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The Effects of a College Environment on a Students Health

When one goes away to college, their life changes dramatically. They are forced to make changes in their own lives in order to adapt to college life. When one is in high school and living at home, their eating habits and personal hygiene practices are for the most part controlled by their parents. They are told what to eat and when to eat it. They are told to keep their room clean and to take their vitamins, etc. When one moves away to college, they are on their own.

There is no one telling them to clean their room, or to do laundry or what they have to eat. In some colleges and universities, it is required that freshmen live on campus and eat at least two meals a day in the dining hall. This isn’t necessarily for the university to monitor a student’s eating habits but rather to get the student acquainted with the campus and other people living there. Food served in college dining halls has not been known for it’s nutritional value. However, over the past couple of years college chefs have been working to change that.

While a lot of students have committed to eating the healthier foods and trying to stay healthy, the vast majority lives on pizza and taco bell or any other cheap fast food chain that is open until the late hours of the night. College is a fast paced environment and fast food caters to college students. In this fast paced environment, students more often than not neglect their health and personal hygiene and the consequences range from obesity to deadly eating disorders. “The Freshmen fifteen” is one of the most dreaded rights of passage into college.

It is a well-known fact among college students, that one gains fifteen pounds during the first year of college life. Women are the main targets of this incident but men are also affected. When everything around a person is changing, that person must also change. Studying hard and writing many papers goes hand in hand with eating pizza, drinking beer and going for days without sleep. A person who has eaten healthy for their entire life can get pulled into this lifestyle very easily. It seems that almost everyone on the campus lives like this and when you look at a student’s schedule, eating healthy would almost take too much time.

It is much easier for one to order a pizza or drive down to the Taco Bell pick up window than it is to cook a well balanced meal. College dining halls have never been known for the nutritional value of their food. When a dining hall or cafeteria is mentioned, casserole and macaroni and cheese come to mind. However, college chefs have been working towards a better, more nutritious and diverse menu. “We’re seeing a change in ingredients, not a lot of heavy creams and fats, but a demand for rotisserie and spices,” says Lars Kronmark of the Culinary Institute of America.

It’s up to the students to choose. They can still get french fries and fried fish, but it used to be they didn’t have a choice,” he adds. While colleges are working toward a healthy more diverse menu in the dining halls, students can be very critical when it comes to food. Lisa Dwinnell, a chef at Smith College for over twelve years, once served blackened catfish. The Students were disgusted with the meal choice and the next day there were empty pizza boxes littered all over the campus. When the healthy choice for food does not satisfy the taste buds, students turn to the easy greasy option.

With more international students enrolling in American universities, Dining halls try to cater to the ethnic tastes of these new students. These students can be tough food critics as well. “When we put something that doesn’t belong in a dish, they know,” Kronmark states. Just because there are straw mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a dish does not necessarily make the meal Asian. If this dish were to be called an Asian meal, someone from Thailand is sure to be insulted and will stress to the chef that they don’t eat those things. Even students who are from the U. S are very critical when it comes to ethnic foods.

These days everyone is well traveled and they know about all different kinds of cultures. People will no longer settle for macaroni and cheese or tuna casserole. Being a vegetarian is the new big trend on college campuses. It appeals to all kinds of students. If a Big Mac addict were to move in with a vegetarian, chances are he will become a vegetarian as well. It draws all kinds of people into the lifestyle because it looks good. It looks upper class and healthy. There is also a seasonal change among students eating habits. In the fall, when everyone is returning to school, everyone reaches for the junk food.

It is faster and it makes the transition from summer break to fall term easier. The closer it gets to spring however, the more students begin to think about bathing suits and spring break. One of the major health problems among college students is eating disorders. “Eating disorders are at an alarming high on college campuses, “says Melissa Martilotta, director of a university’s nutrition clinic. However, statistics are only based on the students that come in for help. This does not include all of the other students who are suffering from an eating disorder but have not sought professional help.

