Don’t worry, be app-y

I often find that I have the need to be on the grid to be able to keep up with the fast paced student lifestyle. Getting a smartphone was a complete game-changer because it allowed me to be productive while on the go. Over the last few years, I’ve grown attached to a few applications, which make my life as a student SO. MUCH. EASIER.

Some of these do use Internet, so they might not be as accessible for an authentic “on-the-go” experience. But they’ve still been really useful to have because I can complete some of the tasks I need to do, without actually having to physically be at a computer!

So without further ado, here are some of my favourite student-friendly smartphone apps:

1) TTC Bus Map (And other related TTC Apps)

Screenshot of phone screen showing map with red indicator of 510 Spadina streetcar

For commuters who take buses or streetcars on the TTC, this app is a godsend. It has a real time map of where all the buses or streetcars on any given route are located. This app specifically is for iOS devices, but there are dozen of other TTC apps with similar functions that are available for both Android and iOS.

2) Adobe Reader

Phone screenshot of Adobe Reader App "add note" function. Note reads "I can add notes!"I love this app for those days when I forget to print out my lecture slides and I’m too lazy to bring my computer to school. If you go to your phone browser and open .pdf files with the app, then you can highlight, add text, underline, draw and even add notes to the file!

3) Google Drive

Phone screenshot of Google Drive App "add to my drive" page.

I only recently found out about the Google Drive app but it’s been so helpful, especially for some of the student groups I’ve been involved in! It’s great to be able to pull up files while on the go, and if you download the corresponding Google Docs/Sheets apps, then you can even edit files!

4) Any Calendar App

Phone screenshot of iOS calendar app. Reminder reading "Library time"

My calendar app of choice is the default one that’s on my phone and it is my number one organizational tool. My entire schedule is at my fingertips so I’m constantly aware of deadlines. I once thought it was a Wednesday (it was Thursday) and I didn’t finish my Thursday blog post, so yeah, calendars are my best friend.

5) Urbanspoon

Phone screenshot of Urbanspoon App homepage. It shows options for search, reserve table and hottest in Toronto.

You had to have known this was coming. I love food, and having Urbanspoon lets me look for different varieties of food at different price ranges in whatever area of the city I happen to be in. GOD BLESS.

Maybe one day, humanity is doomed because technology will turn on us and the robot uprising will wipe us out completely. But until that day, I will still trust my smartphone to be a fairly reliable companion in my life.  So remember all: be app-y.

The Diner’s Club Experiment

After seeing my first post in writing, I felt I needed to get out more – out of my own head, out of my own room, and into the wider U of T community. It was no good to claim difficulties in meeting others and getting “out there” if I could instead develop solutions.

Having returned this year to U of T after a two-year absence, I observed that the biggest adjustment was eating by myself. I had the good fortune of two years of family dinners, so this was the most obvious difficulty. Now back at school, it has again become much easier to take food out in a takeout container – I thought I’d feel more isolated and look silly by being alone in a room full of people eating as groups, and I could catch up on CBC Radio or This American Life podcasts in my room. Practically speaking, takeout containers slung over one’s arm in a shopping bag are just easier to manage than a cafeteria tray. But the alone meal time made me feel worse; I knew something had to change.

Please don’t misunderstand me, U of T, I do have friends. But a couple of years away means that those closest to me in residence with me are long gone – having moved off-campus, graduated, or having left the city altogether .

So a solution to my loneliness problem became obvious: I couldn’t eat alone in my room anymore. This became a week-long experiment, the results of which I present to you now.

The first thing, in any experiment, is to lay out the hypothesis for that experiment. For me, it went something like: “I will feel more connected to my residence and to U of T in general if I eat in the cafeteria every day for a week.”

Then, all variables but one must be fixed, so that the researcher (me, in this case) knows how the changes in one variable alone affect the hypothesis without being affected by other variables. For me, the variables in question were as follows:

  • My residence building and room remained unchanged (I wasn’t going to live differently.)
  • The food would be the same (I wasn’t going to change how I ate.)
  • The staff would also be the same (this was obviously beyond my control, anyway.)
  • The environment in which I consumed it would be different (in our Hogwarts-esque dining hall rather than in my room.)

Great Hall of Christ Church College

The Great Hall of Christ Church College at the University of Oxford was replicated to create Hogwart’s Hall in the Harry Potter movies. [Image: Flickr | nathanaels (CC BY 2.0).

