“I used to weigh 396 pounds,” recollected Norene Bohannon, a graduate of Lorain County Community College and current adjunct faculty ropes course instructor. She looked at a photograph of herself prior to her weight loss journey as she spoke, reliving the struggles and explaining the realities of coping with obesity. “I was so unhealthy. My house is a one floor with a basement, and to even get from the back of the house to the basement I had to stop to rest first in the kitchen, and then I would stop again at the bottom of the steps before I would do laundry. I didn’t think I’d make it.” After the revelation of the severe damage to her health that was occurring because of obesity, Bohannon’s determination to lose weight brought her to the point she is at today which is a mere 15 pounds away from her goal of 196 pounds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that any weight that is higher than what is considered as a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese and this is determined by an individual’s Body Mass Index (BMI). If you have a BMI of less than 18.5, it is qualified as underweight. If your BMI falls between 18.5 and 24.9, you are within the normal or healthy weight range. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the overweight range. If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it falls within the obese range.
Bohannon is not the only student who has undergone the tribulations that correspond with the plight of obesity. According to the CDC, about 5.2 million college students in our nation are obese, the Midwest having the highest prevalence of obesity (30.7%), the South coming in a close second at (30.6%), then the Northeast (27.3%), and lastly the West at (25.7%). African Americans have the highest rates of obesity (47.8%) followed by Hispanics (42.5%), whites (32.6%), and Asians (10.8%). The Journal of the American Medical Association states that 32.0%-37.9% of adults aged 20 years and older were obese in the years of 2011-2012 alone. Gaining awareness of the issue is the first step in remedying the epidemic that seems to be taking our country by storm more so than any other rampant trend.
“It affects all age ranges and causes so many diseases, and people’s mental health,” said Natalia Parkanzky, a Certified Nurse Practitioner at Neighborhood Family Practice in Cleveland, Ohio. “I would say it relates to depression. People don’t like being obese.”
Bohannon can attest to the emotional turmoil that coincides with obesity. “I had a child at a later age and I kept thinking that there was no way I was going to get to see her play games,” she said, “I was ruining my life.” Embarrassment and self-esteem are commonalities that run alongside obesity and can lead to more serious aspects of depression and anxiety for sufferers. Bohannon now takes her daughter to the zumba classes she instructs and encourages a healthy lifestyle for her as well, never wanting her child to have to undergo the struggles she experienced.
Obesity proves to be an ugly monster that rears its head for many that exist in society today for a variety of reasons. Studies report that chances of obesity increase because of environmental factors, emotional stress, social and family ties, and even genetics. With these odds stacked against a countless number of people, it seems nearly an impossible feat to overcome.
This is not the case, as proven by Bohannon, a truly dedicated now-fitness expert who knows the struggles of weight loss first hand. “There were a lot of challenges,” agreed Bohannon, “First of all, when you’re a student, you’re constantly studying and trying to strive for A’s and B’s. It was hard concentrating on your work as well as concentrating on losing weight because you wanted to get exercise in there at the same time but you had studying to do.”
Especially at a community college, time is a rare delicacy that many of us seem to hold in such high regard, as there are not hours in the day to accommodate school, work, and to add exercise on top of that seems an unlikelihood. “You just have to want it,” said Bohannon, “Once you want it, then you’ll take the necessary steps.”
The balance of work and school is a precarious thing, remaining ever-teetering on the seesaw that many students struggle to balance on a daily basis. Bohannon offered some advice concerning small improvements individuals could take towards becoming more physically active, “Even just thirty minutes of walking a day. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or park further away on campus. Make sure to take advantage of the fitness center.”
Keeping up with a weight loss routine can prove to be a challenge, but Bohannon has found the perfect balance. “I started exercising more than anything,” she said. “Right now I exercise at least five days a week. Always twice on Mondays because I teach Zumba too. I also watch what I eat more now than I did before.”
Lifestyle change seems to be the most prevalent form of decreasing the numerous negative effects of obesity. Parkanzky swears by the advice she gives her patients, emphasizing the importance of knowing that a pill is not magic and cannot fix anything for you if the effort and desire to change your health status is not there. “Having positive energy and motivation is key,” she said.
LCCC offers many resources to students who wish to make positive changes in the health and fitness aspects of their lives. The on-campus fitness center is free to all students currently enrolled in at least one class, and there are a variety of classes and programs available upon interest of any individual.
“Almost 90% of students I’ve talked to set goals of getting more physically fit,” said associate professor of the Health, Physical Education and Recreation department Lisa Augstine, when speaking about students who enroll in her classes. Positive motivators are what she prioritizes in her teaching, stressing that with a positive attitude and goals in mind, anything you put your mind to can be accomplished.
“Don’t let anybody discourage you,” agreed Bohannon about the importance of motivation. She emphasized that the desire of the individual needs to be present in order for any improvement in lifestyle and health to take place. “Sometimes you need help from somewhere or somebody else to give you that push,” she encouraged, professing that she participated in Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and even gave acupuncture a try. Although these can be helpful avenues to pursue, studies and physicians agree that the change has to be made internally before long-lasting progress can be made. “You can have everybody talk to you as much as they want to, but it’s you who needs to make that commitment,” encouraged Bohannon.