time.. I just have to eat to make it through the day.. these days I am trying very hard to control it but it is very difficult..

Tuesday, July 25, 2006, 6:48 AM

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Wow, I'm incredibly surprised at your thread. I'm currently a medical student, and rowed D1 varsity during undergraduate and eat/ate in classrooms all the time. Granted, if the class was interactive v. lecture, I ate less often. I had no idea that it could offend professors. I wonder if medical school is different regarding the professors being offended. During the last two years, we are mostly on the wards and in clinics during the day, and lecture time may be the only time that we are sitting down. (Plus with the free pharmaceutical lunches and dinners, usually with a lecture, I'd be surprised) But to answer your question....
Now I have a lot of snacks in my "white coat" to curb my hunger- baby carrots, cliff bars, almonds, whatever. Especially during my surgery rotation this was a must (some surgeries last 8 hours- of course you can't eat in the OR, but the locker room during bathroom breaks is an acceptable place). I've found that yogurts don't really stay well in a coat (and sometimes explode). I agree with the comment that when I forgot healthy snacks, I ate some pretty awful stuff from vending machines...
Hope this was helpful!

Sunday, August 06, 2006, 10:18 AM

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I forgot to add...

During undergrad, I was rowing 20+ hours a week/ worked 2 jobs 25+ hrs/ and studied to maintain a 3.6. If I didn't eat during class I would never had been able to maintain my weight and build more muscle (I needed about 3000 calories/day.) Not to mention I was working out 2/d. and sometimes practice would end at 8:10 (by the time we would get back to campus 8:20) and class would start at 9- shower or eat or skip class? would've been what I was choosing from.

Sunday, August 06, 2006, 10:24 AM

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I'm entering my last year of college, and I've found that most professors I've had make it pretty clear if they'll allow food in class. Some actually bring us candy or cookies, which makes them pretty popular. For the past few semesters, I've had class from 10-3, so I started snacking in class and afterwards having a light lunch. On that kind of day, I'd have a bowl of cereal when i woke up, have a pbj right before I left, which kept me pretty full, then take a bag of dry cereal, grapes, or anything else quiet and bite-sized to eat if I needed it. I lost about 8 pounds in college, but that's more from walking everywhere, playing sports, running, and eating what I wanted when I was actually hungry, rather than a set 7am/12pm/6pm.

Also, in response to your post, I've found that my teachers would rather I eat and be alert than stop paying attention because I'm focusing all my attention on my hunger.

Monday, August 07, 2006, 8:18 AM

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