Having established my framework, I laid out some rules of engagement for myself.

  1. I didn’t necessarily have to eat with others if I couldn’t find them, but I did have to eat in the cafeteria for every meal.
  2. If given a takeout container (by awesome staff who remember my usual preferences) I had to eat in my residence common area.
  3. I could not have my phone with me when eating (what’s the point of eating in public if my mind was elsewhere? I’m also really afraid of damaging my phone with food.)
  4. I had to use a tray when ordering and carrying food.

The experiment itself was uneventful – I got food “for here” on a tray, and was often helped (very kindly) to a free seat by cafeteria staff. What surprised me was the almost instantaneous effects.

I felt more at home than I have all term, possibly my entire university experience. Something about eating on a real plate at a table with silverware, and not out of a cardboard container on my bed with plastic cutlery made me feel more welcome. I was never able to meet up with others to eat (I kept missing my new neighbours), but this didn’t bother me. I wasn’t joined by others, but I didn’t feel so alone. Perhaps because I chose this experiment: I wasn’t left alone by my peers, I was among them and alone voluntarily. Of course, I would have preferred company sometimes, but perhaps the thought that I was making more effort to be with my peers was comfort enough for now. Self-isolation due to fears of regressing back to a lonelier, more anxious incarnation of myself, and worries of looking weird eating alone kept me away, but a willingness to show up and be visible gave me confidence I could never have imagined.

Another interesting effect was how I ate. I didn’t wolf down food as though it were a necessary but inconvenient interruption in my day – I slowed down and took the time to enjoy my meals. I let my mind go blank. I confess that this often meant that I eavesdropped on my fellow diners. I have no shame in this: I figure if others people-watch, I’m entitled to entertainment of my own. ;)

There was only one uncomfortable moment when I sat down directly across from a group of friends. I felt I was too physically close not to be intruding on their lunch.

Overall, this experiment was a greater success than I could have ever imagined. I took it on doubtfully, but now am a full supporter of public, voluntarily solo eating.

The next logical step is to make more efforts to find people to eat with and reconnect with existing friends in Toronto. But I’m headed in the right direction towards socialization, however slowly I’m getting there.

Food for Thought

Food can be the best part of the day. I’m easily distracted by good eats. If you’re like me an ugly pile of tasty stuff can brighten up life instantly. But fancy meals are also fun, especially with friends.

A cookie sheet with nine golden pastry pockets with the letter Z cut into each one

These are a ton of work but definitely worth it: home-made turnover pastries with beef and sautéed vegetable filling. They also have my signature right on them (Photo by Zachary Biech)

First Nations House holds all kinds of fun feasts in addition to hosting lunches every Friday in the kitchen. The first major one is the Fall Feast on October 10th. Friends, food and fun all in one? I think that kitchen and I are going to get along very well indeed…

Looking outwards from the back of the First Nations House, with a large coffee machine on the right and a countertop and sink to the left

The coffee alone is enough to draw me in to the FNH kitchen (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://i.imgur.com/0xBDi0R.jpg

I’ve lost a lot of weight since the summer of 2012, and I now know eating well is vital. It starts with treating food like fuel. What goes into your body can give you power, but can also gunk things up. You wouldn’t use diesel in a gasoline engine right? If it ain’t good for my system, I ain’t interested.

A Pink Lady apple, with two halfs of a turkey and cheese sandwich on Italian bread with all the veggie fixings, plus some chunks of a blueberry granola bar

Very typical lunch at my apartment (Photo by Zachary Biech)

Also, how much is on your plate is just as important as what is on your plate. I follow a simple rule: half the plate should always be vegetables or fruit. Always. Add in some daily exercise and poof, just like that, I lost over eighty pounds. No fancy program, just good habits.

A plate with one quarter filled with beef roast, one quater with golden scalloped potatoes, one quater with roasted carrots, and one quater with baked green beans

Mmmm looks tasy; but notice the proportioning as well (Photo by Zachary Biech)

I’ve noticed university students have a hard time eating well. I think it’s the huge workload combined with cafeterias filled with sugar and fat. It’s very easy to say to yourself, “I’ve got no time. I’ll just grab some convenient comfort food and chow down real quick.” To avoid the freshman fifteen, I always found the tastiest, healthiest things in the cafeteria and proved to myself that it’s actually very easy to eat properly in university. What works for me: recognizing that greasy or sugary stuff will not fuel you properly and actually make things harder. Brains need the good stuff!

