Document Type

Honors Project

First Advisor

Dr. Dave Sallee

Degree Award Date

Spring 2006


American Diet, Exercise Habits, obesity, college students, food preferences, lifestyle influences, environmental factors


Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition | Sports Medicine


The prevalence of obesity is a growing problem in the United States and estimated to be directly related with approximately 400,000 deaths and $117 billion in healthcare costs per year (Bassett 1477). An average of 65% of adults, 16% of adolescents aged 12-19, and 16% of children aged 6-11 years are overweight or obese (Cottrell 595). There are different contributors to the increasing weights of American people, one of which is diet. A typical American diet consists of too many calories, too much fat, and not enough fruits and vegetables. Such diets have been associated with certain chronic diseases in addition to obesity (Hunter 1). Furthermore, a low level of physical activity among people is another contributor. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that only 25% of high school students and 25% of adults meet the recommended levels of physical activity. Regarding the few amount of individuals achieving adequate exercise the CDC also states, " ... [This is] despite the overwhelming evidence that physical activity and exercise favorably affect weight control, disease prevention, and overall health at all ages" (Racette 245). The American nation has been termed "obesogenic," meaning "obesitypromoting," however; the problem of obesity is not only within the U.S. but has been referred to as a global pandemic (Bassett 1477).

Recognizing that this is such a widespread problem, one purpose of this study is to provide an overview of obesity with regards to many different areas of the issue. Research concerning the unhealthy diet and exercise habits of children, teens, adults, and college students is reviewed. Diverse aspects of American society that potentially add to unhealthy diet and exercise habits are addressed including food preferences, lifestyle influences, and environmental factors. Also, some of the conditions associated with obesity are mentioned, as well as benefits of a healthy diet and exercise plan.

In addition to providing research data on the diet and exercise habits of Americans, a study of Bridgewater College students' diet and exercise habits is given as well. The purpose of this portion of the study is multi-fold: to use the information collected to evaluate the rate of overweight, obesity, dietary habits, and physical activity among students at Bridgewater College, to document the information providing a foundation for larger research on prevention tactics for overweight and obese students in college, and to assess a need for prevention interventions on campus. Since there is scarce data on this topic that focuses on college students, this research can potentially benefit the scientific community as well as the students.