For most college students and working professionals, academic, work, family, and social responsibilities means life is busier than ever, which can make it hard to keep health at the top of the to-do list. However, eating well and staying physically active should be a priority for the success of both the present and the future.
In an effort to “lose weight” or “get healthy”, some people slip into eating disorders. Eating disorders are distorted eating patterns usually related to underlying emotional issues, but it is possible to move away from these patterns toward a healthy lifestyle.
In an effort to “lose weight” or “get healthy,” some people can slip into eating disorders. Eating disorders are distorted eating patterns usually related to underlying emotional issues.
College students are particularly vulnerable to developing eating disorders. The numbers affected are hard to assess due to the high number of undiagnosed disorders. Recent estimates are that 10 million Americans battle eating disorders with 40% of new cases being diagnosed in 15-19 year olds. Traditionally, eating disorders have been considered a women’s health issue, but 10% of all eating disorders do occur in men (1).
Types of Eating Disorders
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. Primary symptoms include:
- Inability to maintain a minimally normal body weight
- Intense fear of weight gain or being fat
- Feeling fat despite weight loss, normal or low body weight
- Loss of menstrual cycle
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a secretive cycle of binging and purging. Primary symptoms include:
- Eating large quantities of food, often secretly, without regard to feelings of hunger or fullness and with feelings of being out of control while eating
- Follows “binges” with some form of purging to make up for calorie intake such as vomiting, laxative or diuretic use, fasting and/or compulsive exercise
Binge eating disorder is a newer category of eating disorder characterized by frequent episodes of uncontrolled overeating not followed by any purging behavior. Primary symptoms include:
- Eating large quantities of food, often secretly, without regard to feelings of hunger or fullness and with feelings of being “out of control” while eating
- Eating rapidly without really tasting the food
- Extreme feelings of shame, disgust or guilt after a binge
Though the warning signs of an eating disorder vary with the type of disorder, here are some red flags that signal a possible eating disorder:
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams and/or dieting
- Extreme concern about body weight or shape
- Inflexible restrictions regarding food
- Frequent comments or anxiety about gaining weight or being fat
- Denial of hunger
- Refusal to eat in front of others or frequent trips to the restroom after eating
- Food rituals such as eating foods in a certain order, excessive chewing or not allowing foods to touch each other
- Excessively rigid exercise program despite weather, fatigue or injury
- Withdrawal from friends and activities
- Avoidance of food situations
- Food, weight loss and dieting become primary concern that takes priority over all other areas of daily activity
Health consequences of an eating disorder are serious, and in fact, can be life threatening. From changes in blood pressure, heart rates and electrolyte imbalances to dehydration, muscle loss, tooth decay and bone loss, the side effects of an eating disorder can destroy your health for life.
If you or someone you know shows signs of an eating disorder, don’t wait until it becomes a serious medical problem, seek help now. Expect to feel nervous, but the sooner you get help from a medical professional, the better your chances are for developing a healthy relationship with food.
1. National Eating Disorders Association, www.edap.org. Accessed July 2013.
The Healthy Vegetarian
More and more people are choosing to eat a vegetarian diet for reasons including health, environmental, religious, personal, economic, and compassion for animals. The American Dietetic Association has affirmed that a vegetarian diet can meet all known needs for nutrients (1). In fact, vegetarians generally have fewer occurrences of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer.
Eating Vegetarian the Healthy Way
Simply eating vegetarian or vegan does not ensure that you are living a healthier lifestyle. The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and legumes (peas and beans).
- Include a wide variety of whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits: Don’t get in a rut with the same foods day after day. This will not only lead to boredom but may cause you to miss some important vitamins and minerals.
- Beware of higher calorie, higher fat vegetarian selections: Even vegetarians can get too much fat if their diet contains large amounts of nuts, oils, processed foods, sweets, dairy products or eggs.
- Be relaxed about protein: As long as calories are sufficient and the diet is varied, most vegetarians easily meet protein needs.
Necessary Nutrients in the Vegan Diet
Vegans who eat absolutely no animal products need to be sure to include the following nutrients (2):
- Vitamin B12—sources include fortified soy beverages, cereals and nutritional yeast. There are no plant sources of B12 unless fortified.
- Vitamin D—sources include fortified soy or rice beverages, some margarine, and sunshine.
- Calcium—sources include tofu processed with calcium, broccoli, seeds, nuts, kale, bok choy, legumes, greens, lime-processed tortillas, soy beverages, grain products and orange juice enriched with calcium
- Iron—sources include legumes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, whole grains and iron-fortified cereals and breads, especially whole-wheat. Absorption is improved by vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, peppers, dark-green leafy vegetables and potatoes with skins
- Zinc—sources include whole grains (especially the germ and bran), whole-wheat bread, legumes, nuts and tofu
- Protein—sources include tofu and other soy-based products, legumes, seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables
Vegetarianism can be simple and nutritious as long as you keep in mind the basics of balance and variety. Look for items in the café that are marked with the vegetarian or vegan icon and don’t be shy to ask questions about ingredients in specific dishes. Your Bon Appétit staff is concerned about helping you to eat a healthy, balanced diet.
