2010-2011 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Background: The pressure to have the perfect, slim, and fit body for young adults, especially college students, is higher than ever. This pressure can come from the media, friends, family, or themselves, and tends to become even higher when spring break nears. Spring break for most college students consists of vacation time at the beach with friends. Many college students are concerned about their appearance in front of their peers, which often leads to changes in food intake in the weeks prior to spring break.
Methods: To assess the effects of spring break on food choices, a survey was distributed to 101 undergraduate students in an introductory nutrition class at the University of Kentucky. Surveys were distributed both before and after spring break.
Results: The subjects consisted of 25% males and 75% females with an average age of 20.36 ± 2.76 years. Sixty-nine percent of the subjects had plans for spring break, with the majority (48%) going to the beach, pool, or on a cruise. Of those with plans for spring break, 61% felt pressure or anxiety to lose weight and/or be in shape for spring break. Sixty-four percent of those who felt pressure changed their diet in preparation for spring break. 100% of those who changed their diet prior to spring break are still dieting now after spring break.
Conclusion: This research shows that college students are changing their diets in an effort to improve physical appearance and leanness before spring break, as well as continue in this effort after spring break. Further research should explore the safety of such changes in diet to ensure that college students are meeting their nutritional needs.