Vasishta: Weighty matters for New York City’s college grads

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It’s college commencement season, and a new crop of graduates is hitting the workforce. But student-loan debt isn’t the only thing weighing some of them down. Adding extra pounds continues to be part of the college experience.

As a health nut and late-in-life college student, I found that declining the abundance of free pizza and alcohol during these last four years of academia has made me an outcast. “I’m in college. I’ll eat healthy after I graduate,” I was recently told by a classmate.

But students like her may soon be eating their words along with their Big Macs.


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“Employers are increasingly discriminating against people because of their weight, forcing them to pay more in health care, hiring them less, paying them less and promoting them less,“ says Rachel Knopf, a registered dietitian from the New School’s Student Health Services.

It makes sense then that colleges — in preparing the next generation of workers — are trying to tackle student health head on. New York University has its “Live Well NYU” initiative, which reports that 24 percent of NYU students are overweight, and 6 percent obese. “During the first 3-4 months of college, students gain an average of 1.5-6.8 lbs, with the proportion of overweight or obese students as much as doubling by the end of the first semester,” according to the initiative.

Pharmacy chain CVS Caremark recently sparked outrage among employees and workers-rights advocates when it demanded that employees divulge their personal health stats or get hit with a $600 penalty. Its reason? Out-of-shape employees hurt a company’s bottom line with sick days and higher health costs.

Most of my friends’ Big Apple student experiences have been noticeably bereft of apples — or fruit and vegetables of any kind. Instead, it’s been based on all that New York’s vibrant night life has to offer: alcohol, clubs and an abundance of fast food.

Far be it from me to chastise my classmates for their unhealthy eating and drinking habits (I’ll leave that to Mayor Bloomberg). But, the sad fact is, prospective employers may be thinking about their BMI as much as their GPA.

Jeff Vasishta just graduated from the Riggio Program at the New School.

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