Tackling college obesity – What Students Eat


Numerous voices conversing simultaneously, explosions of laughter, and occasional screeches from chairs moving across the reddish-brown-ceramic tile is heard throughout the food court located in the Union at UW-Milwaukee. Students’ thumbs hastily shift over cell phone keys as they text while waiting in line to get something quick to eat.

“Can I have two hard tacos, one soft shell taco supreme, and a Mountain Dew please?,” states a blond hair female student with a brown North Face book bag draped over her shoulder.

The student slides down to another silver metal counter and waits less than five minutes before her order is ready. This can be seen frequently if you visit the food court around noon. Unfortunately, thievery scene is not unique to UW-Milwaukee but can be seen at college campuses across the United States.

Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and Fries Oh My!!!

It is not uncommon for a college student to consume fast food daily when trying to juggle classes, so why would one be surprised that college obesity is ever-increasing? According to a poll on https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-college-food/ the top five of ten college dorm room foods are the following:

  1. PizzaDelivery
  2. HotPockets
  3. Macaroni and Cheese
  4. PizzaRolls
  5. PeanutButter and Fluff

Also, making the list were Chinese food delivery, Ice Cream, Ramen noodles, Chef Boyardee, and Popcorn. Needless to say, these listed foods provide instant gratification for a hungry student, but offer none to very little in the area of nutrition. It’s fair to assume that college students are smart enough to know that the fast food choices they are making are poor for their health, so why do they continue to indulge?

“I know that fast food is not good for me, but I can eat it quickly as I am walking to my next class,” states Bilal Ali, UW-Milwaukee student.

Convenience vs. Chronic Health Diseases

UW-Milwaukee alumni student BrigitMcNeal states, “During college I worked at Wendy’s and could eat for half price so every day I would eat a half pound wheat double with cheese and onions, medium fry, and a medium frosty.”

Researchers blame academic stress, change in family support, alcohol, and the easy availability of fatty food as the main causes for the weight gain. One would have to be naïve not to notice that foods heavy in fat content are more available than those that are not. However, the old cliché ‘Everything that looks good is not good’ may be words to live by if students want a healthy life.

According to Science News, national data suggest that the trends of college students on the path toward chronic health diseases are increasing. The obesity in Wisconsin is an affirmation that this national data is correct. On July 15, 2009, the Department of HealthServices released that over half the adults in Wisconsin are overweight or obese, and that the obesity rate for adults in Wisconsin has more than doubled since 1990, which reflects the nationwide trend.

Obesity is definitely no laughing matter since it is correlated to many chronic health diseases. Even though there are still some doctors that doubt the correlations, obesity and chronic diseases of lifestyle have been identified by the American HealthFoundation. Some examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Cardiovascular disease risk increases due to overweight elevating blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and increasing insulin resistance.
  • Over 50% of all cases of hypertension are simply due to being overweight.
  • Obesity is responsible for one out of six cancers.

Sure the fat meals and lack of fruits and vegetables have been identified as a risk for cancer, but the common denominator appears to be obesity.


Fruits and Vegetables, not the Complete Solution


An apple a day keeps the doctor away, are words that our parents lived by, but it simply does not do the trick. Students definitely need to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their daily diet, but fruits and vegetables alone will not guarantee you a long healthy life.

“You have to start a discussion about everything, including food, activity, and the ability to buy good food choices,” states Dr.Lucey, a professor and dietician at UW-Madison and “You must look at the big picture.”

Dr. Lucey believes that society must encourage people to make whole life changes. “Implement exercise, I’m not talking about joining a gym, but simple things like walking,” states Dr. Lucey.

Dr. Lucey suggests that they are a lot of ways for people to get exercise without spending money like for example if people like a particular activity they should do it. He discusses some obvious ways that people could exercise daily.

“Parking your car at a distance of the mall parking lot and walking to the mall is a way of exercising,” states Dr. Lucey.

Other ways for students to exercise that cost little to no money include, but are not limited to:

Ø  Taking the stairs instead of elevators

Ø  Walk or Bike to class when you can

Ø  Utilize college fitness center

By now you should know that you are not alone in fighting obesity, so if you are really struggling with weight gain please seek professional or medical attention. Students don’t let lack of income deter you because many college campuses have health centers that are willing to help students for free or at a very low cost.

If you are a UW-Milwaukee student you can see help at the Norris Health Center at 3351 North Downer Ave. in person or send an email to nhc-help@uwm.edu. Also, feel free to visit Peer Health Advocates located in Union E379 or call(414)229-4716.