UH needs to start the conversation to decrease obesity rates

|Juana Garcia

Juana Garcia/The Cougar

Obesity rates in 18- to 29-year-olds have increased dramatically in the last 10 years. The National College Health Assessment found 30 percent of surveyed U.S. college students to be overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with various health costs such as high blood pressure, diabetes and joint problems.

UH should offer more services to help overweight students through offering workshops that start the conversation, providing better food options and hosting speakers. 

It’s important for students to know what to do to help themselves and each other. To help friends and family that are obese, we need to start the conversation to get over the awkward or uncomfortable initial phase. Research indicates that treatment requires a lifestyle intervention, which would be aided by the support and acknowledgment from friends and family.

The obvious person to begin finding help from would be a doctor. Prejudice from one’s doctor can have detrimental effects, however, like having families come in to visit less often or denying suggested vaccines. 

A 2012 study of prejudice against patients who were overweight found that the majority of doctors surveyed did discriminate based on weight. The doctors are trying to help the patients stay healthy, but the patients feel like they are being judged. This common problem can be solved, as mentioned above, through communication with close family. 

Also, a study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends family, friends and physicians or future physicians avoid words like “obese” or “ fat” because it makes the patients feel more uncomfortable. So perhaps doctors and loved ones can use terms like “BMI” and “plus-size” when coming up with a treatment plan. 

Behavioral counseling can also help with weight loss. This counseling is not typically provided by primary care doctors, further proving that treatment of obesity is much more than a doctor visit and requires an open conversation. 

The goal for UH should be to decrease obesity in the student population through healthy weight loss and maintenance. A long-term plan is needed for each overweight student. This would require coordination and cooperation from Campus Recreation, food services and Counseling and Psychological Services. 

Open workshops can be held in a similar fashion to how the University Career Services offer workshops related to preparing for a career, from interview rehearsal to application tips. Instead of focusing on careers, these workshops would, of course, be directed toward information on nutrition, exercise, energy balance and self-management skills. These workshops can also host medical personnel or professors as speakers. 

In addition, to promote a healthy weight initiative on campus, prominent professors and coaches should be recruited as spokespeople or at least mention the initiative in their classes. 

A step in the right direction, the Chick-fil-A menu in Student Center South has changed to include more options such as grilled nuggets, yogurt parfait and fruit cups. There should be more menu changes for the fast-food chains in Student Center South and Satellite to incorporate additional and healthier menu options. 

The University should also offer weight management services to students at a reduced fee. This would give them an overview of what they need to do and a healthy weight loss plan. 

So, with rising obesity rates in the nation, the University should start an initiative to decrease obesity rates on campus.

Opinion editor Maryam Baldawi is a biology junior and can be reached at [email protected]  

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