A nationwide survey issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that less than four out of 10 college students exercise regularly. So what are the remaining 60 percent doing, and why aren’t they moving?
After a long day in Cooper Hall’s undersized desks, it is understandable that crashing on the couch and watching daytime television sounds like the best option. But students’ bodies are aching for more. Sometimes it just takes motivation to go to the gym instead of the living room. Maybe they are aiming for a better image or better health. Michelle McBride was motivated for both reasons.
McBride came to USF fresh out of high school. Five-foot seven-inches and content with her 274-pound body, McBride’s only fitness goal was to stay less than 300 pounds. She had been overweight since she was eight years old. By high school, she had accepted herself as obese and didn’t focus too much on changing it.
“Of course you always want to be thin, but I had just accepted that that wasn’t me and never would be.” McBride said.
Following high school, McBride adjusted quickly to the college life of all-you-can-eat dorm food and late night trips to Steak-N-Shake. By the end of her sophomore year she came across a photo of her now 294-pound body and instantly knew that something had to change. She was quickly approaching the 300-pound mark.
“It’s not that I was unhappy with myself, because I did have a wonderful life up to this point. I just felt that my weight was holding me back from things I wanted to do, and I couldn’t stand the thought of being 300 pounds,” McBride said.
With all this extra weight, things like jogging and getting out of the car were extremely difficult for McBride. It had become a handicap. Not only was it hard on her physically, emotionally it was turmoil.
She said she would stress out about simple things, like going to a football game because she may not be able to fit in the stadium seats, or going to Busch Gardens because the straps on some of the rides may not stretch far enough for her. With this in mind and her picture in front of her, McBride’s new goal was “just to be fit.”
She framed the picture of her nearly 300-pound body as a daily reminder that things needed to change. McBride started to be active in general: walking more, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and even trying some group fitness classes.
Before long she was addicted and loved the freedom she found in exercise and weight loss. Discouraged and embarrassed by her weight, it was nearly impossible for her to be comfortable in the gym at first, but she made herself go anyway.
She said initially everyone stared as if she belonged at a buffet instead of on a treadmill. Now, it is hard for her to get a workout in without someone wanting to know her weight loss secret.
“The first two months were torture, but I stuck with it,” McBride said. “I started at just two or three days a week working out, and I completely cut out fast food.”
Her workouts started with moderate power walking and aerobic video workouts at home. Then she started attending group fitness classes on a regular basis and walking or jogging on the treadmill. In one year, she dropped 10 sizes and almost 90 pounds. She does resistance training in the weight room two days a week and cardio four or five. She loves to ride her bike, jog or go for a swim on the weekends.
“I never realized how addicting exercising can be,” McBride said. “Even when my schedule is jam-packed, I just can’t give up my exercising; it just doesn’t feel right.”
McBride, now a senior majoring in elementary education, is happier and healthier than ever. She recently completed a five-mile race at University of Central Florida in 51 minutes, and participated in The Race for the Cure, recording an easy 31 minutes and 58 seconds for 5K.
Looking back at her days of fast food and laziness, she said she wonders how she ever thought that was fun or good for her. McBride is living proof that no matter how overweight one is, he or she has the power to change.
“The first two months seem impossible, but just don’t give up,” McBride said. “If you do give up don’t be scared to try again, because eventually you will reach success and the months and years that follow are beyond description.”
Contact McBride at TalkHealth@hotmail.com subject: “Michelle”
Dayna Davidson is the group and fitness supervisor at the Campus Recreation Center and is a senior majoring in wellness and leadership with a minor in professional writing. She can be contacted for questions or comments at TalkHealth@hotmail.com