There are now more Americans who qualify as obese than as overweight, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
The study found that 34 percent of American adults are obese, while 32.7 percent are overweight. The CDC says there are increased risks for many diseases and health conditions with being overweight or obese.
According to a 2007 National College Health Assessment, in which a random sample of UC Davis students was selected to participate in the survey. Thirty-three percent of students described themselves as slightly overweight or very overweight. Sixty percent of students ate two or fewer servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
The data is self-reported, which means that we cannot definitively determine if 33 percent of students are slightly or very overweight, said UC Davis wellness health educator Laura Rubin. Some students who are not overweight may report on the survey that they are overweight.
“A lot of certain health behaviors of students reflect the country as a whole,” Rubin said. “The good thing about being in college is that you have access to resources that a lot of people don’t have access to, like the ARC and Health Center.“
Mike Quigley of Elite Training Studios in Davis said riding a bike is not enough exercise to ward off obesity.
“Your body adapts to bike riding in two to six weeks,” Quigley said. “Biking is a mode of transportation. It’s better than nothing, but you need to cross train too. Eating habits are also really important.“
Nutrition professor Judith Stern’s opinion clearly differs with that of Quigley’s.
“That’s baloney,” Stern said. “People can wear pedometers, ride bikes and do things routinely. You have to know yourself and know what makes you tick.”
Lifestyle changes from living at home to moving to college can also be an area of concern for some.
“There are also certain life changes that can have a negative effect on students,” said Lori Stewart of Cross Court Athletic Club in Woodland. “Partying adds extra calories to one’s diet, as well as being inactive. The good thing is that when students make good eating choices, watch fast food, participate in intramurals and do other physical activity, they can stay healthier.“
There are many explanations for the number of overweight and obese Americans.
“People are living sedentary lifestyles,” Stewart said. “People are more obese because it is starting in childhood. Activities today are mostly based around sitting. The problem is that the government is not addressing the issue.“
Although Stewart views obesity as a major issue in the U.S., Dr. Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, believes that a greater emphasis needs to be placed on helping people of all sizes live healthier lives.
“The government made millions of people fat by defining the ‘overweight‘ standards the way they did,” Bacon said. “If we defined obesity at the point at which weight became pathological, the obesity epidemic would disappear.“
Bacon also sees obesity labels as unfair and arbitrary, leaving out certain biological considerations.
“There are more people who are predisposed to gain a lot under current conditions than people predisposed to gain a little,” Bacon said. “Fatter people aren’t living their lives remarkably different than thinner people – they’re just genetically set up to react differently.”
Stern, the nutrition professor, said the obesity problem was really a self-esteem problem.
“Americans‘ focus on their bodies is a result of U.S. culture, and it’s crazy,“ she said.
Stern blames American portion sizes for the high number of obese and overweight, even in Davis.
“You go to the Silo or MU, and you see places like Carl’s Jr. where there are so many calories in the sodas and the mega muffin that is enough for four people,” Stern said. “The only way for change to come about is for students to demand smaller portions, nutrition information on the menu board, and make these companies feel ashamed.“
Professionals have a plethora of advice for students concerned with keeping healthy.
“There’s no easy answer to how to stay in shape,” Quigley said. “Consult a professional if you’re not getting results. Don’t be afraid to ask.“
Bacon takes a relaxed stance on how to deal with health.
“Enjoy your body,” Bacon said. “Find fun ways to move. Eat with pleasure and stay attuned to your body’s needs.“
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached email@example.com.