Bodies are strange things. Some people can pour calorie after calorie into their bodies and not gain an ounce of weight while others struggle to keep weight off despite eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
Neither scenario is unheard of, which is why it is very peculiar that Yale University is telling one of its students to gain weight or face the possibility of being asked to leave.
Frances Chan is 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 92 pounds, which is definitely on the smaller side. After a visit to the university’s health center last September concerning a lump in her breast, she received some unsettling news.
Luckily, it turned out to be benign, but the follow-up email she received was not expected.
“…I received an email in November from the medical director about ‘a concern resulting from your recent visit.’ My stomach lurched,” Chan wrote in a letter published by the Huffington Post. “Was the lump malignant after all? I met with a clinician on Dec. 4, and was told that the ‘concern’ was my low weight and that I would meet with her for weekly weigh-ins. These appointments were not optional. The clinician threatened to put me on medical leave if I did not comply: ‘If it were up to the administration, school would already be out for you. I’m just trying to help.’”
Chan complied, though she admits it was only to get Yale to stop bothering her about this non-issue, and tried her best to stuff her face with as many fattening foods as she could.
Her eating habits had little impact on the number on the scale.
On the possibility of expulsion, the university has only responded by saying, “Yale has a strong system of mental health care for students.”
Yale certainly has an interest in the health of its students, but cases such as Chan’s are not issues of mental health. Some people just can’t gain weight, and Yale needs to recognize this. College, especially a school as rigorous as Yale, is stressful enough for students without added pressure from the university to improve their body images.
Caring for students is one thing, but Yale is doing much more harm than good.
It seems as though Yale is implying that Chan has anorexia nervosa, bulimia or some other sort of eating disorder. In her letter, Chan said the pressure to gain weight and her subsequent failure made her resent meals.
“At this rate, I was well on my way to developing an eating disorder before anyone could diagnose the currently nonexistent one,” Chan wrote.
This isn’t the first time Yale has put this kind of pressure on one of its students. In 2010, a student received the same sort of treatment from Yale, but she reported that the stress about gaining weight from the university caused her to lose weight. Another student in a similar situation was successful in gaining weight that met Yale’s standard, but her cholesterol had increased because of it.
It’s clear Yale’s approach to its slender students is not a productive or healthy one.
The school needs a new way of determining who has an eating disorder and who is genetically predisposed to a high metabolism that prevents weight gain.
Being overweight is harmful and unhealthy just like being underweight. Does Yale tell each overweight person who walks through the health office to lose weight or face the possibility of being asked to leave?
Are all Yale professors and administrators healthy individuals that fall into the category of being not too skinny and not too fat?
Even if they did, it would still be a bad idea to implement a damaging routine such as the one Chan was put through.
Ultimately, Chan did exactly what she should have done: nothing.
“I’m done. No more weigh-ins, no more blood draws,” Chan wrote. “I don’t have an eating disorder, and I will not let Yale Health cause me to develop one. If Yale wants to kick me out, let them try — in the meantime, I’ll be studying for midterms, doing my best to make up for lost time.”