I’ve also found home cooking to be a source of salvation. In my apartment, I exercise complete control over the foods that surround me. Thus, I have a kitchen stocked full of my favourite grub, and there are no bad fuels in my cupboards or refrigerator. It’s a win-win.

A pile of potato pancakes, sliced banana coins, and two rings of red pepper with fried eggs in the middle

This is an easy, fun breakfast: Russian-style potato pancakes with egg-in-a-hole red peppers (Photo by Zachary Biech)

A picture looking over a bar counter into my little kitchen, with me standing in front of some baking ingredients

Me, doing some culinary hocus-pocus (Photo by Claudia Dessanti)

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring new recipes. Cooking is one of my favourite hobbies. I’ve got a repertoire of healthy, funky recipes, and no longer need the fatty, sugary junk. These recipes are super easy and provide a lot of leftovers. My favourites are the simplest ones, like rye biscuits or stroganoff.

Two golden-brown biscuits next to two two crepe-like creations topped with fresh blueberries

Those are rye biscuits on the right, and Russian blinchiki on the left (Photo by Zachary Biech)

My hand with an over mitt on, the thumb of which is burnt to a crisp

This is what happens when you touch the element in an oven…your thumb lights on fire like a torch (Photo by Zachary Biech)

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/rye-biscuits

http://natashaskitchen.com/2011/04/03/marias-russian-beef-stroganoff/

I love sharing what I cook with others, and I enjoy having meals with friends. It’s a great time for connecting. If you’re like me, then you’d enjoy Friday lunches (or even just stopping by for coffee) at First Nations House. It’s great for socializing, trying good foods and sharing your favourites. The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the dinner table can be the heart of friendships. Now enough talk, let’s eat!

What’s your staple go-to meal for busy times?

What’s your favourite food to share?

A bowl full of creamy beef and eggnoodles all mushed together (also you can see a sleepingbag in the background from the move-in process)

The first meal I ever cooked in my apartment: It’s an old family recipe and my staple go-to meal, which we lovingly call “eggnoodle concoction”
(Photo By Zachary Biech)

http://utsu.ca/food-and-clothing-bank/

http://utsu.ca/goodfoodbox/

#Foodie – The Off-Campus Food Scene

To be completely honest, I don’t even know what the exact definition of a foodie is, although you’ll often find me claiming to be one. Urban dictionary had way too many varying explanations, so that didn’t help much either. I do know that the real star is the food. Which is why I recently wrote a post about making your own food, or trying some of the great food that U of T has to offer. What I like to keep in mind though, is that I’m here for about 4 years. I don’t plan on making couscous every day when some of the best places to eat are just off campus.

Being in the heart of downtown Toronto, I always like to try out what our amazing city has to offer! It’s all a part of the student experience, right?  I’ve spent many a study session abandoning my books and going for walks around the outskirts of our campus, and I’ve found some really great places. Here are a few of my favorite eateries so far!

Millie Creperie near Spadina and College – This one was a fairly recent find. A friend and I decided to walk around the area and we found this place tucked away in Kensington. The crepes are served in this little cone, which doesn’t make it any easier to eat, but makes it cuter to look at!

IMG_4834

Must-try: Mango Tango Crepe

Banh Mi Boys near Queen and Spadina – I found Banh Mi Boys during my Toronto staycation and although it’s probably the furthest spot from U of T, it’s definitely worth the walk! I never realized my love for Vietnamese food until I came across this place!

photo (1)

Must-try: I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again. Kim-chi fries!

Fresh near Bloor and Spadina – If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you have to try this place out! They have amazing smoothies and a fairly large menu with vegan/vegetarian versions of your favorite foods! Must-try: Sweet Potato fries! They were good enough that I didn’t even have time to take a picture :(

Dlish Cupcakes near Yonge and Bloor – Dlish does amazing cupcakes. There are so many flavours to choose from, and it’s conveniently close by to campus in Yorkville. #classy.

photo (3)

Must-Try: …cupcakes?

