Student Obesity Guide: Student Bariatrics and Health Guide

Written By: Editor In Chief
Student Obesity Guide

    College life is a fresh start, an opportunity to explore the world around you on your own. There’s often quite a bit that comes with that sense of freedom, including the risk of eating unhealthy foods, staying up too late, and even drinking more alcohol than you know you should. The result is health risks, including weight gain. 

    For some college students, obesity or being overweight becomes a struggle at this age. Though you’re young, the steps you take now in these early adult years could forge your future. That could be surrounded by a healthy and fit lifestyle, but for others it can mean the early onset of disease and illness. Realization of the risks and changes in your diet and lifestyle could help you avoid becoming a statistic. 

    Obesity and Overweight Students: Statistics 

    The statistics show an alarming trend in college students who are overweight or obese. Research organization Gitnux shows the following:

    • 20.9% of college-aged students are classified as being obese (2018)
    • 36.4% of college students are either overweight or obese 
    • 21.5% of college students gained weight after their first year in college

    Numerous reasons exist for this, including stress, alcohol consumption, eating “junk” food more so than eating fruits and vegetables, and changes in overall exercise levels. The impact is astounding. Studies indicate that increased weight impacts mental health and physical health, and that can contribute to a drop in academic performance as well. 

    Losing Weight When You’re a Student 

    Why is weight gain such a challenge in a college setting? There are numerous potential reasons for this, but it often comes down to a few specific factors:

    • Higher stress levels often mean eating less nutritiously dense foods (more comfort food than healthy food)
    • Easier access to less nutritious food and a lack of home-cooked meals 
    • Less access to healthy foods due to budgetary factors
    • More alcohol consumption, which leads to higher caloric intake 
    • Less physical activity 

    Why is losing weight so challenging as a college student, then? 

    Losing weight as a college student can be more challenging because of the less constraints. Without a parent overseeing activities, college students are tasked with monitoring their own activity level, food intake, and overall health. A lack of motivation could be a factor.

    For others, disordered eating is a concern. College students and eating habits that are less-than-desirable can launch into disordered eating, as noted by a study completed through Cornell University and the Department of Food and Drug in Italy. That makes losing weight more challenging. 

    Nutritional Needs for Students 

    Students can and should focus on nutritional needs in college, and that often means focusing on balanced diets. The University of Colorado Boulder offers a few recommendations:

    • Choose lean proteins for regular meals.
    • For snacks, choose whole grains or healthy fats that can provide longer-term energy boosts.
    • Eating an array of vegetables and fruits is helpful in getting the right nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, to support brain function.

    It can also help to focus heavily on just monitoring what you’re consuming and doing. If your activity level is lower, you likely need fewer calories. Stress, studying, sports programs, and other high-energy activities require more calories. Getting those calories from a healthy source helps you to give your body nutrition without packing on the pounds. 

    Exercising When You’re Students 

    Exercise is a core component of weight loss, but it also offers other benefits. As noted by a study completed by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, routine exercise can actually stimulate brain cell development, improve information retention, and help to improve overall memory. It may also help you to get better grades as a result. 

    Stress and Weight Gain in College

    Weight gain can occur due to the onset of higher levels of stress. The transition from high school to the more stressful environment of college, especially when a student is not living at home, can contribute to bad eating habits, directly impacting weight gain risks, according to a study published by the National Institutes of Health. 

    A Gitnux study found that 34.6% of college students report a higher level of stress, and that contributes to their weight gain. Stress contributes to obesity when a person turns to substances, including food, as a type of comfort tool. 

    Sleep and Weight Gain in College

    Poor food choices, stress, and a lack of sleep can all contribute to weight gain in college. For some college students, all of these areas can work together to make it very challenging to lose weight. In another study reported by the National Institutes of Health, there was an obvious link between college students who had an imbalance of calorie consumption and physical activity. It noted that students who were obese had poor sleep duration. More so, excessive body weight directly contributes to problems with sleeping due to disordered breathing.

    Anyone who does not get enough sleep is prone to making poor decisions, struggling with academics, and facing limited ability to focus. It also directly contributes to poor mental health and the onset of conditions like type 2 diabetes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can also contribute to emotional upheaval and behavioral concerns as well.

    Alcohol and Weight Gain in College 

    For some college students, alcohol consumption could be a factor in weight gain. Recreational alcohol intake can reduce weight, but for those who are heavy drinkers or binge drinkers, it can lead to a substantial amount of weight gain, typically due to limited physical activity and poor sleep. 

    How to Lose Weight as a Busy College Student

    You’ve seen the reasons why you may be struggling to lose weight. Now, use these resources and steps to help you start the process of losing weight.

    #1: Improve meal quality

    • Eat raw vegetables as snacks.
    • Enjoy some type of whole grain carb like oatmeal for breakfast to reduce hunger. 
    • Include whole fruit throughout the day – just take an apple with you.
    • Use the MyPlate app to help you plan healthy meals.
    • Educate yourself with the BAM! Dining Decisions App.

    #2: Incorporate these exercises

    • Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day. Start with a walk around the school campus in the morning.
    • Get fit with High-Intensity Interval Training at the school’s rec center or gym (You’ll likely find a class available on it, too).
    • Go to yoga in the park or at the local gym. Many college campuses offer it.
    • Incorporation of body weight exercises, including push-ups, sit-ups, and lunges. Do as many as you can today, then try to do one more than that tomorrow.
    • Swim – if your school has an open pool, swim for at least 30 minutes a day.

    Weight training should also be a starting point to getting fit. To learn how to do weight training exercises, use the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP. These videos teach you to properly exercise. 

    #3: Practice good habits

    • Eat at regular times each day – don’t skip meals, either!
    • Portion control is essential. 
    • Avoid the vending machines, sugar-filled coffee drinks, and fast food establishments.
    • If you need to snack, only do so with nuts or fruit. 
    • Control alcohol intake or avoid it altogether

    Bariatric Surgery for Students

    For college students who struggle with weight loss, bariatric surgery could be an option. This type of surgery is often available to those who have a body mass index (BMI) of at least 35 and who struggle with the onset of other health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes. The use of bariatric surgery in college students is a viable treatment option when other methods of weight loss do not provide the necessary support. 

    Alternatives to Bariatric Surgery

    Most college students will also consider a range of other options for weight loss that do not involve surgical procedures, including injectable fillers and sleeve surgery. When traditional dieting and exercise do not work or are ineffective, and health risks continue, these non-surgical treatments tend to be the first step.

    For college students who are struggling with being overweight or obese, there are several important factors to consider. Being obese at a young age can directly limit the quality and quantity of life. It may also lead to less-than-desirable academic performance and a drop in overall mental health. For that reason, considerations for aggressive treatment of weight gain could be necessary for many college students.

    0 0 votes
    Article Rating
    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x