FAMU is working to decrease the number of obese students on campus

Florida A&M faculty and administration are working together to decrease the number of students who struggle with obesity and help them transition into leading more healthy and fit lives.

Tanya Tatum, director of Student Health Services, attributes the rising number of overweight students to a family history of bad eating habits.

Rising obesity rates in young America have caused a 70 percent increase of early onset Diabetes in adults ages 18-29 in the last decade, according to the Health Fitness Foundation, sparking a nationwide movement to get youth in shape.

“Students come into college accustomed to one way of living and eating,” said Tatum. “It’s not easy to undo years of conditioning.”

Tatum has worked at FAMU for the past two years and previously at Florida State University for seven. She says that she has noticed an increase in the amount of unhealthy lifestyles that students live and notes that college is a place where students learn to balance classes, stress, and healthy lifestyle and acknowledges, “it’s challenging to find time to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Aside from physical ailments, being overweight can have mental effects that must be addressed as well.

“Some students use eating as a coping mechanism,” said Allison Lockard, assistant director of clinical programs at Counseling Services. “It can also be tied to self-esteem issues, but is not always the direct result of them.”

Sunshine Manor Counseling Center offers assistance with the mental aspects that being overweight can cause in some students. Depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation are areas counselors work to help students improve.

“We help students set goals and map out a plan to achieve them mentally while they are working on the physical,” said Lockard.

Tatum agrees that young adults are not always aware of what they are eating or how much.

“There are hidden calories that we don’t realize such as mixed drinks, beer and lattes,” Tatum said. “All it takes is one of these items and you have already had 500 calories and that doesn’t include your meal,” said Tatum.

On the national level, first lady Michelle Obama launched a nationwide initive titled Let’s Move, which is geared to getting parents more informed about nutrition and exercise, improving the quality of food in schools, making healthy foods more affordable and accessible for families, and focusing more on physical education.

Students at FAMU who are interested in improving their overall body health are also encouraged to attend one of the many classes offered at the Student Recreation Center.

“We offer one-on-one fitness orientation, yoga, lunchtime circuit, boxing, spinning, sweat and sculpt, and total body conditioning,” said Fitness and Wellness Coordinator Chip Heimbach.

For first-time to workout gym-goers, Heimbach recommends starting slow and participating in activities that are fun and require movement. He says running, walking, skating and riding a bike for 30 minutes to an hour are all effective ways to getting active.