Sakura Sushi near Bloor and Spadina – Even if you aren’t a fan of sushi, this place has plenty to offer in terms of udon, grilled meats, desserts and more. Also, did I mention it was all you can eat? *Cheers*

photo (2)

Must-try: It’s all you can eat. Try Everything

So that was my foodie adventure (so far). So tell me U of T, what are your favourite off-campus places to eat? 

A U of T Student’s Recipe for Success

I’d like to consider myself a borderline foodie, and as a result, I refuse to let the quality of my meals slip just because of a few trivial things like ‘exams’ or ‘homework.’ I have a few go-to methods and recipes to make sure that even when heading to Robarts at 8AM for a 12 hour study session during midterms, I’ll still be able to have a healthy and preferably home-cooked meal to eat. Apparently cake pops and Frappucinos are not part of a balanced meal.

IMG_2463

When it looks this good, anything can be a part of a balanced meal.

I’ve come to the realization that the problems with being healthy while busy (for me at least) can be narrowed down to a few issues:

  1. Money
  2. Flavor
  3. Time

Sometimes, it may just be easier to grab a cheesy poutine from the food truck, but I still try to make myself decent food despite these issues. After many failed attempts with expensive veggies, bland food and simply just sleeping in too late to cook anything, I’ve finally figured out a system that works for me. So here is one of my favourite recipes, along with some of my useful shortcuts to go along with it!

IMG_4586

Couscous Salad!

Let me take a minute to express my outright love for couscous. All you have to do is add boiling water, and it cooks in 5 minutes. Even if a 5-minute cooking time isn’t short enough, this is the perfect food to make in big batches on a Sunday night, for a daily grab-and-go during the week. It’s also super customizable. So if kale or celery isn’t your thing, you can add whatever vegetables you love (or whatever vegetables are cheapest to buy!). I have a flyer app on my phone called Reebee that gets me all the grocery store flyers, so I scan it to stock up on fruits, veggies, and anything else I might need thats on sale.

Recipe: Amounts can vary depending on how much you want to make but here are the general ingredients! Enjoy!

-1 cup of cooked couscous
-1/2 cup of chopped kale
-1/2 cup of scraped carrots
-1/2 cup of scraped zucchini
-1 tomatoe, diced into small pieces
-1 small onion diced into small pieces
-1 tsp chopped ginger
-salt and pepper to taste
-lemon juice
-2-3 tbsp of olive oil

Instructions: Sauté ginger, carrots and zucchini and kale in a large pan. When cooked to your desire, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, mix together the tomatoes and onions with a little lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Once everything has cooled down, mix together in a large bowl and store in the fridge! This will save cooking time in the morning so you can be more relaxed. Or, you can always sleep in longer and rush out the door, but either way, you have a meal ready to go!

To make it extra special (this is where the flavor comes in), invest in some flavourful ingredients such as sriracha sauce, balsamic vinegar, sesame oil or fresh coriander (or other herbs). Most of these don’t go bad very easily and last in the pantry or fridge for a long time. It’s comforting to know that the $4 I spent on sriracha was well worth it.

photo

Just kidding, I never regret the sriracha.

Sometimes, even despite our best efforts, life can get too hectic to even make time for cooking (see: Finals week). If you ever need to find somewhere to eat on campus, there’s a app for iPhone and Android with the UeaT Campus Food Map! You’ll have all of the campus restaurants and cafés at your fingertips!

Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 5.12.19 PM

Makes it easier to find Harvest Noon <3

So tell me U of T, what are your go-to healthy recipes? Let me know down below in the comments or tweet me your suggestions at @Api_UofT on Twitter!

My Toronto Staycation!

I really wanted to go on vacation this year. Like really, really wanted to go. Earlier this year I had my sights set on trying delicacies in Europe, touring ancient architecture in India, or having a breathtaking stay in Nepal.

But, alas, as summer rolled around, I knew it wouldn’t be possible this year, because of the summer grind. Vacations are hard enough to plan without jobs, school, student budgetary restraints (that’s a nice way of saying I’m a broke college student) and other summer commitments getting in the way. I’ve accepted that my cool vacation in a country I’ve never been to still awaits me (in the near future hopefully), but I didn’t want to spend my summer without ANY vacation time at all.

To solve my vacation blues, I decided to go on some mini-adventures to fulfill my vacation needs right here in the city- a staycation!

