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Obese girls less likely to go to college

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Old 08-27-2007, 05:55 PM   #1
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Default Obese girls less likely to go to college

We all know that obesity is a precursor to some health problems. I ran across a study today in which the author uses longitudinal data (in other words, data that track the same kids over time) to show that obesity affects the likelihood of going to college ... but only for girls. Here's a snippet of the abstract:

"Obese girls were less likely to enter college after high school than were their nonobese peers, especially when they attended schools in which obesity was relatively uncommon. Additional analyses revealed that increasing rates of internalizing symptoms, self-medication, and academic disengagement explained about one-third of the obese girls’ lower odds of college enrollment. Obese boys, on the other hand, did not differ from their peers—no matter what their school context—in college enrollment."

(Crosnoe 2007, "Gender, Obesity, and Education." Link to full article available here: http://www.asanet.org/galleries/defa...SOEFeature.pdf.)

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Old 08-28-2007, 09:10 AM   #2
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That's truly frightening and I had never even thought of such an effect. It tells me two things: (1) we overemphasize/overvalue physical appearance in girls and (2) we have a long way to go in accepting diversity, esp. size diversity.
Obesity is a more recent thing for me. I was a thin kid, and a little overweight in adolescence. But the extra 20 lbs in adolescence was true torture. So I can understand the effect of obesity on young girls.
It really saddens me that obesity would limit the education and future of some girls. It is hard for these girls to accept themselves in a society that emphasizes the importance of model thin.
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Old 08-28-2007, 09:37 AM   #3
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I dunno. I take this correlation with some skepticism, actually. Because we know that high starch, high transfat, high simple carb food is cheap, can we really say that obesity is the problem? Or does it all go back to income? Because eating healthfully IS more expensive than eating unhealthfully. Fresh fruit, fresh meat fish and poultry, fresh vegetables, are ALL more expensive than say, a pack of ramen noodles. If you have the choice between a high-fat, lived in a cage, pumped full of chemicals chicken, or a free range organic one, which will be cheaper?

I suspect that's the real link. And I respectfully suggest that we work to improve the poor's access to good healthy foods to help prevent obesity. As for improving access to higher education, that's another story.
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Old 08-28-2007, 11:49 AM   #4
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I'm sure the economics are a part of it....but also (at least here in the US) I would say that getting into college is such a competitive thing, and of course those who excel at sports and have a room full of tennis trophies or whatever, are really at a huge advantage, at least here! The same could be said for excelling at a musical instrument, but there again, I could see self-esteem issues connected with obesity keeping people from performing/public speaking as well.

Not everybody of course, but I could see how it would adversly affect a girl's academic career to be obese, plus of course that high school can be awful on your self-esteem if you're different in any way.
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Old 08-29-2007, 01:58 AM   #5
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It's kind of surprising to me because my obesity made it much more important for me to validate myself through my intelligence. This is why I took 7 years of Spanish, 2 of French, and 9 AP courses in high school. I don't know if I would have been as devastated that I didn't quite have the SAT score for the Ivies had I been thin. I always worked my butt off so I could say I go to one of the best colleges in the country. I mean, even though I try to lose weight, I keep getting obstacles thrown in my way so I might always be larger- if not this large. Going to the best undergrad school to get the best internships to go to the best grad program to get the most prestigious job feels harder for me as an obese female because, sadly, it's probably a bit easier for a "normal" girl. Obscenely pretty girls face a different challenge. Overweight women are viewed as lazy just like beautiful women are viewed as stupid- no matter how untrue that is.

I guess that could go either way though. I've always been overweight and always been supermotivated to succeed academically because I recognized early on that while many of my friends were hoping to be trophy wives (I live in a very wealthy suburb of Atlanta and sadly, many girls at my high school only chose a college to position themselves in the best sorority so they one day could become a pampered, stay at home trophy wife) that I had to go another route for success. Other overweight girls could easily go the complete opposite and retreat into themselves- especially if they don't recognize their own specific talent. Mine was intelligence which I am blessed to have. Other people have music talent- I had a friend in high school who was 300 pounds but had the most amazing ability to sing opera and is pursuing it in college. However, if you already have low self esteem due to appearance issues, it is hard to find the good within yourself and your abilities.

