Recent graduate Garrett Rogers, 23, of Clayton, Okla., found his stride at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, utilizing campus facilities and programs to reach his academic, social and even weight loss goals, dropping nearly 150 pounds, and finding ways to succeed in his life and career over the course of his four years at the university.
Though many people resolve to begin a new year or a new endeavor with a weight-loss resolution, it can be especially difficult for college students who are adjusting to a multitude of life changes. Rogers, however, found ways to utilize the many services UAFS offers its students to help him succeed.
As a middle school student, Rogers said his sedentary lifestyle and unmonitored eating habits began to catch up with him.
“I just wasn’t watching what I was eating,” he said. “I wasn’t exercising or doing anything productive. And then it kind of snowballed and got worse towards high school.”
At the start of his senior year in high school, Rogers decided he was ready for a change.
“I did a complete 180. I changed my diet, I cut out soda, I cut out a lot of refined sugars, and in the first week alone I lost 22 pounds.”
Rogers lost a total of 70 pounds during his senior year of high school, but when he started college, he found himself faced with the dreaded Freshman 15. This gain caused him to reevaluate and adjust his efforts to better fit his life as a college student. Rogers said the on-campus fitness center and the campus itself were beneficial to his fitness goals.
“The RAWC (Recreation and Wellness Center) is definitely something,” he said, “because you don’t have class or anything; it was perfect for me to be able to go there. My biggest activity was walking around campus. When I had free time, I would stroll around campus to burn some calories.”
The RAWC at UAFS is free for all students and full-time employees. The facility features climbing and bouldering walls, strength and cardio equipment, basketball and volleyball courts, studio rooms for group fitness classes and personal use, and a 1/10-mile walking/jogging track. Staff members are also available to create personalized fitness plans based on individual goals. Rogers said the ability to have his own space to work out was a great motivator.
“I think that’s the biggest stigma with starting weight loss is people are afraid to be judged,” he said. “I like exercising alone, and I think a lot of people do just because they can be in their own zone and not worry if they’re doing good enough or not good enough.”
Nutrition is a big hurdle for many college students with tight schedules and easy access to unhealthy food. Rogers explained that, for him, allowing for a “cheat day” and using pre-portioned home delivery service meals were key factors in sticking with his nutrition routine.
“I ate healthy six days a week, and then I splurged one day a week,” he said. “That kept me from burning myself out, for sure.”
Rogers also maintains that preparing meals and taking advantage healthier food options on campus are key to nutritional success.
“Meal prep if you can,” he said, “even if you don’t prep it yourself. Splurge a little bit, and you’ll feel better in the long run for sure.”
In an effort to assist the campus community in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Aramark – UAFS’s campus dining service – provides nutritional information for all items served at the dining hall, and all menus are linked to the MyFitnessPal app for easy tracking. Daily menus include a variety of food and include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. A district dietician is also available to answer questions about healthy eating and individual diet requirements, and a helpline email can be used to address general and allergen needs.
Rogers said he used various services on campus to help him find balance and reach his other goals as well.
“Career Services, they were great with prepping us for not only finding a career after we graduate but organizing, keeping everything separate, from your online life to your personal life to your academic life, kind of creating dividers,” he said. “That way you can turn off your academic life for a second so you can focus on your personal life, or vice-versa.”
To help students manage the stress of college, UAFS offers a counseling clinic, located in the Pendergraft Health Science Center. Rogers encouraged others to use this service, though many people may hesitate because of a stigma surrounding mental health.
“A lot of people are afraid, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to the counseling center because people are going to think something,’” he said. “But if you’re feeling cloudy, if you’re feeling like you need a kind of cleanse, they are great over there to say, ‘Just take a breath. It’s going to be OK.’ They’re compassionate and caring, and there’s no judgment whatsoever. It’s just kind of a relief so you can talk about your problems and have an open ear.”
The Student Counseling Clinic is available Monday through Friday to treat students’ psychiatric, behavioral, and emotional needs. Students are eligible for up to eight sessions per year at no charge. The clinic is staffed by licensed mental health professionals. All appointments are confidential and can be scheduled in advance, though walk-ins are also welcome.