Things Api would like during a staycation:

  • Somewhere to relax!
  • Exotic food I’ve never tried before
  • Pretty, historical architecture
  • Nice Views

My first stop of the week was to relax out at the Waterfront. It’s a quick subway ride to union station and a short walk to the ferries and the boardwalk. I decided to bring a book and have a seat at one of the benches, and it was probably the most relaxed I’ve been in a while. I returned to reality feeling a little better about my upcoming finals.

IMG_1965

Perfect day to relax!

Vacation spot number two was yummier than I expected. Toronto has endless possibilities when it comes to food from other cultures, but I wanted to try something something I’ve never had before. I ended up trying Kimchi fries for the first time and it was SO good! Kimchi fries are hand-cut fries with pulled pork, Kimchi (pickled cabbages), fresh leeks and a little bit of mayonnaise:

Some kimchi+pulled Pork yumminess <3

As U of T students, it’s fairly common to encounter pretty architecture, but I felt compelled to add it to my vacation list just because I need to see what else is out there (It’s not you Knox College, its me.) Therefore, spot number three was the Distillery District! This was probably the furthest spot from U of T, but its not so far out of the downtown core that it’s a difficult to get to. Truth be told, I’ve been to the Distillery before, but I just can’t get enough of it. I will use any excuse to take selfies with the twinkling lights at night time.

photo 2

I have about 20 versions of this picture because I take one every time I go #Guilty

My final vacation spot was…*Drumroll please*… The CN Tower! For one awesome view of Toronto, the ticket is totally worth it. If you look really closely you might be able to point out places on campus like UC, Convocation Hall and Varsity Stadium!

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Beautiful city, beautiful sunset!

Overall, my week has been awesome. It was nice to take a break from the regularly scheduled school programming. As the summer goes on, I plan to keep up my mini-staycations and visit somewhere different each week. So check out my shenanigans on Twitter @Api_UofT!

Until next time, U of T!

And Here We Are . . . The End of Term!

I used to snowboard a lot in the winter. Ever since I was about six years old, I was out on the snow-hills and riding chairlifts. But once I came to university, I stopped. I guess I got busy. Always finding myself, all of a sudden, at this same moment: The end of term.

Feeling rushed. Stressed. Panicked. Less than a week left of classes. Then exams. It’s especially hard because I can smell the winter break like it’s a warm, cinnamon-sugared beavertail at the bottom of the hill and I just want to bomb the course to reach it. But school and snowboarding, unfortunately, are two dissimilar things.

I can’t bomb school. I have to work hard. I have to do well. I have one final project this term (it’s true, but it’s my fifth year, so don’t hate me). I probably could rush it. But I know that if I take my time it will be better, more interesting, more enjoyable, and altogether more worthwhile.

The tricky part is committing, staying focused, and seeing the project through to the end. Whether it was my first end of term, or now my ninth, finding the energy and concentration is a challenge. Not to mention finding the time to eat, and to take healthy breaks.

And that’s where I bet most of us are right now. I’m assuming that everyone is busy, stressed, and resenting the day they ever chose to attend U of T. So I’ve decided to forgo regaling you with a tale of my own academic sufferings, and just get on with my schoolwork.

Yep, that’s right, I am going to study. I can do that, no problem. I’m going to take my time and do an excellent job. It’s not like I’ll slowly drift away to amuse myself with strange, funny, stupid, and generally pointless distractions . . .

Like these!

Okay, that was fun! But I should probably get back to work.

Ha, I love that! All right, I really need to study for that in-class exam on Monday.

Wow! Just wow! But that’s enough. Time to destroy this essay!

You know, I kind of want to see that. No! Stop! I need to focus!

Source: http://imgur.com/a/Culn9

Source: http://imgur.com/a/Culn9

Maybe I could become an extra once I graduate. THAT’S IT! No more! I have to finish my schoolwork!

What just happened? How long was I watching that stuff? I guess it doesn’t really matter.  It’s the end of term. Needing some kind of break from studying is inevitable. I’m not going to stress, or panic, or run away. I’m going to recognize that distractions and procrastination are normal. Good studying and good work require a break now and then.

Next time, though, I think I’ll go out for a walk. Get some fresh air. Call a friend. Eat some soup. And let my tired little brain actually rest, until it has to get back to work.

