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The Problem of Obesity Among College Students and Solutions to Combat It

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Problems associated with obesity
  3. Proposed solutions to combat obesity among college students
  4. Physical Fitness and Nutrition Course
    Healthy Eating on Campus
    Support for obese and at-risk obese students
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


Obesity is defined as the abnormal condition and increased fat deposition in adipose tissues. Overweight and obesity are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States. The American College Health Association (ACHA) states that 34.1% of college students are either overweight or obese, and the greatest increase in rates would be of adults between the ages 18-29 years old. There has been evidence in previous research that has proven that college weight gain is permanent. Obesity causes many health problems including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, high blood pressure, and body pain. It also causes social problems, such as facing discrimination in school and in society. Mental problems could also be an issue because college students who are overweight or obese are more likely to be depressed, have anxiety, and have lower academic achievement. Young adults in college are still establishing habits for the rest of their lives and that is why it is vital to promote a healthier lifestyle while they are in school.

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Eating healthy and increasing physical activity are key components to preventing overweight and obesity. It is also important to examine the underlying factors that contribute to obesity among students. I propose having a health nutrition class as a required undergraduate course, providing more accessible and affordable healthy food on campuses, further the research to understand the factors causing obesity, and giving more support to students who are already obese or are at risk of obesity.

Problems associated with obesity

Obesity it not a disease caused by one factor and it is not just about food. There are multiple levels and factors associated with gaining weight. It’s been a known fact that obesity causes many physical health issues including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and sleep apnea. However, as a college student, “changes in behavior such as drinking alcohol, a less active lifestyle, hormonal alterations due to decreased sleep, social gatherings, easy access to cafeterias and fast-food options, and poor nutritional habits are among the factors that may contribute to weight gain during college years” (Miller & Hartman, 2019). Pope, Hansen, and Harvey (2017) state overweight or obese rose from 23% to 41% – a 78% increase – throughout their four years in college. Understanding the factors that contribute to weight gain can help researchers create better and more appropriate health interventions.

Combining social and environmental factors, college students can gain weight at an alarmingly fast rate in just a few years. Lee (2018) found that only 5% of college students ate the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, and only 30% exercised routinely. College students are often pressed for time and are under a lot of stress, so it might be difficult for them to avoid fast food restaurants and find the time to eat healthy foods.

Once habits are developed and established, it’s very difficult to change. Not only is obesity linked with dozens of chronic illnesses, it also accounts for 21% of all U.S. medical expenses – $190 billion annually. Obesity is a very expensive condition with over 75 million Americans trying to lose weight. As a result, the U.S. market for pills, weight-loss chains, and diet drugs are valued over $60.9 billion. Targeting college students could be the best, most effective way to combat the rising rates of adulthood overweight and obesity.

Proposed solutions to combat obesity among college students

There are many efficient and easy ways to decrease the rates of obesity in college students. Numerous studies have shown lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits are the biggest contributors to overweight and obesity. Focusing on the largest factors would be the most efficient when trying to combat weight gain.

Physical Fitness and Nutrition Course

My first proposal is to have a physical fitness and nutrition class as a required course for undergraduate students. Encouraging exercise and healthy eating when young adults enter college is a great way for them to establish health promoting behaviors. Many young adults are unaware of what they eat and if they’re getting the recommended amount of exercise per week. The transition into college could be difficult and I believe taking this course would be beneficial and help in the shift of change. The following would be taught in this course:

  • Importance of physical fitness and good nutrition in physical development
  • Examination of physical and psychological wellness
  • Emphasis on disease prevention, stress management, sleep improvement, and weight control
  • Attention to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Students could learn valuable information that they can implement into their daily lives and will hopefully carry on throughout their academic careers into adulthood.

Healthy Eating on Campus

College is very expensive – from tuition, books and supplies, room and board, transportation, loan fees, and personal/miscellaneous items. For example, at California State University, Northridge, living on campus for a year costs about $23,642. That’s why it might be easier for college students to eat junk food and fast food since it is cheap and affordable. According to Public Health (2019), “Unfortunately in America today, we are surrounded by junk food, which is usually extremely high in added sugars. And even worse, this food is often easier to prepare and more accessible than healthy options, like fruits and vegetables.” I suggest for health nutritionists to explore campuses and list healthy foods that students could eat at various restaurants. Campuses should also limit the access to junk foods and replace junk food in vending machines with healthier snack options.

Implementing simple tips and making them visible to students will help them to make better eating choices. Many young adults do not know what’s healthy on campus because they are underinformed. Incoming freshmen are on their own for the first time and the guidance from health nutritionists on campus can help them create healthy eating habits.

Support for obese and at-risk obese students

Research has shown that young adults entering college who are already overweight or obese have a higher risk of chronic diseases and mental illnesses. There shouldn’t only be a focus on preventing obesity, but on providing help for those who are already overweight or obese. Seminars should be held every semester for all college students, including those who are overweight and obese, who strive to live a better and healthier life. The seminars would provide college students with more information on ways to be healthy and give them support to lose weight. A research was done that shows students who were obese were at the highest risk of being diagnosed with depression. Encouraging body positivity and physical activity can help them combat obesity. Health nutritionists would be speakers in the seminar and they share their knowledge of the food industry and provide students with easy and affordable ways to eat healthy. Fitness advisors would also be speakers and they can present students with ways to be more active, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator when going to a class that’s on the third floor or choosing to walk to the grocery store around the corner instead of driving a car. The goal of this seminar is to provide confidence for those battling obesity and to let them know they aren’t alone on this journey.


I recommend that college students be provided with as many resources as possible to live as healthy adults and to decrease the obesity epidemic happening in the United States. Requiring taking a physical fitness and nutrition course provides each student the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, attitude, skills needed to adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. Visibly advertising healthy food everywhere on campus can help students make the right food choices. Giving overweight and obese students the proper support will hopefully influence them to change their life for the better.

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It is very easy to gain weight, but difficult to lose. It is simple to develop and establish habits, but very hard to change. My proposal gives a profound insight on the rising obesity rates in college students. Focusing the attention on college students is the best way to fight obesity. All in all, “prevention of obesity, beginning at an early age and extending across a lifespan could vastly improve individual and public health, reduce suffering, and save billions of dollars each year in health care costs.”


  • California State University, Northridge. (2019). 2019-2020 Fall and Spring Cost of Attendance. Financial Aid Basics. Retrieved from
  • Clarke University. (2019). 10 Healthy Eating Tips for Busy Students. Retrieved from
  • Harvard University of Public Health. (2019). Weight problems take a hefty toll on body and mind. Health Risks. Retrieved from
  • Lee, B.Y. (2018). College Food Needs To Get Better, This PHA Initiative is Helping. Forbes. Retrieved from
  • Miller, K.G., Hartman, J.M. (2019). Influence of physical activity on weight status during the first year of college. Journal of American College Health, 1-5. DOI: 10.1080/07448481.2018.1539398
  • Pope, L., Hansen, D., Harvey, J. (2017). Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, (49)2, 137-141.
  • Public Health. (2019). What are the consequences? Health Guide. Retrieved from

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