Economics can also play a huge role. My college is $50,000 a year if you count in books, transportation to and from home 1000 miles away, a smidge of spending money, and the extra money aside from the 3K a year meal plan that it will take to get healthy, dairy and gluten free foods. Even working my butt off, I only got a $30,000 a year scholarship. If you can't afford healthy food, you certainly can't afford $20,000+ for college.
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Old 08-29-2007, 12:27 PM   #6
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Honestly,
I would say it is surprising to me as well. It really depends of why someone is obese. I actually didn't know many obese girls when I was in high school and the few I did know went to college. I entered college weighing 300 lbs and it was difficult but I never viewed college as optional, I always viewed it as something I had to do.

I also wouldn't say that it is a poverty issue because (maybe I'm naive here) I think anyone can go to college if they want to do so. There is money to go to college available. I wasn't involved in sports, I didn't get a special academic scholarship or sports scholarship or anything and I managed to pull together enough money and resources to go to college for 5 years. (changed schools/majors 2 years in so had to extend an extra year)

It may be different in situations where someone has to take care of others financially and they themselves have to work full time to support their family. Then again, I know others who were in that situation and it just took them longer to get their degree because they had to go part time instead of full time. I've even known single mothers in college that worked full time and went to school full time but school was a priority to them.
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Old 08-29-2007, 12:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by charolastra00 View Post
It's kind of surprising to me because my obesity made it much more important for me to validate myself through my intelligence. .
Same here. I was the only overweight girl .. and the tallest all through elementary and high school... then I moved across the country to attend the most expensive university I could find in Canada... and took an overload of classes each semester to complete my degree faster. That article has been a great 'woo go me' boost.
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Old 08-30-2007, 07:32 AM   #8
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1) The authors control for income, parental education, wealth, etc. It's not just a spurious correlation with economic resources.

2) These are average effects, based on nationally representative survey data. When a social scientist says there's an effect (or a correlation), it doesn't mean that everyone follows the pattern, just that on average, obese girls are less likely to go to college (net of the usual predictors of college attendance, including grades, ability, family background, etc.).

Sure, there are exceptions, and kudos to those who are the exceptions. But anecdotes aren't data, data are data!
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Old 11-05-2007, 12:10 PM   #9
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I have to disagree with the finding that obese girls are less likely to go to college. (I admitt that I did not read the whole article). I myself have been obese all my life and am now a college graduate and in law school. There are to many other factors that need to be discussed, like what socio-economic backround are these girls coming from. Did they have supportive parents, that put an emphasis on education?
Basically all I am saying is Fat chicks go to college.
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Old 11-05-2007, 01:12 PM   #10
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I'm also a fat chick who went to college, but that doesn't invalidate the study. The fact that I went to college says nothing about the experience of all fat girls.

I worked with a kid who said he knew that smoking doesn't cause cancer, because his grandfather smoked since he was 9 years old and lived to the age of 98.

Also, even if they had not controlled for socioeconomic status, why would there be no effect for boys? Boys are just as likely as girls to be poor.

I do distinctly remember teachers underestimating me, and I think my weight had a lot to do with it. I've been reading since before kindergarten. I remember in first grade being disgusted that I could only check out the "baby books." The librarian kept steering me away from the books I wanted to read. One day when she was too busy to notice, I was able to browse through the books in the fourth grade section. I took them to the desk to check out, and she said the books were too hard for me to read. I told her I could read them, and opened one up and started reading it to prove it. She was astonished but after that let me check out anything in the children's section I wanted. By 8, I was allowed to check out anything in the adult section as well.

By second grade I realized that the only reason I was never put into the advanced reading group was that only the pretty and rich kids were allowed in. I didn't share this realization with my mother until I was nearly through with fourth grade. I have to say she fought like a tiger for me, and surprise, surprise, I was in the advanced reading group in fifth grade.

I do know I broke the mold for fat girls. Bullies never knew what to make of me because I didn't cry when they called me fat. I was likely to laugh and make fun of them, or threaten to sit on them if they were mean to me or my friends.

I read posts here by women who are half my size who won't go out of their houses unless they have to (and sometimes not even then), won't wear a bathing suit, won't join a dance class, won't get a job, won't go on a date, won't stand up to a rude sales clerk, won't leave an abusive spouse, and why well because they're fat of course.

I've lost count of the times I've read some variation of "I want to lose weight so I can love and respect myself." My personal advice is love and respect yourself so you can begin your life along with your diet.
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Old 11-05-2007, 02:27 PM   #11
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Well, I went to college, but I sure didn't stay. AND, it was a DIRECT result of being morbidly obese. I had a $10k scholarship. I was in honors courses. I was praised by my professors for my writing abilities. But I walked away. I was so painfully shy (because I was fat) that I didn't attempt to even make any friends. I couldn't fit into the desks. I couldn't make it to class without being drenched in sweat. I felt inferior to everyone. I felt judged. Did anyone ever make a comment to me about my weight? NEVER. Did I get disgusted looks? NO. Were people friendly and open? Yes. My self-consciousness and my general everyday discomfort drove me to drop out before the semester even ended. I know it was all self-imposed, but if I had entered at the weight I am now, I'd be a proud college graduate.
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Old 11-05-2007, 04:22 PM   #12
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You know you could always go back and I hope you are (I'm not sure if you are in school or not).

I do remember the horrible desks. Some were worst than others. Lots of tight quarters.

I also remember the first school I went to was built on a hill so I had to walk lots and lots of stairs. Actually, I enjoyed that but sometimes it was a pain being 300 lbs. I do wish I was a lot smaller in college but oh well, that is life.
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:47 AM   #13
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I also wouldn't say that it is a poverty issue because (maybe I'm naive here) I think anyone can go to college if they want to do so. There is money to go to college available.
I used to be the staff grant writer for a community college, and I have written numerous grant applications that discussed the reasons why those who are in lower socio-economic positions are far less likely to go to college. There are so many barriers besides the obvious financial ones. One program that I helped get funded began in the seventh grade trying to break down some of those barriers so that these economically-challenged children could understand that college is important, is accessible, and is possible so that they would choose courses and activities that would support them in college endeavors and would help them to work hard to excel in those courses. Someone who believes she will work in the oil field is far more likely to take easier courses and load up on study halls, etc. than someone who understands what courses need to be completed to enter college. The program also provides tutors (which are desperately needed in families with low literacy levels), works with families to help encourage kids to aspire to college, and helps guide families through the financial aid process. I have known intelligent women who returned to college after years in the workforce that had the determination to make it through, but had not prepared for college coursework when they were in high school. Even though the finances were a burden, it didn't compare to the challenge of having to take three or four semesters worth of remedial math courses in order to take the mandatory math classes that would count toward their degrees, for example.
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Old 11-07-2007, 10:06 PM   #14
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Sadly enough... working at a local college... I can truly believe this. I see many more obese males then I do females. MANY more.
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Old 11-07-2007, 10:25 PM   #15
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I completely agree that it isn't always money holding back someone from going to college. I went to a high school where our senior class had half as many students as our freshman class. There were a small handful of students in my senior class (of over 200 students) that went on to a 4 year college, another small handful went to community colleges and the rest well who knows? It actually amazes me that I had friends who went to high schools where more than 50% of the graduates went on to college while my high school was around 10% if you counted community colleges.

I wasn't the first in my family to go to college but I was one of the first (neither of my parents went). I don't know if anyone ever impressed upon me the importance of going to college though but for some reason i equated college with freedom and I needed that freedom. My grades were horrendous up until the 10th grade when I figured out that I needed good grades if I was going to leave home and go to a 4 year college so then I started caring about grades. I also talked extensively with the school counselors on my what I would need to go to college and they were a great help.

My first real job out of college actually paid me more than my parents combined income when I entered college. So that is to say my parents didn't make much when I entered college and I basically hunted for funding for my degree and luckily I found it.

Anyway, yes there are barriers and not all communities/families stress college but I think it is especially important these days to encourage those with the bit slightest interest to go. And of course it doesn't have to be a 4 year university at first, community colleges are an important part of the educational system and can be a step to 4 year colleges for those that want to continue on.
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