Jenna Oden, a junior broadcast journalism major from Fairhope, has lost 77 pounds over a period of four years, going from 198 to 121 pounds.
“I had started out in middle school because I was overweight for my height and age,” Oden said. “I knew the way I was going on was not healthy, and I did not want to keep on gaining weight.”
It wasn’t until Oden’s junior year of high school that she started losing weight consistently after following a diet that restricts consumption of certain food groups.
“When a person goes on a diet to lose weight, they absolutely have to reduce their calorie intake,” said Teresa Johnson, professor in the department of kinesiology and health promotion. “They can do that either by cutting down the volume they are eating or the food type they are eating.”
Oden has been running cross country since sixth grade and now runs track at Troy.
According to Oden, losing weight made her feel better physically and mentally, and she could run much faster.
“In sixth grade, my dad told me, ‘You need to join a sport; you cannot be home all day’ because my parents were working all day, and I was too old to have a baby sitter,” Oden said. “I joined cross-country, and I loved it even though I was terrible at it.”
According to Oden, it was difficult for her to competitively run long distance when she was overweight — her body weight was too hard on her knees. She said this fueled her desire to lose weight and to be healthy.
After losing weight, Oden ran until her senior year, when she decided not to run in college because she believed it would be too stressful.
“Later, I regretted it; I missed being part of a team, having a strict schedule and suffering with your teammates,” Oden said. “I wanted to run again and contacted the cross-country coach here at Troy, and he asked me if I wanted to join both track and cross-country.
“I had never run track in my life, but my coach encouraged me to, and I did join.”
Oden has been running track since October 2015 and still runs cross-country as well.
Johnson said that exercise is necessary, whether you are attempting losing weight or not. Exercise is proven to have numerous health benefits, including increasing muscle mass, improving blood flow in the body and reducing risks of heart diseases.
According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should participate in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.
“When you are reducing calories while losing weight, your metabolism drops, and you burn less calories for your bodily processes, but exercise blunts that effect and increases your metabolism even if it is for a short period of time,” Johnson said. “I tell people all the time, ‘Do not lose weight if you are not going to exercise.’ ”
While losing weight, Oden said, she had the full support of her mother.
“My mother helped me out with all the grocery shopping I needed and taught me how to do it,” Oden said.
She said she hopes she can be an encouragement to others in the same situation.
“Do not be afraid to do something big; ask for help or reach out to somebody if you are afraid,” Oden said. “Lean on something, whether it’s faith, or people or even your dog.”