The two most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia. Persons with Anorexia Nervosa deliberately attempt to lose weight through self-starvation. Even though they may be extremely underweight, they see themselves as fat and deny any problem with their eating habits. Persons with Bulimia engage themselves in frequent binge eating in which they eat large amounts of food and then purge themselves. Persons with Bulimia feel out of control in their cycle of bingeing and purging. Both of these disorders are very common among college age women. Bulimia is the more common disorder.

Many of the people with these disorders are reluctant to admit they have a problem and seek help on their own. They often come to the attention of their friends and family when they experience a dramatic weight loss and the only way that they will get help is if they are forced into a treatment center by a loved one. There are several causes to eating disorders. Often, personal trauma can lead to obsessive dieting. “I have friends that when something went wrong with a relationship, they stopped eating. They didn’t realize they were losing weight; they didn’t think they were skinny enough,” says Andrea Boyer, a sophomore at PSU.

Some are still struggling with their disorders now even though the relationship is over,” she adds. Another aspect in the college student’s life that could lead to an eating disorder is the media. MTV hosts a massive spring break party in Cancun, Mexico every year. All of the best looking college students attend and run around on the beach in their bikinis and swim trunks for a few weeks. It is the party of the year. It is the place to be. However, in order to get on camera or to participate in any of the activities sponsored by MTV, one must have the perfect body.

Achieving this perfect body becomes an obsession and students will do anything to attain it. They will starve themselves, take diet pills, work out for several hours a day, etc. College life can be very stressful. One can easily feel as if they have no control over their life. With the stress of term papers and exams, relationships and finances it can be easy to fall apart. Some students feel as if the only thing they can control in their life is diet. If this becomes the only thing a person feels like they can control, they have a tendency to put themselves on a very strict diet.

This diet might be a strict vegetarian diet or it could become as extreme as Anorexia Nervosa. Daniel Johns of the band Silverchair suffered from Anorexia Nervosa for a few years. He could not deal with the stress of touring and recording. He felt like the only thing he had control over was his diet. Therefore, Daniel Johns became Anorexic. So, it is not just women who suffer from eating disorders. Although, it is more common because women have a higher fat ratio than men do and they are expected to look like the girls on the magazines. Looking fat is not always the cause of an eating disorder as seen in Daniel John’s case.

Eating disorders can come as a result of stress or a desire to control something in one’s life or a desire to look thinner. Most college campuses offer help with eating disorders. It is such a common occurrence among college age persons that there are support groups and treatment centers all over the country on and off campus. At Gannet Health Services of Cornell University there are physicians that can provide the needed medical care, counseling and psychological services, nutritionists, and a nutrition clinic that provides specialized treatment for eating disorders.

Personal hygiene can also cause health problems on college campuses. When one is living at home with their parents, their parents control their hygiene habits. If their room is dirty, they are required to clean it. Parents control how their child lives and daily habits including eating, sleeping, showering, cleaning, etc. In college the student can do whatever he chooses, whether it be showering three times a day or not at all, doing laundry once a week or not at all. A change in environment can take a toll on one’s body. The weather and climate alone can dramatically affect a person’s immune system.

Living in college dorms is a constant battle against sickness and disease. Dormitories are a breeding ground for bacteria and if a student’s immune system is at a slight incline, his health can be jeopardized the second he comes in contact with the bacteria. A college student’s immune system is most likely never up to standard during the school year. Semester exams and late nights are very destructive to a student’s body. When this is combined with an unhealthy diet or poor personal hygiene practices, the results can be devastating. Sickness in a college student’s life can destroy an entire college semester.

If one is too ill to write a paper or attend class, their grades drop and can be nearly impossible to bring back up. If one student becomes ill in a residence hall, the entire building is at risk of receiving the illness. Students will push themselves to do everything they need to do and they do not realize that in doing this, they are spreading their germs all over the campus. Pushing oneself can be good and is most often needed in the case of a college student. However, if a person were to push himself too far, it could result in a worsening of the sickness.

