Welcome to Everything But The Bagel, a weekly space to make you feel a little less stressed, and a little more grounded, just with writing instead of cream cheese. By diving deeper into the reality of life as a Trojan, Everything But The Bagel will help you get through the ups and downs of your college experience. Through relatable anecdotes, interviews, and my curated edit of recommendations, this newsletter will remind you that you are at this school for a reason, further helping you make the most of your time at ‘SC.

Dear Beautiful, Imperfect, Intelligent Humans,

When America started to realize that the Coronavirus was far from a hoax, we panicked––to say the least. Costco lines were out the door as shoppers filled their carts with everything from toilet paper to tortellini. Of course in the beginning, this panic only seemed rational––nobody knew how bad it would be. But when shoppers returned home and unpacked their groceries, there they were, sitting on the couch, with a year’s-worth of non-perishables and an anxious brain moving a mile per minute.

All of a sudden America was cooped up inside with no routine besides eating, sleeping, scrolling and repeating. Of course the sleep and scroll part of that algorithm have been messed up, with many of us having trouble falling asleep at night or snoozing well past noon. As for the scroll, the black hole that is Tik Tok and Instagram seem to require less effort than going for a walk around the block. So where does that leave eating? Why are we finding ourselves mindlessly browsing the pantry and freezer? Why has this virus taken a toll on how we think about food?

“When we start to lose our routine it can really throw off our typical sense of functioning and an individual can really lose sight of their hunger fullness cues,” said Danielle Gonzales, a clinical psychologist for USC’s mental health services who specializes in eating disorders.

“When we have those routines shifted, it can either unknowingly restrict us throughout the day or those cues can be rapidly firing and wiring because our brain and biology is off,” Gonzales said.

We are either forgetting to eat due to stress or a loss of appetite, or finishing a bag of chips in one sitting. In either scenario, it is not mindful, productive or healthy, and the food we eat has a direct correlation with our energy each day.

The best way to regain a sense of normalcy in the kitchen is to go back to our pre-pandemic eating routines. Gonzales recommends students “do their best to set up a schedule with relative meal times.” While it is unrealistic that you will eat at the exact same minute every day, telling yourself that you eat breakfast during a two hour time window, for example, will help your body readjust to this new normal.

Gonzales also stressed the importance of paying attention to our hunger fullness cues. This is something I have been working on for what feels like forever, but it is even more important when your body clock is thrown off. The best way to do this is to “rate how you are feeling about your hunger and eat according to that,” Gonzales said. This usually requires taking a few deep breaths before your meal, sitting down at a table while eating––no on-the-go bites––and eating as slow as possible. I have also tried switching my fork between hands to slow down my pace.

But more than any designated meal time or active hunger cue, returning to a healthier relationship with food really comes down to readjusting our expectations, both “for your academic work but also for body image,” Gonzales said. As I’m sure you all know by now, there is this debilitating pressure from society to lose weight and get that ‘perfect summer body’ which is an easy trap to fall into. But there is also a pressure to bake every sweet treat known to mankind––like what the heck is avocado pudding?!

It is important to remember that food is more often than not a social activity––you may be used to eating with classmates and friends as opposed to Erin Burnett or your Netflix show. Trying to recreate that interactive eating experience via Zoom, where you are getting that social component, can help you return to your typical food routine. Gonzales adds that eating with others can “help us stay in touch with our bodies and with our peers as well.”

Gonzales encourages students to return to the reality that we are in a global state of crisis and that “on top of feeling the panic and uncertainty, we are now tempted to sort of lean into different ways of coping,” which often means resorting to food. But if we can make a conscious effort to listen to our hunger cues, and open the fridge for nutrition instead of comfort, we will most likely develop a better relationship with food. Because right now, “good enough is killing it.”

If you want more guidance on how to create healthier habits with food, mental health services are offering appointments through the first week of May. If you are no longer in the state of California, counselors are offering appointments through one on one telehealth sessions and/or support groups.

So later tonight when you are watching a family movie or Little Fires Everywhere (12/10 recommend) and something tells you to grab the cookies, ask yourself if you really want them. If the answer is no, hold off. But if the answer is yes, you have my permission to go for it.

Wishing you all a week full of nutritious meals, self compassion, and laughter––lots of laughter.

-Ella

Now here’s some of my favorite things from this week:

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“There are far more problems and opportunities in the world than there are talented and hard-working people to solve them.” -Anonymous

When a friend shared these words of wisdom with me a few years ago, it was honestly one of the most life-changing sentences I had ever heard. Comparison has quickly turned into one of my go-to quarantine pastimes which has not been a productive use of time, to say the least. What we so often forget is that being a Trojan automatically sets us up for success. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to apply ourselves or make an effort––quite the opposite. While everything is so uncertain right now, I wanted to share this quote as a friendly reminder that you are smarter than you think and more capable than you know.

DIGEST OF THE WEEK

I have recently been feeling more agitated and antsy than ever before. I am sure it is some combination of the caffeine and quarantine, but it is starting to overwhelm my psyche. ABC news correspondent Dan Harris is hosting Live Meditations every weekday at 3PM EST/12PM PST. Each afternoon, Harris is joined by a different meditation teacher/spiritual guru who guides a 5 to 10 minute meditation followed by a brief Q/A. The session doesn’t last longer than 30 minutes and it is a great workday reset. I started scheduling this meditation into my daily routine and it has helped me carve out a space for mindfulness and some mid-slack r/r. You can also watch the episodes at a later time if the live doesn’t work with your schedule. 11/10 recommend!

SOMETHING I AM WORKING ON THIS WEEK (to remind you that we are ALL a work in progress)

Circling back to my earlier dialogue with Danielle Gonzales, I am trying to practice self-compassion not only in the kitchen, but on my computer, on my run and throughout the day. As this way of life really has become our new normal, there are still many parts of my routine––finishing my sophomore year of college in my basement––for one, that subconsciously create a lot of tension and anxiety. So I have been trying to take a step back and accept my feelings for what they are. If we are trying to thrive in a time of crisis, compassion is necessary for readjusting our expectations.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK

Every week, I welcome any questions or concerns you may have that could spark discussion/bring awareness to our community. Just remember: No question is a dumb one.

Write to me here:

Twitter: ellakatz20

Instagram: ellaakatz