By John Kling
Comfort food and overeating in college are the downfalls for many, and I fell victim
myself at Shenandoah University last winter and spring. Even as an upper-class student, I
had outdistanced the famous “Freshman 15” pounds. I returned home from Shenandoah
University tipping the scale at 200 pounds. For perspective, that is a few dozen more
pounds than my competitive swimming weight in high school several years ago. I rarely
missed a meal but lost energy, skipped exercise, had trouble sleeping, and did not like the
look of that big guy in my mirror. That leaves me with the problem of how I can fix my
weight problem caused by my overeating during college and how to fix the problem
of getting extra pounds out of it.
The first priority for me is to solve the question of what to do with my personal
weight. The first thing to do is to restore my exercise regime, which I continued faithfully
through the summer and now. I walk at least 16,000 steps per day, some days
20,000 to 30,000 steps. My record was 60,000 steps! The next thing was dieting. I
instituted what one might call Veggie Days when I would eat nothing but assorted
vegetables and fruits for at least two meals a week.
The key to my Veggie Days strategy was through shopping at Whole Foods Market,
a marketplace where artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are banned. Once in a
couple of weeks, I raid the produce aisles at Whole Foods Market for apples, celery, carrot
sticks, sugar snap peas, and other items. I get impossible meat to make eating non-meat
possible. I get watermelon that I leave on the kitchen counter for my mother and me.
Whenever I had a sweet tooth, my desserts are homemade popsicles made from grapes
purchased at Whole Foods that I blended and frozen. I also have snacks like Skinny Pop
popcorn to satisfy a craving.
As part of any diet, there are general food adjustments for me. I needed to cut back
on other meals, especially on the consumption of processed foods at any time. For snacks,
I had multi-grain Cheerios for the waist and heart. I eat hardy green beans whether
they’re heated or not. Upon my father’s instruction, I found that by enforcing denial for
two weeks, the sacrifice becomes easier. Of course, I do splurge occasionally, relaxing on
my diet during birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions.
Throughout the summer, I retain my resolve. Most of my dietary meals were either
on my own or with my mother and her meal planning. I just say no to fatty foods and
maintain my exercise routine. As a result, I lost over 40 pounds! My old club swimsuit still
does not fit, but I am getting there. Still, it works, and it can do just as much or more for
you if you give the effort.
Then, there is the bigger challenge: maintaining and expanding my weight loss
progress after returning to Shenandoah foodservice this fall. I had to adjust my strategy
to that challenge. I set myself for ten meals a week on the SU food plan instead of 15 from
last year. For produce, I either walk to the closest store or drive to the
closest Whole Foods in Ashburn, VA. I even brought my skiing machine to my dorm
room. Though when the weather is nice, I sometimes stroll around the campus for my
Unfortunately, my story is not unique. Most of the food and meals provided in
university dining halls consist of highly processed, fatty, and otherwise unhealthy foods.
I remember students in the dining hall having plates with unorthodox combinations like
plates with chicken fried rice and mashed potatoes. Plenty of them have burgers with
fries and a soft drink as they are the main courses in other eateries on campus. It has been
the same for me. Is it not the same for you during your college days? It is a common
occurrence in colleges across the nation representing a severe national dietary issue. It
can affect lower-income and at-risk students disproportionately and sets a personal
baseline of poor nutritional habits which can last for a lifetime.
Various non-profit organizations work to confront and resolve the issue. One is Set to
GO, a JED Foundation program. It provides “tools and information” for students
preparing for college, which is “more than just academics and testing.” One of its key
products is its guide to “Healthy Eating on Campus”, placing nutrition in the broader
context of being a college student, especially a new one. Set to Go believes that “being
emotionally ready creates the greatest opportunity for success” at school, and that
understanding and pursuing proper nutrition is a principal factor in that success. The JED
Foundation focuses on a variety of programs, like Set to Go, that strengthen “the
emotional health of teens and young adults so they can thrive today…and tomorrow” and
prevents “substance misuse, self-harm, and suicide as a result of emotional distress” for
college students and other youth. According to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,
“The Jed Foundation has had an incredible impact on higher education. It’s the best model
out there to enhance student well-being and save lives.”
After reading, what can you do? You can try my veggie day idea and manage your
personal weight in the meantime with a balance of exercise and diet like others with an
extra step. You can also do a long-lasting solution to support and utilize Set to Go and
similar organizations which provide practical information to students, parents, and
administrators on improved campus nutrition. Write to your campus food service
organization and organize student groups to press administrators for healthier food
choices in campus facilities. Discover and suggest more creative food choices, as I did this summer, to promote veggie and fruit consumption more appealingly. And instead of
waiting, why not do it now while there isn’t a significant impact on your weight?
Communications, N. Y. U. W. (2021, October 14). Americans are eating more ultra-processed
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(2022, May 25). Ultra-processed foods in university students: Implementing Nutri-Score
to make healthy choices. Healthcare (Basel, Switzerland). Retrieved September 15,
2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9222397/
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body weight, composition, and shape: a 4-year study of college students.” Applied
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Set to Go. The Jed Foundation. Set to Go | The Jed Foundation. (See especially “Healthy
Eating on Campus:” Healthy Eating on Campus | The Jed Foundation .)
U.S. News and World Report. “Almost 1 in Every 3 College-Age Americans Are Now
Obese.” Nov. 23, 2021, at 11:00 a.m., from Almost 1 in Every 3 College-Age
Americans Are Now Obese (usnews.com)
What do you think?