Community, Consumer, Food, Health

An Epidemic on College Campuses?

Although obesity is a serious public health issue, other research proves that a spike on the scale can cause students to feel self-conscious about the weight they’ve gained, in turn dropping their self-confidence. This can take away energy and motivation to study because of the anxiety weight gain can cause. (c) 2018 Anthony Khelil

Click the play button above to learn what epidemic is plaguing college campuses nationwide. 

Audio Transcript: Khelil_Obesity Audio Transcript

By Anthony Khelil Syracuse, N.Y. (NCC News)–Obesity is an epidemic that affects many across the United States; however, when it comes to obesity, college students are typically overlooked.

The obesity rate among American college students grew from 27.4 percent in the fall of 2006 to 29.2 percent in the fall of 2011 and has steadily increased since then. The director of Trust for America’s Health, Dr. Jeffrey Levi, said that people do not look at college students closely enough when speaking on obesity.

“You certainly can find a lot of data showing that kids today under 18, under 19 are becoming more and more obese. They’re moving on to college and clearly admission to college doesn’t suddenly eliminate those rates of obesity,” Levi said.

Upon entering college, many students are on their own for the first time. Freedom is a big part of the college experience. This new independence and freedom to make choices does not come without a cost. Students are faced with a heavy workload. Homework, exercise, and socializing all compete for time. A personal trainer for Metro Fitness East in Fayetteville, New York, Evan Francisco believes this new freedom and lack of time factors into college obesity.

“I think there are a few things that come into play here. Having the freedom is definitely one of them. Going to a college environment where you have a lot more freedom to choose what you eat, choose how you exercise, and I also think time comes into play too,” Francisco said. “You have jam-packed college schedules. There’s only so much time to get your workout in with studying, doing your school work and hanging out with friends and socializing. I would say definitely the freedom and scheduling and time comes into play.”

Students making independent decisions about their diet as well as limited free time are not the only factor students face in terms of college obesity. Landon Wexler, A Syracuse University student who has struggled with his weight in the past, believes the abundance of food available across campus makes it even harder for students to maintain a healthy weight.

“There’s so many options for fast food, sitting in Ernie Davis dining hall, or Shaw or Saddler– all those, yes, they have healthy options like a salad bar, but it is kind of hard to have a salad every day,” Wexler said. “You see that orange chicken that’s fried- wow I really want to eat that today. Around here there’s Chipotle, which is a healthier option, but there’s also Acropolis, where you can get fried chicken or Varsity where there’s pizza. There isn’t too much to encourage us to eat healthy.”

Wexler said that colleges should be concerned with making sure students have healthy life habits. After all, the foods we choose to eat have a great impact on how our bodies function. Proper nutrition in young people is important because it helps promote physical growth and development.

College students tend to choose foods that are convenient rather than foods that are nutritionally beneficial. Fransisco believes the “convenience factor” in the foods students consistently choose plays a big role in weight gain. These convenient foods tend to be low in nutrition and high in calories. Yes, they do provide some benefits, but not the quality nutrition college students need.

An employee of food services and graduate student at Syracuse University, Bianca Moorman, believes Syracuse, as well as other schools, must promote a healthier style of eating.

“The school can offer more healthy options and also have better access for students for places to exercise. Near campus, there are not a lot of healthy options. We need more healthy foods, fruits, vegetables; they can offer trips to the farmers market–stuff like that,” Moorman said.

Experts are worried because sudden weight gain can lead to serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. According to Obesity Action, if college students continue down this path of weight gain, they will be at higher risk for health issues at 50 than their parents will be.

Weight loss on a college campus is definitely a challenge, but it can be done. Before entering college, by medical definition, I was considered to be obese. I worked out six days a week and was a three-sport athlete. Despite my active lifestyle, my unhealthy relationship with food and poor eating habits left me at practically 300 pounds, feeling trapped in my own body.

During my first year in college, I lost 110 pounds. Even with the abundance of food available on and around campus and many temptations, I was able to change my life. It is possible to avoid weight gain while at school.

I urge everyone, not only students, to find a balance that works for you. A balanced lifestyle is key to maintaining a healthy weight. Embrace healthy habits. Make the healthier choice 80 percent of the time and enjoy yourself for the rest. Value yourself enough to care about your health.

If I can do it, you can too.