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December 01, 2009 6:55 PM Tackling College Obesity, Sort Of

By Daniel Luzer

Obesity.jpg

The College Guide, and many other publications, recently ran pieces about Lincoln University’s plan to deny graduation to students who have not made concerted efforts to lose weight.While other colleges may be avoiding a policy so extreme/humiliating/potentially illegal, it now looks like obesity is fast becoming everyone’s worry.

While only five percent of college students were “obese” in 1993, eight and a half percent of college students were obese in 1999. And now it looks like a full ten percent of college students are too fat. While obesity is a changing definition (and somewhat influenced by the diet industry) it is clear that something is wrong in America’s colleges. According to an article from Inside Higher Ed:

Though other institutions aren’t following Lincoln’s lead in mandating a certain course, meal plan or exercise schedule just for obese or overweight students, they are offering coordinated weight loss programs, sessions with nutritionists, cooking classes, healthier dining options and more, all with the implicit goal of whittling down students’ waistlines.

While the Freshman 15 is a pretty well-known concept, the trouble is that many students do not get fat in college; they come to college fat. Student health centers now see students entering college with high cholesterol, type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. Many colleges attempt to offer more healthy food, better fitness options, and health classes. It is a fine line, though, trying to discourage obesity while not promoting eating disorders, which also tend to plague colleges.

All of this concern about college obesity might be misguided, however. The number one way to reduce obesity appears to be simply going to college. While 10 percent of college students are obese, more than 30 percent of Americans over age 20 are obese.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer