Obesity statistics lead Iowa State to update food selections

Ames, IOWA – The student body is getting bigger. Nationally, 60 percent of Americans are clinically overweight or obese – and this doesn’t exclude students.

According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the collegiate rate of obesity has doubled in just 10 years.

But not all hope is lost. Iowa State is trying to revamp its food selection and educate students about health issues.

The hard part is getting students to care.

Judith Trumpy, registered dietitian at Thielen Student Health Center, said she works closely with the dining department to do just that.

Trumpy said students’ poor eating habits are formed by a variety of factors. The most prevalent, she said, is ignorance to the problems that are caused by those habits.

“It’s that immortality. They’re not worried about it,” she said. “It’s not [that] they’re not hearing things.”

Trumpy said the nutrition staff needs to keep putting out the message.

“Still, the number one items are usually the fried items,” she said. “The corn dogs, the pizza, hamburgers, chicken nuggets.”

Iowa State is doing some research of its own.

Ross O’Hara, graduate student in psychology, is currently analyzing data from a worldwide study of high school students and their perceptions of healthy eating under the supervision of Frederick Gibbons, distinguished professor of psychology.

The study also looked at social eating behaviors.

“Unfortunately, the results aren’t panning out too much,” O’Hara said of the status of the research.

Students seeking help with their eating habits are encouraged to see Trumpy, who provides free nutrition counseling through the Student Health Center

“The most difficult part of this job is to change behavior,” she said.

The program starts slowly, with small steps toward better health. She said she uses a “non-diet” approach, and encourages setting short-term goals such as eating breakfast, more fruits and vegetables, and mastering “mindful eating practices.”

Students generally should not diet in the stressful college atmosphere, Trumpy said.