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The Skinny on Being Healthy in College

By Jesse Hu

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The latest data on American Obesity rates is in, and it’s downright embarrassing. While certainly not a hard-and-fast rule, Americans are statistically fat and complacent: during the years 2011-2012 34.9% of adult Americans were classified as obese and 17.9% of Americans aged 2-19 were classified as obese. The numbers are appalling, but the study does add the consolation that that no significant increase in obesity rates has occurred from 2003-2004, when an earlier study was conducted, to 2011-2012 (“Healthy habits during college can last for a lifetime,” n.d.). At least we aren’t getting too much worse, because then we’d be on track to looking like people from WALL-E. We’re the butt of fat jokes in the world already, but soon making fun of Americans for being fat will be like making fun of children for crying – you can’t be mean to someone that pathetic.

Was that last paragraph hyperbolic? Probably. But these are issues that every college student recognize. Multiple articles have noted that the diet and exercise habits formed in college tend to follow individuals throughout their entire lives (“College food habits could set the stage for lifetime preferences,” n.d.; Amanda Klitsch, 2010; Ligi, 2014). Therefore, college freshman need to know how to live a healthy lifestyle balancing diet and exercise, otherwise they may have to buy an extra plane ticket ten years down the road. Let’s look at diet first. Everyone has heard of the “Freshman 15,” the weight gain that unsurprisingly accompanies the lifestyle of freshmen college students. We’ve all had that friend that subsides on a diet of pizza, burgers, ice cream, and cereal during freshman year. We’ve also had that friend sophomore year that you could have sworn was skinnier last year.

We’ve all had that friend that subsides on a diet of pizza, burgers, ice cream, and cereal during freshman year.

And while it’s easy to blame that freshman carrying just French fries and donuts for lunch, context often plays a huge role in health decisions. That being said, why is anyone surprised that college freshman make bad dietary choices and subsequently gain weight? A combination of all-you-can-eat style dining halls, late night/24-hour dining halls, late nights studying and partying (hopefully in that order), stress, and lack of parental guidance forms a perfect storm. While dining halls and Universities take significant measures to aid students in their diets by offering better food choices and dietary counseling (here are UGA’s resources), the staples of the American diet are still unhealthy, especially in the South. I’m sure that the UGA overweight and obesity rate would significantly improve with the replacement of mac-n-cheese with kale, I’m also sure that UGA Food Services would not only go out of business, but may face a full scale coup d’etat. So it’s not only easy for freshmen to form bad dietary habits, but the context of college can sometimes make proper diet downright difficult. Thankfully, the other side of the coin, exercise, provides a much  more optimistic story.

In case it’s managed to escape you, UGA is a very athletic school. If that’s news to you, then there may not be hope for you. It’s ok, the world needs fat people anyways (just kidding!). In all seriousness , the University of Georgia is known for its athletics: SEC Football may be the third largest religion in the South, right after Christianity and carnivorism. Moreover, UGA sent 21 students to the 2008  Beijing Olympics (“Georgia Olympians,” n.d.). To give you an idea of the sheer scope and size of UGA Athletics, the final 2016 UGA Athletic budget was $117,419,039 (“Budget of , Indoor Athletic Facility, Fox Contract Extension and More,” 2015). Since that’s a comical amount of money that’s almost impossible to fathom, here’s a list of things that you could buy with $100,000,000. For those of you enjoying this premium publication in paper format, that’s something to the tune of a year’s income for 2,396 average American families or 793 average American homes (Keith et.al., 2014).

So it’s not only easy for freshmen to form bad dietary habits, but the context of college can sometimes make proper diet downright difficult.

This level of athleticism is very clearly reflected in the culture and student body of UGA, as well as the Athens community at large. All around campus student athletes are visible with their Nike backpacks, club sports offers 48 unique clubs, and recreational sports offers almost too many intramural options to count. Taking a stroll through campus shows that Myers Quad almost always has a Frisbee game, Milledge Avenue is full of runners, and Ramsey is always packed. Athens as a community has a thriving running and cycling scene, hosting two half Marathons per year (the AthHalf in the fall and the Chik-fil Connect Half Marathon in the spring) and hosting a large biking community that regularly has group rides open to everyone. There’s always a way to get in shape in Athens.

So the skinny is that it’s easy to get fat, but it’s also easy to get fit. Quite simply put, college is a wonderful experience that affords you the chance to mold yourself into the person you want to be. Being fit and eating healthy should absolutely be parts of your life. Take a look around at all of the resources and options around you. It may be hard to eat healthy, but take a look at the advice offered by dining halls and by the nutritionists at UGA. You’ll find that over time, the allure of eating poorly in the dining halls will fade, and soon you’ll be choking down spinach and liking it too. And if there’s a sport that you’re interested in, chances are UGA has it (what is Budokai anyways?). But absolutely don’t let life pass you by. Otherwise, at graduation, you’ll find yourself regretting not taking advantages of all the opportunities. Or maybe you’ll just look chunky in your graduation pictures.

 

Sources

Amanda Klitsch. (2010, April 5). Healthy habits during college can last for a lifetime. Retrieved August 27, 2015, from http://www.kentwired.com/latest_updates/article_8eeb9222-8d7d-5067-8f68-6c595d94c25e.html

Budget of , Indoor Athletic Facility, Fox Contract Extension and More. (2015, May 21). Retrieved August 26, 2015, from http://www.georgiadogs.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/052115aaa.html

College food habits could set the stage for lifetime preferences: Report. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2015, from http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/College-food-habits-could-set-the-stage-for-lifetime-preferences-Report

Georgia Olympians. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2015, from http://www.georgiadogs.com/genrel/081709aac.html

Keith, Tamara, Donevan Connor, and Alyson Hurt. “What Could $100 Million Buy You — Besides Campaign Ads In Kentucky?” Weekend Edition Saturday. NPR. 12 July 2014. NPR. Web. 7 Sept. 2015. . Transcript.

Ligi, Z. (2014, April 6). Bad eating habits can last a lifetime. Retrieved August 27, 2015, from http://razorbackreporter.uark.edu/2014/04/bad-eating-habits-can-last-a-lifetime/

Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, & Flegal KM. (2014). PRevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the united states, 2011-2012. JAMA, 311(8), 806–814. http://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2014.732

Snapshot. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.georgiadogs.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/052115aaa.html