It’s noon, stomachs are growling, and students are heading to the cafeteria or a local fast food restaurant to get some grub. When it comes to eating healthy food, choices are limited at the cafeteria and around Tyler Junior College. Weight gain is hard to avoid when there is not much healthy food around.
According to a 2009 survey on webmd.com, 23 percent of college freshmen gained at least five percent of their body weight. Some freshmen tend to gain up to 10 pounds in their first semester and add another five by the end of the year.
Other factors besides fattening foods cause weight gain in students.
“It is most likely related to a decrease in physical activity after high school,” said Danielle Townsend, registered dietitian and clinical nutrition manager at Mother Frances Hospital. “College students also tend to drink more alcohol (specifically beer) and make less healthy food choices due to restricted finances.”
Students should focus on eating from all of the food groups. Townsend says to try to maintain a diet consisting of mostly whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Part of the problem for students at colleges all over the country is that they used to be active in high school. It is required nation wide for a high school student to have at least two years of physical education. Students were used to playing sports and participating in a physical education class and they were constantly doing something for almost 45 minutes. When entering college that physical activity dropped significantly.
“The American Heart Association says 45 minutes, but most weight loss studies show that if you can just do 10 minutes a day, get your heart rate up above base line so you can break a sweat,” Dr. Stephanie Eisjink, at TJC Health Clinic, said.
“Aim for 30 minutes of cardio (elliptical, treadmill, running, Zumba) or participate in aerobic sport (tennis, basketball, volleyball) four to five days per week,” Townsend said.
Students can take advantage of the many exercise facilities in Tyler or in the local small towns. TJC’s very own Ornelas Health and Physical Education building provides a free membership for every TJC student.
“I work out every day. I haven’t changed my routine since high school,” Bryan McKnight, TJC Freshman, said.
Some students have a hard time getting that little push to get active.
“I’d say the most important thing about exercise is accompaniment. Do it with somebody. Say you’re going to meet somebody there, ask to make a specific time,” Eijsink said. “Set a goal. Meeting somebody, being committed is actually more important than what you do as long as you are burning calories.”
Being healthy is not going to help unless the student has the drive to do it.
“A desire to be healthy is a key factor. Always allow yourself to splurge every now and then to reward yourself for having good habits, but then get right back to healthy stuff,” Townsend said.
Townsend also suggested eating nutrient dense, balanced meals and snacks as a lifestyle, not a diet.