College Students’ Choices Affects After College

Hayley Greening

Steve Johnson

HPHP

February 18, 2016

College Students’ Choices Affects After College

Synopsis: Growing up I always heard that college students are unhealthy. Recently, as a college student, I began to ask myself why.

Thesis: Why are college students assumed to be so unhealthy, and what is the reason behind this phenomenon if it indeed true? I started reading some interesting articles and talking to some of my friends and discovered some important information. The topic I want discuss throughout this blog is poor college eating habits, how it connects to food insecurity, and some potential ways we can prevent this phenomenon. My main focus is on college students in the state of Oregon but I also include outside statistics to substantiate my findings.

First, let’s discuss college student’s poor eating habits. There are many reasons that college students don’t have the best eating habits, from not having enough time to eat regular meals,  to only being able to afford the cheapest most unhealthy foods, the reasons are endless. The liberation brought about through college gives students “ample opportunity to broaden their taste horizons” (Bertone, College Students). As one could imagine, these unhealthy eating habits more often than not cause unhealthy weight gain. One common term thrown around is the “freshman 15,” referring to college freshmen gaining around 15 pounds from all the new eating habits and changes in their diets while away from home for the first time. Students usually don’t put on the whole 15, but studies show that they gain anywhere from 3-10 pounds their first year of college, and this number usually increases throughout student’s entire college career. It’s proven that steady weight gain in college can cause potential health risks and put a toll on students, affecting them far after their time in college. College is a fundamental time of change in one’s life: it may lead to anxiety, homesickness, sadness, or stress, all of can be triggers to overeating — especially while trying to adapt to new patterns and lifestyles.

There are many different variables that play into weight gain. One study by researchers at Auburn University even “attributed the weight gain to late night study habits, often fueled by vending machine snacks; fattening choices in college cafeterias, and a lack of activity.” These findings are more accurate than one may initially think. These students get sent off to college and they are automatically in charge of their own eating habits, for some this is the first time they have been in charge of what they eat. So, they start packing up on late night pizza out of convenience and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream from the corner store.

All of these new eating habits along with challenging course loads can cause a great deal of stress on the new college student. As a result they may be feeling overworked and overwhelmed, ultimately, becoming less and less encouraged and let alone motivated to go workout at the gym, over time these habits will most likely cause weight gain over a period of time.

A recent study taken by Oregon students, revealed that “59 percent of college students had food insecurities, or some concerns over accessing healthy food options.” Often, those who have high levels of food insecurity tend not to get enough fruits and vegetables. In another OSU study, researchers found that college students aren’t even eating one serving of fruits and vegetables per day, far from the recommended five daily servings, they also “found that students skipped meals fairly frequently, which could account for some of the lack of fruits and veggies,” said Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sport science at OSU and one of the study’s authors. Many students who skip a meal may be skipping for a myriad of reasons from not enough time to not enough money –or both. So what does it mean to have food insecurities? In my mind it’s a result of having too little money and time to buy real food that consists of any real nutritional value. This study states that food insecurities result from “high food costs, limited income, and poor food support systems.” The USDA defines food insecurity as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”

So, what does food insecurity have to do with college students choosing to live a healthier life? Well, for students who report food insecurity also often report working an average of 18 hours a week trying to get by but the financial demands these students face make it that much harder to buy healthy foods. Ultimately, the “inaccessibility of healthy foods leads to the consumption of unhealthy foods, and therefore, a lack of vital vitamins and minerals that help sustain a person’s health” (Boretti, Food Insecurity). Also, when talking to some of my friends here at PSU, I found out that many students simply just “don’t have enough money to buy healthy food on a regular basis” (-Olivia Lee, when asked why she doesn’t eat healthier). I also discovered that most students who currently have a meal plan through PSU choose not to dine on campus eateries like Ondine because they don’t have healthy or sustainable meal options. When asked where they eat instead one student said he’ll “just skip a meal” or “go to the Maks to get a quick snack,” another girl said she spends all her money at Starbucks because it helps her focus study better and gives her the “caffeine boost she needs to keep going” (-Luke Gonzalez, Erica Murray).

A recent study suggests that college eating habits are clogged with fat, and researchers found unsettling information about students:

  • 32% of all students report a decline in their body image during their freshman year.
  • 40% of normal weight college women perceive that they are overweight.
  • 41% report a decline in their overall feeling of happiness during their freshman year.

To prevent poor body image and reduce stress levels in college students it’s important to promote healthy self-image and lifestyles. Bad eating habits within college students can be a thing of the past if students were more aware of their bodies and encouraged by more health and body conscious long-term healthy eating trends. College student’s decisions now (including eating habits) will more than likely affect them for the rest of their lives, so hopping on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon is in our (as college students) best interest. Teaching students about calorie intake, adequate exercise, healthy eating habits and lifestyles is a great first step in reversing the stereotype and shedding a positive light on college students. Learning about what makes a person healthy and how much body mass index you have is also an important step in becoming more aware about your body. Go ahead and can check your BMI here and see what your next steps are in living a healthy lifestyle.

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Citations

70% of Students Gain Weight During College: Study. (2012). Retrieved February 18,

2016.

Beating the Freshman 15. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2016.

College Students Shaping Future Food Trends | Farm Flavor. (n.d.). Retrieved February

17, 2016.

News and Research Communications. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2016.

Steady weight gain in college causes health problems. (n.d.). Retrieved February 18,

2016.

The College Student’s Perception of Healthful Eating. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22,

2016.

USDA ERS – Food Security in the U.S.: Definitions of Food Security. (n.d.). Retrieved

February 19, 2016.

USATODAY.com – College eating habits are clogged with fat. (2002). Retrieved

February 21, 2016.

Why 59% Of College Students May Suffer From Malnutrition. (2014). Retrieved

February 21, 2016.

 

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