 

Good luck out there, U of T!

- Stephen

The Psychology of Food Labeling: Read before you feed

“50% less fat!” states the box of cookies on the shelf of my local supermarket.

“High fiber” says the box next to it.

While another box asserts “Made with goji berries!”

Have you ever paid attention to the bold claims splashed on the labels of food packaging in a blatant attempt to persuade us to buy them?  And how often we purchase these items with little deliberation because we think we are choosing a healthier option?

Society’s increasing preoccupation with health and wellness has created a heightened awareness of sensible and healthy eating ideals.  When people shop, they may now focus more on foods that are perceived as having reduced fat, sugar and sodium, as well as on foods that are organic or gluten-free.  Food companies are aware of this and market their products through “healthy” food labeling to cater to these ideals in the hopes of making them more attractive and competitive. Ironically, “healthy” food labeling can actually lead to unhealthy eating habits, such as excessive caloric intake of up to 35%1!

Let’s look at some common food labeling and how psychological mechanisms can produce paradoxical eating behaviors.

1. The “low fat/low calorie” label

Source: http://diethellno.tumblr.com/post/55343168425

Source: http://diethellno.tumblr.com/post/55343168425

When people see this label, the first assumption is that  there’s a low probability of overeating the particular food product. This assumption combined with the social acceptability of eating low fat/low calorie food triggers two psychological processes that lead to excessive intake. Firstly, cognitive dis-inhibition occurs—meaning that our mind feels less restricted about eating the food because we feel that it’s “okay.”  Secondly, the perception of the food product’s low fat/low calorie characteristic leads to lower subjective feelings of satiation—leaving us wanting to consume more2.

So the next time you’re tempted to buy a pack of 100 calorie cookies, remember that you’re probably going to feel like you have to eat another five packs just to feel full.

2. The “organic” label

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/kmallikarjuna/21-of-the-most-mesmerizing-food-gifs-725b

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/kmallikarjuna/21-of-the-most-mesmerizing-food-gifs-725b

Studies show that people perceive food products labeled organic as having less calories, having a better nutritional profile than non-organic products, and tasting lower in fat and higher in fiber3. This is a common misperception, however, as “organic” describes the method of food production, not its nutritional profile. An organic muffin could have just as many, if not more calories than a non-organic muffin!

3. The “reduced sodium” label

Source: http://confessionsofabadchemist.tumblr.com/post/34978560246/when-anyone-mentions-raman-spectroscopy

Source: http://confessionsofabadchemist.tumblr.com/post/34978560246/when-anyone-mentions-raman-spectroscopy

Ever since research has shown that high sodium intake can lead to hypertension, many people have taken precautions to lower their salt intake4 . Food manufacturers have indeed responded to the demand for low sodium goods and market them as such in hopes of higher profits. However, the “reduced sodium” label has a negative effect on taste perception, so people end up adding their own salt upon consumption5, in turn defeating the health enhancing purpose of the product!

So how do we make healthy food choices given the paradoxical psychological effects of “healthy” food labeling?

Read the Nutrition Facts on packaged foods. Pay more attention to the nutritional information on food packages than just the marketing labels at the front, as they reveal a lot more about the contents of the product.  Compare the information with that of similar products – you might be surprised at what you discover.  For example, cereals that market themselves as low fat and high fiber may seem healthy, but they may still be packed with lots of sugar!

Better yet, as Lesley Stoyan of Daily Apple stated at the Live Well to Learn Well conference at Hart House last week, “eat without a label.” In other words, choose whole foods such as meat, chicken, fish and fruits and vegetables that have more complete nutritional profiles more often than processed foods.

So what’s been your experience in trying to eat healthier?

 Cheers,

Gloria

Mindful eating: an approach to cause a gut reaction

“Watch what you eat” is the old adage given to anyone wishing to be healthier. Most people interpret the phrase using what as the keyword, and thus understand it as being more sensitive about the nutritional value and portion size of meals.

But watch is just as important a word.

mindfulwatching

I hear she clocks him if she catches him eating badly. And then he becomes very alarmed.

While the contents of your meals do impact your health, so does the process of how you consume it1.

In the hectic storm of classes, extracurricular and coursework amongst other things, students barely find time to sit down for a meal. Some even find it to be a bother. So they tend to compact eating with another activity. Like me — I’ve shared countless meals with my laptop while I browsed the internet or did my readings, although it has not been most appreciative of the coffee or crumbs on the keyboard.

By combining eating with another activity, the act of eating becomes secondary to the activity because there is no attention paid to the food2. This results in continual hunger and overeating because your brain has not registered the fact that you have eaten3.  This can also lead to poor eating habits because you may not even be paying attention to what you’re eating4.

What I have described above is “mindless eating” – eating without intention or attention5.

A healthful and pleasurable approach to eradicating mindless eating is “mindful eating”. It is a strategy that has roots in the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation6.

I know this was cheesy.

I know this was cheesy.

Mindful eating consists of paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking inside and outside the body7. This involves perceptual attendance to the physical characteristics of the food such as colour, smell, texture, flavour, temperature and even sound; as well as the somatic experiences of hunger and satiety. In conjunction, attention is paid to the mind to observe when it gets distracted during eating, when impulsivity arises in relation to food, and how the experience affects mood8.

Eating mindfully can contribute to the development of a balanced, wholesome relationship with food by facilitating a learning process through which an understanding of how food affects the mind and the body can be reached9.

So the next time you find yourself sharing a meal with your work, consider taking a break and making eating an experience rather than an evolutionary formality.

To discover more about mindfulness and mindful eating on campus, check out Mindful Mondays and Mindful Eating: Food & Mood.

Gloria

The Juggling Act

The concept of “living a balanced life” has always been such an elusive one for me.

Growing up, I maintained a relatively erratic lifestyle, and I carried that into my first year of U of T. I’d sleep 3 hours one night, and crash for 15 hours another (no doubt after I had stayed up for at least 36 hours cramming for a paper).  I would go two days without a proper, substantial meal one week, or spend 4 hours in the cafeteria every meal, going back for fourths, and sometimes even fifths. One weekend I’d be out with my friends three nights in a row, but the next I’d neglect to do my laundry for fear that I’d waste precious “studying” time by having to fold clothes instead.

The worst of it was that I thought I had this lifestyle down to a carefully calculated system. To me, the “balance” I found was within two extremes, wrongfully thinking they’d somehow cancel each other out. Needless to say, everything started to take its toll on me – I started to get more severe mood swings, I started crashing for longer periods, and I frequently began to fall sick at least every two weeks.

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tabathaleggett/the-stages-of-pulling-an-all-nighter

How I ended up feeling most days.

Second year came around and many of my habits remained the same, but I noticed that subtle changes helped drastically improve certain aspects of my life.

I joined intramural volleyball again, but this time, I made it a point to attend practices and games weekly.  I hadn’t played competitively since my high school varsity team got cut back in junior year, but it didn’t matter – I still loved the game, and playing on a regular basis made me remember how good it felt to exercise. The endorphin rush was just what I needed to kickstart a day of studying after practice. I traded in going out every night of the weekend to give my body a chance to rest and recuperate from a hectic week of school.

Instead of listlessly doing mass sign ups for campus group memberships at the UTSU Clubs Fair (with my actual involvement going only so far as to just receiving the email updates), I decided to get more involved in Friends of MSF, a campus group that advocates for a cause I feel passionately about.

All these little changes began to make me feel better – as clichéd as it sounds, I felt more purpose day-to-day and it was refreshing to make friends with people who actually cared about the same things I cared about and who were actually excelling in school (not just getting by!).

The art of balancing life here at U of T often feels like a precision juggling act – we look to those who seem to have it all figured out as mythical creatures who have achieved the impossible and managed to maintain a life where “work hard, play hard” really does exist.

I’ll let you in on a secret – those people who seem to always get it right are not so different from you and I. They’re just doing everything they love with the right amount of time commitment to each endeavour.

I still struggle greatly with healthy eating habits, studying smart (not the same as studying hard!), and keeping an active lifestyle outside of intramural season, but my experiences have only taught me for the better (and I’ll definitely be keeping you guys updated on my progress along the way). Now that I’ve gotten a taste of a more balanced life, I’m determined not to let it slip away.

Source: www.tumblr.com/tagged/enough_sleep/

I’m still working on figuring out the magic formula to have all three.

P.S. If you have any advice to give incoming first-years on balancing academics with personal life, tweet us and don’t forget to hashtag #StartUofT!