Sep 282005
 
Authors: Kristen Majors

Breakout box:

Obesity increases the risk of:

High blood pressure

Type II diabetes

Heart disease

Stroke

Breast, prostate and colon cancer

It's no secret Americans are getting fatter, and CSU students are no exception.

New data from last year shows 23.5 percent of students reported themselves in a survey as being overweight for their height, said Kyle Burger, registered dietitian at Hartshorn Health Center.

Burger also explained that 23.5 percent is probably an extremely low estimate, since most people fudge a little on their weight and height, reporting themselves as being lighter and taller than they actually are.

The good news, Burger said, is that we are still well below the national average. Most college campuses in the country report a 31 percent prevalence of being overweight or obese, and according to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Web site, 65.2 percent of all Americans are overweight or obese.

"It tends to be a lot lower (on college campuses) because being overweight or obese tends to be less prevalent in high socio-economic status people," Burger said. "That includes college students, and it tends to get higher with age as well."

The American Obesity Association Web site labels obesity as the second leading cause of unnecessary death and claims the disease has strong familial, social, cultural, metabolic and psychological components. Most cases of overweight and obesity are caused by environmental factors such as lack of physical activity and high-calorie, low-cost foods.

The age group with the fastest growing obesity rate, according to the NCHS Web site, includes people from 20 to 34 years of age. Most college students fall into this age group, and Burger thinks life on college campuses could have something to do with this increase.

"People are making their own food choices for the first time. They don't have mom and dad pushing the vegetables or making dinner every night," he said. "Students aren't necessarily active during college years. They might have participated in high school sports and aren't in college."

Alcohol consumption is another main cause of weight gain in college students that often tends to be overlooked, Burger said.

"It's called a beer belly for a reason," he said. "People don't realize they're drinking something that can add up to weight gain."

Many young people, especially females, want to stay fit for health and cosmetic reasons.

"I'm concerned about weight because of health issues such as heart disease," said Nichole Lange, sophomore secondary education major . "That's the leading cause of death, and that's why I run."

Lange relies on a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise to stay fit.

"Eating healthy and limiting yourself at the cafeteria is important. So is being active, working out at least three times a week," she said.

Various resources are available on campus to students who want to lose weight or prevent weight gain. Hartshorn offers Weight Loss 101, a program that includes four individual appointments with a dietitian and three classroom sessions. There are also dietitians available for individual appointments at any time.

The campus recreation center is open to all CSU students and offers various weight lifting equipment, aerobics and exercise classes, cardio machines, an indoor track and multiple sports courts. Individual or group appointments can be made with athletic trainers to create a specialized workout routine according to a person's needs.

Cafeterias on campus offer a variety of fruits, vegetables and low-calorie foods. Burger advises people to watch portion sizes when eating and keep healthy snacks on hand, but to avoid fad diets or quick weight loss programs.

"There's a 20-minute rule. Your body takes 20 minutes once you stop eating to realize that you ate," he said. "If you eat quickly, you'll eat more before your body realizes it's full. Take 15 or 20 minutes before you go back for seconds."

He also suggests the "plate method": fill half the plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with protein and one quarter with complex carbohydrates.

Even eating at fast food restaurants doesn't have to mean a calorie overload. Cheryl Hinkle, a shift supervisor at Carl's Junior, said the restaurant has healthy options available, such as chicken and salads. She also said, however, that customers tend to go for the fattening foods, like hamburgers, instead.

For more information on overweight and obesity prevalence and health risks, go online to www.obesity.org or www.cdc.gov/nchs. For more information or tips on weight loss, Burger recommends www.mypyramid.org.

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