It’s time for another ‘how to cope with an eating disorder at…’. Before I started university, I was very worried about how I would cope with an eating disorder at uni. I searched on the internet and there wasn’t anything so I just had to figure it out for myself. Even a year on, I have seen more resources on social media etc. which is amazing. I thought that I could provide some tips as a current university student. If you would like to read more guides on coping with an eating disorder, check out the ones that I have written for Christmas and Easter.

Write a list of meal ideas

Before I had even moved to university, I wrote down a list of meal ideas. I had a brainstorm with my sister and my mum to get a variety of meal ideas. I made sure to include some protein as I sometimes forgot about it. Even if you don’t think you will have it, just write it down anyway. It’s nice to have lots of options.

Make sure you include a list of safe food meals. This is purely a precaution. Hopefully, you won’t have a relapse or struggle but if you do, it’s really important to have a few meals or snacks that you are okay with making and eating. For me, they had to be really simple. I think that I only had one meal that I was happy to make and eat if I was having a relapse. I just needed it to be so easy that I didn’t really need to think, I could just shovel it in. That meal was couscous with cheese. It isn’t a lot, to some it may be a snack. But it’s much better than having nothing.

Sometimes just having that snack or meal, almost got me out of the bump in the road. It prompted me to not getting worse and so I continued eating. If I hadn’t eaten that meal, I might have had a bigger relapse, but I really didn’t want that to happen.

Meal plan

I know that I tend to go on about the benefits of meal planning, but it has just helped me so much. I like to plan out my breakfast, lunch and dinner but also snacks. When recovering from an eating disorder, snacks were just as important as having a meal so it is really important to remember them.

Whenever I had a bad day last year, it was because I hadn’t planned out my meals. It doesn’t matter if you have something different to what you planned out, I always find that I need something there just in case.

Last year, I bought a meal planner but I think it was only meant for dinners. I didn’t have enough room to write breakfast and lunch, let alone three snacks! I quickly realised this wasn’t ideal and created one for myself. When you subscribe to my newsletter, you will receive it…and you can edit it.

Now that I’ve plugged my newsletter 🤣, I’ll tell you another good way of planning your meals. If you don’t want to write down the snacks for specific days, I sometimes write them down on a separate piece of paper or on my whiteboard. It’s natural to fancy different foods on different days, but it’s also nice to have a wide selection of options!

Some snack ideas:

  • Peanut butter on crackers
  • Hummus on rice cakes
  • Breadsticks and hummus
  • Packet of crisps
  • Brunch bar
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Cucumber, carrots etc. and hummus

Batch cook

Batch cooking is such a lifesaver at uni! For most people it is for those days when you can’t be bothered to cook, you’re on your period or you’ve had a super busy day. But it’s also perfect for coping with an eating disorder at university. I have only really batch cooked bolognese. I tend to cook about 5 portions, have one for dinner and then freeze the other 4. Pasta obviously doesn’t freeze well and it doesn’t take long to cook, so I always cook that on the day. Of course, it totally depends on the amount of space in your freezer, this year I don’t have as much space!

Some other ideas for batch cooking:

  • Curry
  • Chilli
  • Soup

I’m not very good at coming up with meals to freeze, so let me know if you have any ideas

Flatlay of herbs, lemon slices and salt
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Keep safe foods in

One of the best ways for me to cope with an eating disorder at university was keeping in my safe foods. I know that not everybody likes the phrases ‘safe foods’ or ‘fear foods’, but I used them a lot in my recovery. Luckily, I had challenged the majority of my fear foods before university and before I was discharged.

I still had a list of foods that I got on with much better and was willing to eat, pretty much, no matter what.

They included (and it’s more than okay if yours aren’t the same):

  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Crackers
  • Brunch bar

I can’t quite remember all of them, but they were some of my main ones!

Reach out to mental health services

I think all universities are meant to have mental health services, whether or not they are good is another question. But if you can, remember that there are mental health services and they should be there for you if you need some help.

If your university doesn’t have any mental health services, there are lots online that will also help.

  • Samaritans – 116 123
  • BEAT

Student line – 0808 801 0811

Youth line – 0808 801 0711

Helpline – 0808 801 0677

  • Young Minds – Text YM to 85258
  • Speak to your GP

Look after your mental health

There is so much studying and work that you do at university, as well as the socialising side but nothing is as important as your mental health and wellbeing. A lot of people say this, but make sure you do take time for yourself. I’m quite introverted and I do quite like socialising with people, but meeting so many new people can be very overwhelming. If you need some inspiration, check out this post for 100 distractions.

Another thing to remember is that no one will really take notice of your eating habits. It doesn’t matter whether you eat more or less than others. You also don’t have to tell anyone. I haven’t really told anyone about my eating disorder, I’ve touched on having a few mental health troubles. Sometimes I worry that my friends at home only see me as someone who used to have an eating disorder or who used to be really depressed. For that reason, I haven’t properly told anyone at uni. If you think it might help or you are struggling and there’s someone really supportive, then of course go for it.

If you want some more information, I’d recommend reading this guide I found a few weeks ago.

Do you have any other tips?

