Obesity is still a huge problem in America. Nearly 35 percent of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
BYU exercise science professor Larry Tucker said the rate of overweight and obese adults has increased by 50 percent over the last 50 years.
Tucker explained that a big problem in the fight with obesity is the change in the food environment. High calorie foods are now highly accessible and inexpensive, and Americans tend to over consume them.
“So obviously, people are eating differently, and you could also argue that people are not as active as they used to be,” Tucker said. “We need a minimum of 300 minutes a week of exercise and since a majority of students and a majority of American adults need to manage their weight, we all should be up around an hour or more a day.”
He also said the rate of obesity in men is close to the national average in Utah and the rate of obesity of women in Utah is higher than the national average. He said this is possibly due to the fact that women in Utah tend to have more children than in other parts of the country.
Benjamin Bikman is a physiology and development biology professor at BYU who has studied obesity. He said the quality of the calories someone eats is more important than the amount, and this is making Americans gain weight.
“The type of calorie affects hormones and it’s hormones that drive body fat,” Bikman said.
Bikman also said students often gain weight when they get into college, not because they are eating more but because they are eating “convenient foods” that are more fattening because they contain added sugar and refined carbohydrates.
“Convenient foods mean foods that are packaged and stored and almost overwhelmingly refined carbohydrates,” Bikman said. “The student has to start to think of foods that have higher protein and fat content and better carbohydrates.”
BYU exercise science professor James LeCheminant said it’s possible for students to maintain a healthy weight while away from home.
“There may be a small advantage to using smaller bowls, plates, and cup sizes when eating,” LeCheminant said in an email. “In addition, plan out healthy meals and snacks and put limits on the frequency of eating out.”
He also suggested getting sufficient exercise and sleep.
One resource for students who want to stay healthy is the Y Be Fit program.
“The program centers around three important areas of disease prevention and health promotion,” according to their website at ybefit.byu.edu.
Students can go to Y Be Fit, which is run by Tucker, and be tested on a number of issues, including blood glucose and a nutritional analysis.
LeCheminant also noted that BYU students have access to weight rooms, intramural activities and student activity courses.
“All these things can combine to promote weight maintenance,” LeCheminant said in an email.