1. The American Dietetic Association. www.eatright.org. Accessed July 2013.
2. The Vegetarian Resource Group. www.vrg.org. Accessed July 2013.
3. Vegetarianism and Vegetarian Nutrition. www.vegetarian-nutrition.info. Accessed July 2013.
With college also comes new freedom, including parties, games, and all-nighters. While many students do gain weight, it’s not usually the full 15 and it may not be just your freshman year that’s a concern. Studies show that average weight gain is three to ten pounds during the first two years of college, which is a pattern that can lead to trouble down the line (1, 2).
College offers many temptations including, on many campuses, 24-hour availability of food, all-you-care-to-eat dining, late night snacking on sugary, fatty foods and a new freedom around when, what, where and how much to eat. The way you respond to these temptations will determine what happens to your weight.
- Eat regular meals (including breakfast): With a hectic schedule it’s easy to skip meals, especially breakfast. Instead of saving calories, this pattern leads to fatigue and overeating later in the day. Aim to eat every 3-5 hours during the day even if it’s a quick snack between meals.
- Aim for balance: Try to eat from two to three food groups at each meal or snack to ensure you get a mix of nutrients.
- Be mindful of portion sizes: With so many choices in you Bon Appétit café, it’s easy to go overboard. Learn more about portion sizes.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand: Be prepared for moments of hunger with something healthy rather than going for the vending machine candy bar.
- Keep alcohol calories in check: Alcohol provides a dense source of calories as well as increases appetite, making it a double whammy when it comes to your weight.
- Avoid eating while you study: This pattern often becomes “mindless” eating. You don’t enjoy the food and tend to overeat. Instead, opt for a study break for a snack when you need a snack.
- Build an active lifestyle at school: No matter your previous activity level, college provides opportunities for everyone to get moving. Walk or bike to class, visit the campus gym, join an intramural sports team and enjoy your active lifestyle.
- If you can’t get a handle on your weight, consult the pros: You may need to seek help from a trained health professional especially if you feel yourself slipping into the unhealthy patterns of eating disorders or fad diets. The wellness or student health staff on your campus or Bon Appétit’s registered dietitian can be helpful in answering your individual nutrition questions.
1. Freshman 15, Fact or Fiction. Morrow et al. Obesity. 2006;14:1438-1443.
2. Changes in body weight and fat mass of men and women in first year of college. Hoffman et al. J Am Coll Health. 2006 Jul-Aug; 55(1):41-45.
For most, maintaining a healthy weight involves lifestyle modifications of healthy eating, physical activity, and behavior therapy. Fad diets may offer fast weight loss results, however they typically fail in the long run and are often unhealthy. Experts suggest that individuals participate in at least 30 minutes (or more) of moderate intensity physical activity daily (2). Balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories your body uses will lead to healthy weight maintenance.
Being overweight or obese can lead to multiple medical complications including sleep apnea, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Burning more calories than are being consumed leads to weight loss. A weight loss rate of 1-2 lbs. per week over the course of 6 months is optimal. An initial weight loss goal of up to 10% from baseline is realistic, achievable, and sustainable goal (2).
Freshman 15 plagues many students new to campus living. With all you can eat dining services and late night snacking during studies it can be easy for students to lose control over their food choices. Filling at least half your plate with healthy fruits and vegetables and have healthy snack options available for late night cravings will help keep the freshman 15 away.
Being underweight is also considered unhealthy. Low body weight can lead to muscle and bone loss, weakness, a weakened immune system, increased risk of infection, and higher mortality rates. Incorporation of more healthy fats and wholesome snacks can help one to achieve the calories they need.
Eating Disorders can become more prevalent with students and young adults. Eating disorders can affect both men and women alike and can have life altering effects. If you feel that you or someone you know may be having trouble with an eating disorder you should contact health services or seek help from a trained professional such as a registered dietitian.
Maintaining a healthy weight with regular physical activity and balanced meals contributes to your good health now and as you age.
Healthy Eating Tips:
Our cafés offer a wide variety of foods for all different taste and dietary preferences. The colorful array of fresh foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, make it easier make healthy choices.
Five Smart Tips to Dining with Bon Appétit:
- Fill one-half of your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Balance that plate with whole grains and lean protein.
- To eat in balance, look for our COR icons.
- Try new food items- we offer many local and exotic ingredients
- Treat yourself- don’t be too hard on yourself, give yourself a treat once in a while
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/obesity
- The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. www.eatright.org. Accessed August 2013.
- Weight-control Information Network. win.niddk.nih.gov
Sites We Visit
Our team of registered dietitian and chefs are always on the search for new and exciting nutrition resources. From basic informational sites to the most out-there food blogs, we’re constantly reading (and in some cases even writing) about food. Here are a few sites that we’d like to share keeping in mind, we are not responsible for any changing content on these sites.
Nutrition Reference Information
Balanced Plates (www.choosemyplate.gov)
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org)
Food Allergies (www.foodallergy.org)
Center for Science in the Public Interest (www.cspinet.org)
Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org)
Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org/foodnews)
USDA Know your Farmer, Know Your Food (www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/knowyourfarmer)
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to take the place of advice from a healthcare professional. Check with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program. In addition, while all efforts have been made to ensure the information included in this material is correct, new research is released frequently and may invalidate certain pieces of data. Aug 2013