Best wishes, Cx

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36 Comments

  1. These are all great tips! And having an editable meal planner is so handy!
    Personally, my ED stems from my mum and childhood trauma, so I coped better when I was at university than now when I have to stay with my parents until I can afford my own place. Either way, planning ahead is a great thing to do! And if possible, intuitive eating works wonders. Just eat whenever you feel hungry — that would be unheard of for my mum, but it helped me a lot because I could break away from the restrictive eating/binge eating cycle I had fallen into because of her.
    I’m sure your tips will help a lot of people, so thank you for sharing x

    1. So true, I tend to snack a lot at uni due to eating when I feel hungry – I find it’s much better that way 🙂 Thank you Lise x

  2. These are really good tips to help people who are in the same position as you. This is such a helpful post. Thank you for being so open and honest and using your post to raise awareness.

    Lauren – bournemouthgirl

    1. Thank you, I hope so x

  3. This is a brilliant blog post, bulk cooking and stocking up safe foods were and are the best tricks for me. It took me a long time to realise how much they’d help me though. I’m so appreciative that you are so open, honest and helpful in your posts, you’re helping a lot of people I’m sure.

    1. Thank you x

  4. This is a great read, alot of detail and so helpful. I wish i did meal plans when I was at uni and batch cooking. I was just going with the flow too much.

  5. Good tips! I used to have an eating disorder problem when I was in university. I was so obsessed about being slim and pretty. Luckily I found a good solution, and that is walking. Walking made me naturally fit without skipping meals.

  6. This is absolutely amazing information and I bet it will help a lot of people as you mentioned there isn’t a lot out there on this! I love to batch cook and plan my meals and it really helps with ensuring you’re getting good nutrition each meal – thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you Alex x

  7. What an important post to share, I know this will help many people, thank you so much for sharing xx

    1. Thank you x

  8. Great way to spread awareness! Also love that you included resources, as a lot of schools and universities often can’t provide the right support. Lovely post!

    1. Thank you x

  9. Charity says:

    This is so important that you are spreading awareness and resources for this issue. Thanks so much for sharing all this helpful information

    1. Thank you x

  10. This is such a helpful post with ideas that can help people with eating disorders in any situation. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you x

  11. Gemma Jayne says:

    Great post to share and hopefully help a lot of people! I was also really nervous about my eating when I started university (years ago now) and it was hard and you kind of just have to take one day at a time. But the meal planning is definitely a great idea! Also I was the same and I didn’t really wanna speak to anyone about it but I did eventually and my friends were amazing about. Thank you got sharing xxx

    1. I feel you, I’m taking one day at a time x

  12. Caroline, this is such a helpful post! Even for me. I’ve not suffered from an eating disorder, but when I have a flare up of my Crohns Disease, I can have issues with food for a couple of weeks at a time. I think your tip about having safe foods at the ready is a great idea. When I get ill, it’s only starchy foods like pasta or potatoes that I can eat. I’m going to make a list of my ‘safe foods’ and make sure I have them available at all times now. Thank you! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I have IBS so having safe foods in is a must too 🙂 x

  13. Amazing tips! Keeping safe foods in my dorm room and carrying a snack was a must for me as well! Cooking in bulk is also a great time saver, plus I didn’t want to waste those delicious meals, so I was more motivated to eat them. Uni is hard, even without an eating disorder, so putting your mental health first can be a life changer!
    Self love is definitely one of the most important things if you’re on recovery.
    Thank you for sharing!
    xoxo

    1. Thank you Dora x

  14. Meal planning is something I do as a matter of course, even though none of my family have an eating disorder. I think it’s such a good idea, you know what you have in, when you’ll be having it, and the addition of safe foods and healthy snacks is spot on. This is such a helpful post, Caroline, really well thought out. Thank you for sharing x

    1. Thank you x

  15. Meal planning is such an amazing way to curb some of the anxiety that comes with an having eating disorder. It’s so hard and I love you mentioned getting support because it’s so hard to deal with alone. ED recovery takes so much patience with yourself and giving yourself kindness.

    Great post.

    1. So true, thank you xx

  16. These are great tips and I’m sure this post is going to help people who may be going through this situation with an ED. Such an important topic and you’ve handled it so well and been very thorough in your post.

    1. Thank you ❤

  17. These are really great tips. I struggled with some food issues in my teens and I was really concerned about bad habits creeping in when I was 100% responsible for my own health and nutrition. I found that cooking/ eating with a flatmate was really helpful because it was a way of keeping some kind of routine and being accountable x

    1. I love that idea x

  18. I love your snack and batch cooking ideas, Caroline, as well as the ways you have been coping with your eating disorder at university as it is definitely a different environment than high school and home circles. Carrot or bread sticks with hummus are my favorite snackables, but I love almond butter on apples too!

    Finally, I have never done it, but I have heard you can freeze casseroles. 🙂

    1. Sadly I can’t have almonds as I’m allergic, but I like peanut butter on apples – I think I’ll have that tomorrow!

  19. […] Reading is one of those activities that you can enjoy no matter the time of year. I’m 100% romance genre reader, but I’m sure lots of people love to pick up a horror book for Halloween. As tempting as Waterstones is, you can borrow a book from a friend or family member, join a library or buy a second-hand book. Second-hand September may be near the end, but it’s important to keep up those habits you may have formed, as well as remembering that clothes aren’t the only items that can be second-hand. I’ve found so many book gems in charity shops, and I’ve just joined my local library whilst I’m at University. […]

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