Almost all colleges and universities have a medical center available to all enrolled students. These centers can help a student with anything from the common cold to the HIV virus. The Health center is located on campus and can usually write out prescriptions and fill them in the same building. There are counselors that can help one with drug and alcohol problems or any type of STD, etc. At Cornell University, the Gannett Health Services Center has a department specifically for people who struggle with drugs and alcohol. These two substances are greatly abused among college students in the U.

S. The Gannett Health Center provides general medical services, including screening for alcohol or other drug-related symptoms or illness and referral for treatment form other health-care providers both within Gannett and in the surrounding area. Mononucleosis is a fairly common sickness on college campuses. Mononucleosis, often referred to as “mono” or “the kissing disease,” is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus and is passed from person to person through coughing, sneezing and kissing. The virus is found in saliva and mucus.

Signs of mononucleosis usually develop four to seven weeks after one is exposed to the virus. During this time, one could feel perfectly fine. Symptoms of mononucleosis in college age persons consist of fever, sore throat, swollen glands in the neck, and fatigue. Some also experience headaches, decreased appetite, abdominal pains and rash. For some, the symptoms are few and mild; others may be so ill that they are unable to eat or drink or look after themselves. There is no treatment or antibiotic for the Epstein-Barr virus as it is a virus and will only go away with plenty of rest and fluids.

Generally people contract the virus only once in their lifetime but, once a person has contracted it, they are at a higher risk to contract it again. The main serious concern with mononucleosis is that the spleen will enlarge and even rupture. Any kind of strenuous activity during the course of mononucleosis could cause the spleen to rupture. Other complications of the virus include liver infections, producing a mild case of hepatitis and yellow jaundice. The Epstein-Barr virus causes one to feel extremely weak and tired, and unable to function.

Eating meals sometimes seems too strenuous to the person. How can one be expected to keep up with the fast pace of college life when getting out of bed is entirely to hard? This virus is so common among college students that universities have policies written specifically for persons with this illness. Most of the students who contract this virus have to withdraw themselves from school for the remainder of the semester and pick up next semester where they left off or in most cases, start over. STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are also very common among college students.

College life is associated with “finding oneself. ” This can include drinking, doing drugs, sleeping around, and experimenting with homosexuality. All of these things can be extremely dangerous to one’s health not only in the physical sense but also in an emotional sense. Diseases are contracted so easily even when protection is used. There are thousands of different kinds of STDs, many of which are incurable and untreatable. The symptoms can range from a rash to death. STDs are so common that almost everyone who is sexually active is at risk for contracting a disease.

A condom is not always valid protection against these diseases. Condoms can break or the disease could seep through or it may be that the disease’s rash has spread to the surrounding area and any contact with that area could cause one to contract the disease. HIV is a virus that can be transmitted through any type of unprotected sex and the sharing of needles whether it be for drugs, piercing the skin or even for a medical procedure. At the Gannett Health Center one can receive counseling and get testing done.

The counselors can help one decide if they need to be tested, and offer moral support for those who have contracted the virus. They can also refer students to treatment centers around the are that can postpone the onset of illness indefinitely. Colleges have greatly improved their health care and food services over the past few years. While going away to college can be a very large and scary step, if a person is responsible and ready to make that step, it can be a very healthy and much needed experience in one’s life. There are so many opportunities that college opens up to a person.

One is able to meet new people and try new things. Giving up the comforts of living at home is an essential step in the growing up process. College life is a great stepping stone and in some cases it is a more comfortable lifestyle than one’s home life. There are so many opportunities including trying new foods, learning about different kinds of people, and learning how to focus in a fast paced, noise filled environment. While it can be hard to adjust to this new environment, it is a great experience that will cause one to become a more cultured and well-rounded person.

Even the bad things mentioned in this paper, sickness, poor diet habits, etc. ; these things can build character in a person. God gives everyone challenges in their lives and expects them to ask Him for the help they need. God gives people only what they can deal with. With God, anyone can deal with anything. He gives us challenges for a reason. When people take on these challenges, they become stronger and are able to deal with more of life’s challenges that will come in the following years. There is a reason for everything.

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