The convenience of college obesity

Story and photos by Blakely Bowers

The United States has the highest obesity rate in the world. Obesity is an issue that reaches far beyond the way someone looks. Medical experts have linked excess weight to everything from heart disease and diabetes to chronic back, hip and knee pain.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 74.6 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. For the past decade the rates have risen steadily for Americans of all ages and population groups. The difference between being overweight and obese is determined by a person’s body mass index (BMI). Adults with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight. Adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered to be obese. Try calculating your own BMI

Studies performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in every 50 Americans is obese. This number is significantly higher than it was even five years ago. As the number rises, so do the costs. Chronic obesity costs the individual, but the problem has its impact on others fiscally, as well. “Obesity not only costs the patient a whole lot of extra money, but it costs us as doctors. We spend more time with patients who are overweight. The health issue creates many other issues in which rises the rate of diseases and disorders, which in turn impacts us,” said Dr. Cassandra Quigley.

As the obesity rate increases, so do the rates of obesity-related medical problems. Medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension affect the cost and availability of insurance benefits, which increase the cost for the average person. The rates also cause government programs to pay enormous amounts for those benefiting from the programs.

The Surgeon General estimates the annual medical costs of obesity are as high as $147 billion. On average, obese people have medical costs that are $1,429 more than medical costs of people of healthy weight. More information regarding the dollar amounts of these medical costs can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/causes/economics.html

“The increasing amount of obese patients I see, is really getting terrifying,” Quigley said.

“I am learning more details of the personal causes behind this disorder, said Laura Welch, a certified nutritionist and health fitness coach. She graduated from BYU with a degree in nutrition, and has been studying it ever since.

“Most of my clients admit that their issue comes from within. They slowly start feeling bad about themselves and overeating and not exercising is their way of coping. The other major problem underlying obesity is accessibility and convenience to fast food and treats that help pack on the extra pounds.”

We can get online, make an order and wait 15 minutes for our meal to show up at our door. We can drive through the local McDonald’s and have our food within seconds. We have instant macaroni and cheese, instant brownies, instant everything. It has become about convenience and price. Fast foods are always the least healthy, but the least expensive option.

The number of overweight college students has also significantly increased in the past decade. In order to understand the increase, I decided to observe and research the habits of students. College lifestyles have a major influence on obesity. We’ve all heard about the “freshman 15,”, a familiar reference to the standard weight gain new college students typically pack on. Studies have shown that three-quarters of students gain weight their freshman year of college. These students can easily form a habit of overeating and overlooking regular exercise. These habits continue to impact their weight for years to come. Research by science daily.

Some University of Utah students say that “convenience” is the main reason for their unhealthy eating habits. It is hard for students to find the right balance while attending college. In a study performed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in 2009, researchers found that lack of sleep and skipping breakfast are prominent promoters of obesity among students. A jam-packed school schedule, late nights, early morning lectures and exam cramming leave little room for healthy eating habits. Students often reach for the quickest and cheapest options—fast foods low in nutrients but high in calories, fat, and sugar.

“ I go for whatever is cheapest and fastest during my school breaks. I have all the intentions of eating healthier, but when the time comes I don’t want to spend the extra money, or take the time out of my crazy studying and work schedule to make a healthy option.” Mary Earl, a U freshman said.

Sleep is another factor that affects obesity in college students. When the proper amount of sleep gets cut in half, along with a scattered diet, a body has a hard time sufficiently metabolizing. Students are at the most vulnerable state, and the habits are not a top priority. More sleep and obesity related studies can be found here.

“When healthy food becomes more convenient to pick up and cheaper, that’s when I will start eating healthier during this time in my life. It sounds lazy, but it’s true. Convenience and cost are just the factors that play into these habits for me,” Earl said.

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