Does This Make Me Look Fat?

Students, and young adults in general, rarely concern themselves with what they eat. There are risks, however, involved with the unhealthy binging young adults sometimes engage in - namely, obesity.

"Students spend a lot of time studying, using the computer and watching television and not enough time doing aerobic, physical activity," said Frank Carnevale, director of the Student Health Center.

Obesity is now considered a disease by the Center for Disease Control, and obesity rates for all Americans, including college students, are on the rise.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 33 percent of adults in the United States are obese, costing Americans an estimated $70 billion annually in medical costs, drug costs, welfare and missed work, among other expenses.

A recent longitudinal health study conducted by Tufts University found that two-thirds of college freshmen gain weight during their first year - an average of five pounds for men and four and a half pounds for women.

A lack of physical activity and the unhealthy diet often accompanying college life can lead to significant weight gain, according to Carnevale.

He said students need to stay away from greasy fast food, like pizza and hamburgers, as well as finger foods such as french fries and chicken strips.

"The more [students] eat on the go, the worse the choices," said Carnevale. "Those choices are often the cheapest and easiest to get."

The university has several departments that are able to work with students if they feel that they have a weight problem or need assistance maintaining a healthy diet.

The Living Well Center offers an on-staff nutritionist who helps students assess what could be causing their weight problems. The students evaluate their diet and often record their food intake for two or three days to analyze the nutritional, fat and caloric content of their diet, said Janice Cochran, a nutritionist with the Living Well Center and the Student Health Center.

Cochran emphasized that every student's needs and desires are different, and the center works to tailor its advice to the individual. "We let them set their own goals," she said.

The Living Well Center also offers a number of workshops that instruct students on such topics as how to cook healthy meals in the dorms and how to create a healthy grocery list.

"We try to make students better informed to make a choice," said Susan Snyder, associate director of the Student Health Center.

The Student Health Center, located in Michael Hall on South Campus, is another resource for students struggling with weight issues.

"We work with students who want to establish a healthy eating pattern," said Carnevale.

Cochran emphasized that students should "get medical insight" before they go on any kind of diet. Students need to be evaluated to see if their weight gain is due to a medical condition or if it is related to an underlying problem in their life, like stress, she added.

"It's hard to make a lifestyle change," said Carnevale, who emphasized the importance of addressing the problem of obesity early on in life.

According to the Surgeon General's Web page, 14 percent of American adolescents, ages 12 to 19, are overweight, and of those 70 percent will become obese adults.

"The effort is on the part of the students and if they don't [change their habits], it could carry through adulthood," said Carnevale.