Hard to Swallow
She’s just like any college senior: running to class, writing essays while cramming all night for that killer anatomy midterm, and occasionally squeezing in a social life. Jennifer, a 20-year-old nursing major at East Carolina University, can barely grab a few hours of sleep- let alone find time for a treadmill. That’s why she, like many other female college students, turns to diet pills or supplements as a weight loss strategy.
“Nursing is a difficult and demanding major,” Jennifer said. “Working out is just not a priority with school work in the picture.” In October of 2006, she picked up a bottle of Hydroxycut, a popular over-the-counter diet pill advertised as “America’s number one selling weight loss product,” at her local Wal-Mart, where she was carded to make sure she was 18.
After hearing about her roommate’s boyfriend having success with the product, she decided to give it a try, even though she was somewhat skeptical of the mass advertising campaigns used to market similar products. Aware of the possible side effects, she picked up a bottle of a caffeine-free version of Hydroxycut pills.
“I literally would go to bed at night, close my eyes, and not sleep the entire night,” Jennifer said. After only seven days she gave up. Even though she was eating less than normal, the results weren’t enough to outweigh the insomnia she was still having, even though the drug was caffeine-free.
Read Between the Lines
According to a 2006 study conducted by the University of Minnesota, there is a growing trend in college women’s use of dietary supplements to control their weight. According to a survey taken of 2,500 female students, 1 in 5 took a diet pill within 12 months of the study. It was also found that 20 percent of women falling between the age bracket of 19-20 years use diet pills.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 62 percent of American women who are 20 years or older are overweight. In a 2004 survey conducted by Shape.com, 69 percent of American women were trying to lose five pounds or more. These numbers in a society filled with self-image problems and a below-average idea of the “perfect size” all attribute to the recent growth of the weight loss industry. Simply type the words “diet pills” into a Google search engine and within 0.8 seconds over three million related links pop up, most of which are ads filled with promises of fast and easy results.
“There is no such thing as a magic pill, if there was everyone would be taking it,” said Lynette June, a Health Promotion Specialist and certified personal trainer from Schenectady, New York. After a lifetime of participating in athletics and 10 years of working in the fitness field, June has become opposed to anything that goes against the body’s natural makeup.
“You have to ask yourself, what are you putting into your body?” says June. “Even if it’s an aspirin, you need to really research it.”