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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Women, College and Weight Issues

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 16th 2007

A caution for women returning to college:

According to Jennifer Wider, MD, of the Society for Women's Health, young women either starting their first year of college or returning to college, it is important for them to be careful about their nutritional needs. Dr. Wider correctly points out that obesity is a major problem in the United States today. While she does not suggest that men do not suffer from the same problem she does state that women face many more problems than do men with the problem of obesity.

Among the problems of obesity for women are the social stigma attached to women who are over weight and the impact it has on their ability to socialize. She also states that obese women are at greater risk for early menses and late menopause, both of which have been found to be risk factors for breast cancer. Obese women also have greater problems with fertility and complicated pregnancies.

Dr. Wider also reminds everyone that both men and women who are obese are at increased risk for Type Two Diabetes. In addition to diabetes are the health problems of high blood pressure and high cholesterol and heart problems.

It is suggested that students leaving home and going away to school make certain that they make time for meals, exercise portion control and eat healthy snacks such as low fat yogurt, graham crackers, fresh fruit and baked chips. It is also urged that everyone avoids desserts and goes to the buffet bar only once during meals.An Additional Caution:

While the suggestions made by Dr. Wider are valuable there is an important issue that is overlooked. That issue is the problem of Anorexia Nervosa and the fact that these messages about avoiding obesity are weapons in the hands of those young women and some men who engage in self starvation out of the irrational fear of obesity. Why is their fear irrational as compared to people who are not anorectic? The answer is simple but sad: for those suffering with anorexia there is no limit to how thin they believe they need to be. In fact, no matter how much weight they lose, they remain convinced that they are obese.

While Dr. Wider is correct to point out the dangers for people who have not learned good eating habits while they were growing up and are now returning to school in August it is equally important to warn them about the dangers of dieting. It is known that many young people develop anorexia during High School and College years and that incredibly high numbers of them experiment with Bulimia while in College.

College is a time of great stress for many young people and provides fertile opportunities for engaging in heavy alcohol abuse, over eating and weight gain and anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa or both.

The Society for Women's Health Research can be found at: www.womenshealthresearch.org

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Women, College and Weight Issues - Lindsay Haughn - Jul 19th 2007
I've read Dr. Wider's book, "The Doctor's Complete College Girls Health Guide," and was impressed with the discussion on both obesity and eating disorders.  I think both are major issues for women in college and beyond.  I commend Dr. Schwartz for mentioning them and Dr. Wider for writing about them.  Women and men need to pay attention to healthy eating habits throughout their lives.  And we, as a society, need more discussions like these.

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