Incidence of obesity is growing

by Mandy Frohling

Obesity is the second leading cause of preventable deaths, and for many, this weight gain starts during college. But there are many things you can do to prevent added fat.

Obesity is a disease that affects at least 39 million Americans and is responsible for at least 300,000 deaths in our country each year.

Students are often warned of the ‘freshmen fifteen’ when they go to college. But, this is not the same thing as obesity, although it may be a starting place.

“Being overweight is not the same as being obese,” college nurse Michelle Cross said.

Obesity is classified as being 25 percent over your ideal body weight or having a body mass index of 27 or greater.

Cross said there are many possible reasons for weight gain in college, most of which have to do with a change in eating and drinking patterns.

Cross attributed limited dining hall hours, late-night snacking, binge eating, social activities centered on food and drink (especially alcohol) and a possible decrease in physical activity to all be possible reasons for added pounds.

Cross advises against doing any of these activities in excess. “Alcohol and sugars are empty calories, with little or no nutritional value,” Cross said.

Besides being unsightly, there are also tons of health risks involved in adding weight. Obese people are at a higher risk for many different cancers, including breast and renal cell cancer. Arthritis and other pain also become prevalent, according to the American Obesity Association.

Pat Singer, assistant professor of biology, has taught a nutrition class on campus, and agrees with Cross that the tendency to become fat is fostered by our American lifestyle: lack of physical activity combined with the abundance of tasty, high-fat food.

Singer has three tips for avoiding the clutches of obesity.

1. Stay active.

2. Do not eat while studying, and if you do, choose healthy snacks rather than chips or sweets.

3. Do not drink sugar heavy sodas; do drink tea or water.

Although prevention is best, Singer says it is possible to lose those extra pounds in a healthy way, but it must be done slowly.

“I would guess that most people would want to lose fat, not weight,” Singer said. “You must eat according to the food guide pyramid in moderate amounts.”

Both Singer and Cross advise against radical diets and weight-loss supplements.

“None of the fad diets are good for you,” Cross said. “They don’t give you enough nutrients overall, and not eating backfires because your body’s metabolic rate drops significantly.”

Singer says diet drugs should signal red flags for consumers. She says it is not rational to expect to lose five to ten pounds in a week.

In addition to examining what we eat, obesity may also be treated by looking at the patient’s emotional and mental processes. Treatment of obesity includes a number of treatments, such as dietary therapy, physical activity, behavior therapy, drug therapy, combined therapy and surgery.