First Lady Michelle Obama speaks on the findings of the Childhood Obesity Task Force report May 11, 2010. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
When Jeff Nagle set his mind to losing weight, he knew traditional exercise alone wouldn’t keep him interested enough to reach his goals.
After dropping 115 pounds, the 23-year-old University of South Florida psychology student has active video games like Rock Band and Dance Dance Revolution to thank.
Nagle said the games are way more fun than riding your bike and “you don’t feel anywhere near as gross.”
“Rock Band drumming works great,” Nagle said. “You’ll burn calories more slowly to begin with, but once you move in to harder modes you burn calories faster and even begin to tone your arms.”
Combined with a 1,200 calorie-a-day diet, biking and lifting weights, Nagle is now down to 170 pounds.
Nagle hasn’t weighed 170 pounds since he was 11.
“I finally am happy with the way I look, which is the most important part,” Nagle said.
Childhood obesity has become such an epidemic in the United States that it’s been at the forefront of health campaigns of figureheads like Michelle Obama.
Most students are aware of the dreaded “Freshmen 15,” which usually starts small at around five to seven pounds and increases steadily during a student’s time in school. The weight gain can be caused by unhealthy eating, sleeping habits and lack of exercise.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 5.2 million college students are obese.
Some students, like Nagle, take it into their own hands to shed the pounds. Others, like 21-year-old Lindsey Voltoline, are among the many college hopefuls who would like to lose weight and are overwhelmed with where to start.
Voltoline, a 21-year-old mass communications student at USF, is trying to lose a few pounds that she gradually put on during three years of college and unhealthy habits.
She said freshman, who are required to live on campus, should take advantage of the newly renovated campus recreation center and get in the habit of working out and eating right early.
A new healthy foods dining hall across from the rec center, Champions Choice, makes that easy with an all-you-can eat salad bar, fresh sandwiches, whole-wheat pizzas and more.
“Those who live off campus have to fit it into their schedule when they can come back to USF just to work out or deal with other gyms,” Voltoline said. “It’s inconvenient and even having to go all the way to the USF gym for just an hour or two isn’t very appealing…it may be that I’m kind of lazy, but I want it to be as easy as possible so I will actually put effort into working out.”
For those willing to make the trek, USF tripled the fitness area from 7,000 sq. ft. to 21,000 sq. ft. and added $1.2 million worth of new equipment. The new equipment includes 120 cardio machines with personal TVs and seven large televisions on the walls that students can listen to by tuning in their personal music players.
Bryce Lauren, 20-year-old University of Tampa student, said the key, and one of the hardest things to do, is cutting out soda and other sugary drinks. Dieting students often don’t realize that drinking soda negates much of the exercise and healthy eating.
Lauren lost 30 pounds over the course of two-and-a-half months for her ROTC program, taking her from 195 to 165 by finding an individual routine and sticking by it. She swears by a method of dieting that takes into consideration a person’s blood type.
“I think the hardest obstacle for students is commitment,” Lauren said. “By understanding that the time you put into exercise is an investment for yourself, your health, just like school is for your future. It is just something you have to make time for because no one else can invest in that [but] you.”
Lauren’s exercise routine included lifting weights at the school gym and running a couple miles four to five nights a week at the indoor track so that she could see the lights from downtown Tampa.
After she reached her goal, Lauren took to Facebook and typed out a note to share her weight loss advice, workout routine and links to websites she found helpful.
Studies are being done to research the affect social media has on weight loss.
A study from Temple University led by a psychologist at the Center for Obesity Research and Education used Facebook and text messaging to help students with weight loss.
The study was divided into three groups: the Facebook group, the Facebook-plus group and the control group.
Students in the Facebook group got diet and exercise tips and viewed podcasts on a private page. Students in the Facebook-plus group did the same but also received personalized feedback via text messaging. The control group received no advice.
At the end of eight weeks, the Facebook-plus group lost the most weight, averaging five pounds. According to the summary posted on the university website, the researcher says the “result is exciting, given that the program lacks a face-to-face component, because the losses approximate those often found in face-to-face weight loss programs on college campuses.”