March, 2017 Issue

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REAL LIFE with Elaine Pasqua


Do you often hear the term Freshmen 15? How common is it for students to put on weight when they enter college? The picture of health painted by epidemiologists for younger people in this country is not so rosy. Nationwide, campus administrators and faculty have observed an increase in overweight students. There is a significant increase of obesity related disorders in teens and people in their twenties. Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol typically seen in middle age are now affecting younger people.

The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. is 190 billion dollars. Experts believe that these younger people will be a greater health burden at 50 than their parents are. I see the impact of obesity around me on a daily basis. People can't walk as easily so they are using canes at younger ages. Many request to pre-board planes because they can't walk as fast.

Not only is obesity a public health issue but research shows that when students gain weight they lose self-confidence as they become self-conscious of their changing bodies. Depression and anxiety can set in, which leads to feeling of a loss of self-control and eating more to self-medicate. The eating and depression cycle becomes unmanageable as the lack of physical activity increases. Weight gain can then spiral out of control in a few years.

The life style of a typical college student makes it easy to gain weight. You come into a cafeteria where there is an abundance of food and desserts. We live in a super-size society where bigger portions are the norm. Junk food and snacks are abundant. Consuming a few more calories per day and per week is cumulative. Itís easy to gradually put on a few pounds every year and before you know it, the weight is on and it is hard to shed.

The following tips will help prevent weight gain. This should be about your health, not body image. Value your health and your well-being. Make food choices because they are good for you and you will feel better.

First, do not skip meals. Food is your fuel source for a healthy immune system and provides brain power. You need food for energy; without it you can develop headaches and become lethargic. Studies show that those who skip breakfast gain more weight. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You are breaking that 5 to 10 hour fast. Avoid fast food sandwiches that are laden with fat and salt. Instead eat yogurt, eggs, or fruit.

Watch portions. Don not feel like you need to fill your plate and stomach. I often look at a serving of food and try to determine if it will fit comfortably in my stomach. Rule of thumb, don't eat a portion of a particular food that is larger than the palm of your hand and stop eating before you feel full. Choose a variety of food for your diet, this way it will be more balanced.

Students who linger in the dining hall after a meal will graze and eat more. I am not saying that you should eat fast, but if you leave the food area as soon as you have finished you will reduce temptation to eat more.

Watch the carbs and sugar laden foods which easily convert into fat. If you drink alcohol, decrease the amount that you are consuming. The body recognizes the sugars in alcohol as fat and converts it to fatty tissue. Read the ingredients on the labels of your food and avoid high fructose corn syrup. HFCS is easily converted to fat by the body. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and high quality protein. Be aware of the quality of the snacks you are consuming. Replace sugary snacks with nuts, popcorn, sun flower seeds, or fruit. All have essential nutrients and fewer calories.

Watch fat intake, especially trans and saturated fats; fried foods contain both. Limit where you can, without totally eliminating fats. You need some fats to be healthy, so look for monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats.

Avoid soda and other sugary drinks. It is important to stay hydrated; water best satisfies our thirst and is much healthier. It helps to flush the toxins from the body.

Don't eat right before you go to bed. Gravity helps to move your food through your digestive tract. When you go to bed on a full stomach that process shows down and you absorb more calories. If you live on a large campus that offers shuttles, walk to class. The average person should be walking 10,000 steps a day but most never do. Take advantage of the recreation facilities. Carving out time to exercise each day not only benefits your physical health but it improves your emotional well-being.

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