A health assessment for Fresno college students was taken for 2011, and the results were not promising.
The fact of the matter is: four out of 10 Fresno State students are overweight.
“A little under half are overweight or obese,” said Stephanie Annett, registered dietitian at the Student Health Center. “Only 52 percent are at what we consider the healthy rate.”
But it gets worse. Around 22 percent of students admitted to spending no time exercising, 60 percent reported eating only one or two servings of fruits and vegetables, the survey, taken by the American College Health Association, reported.
Annett leads the Weight Loss Challenge, a program that promotes diet and exercise, while offering several healthy eating classes.
Assisting Annett is Kelley Storrer, a dietetic intern at the Health Center.
“This is going to be my first time working with a program like that and this population of adolescents and college age kids,” Storrer said. “I think it’s a great program just looking at what they have to offer.”
She said she hopes that the Weight Loss Challenge will help change some of the numbers seen in the survey.
Annett said she is concerned by the survey results, as most college-age students fall within the 18 to 24 age group, and are too young to be overweight.
“We know people tend to gain weight as they get older,” she said.
Annett wants to change that.
Instead of students reaching for hamburgers, Annett wants students to embrace a healthier lifestyle, and she has the plan that can help.
Last semester was the first time the Health Center implemented the challenge, using grant money provided by the Aetna Foundation.
Annett said she was not involved in the challenge last semester, and has made a couple changes, such as expanding the sign-up window.
“A lot of students heard about it, but it was too late to sign up,” she said. The sign-ups for the challenge last semester only lasted for two weeks.
The challenge was also more demanding of the students’ time, resulting in some participants to complain about the harsh scheduling.
This semester the sign-ups started Sept. 10, and students are given until Oct. 19 to add their name to the challenge.
The students will compete for a free iPad 2 and a number of gift cards worth $50 at Target and Trader Joes.
Top participants will also win insulated lunch totes and pedometers.
Annett hopes to get around 200 people to sign up and participate.
After signing up, students make an appointment where their body composition is read using a sensitive body fat tester.
The Health Center utilizes a device called a Fat Loss Monitor by Omron, a manufacturer of healthcare devices, to get a close-to-exact percentage of body fat.
Annett said that the fat monitor is more accurate than antiquated methods such as underwater weighing or calipers, which pinch the skin to measure fat percentage.
“And no one likes to have their fat grabbed, anyway,” she said.
The monitor looks like a video game controller with aluminum handles. Annett said it uses bioelectrical impedance analysis, a method that estimates body composition, and is often used to measure fat and lean muscle tissue.
Fat acts as a resister in an electrical circuit, slowing the charge, Annett said. The less fat you have, the faster the device can read, which provides a more accurate percentage of fat and lean muscle tissue.
“Muscle tissue and lean tissue is very quick—the signal will go very quick,” Annett said. “Fat is kind of like insulation on a wire, so if a person has a lot more fat, the signal will go from one side to the other a lot slower.”
The device then translates the readings into a percentage of body fat. It is that percentage which participants will work to drop.
The benefit offered by the monitor is that it can read fat tissue accurately, which means that it will provide accurate fat loss results even for students who are engaged in body-building exercises, where they gain muscle, a heavy tissue, and lose fat.
“They can stand on the scale and not see a change, but we can see that they’re actually losing body fat which is what we want when using this,” Annett said. “It’s a nice mental boost.”
Once the percentage is found, the student is given a participation record and a list of group nutrition classes.
To complete the challenge, participants must take at least one of the classes, which are available at multiple times throughout the semester.
Topics for the classes vary, and include lessons on intuitive eating approaches, how to tell between good and bad fats and how to eat healthier on campus. Students that can’t make any of the classes can also choose to go to an individual appointment midway through their session.
“We know that here, that students are busy, and we have some requirements to help keep them motivated,” Annett said. “But really (don’t) want them to be able say, ‘Well, I can’t participate because there’s too much to do.’ We really wanted to leave it flexible for them.”
The grand prize winner won’t be chosen on the level of fat percentage lost, Annett said. Instead, the winners are chosen on the level of participation.
Each participant must follow his or her own plan, which begins soon after sign-up. The program will differ for each person based on when they sign up, but their final weigh-in will occur eight weeks after starting.
After the last group weighs in at Dec. 5, the Health Center will select the top participant to receive the iPad 2 and choice of gift cards.