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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Staying Healthy is a Possibility on Campus

Although some students might not think so, the Roth food court is one of many campus locations that offer healthy alternate choices. (Kenneth Ho / The Statesman)

The line for the salad station at Roth Food Court, one of Stony Brook University’s dining halls, has grown longer each day throughout the semester, as students try to eat healthily on campus.

Freshman Denise Conejo, from Manhattan, said maintaining a healthy lifestyle during college is important to her.

“I have an under-active thyroid; it affects my weight gain,” Conejo said. “I have to be careful what I eat. I gain weight rapidly because of my thyroid.”

According to a recent study, conducted by four researchers in collaboration with The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there is more to the notorious “Freshman 15” than most students are aware of.

Despite the common weight gain among college students, especially among freshmen, the university provides students with the tools to maintain a healthy lifestyle during college.

The research was based on two studies, which focused on the weight gained during students’ freshman and sophomore years. In the first study, the researchers used a group of 382 students from an unnamed public university in Indiana, from 2002 to 2003. The second used a group of 382 students from an unnamed private Northeastern college, during the 2005 to 2006 school year.

Their study found that students gained weight during their freshman year, but not necessarily 15 pounds. A student is more likely to gain five to seven pounds his or her freshman year, but will continue to gain more weight the following year—two to three pounds more.

Students at the public university gained more weight than those at the private college, though the study does not suggest why.

“Students complain about weight gain every year, it’s not limited to first year,” said Stony Brook Campus Nutritionist Leah Holbrook. She works as a part of Student Health Services.

“I’ve gained 20 pounds since high school,” said senior Alex De Leon. “I’m just trying to watch what I eat now,” he added.

Holbrook helps students with various health issues and personal diets. She sees students in a one-on-one session and assesses how much help they need, whether they need quick tips on how to eat healthily on campus or long term help, such as those who are excessively overweight or obese.

“I’ll generally see a patient two or three times depending on their case,” said Holbrook.

Holbrook’s sessions are a free service provided by the university for undergraduate students. Students can meet with her for 12 sessions a semester.

Exercise was a big factor in weight gain among college students. Holbrook said many students tend to become less active during college than they were in high school. She said

this is often due to students’ hectic class schedules and not enough time for exercise.

As part of the Division of Student Life, the university has a department of recreational programs and exercise classes that are open to students.

“There are 169 classes [a semester] … about 36 classes a week,” said Dean Bowen, manager of fitness and wellness programming at the Wellness Center on the second floor of the Students Activity Center, which holds a gym on the third floor and a dining hall on the main.

Yoga, Spinning, Cardio Kickboxing, Pilates and Ab Lab are some of the exercise classes that are offered through the wellness center.

Yoga, a popular class held in the dance studio of Pitchard Gym, fills to capacity Wednesday nights with students signing in 20 minutes early in attempts to beat the rush.

The exercise instructor, at times, has had to turn away students because the room is filled. The dance studio, an average sized room with floor to ceiling mirrors in the front of the room, holds 32 people comfortably.

Cardio kickboxing has students working up a sweat in its 45-minute workout time, with students stretching and marching in place to warm up for the rigorous workout. Within 10 minutes, students are breathing heavily as they try to keep pace with the instructor, who shouts, “don’t stop” and “ c’mon keep going” as words of encouragement to her students, but she reminds them to take breaks if needed.

“Yeah it’s pretty intense,” said junior Krystal Ronquillo, of Queens, about the Spinning class she attends Monday evenings. “You feel it a lot in your legs,” she added.

These classes are offered throughout the day Monday thru Friday and are free for all undergraduate students.

The Wellness Center also provides students with personal training packages where they can meet with a specialist in one-on-one sessions or in a group of two.

Students who participate in this program meet with their trainer and develop a schedule that best suits both of them. Bowen said students generally purchase the five or 10 session packages.

One session for a student cost $40 and five sessions would cost $180, while a package for two would cost $140 a session per student.

“It’s expensive,” Bowen said. “But it’s an investment.”

As of now “we have five faculty/staff and four students participating in the personal training program,” Bowen said.

“There are few students taking advantage of the personal training due to a number of things; economy/budget, price, no time to devote to exercise,” Bowen said.

Currently, there are four trainers working with students as part of the Wellness Center’s personal trainer program. “I look to gain more trainers by co-sponsoring a certification on Campus early in the Spring 2010,” Bowen said.

A 2009 report on obesity stresses the importance for physical activity and healthy nutritional choices in children and adults, but does not discuss this in average college age (18-21) young adult.

In July, Stony Brook University hired Lackmann Culinary Services, the same company that provides food services for Hofstra University, Adelphi University and Pace University. Stony Brook signed with Lackmann after its contract with Chartwells expired in June.

“I like the food better now, the food in the SAC is better,” said Junior Mily Easo, about the food served on campus under Lackmann versus what was previously on campus.

Along with a new food service provider and new names came a new nutritional director, Helene Koshner, who had the same job at Hofstra University.

Tucked away in a small L-shaped room towards the far right end of the Campus Dining Services offices in the back of the Kelly Dining Hall is Koshner’s office.

Koshner herself is rarely a fixture in her office but usually found running around the dining hall.

Her responsibilities consist of working with chefs, conducting nutritional analyses on campus foods, dealing with special dietary needs and attending weekly Faculty Student Association meetings with students and Customer Advocate Dawn Villaci.

Every Wednesday, students can converse with Koshner about any questions or concerns they have with the campus food options, pricing, and dining services.

“We try to correct what we can,” Koshner said.

One of the suggestions Campus Dining Services made was the creation of an alternative food concept in Kelly Dining — a vegan station.

Though the university is making efforts to provide students with healthier options many students are still not happy, particularly freshman students.

“It’s horrible,” said Heng Zheng, of Queens, who has lost weight since being on campus, because she said she doesn’t like the selection.

“I’m eating less here because of the food options, I don’t know what to get,” said Zheng. “Can’t eat Wendy’s all the time, that’s how you get the freshman 15 or a clogged artery,” she added.

Another freshman student, Anthony Imbriano, said he doesn’t think many students are concerned about weight gain or the “freshman 15.”

Imbriano doesn’t worry about gaining weight, “I try to eat healthy, but I can’t.”

But according to recent research, the college years are a crucial period in a young person’s life, especially concerning their weight.

The study on perspective weight gain among college students found that 75 percent of the participants gained weight during their freshman year, specifically in their first semester.

According to the study, “Young adults gain an average of slightly less than one kilogram [2.2 pounds] each year, the majority of this appears to be gained during the early 20s. Furthermore, overweight during adolescence has been found to track into adult years.”

According to Holbrook eating healthy on campus is possible even though campus living provides students with extra difficulties.

“Students want to go to the same places all the time, they have to look at other places, and remember to eat more often,” she added.

She said some of these unique circumstances were less time for physical activity and the tendency of students to eat late on campus.

According to a New York Times health column, eating a big meal has been associated with weight gain. In the article Dr. Louis J. Aronne said the reason for late night snacking leading to weight gain is because of people are less likely to engage in physical activity before bed and this lack of physical activity causes the body to store calories as fat.

Though the research gives some insight into college weight gain, according to the study, the researchers believe there is still not enough information to show how crucial it is to develop and maintain good nutritional choices while in college.

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