Students lack weight-loss education

Talya Cunningham

The holidays have arrived and this year is no exception for health issue concerns for students. Sugar-infused snacks and an army of holiday feasts push the weight-craze and body image to the forefront of people’s minds. VCU students have access to weight-loss resources, but education is lacking when it comes to shedding those extra pounds.

“People aren’t educated onto a healthy diet and that’s why they have the weight problem,” said Barbara Thompson, Jenny Craig center director. “A lot of people don’t realize that some of the health issues that they’re having is because of their diet.” According to Thompson, a diet is what a person is or is not eating.

Thompson also said it is easier and cheaper for college students to microwave a frozen dinner than to actually take the time and prepare a health-conscious meal. The health benefits of cooking a meal are more rewarding than consuming processed foods. “The life of a college student is usually fast-paced and on-the-go, which means healthy eating habits are often forgotten or not practical on a day-to-day basis,” said Danielle Patterson, junior and psychology major.

“I try to eat healthy, but I don’t know where to begin.” Some students do not know where to start while others do not know the facts about living healthy. This knowledge includes what to eat and what to stay away from, processed vs. fresh foods, liquids that will help keep weight off and the correct amount of physical activity. “I don’t think people have the healthy relationship with food they need. A lot of people don’t drink enough water, may not exercise enough or they might not have vegetables in their diet,” Thompson said. “You also have to watch your sodium intake; it might be low in calories, but it is usually high in sodium.”

Thompson said a healthy diet includes the five basic food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, meat and dairy. Also drinking fluids, getting enough water in is vital, followed by activity and having positive motivation. A clear mindset makes a difference in results and attitude. “VCU does offer healthy options, such as Schafer, but there should be smaller portions and more vegetable dishes,” said Jessica Coates, junior and broadcast journalism major.

“The only thing offered is salad.” Consuming a variety of foods and getting the nutritional benefits the body craves, while balancing a level of physical activity, is the key to healthy weight loss, Thompson said. Along with the numerous food options at VCU, the gym facilities are up and rising. The Siegel Center gym, the Franklin Street gym and the MCV gym are available for daily use. Cary Street gym currently is under construction but is set to open spring 2010. “Activity helps to burn calories for weight loss but also puts the body in a healthy position,” Thompson said.

According to Patterson, time constraints make it difficult for students to workout, but exercise is a key step to healthy weight loss. “Their (students) game plan is usually with the computer, the hand-held device,” Thompson said. “They’re not using their body as actively as need be.” A quick and easy way to lose weight is by participating in a fad diet. Fad diets are those such as Atkins or South Beach, but the plans can be ineffective. “Losing weight, like drinking some shake, doesn’t teach you how to eat healthy,” Thompson said. “They get their results very quickly but it’s hard for them to maintain it once they lose it.” Most people think dieting is about starving themselves, Thompson said, but eating the right kinds of food in volume keep the body satisfied and healthy.

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