Monday, September 8, 2008

Overweight College Students Aim to Stay Fat - But How About After College?

by Kevin Yeoman

Despite numerous sources that recommend otherwise, many students are rebelling against body type, which could land many of them in the path of a health crisis.

Compelling research from New York Cornell University’s Lori Neighbors, suggests more overweight college students have set an ideal weight for themselves, which still classifies them as overweight. In fact, during the course of the study, one in two students chose an unhealthy body type as their ideal. In the study, Neighbors selected 310 students to view a scale of body shapes, which ranged from thin to overweight and asked them to select the type they most readily associated with themselves.

Afterwards, the students were asked to decide on the most ideal body type that took their current and desired weight into consideration. In the end, the study suggests that larger students, while not overtly wishing to stay that way, had become sensitive to complicated and often unsuccessful weight loss regimens.

As obesity levels in this country rise, and students—admittedly overweight—reconcile themselves with their body image and continue to plunder the cafeteria, instead of the gym, awareness and attitude become the explanation. It seems that college kids just aren’t getting the message of what poor weight management can lead to, in the future. Many overweight persons will die, prematurely, from things like kidney failure, anemia, bone loss, heart conditions and cancer. But the leading cause, overall, is still cardiovascular disease brought on by an unhealthy lifestyle.

This study coincides with another recent bit of research, revealing one’s body image is closely related to the images that others, close to an individual, deem acceptable. Unfortunately, this suggests students are choosing friends and social partners based on a similar physique—healthy or unhealthy—and general acceptance thereof.

Conversely, it is interesting to note that underweight students—mostly women—conscious that their slimness is too, unhealthy, wish to maintain or even reduce their weight further. The thinner women obviously would see several social benefits to their unhealthy, slimmed figure, but it is unclear what the overweight respondents might see as the benefit to maintaining an overweight physique.

What is clear, however, is that two disparate groups of college-aged students are gravitating towards unhealthy extremes instead of discovering a healthy median that produces a positive body image and a healthy body to match. Starting in college is fairly late in the game, but it’s not too late to turn one’s body image around, at least enough to ensure you’ll be around for many years to come.

Kevin Yeoman is an Austin based freelance writer. He has contributed to such magazines as Posh, AAGolf and Draft.

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