Can You Be “Too Thin” For College?

Understandably, a student may run into trouble when he or she is caught plagiarizing in class. Likewise, that student may face suspension or even expulsion if they are caught with drugs on campus. But what happens when a student is caught…weighing 90 pounds?

Frances Chan, a history major from New Jersey, insists that she has weighed 90 pounds since high-school.  Her entire family concludes that she is just naturally skinny, and these genes just run in the family. Chan asserts that when her mother was her age, she had the exact same body type. It has nothing to do with illness or malnutrition. Chan explains, “My mom was the same, my whole family is skinny. We all enjoy Mom’s fabulous cooking which included Taiwanese beef noodle soup, tricolor pasta, strawberry cheesecake, and cream puffs, none of which make the Weight Watchers shortlist. I just don’t gain weight easily.” 

Yale’s intense focus on her weight began when Chan noticed a lump in her breast. She consulted the university’s medical center, and luckily the lump ended up being benign. However, the medical officials had other concerns about Chan’s health: her weight.

The 20-year-old, who is 5’2″, says that the school has been encouraging her to force feed herself junk food in order to gain weight. However then, despite Chan’s non-stop munching on Cheetos, cookies, and ice-cream, Yale was still convinced she was suffering from an eating disorder. The disturbing concern from the institution didn’t stop even when Chan’s family sent them her medical records –all proving she has always been healthy. Regardless, one of the health professionals at the university told her that her low BMI would kill her and they also stated that they would have no choice but to put her on medical leave if she would not gain weight.

It’s important when an educational institution takes care of its students. So many individuals with real issues, both physical and psychological go unnoticed; it is technically admirable that Yale is giving this student so much attention. Although these efforts have good intentions, they are unfortunately misguided and borderline illegal. Yale is forcing weight standards upon a young woman, and it is not her fault that she is unable to meet them.

Her weight in no way reflects upon her health (and this has been proven time, and time again); as we all know well, bodies come in all various shapes and sizes. It’s unfair to apply the Body Mass Index to every single person, when studies have shown that this formula can be extremely inaccurate, and is not a valid way to measure someone’s health. In fact, many credible sources have debunked it completely, stating that it’s scientifically nonsensical and physiologically wrong. 

If a student proves that her personal and family health records indicate good health, there is no need for the university to get involved, especially in such an aggressive manner. By forcing Chan to eat crap food and not exercise, they are actually making matters worse. They are not only implementing their standards of a “healthy” and “correct” body, but they are forcing a young girl to commit to unhealthy eating habits she is not used to. They are telling her that there is a certain way in which her body should like, and that hers is unacceptable. How can this mindset possibly be okay for a young woman?

Eventually, Chan had enough. She refused to attend her daily weigh-ins and mental health check-ups. The girl was through, and decided it wasn’t worth it to attain an impossible goal forced upon her by others.

Chan states, “No more weigh-ins, no more blood draws. 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.” 

Luckily, a new doctor on the case considered the possibility that BMI was not a credible measure of what a “healthy” weight should be. He admitted that Yale had made a mistake in how they handled the concerns about Chan’s thin frame.

Hopefully, others take this experience seriously when discussing their health and weight with their doctors. Many in the health industry still consult BMI as a conclusive measure and will label their patients as “overweight” or “underweight” and not take into consideration their overall health, metabolism, genetics, muscle mass, water retention, and skeletal structure. If someone blindly uses this system without consulting your health history, definitely speak up. It’s your body. It’s your health. Don’t let anyone label you as “unhealthy” due to a an obsolete formula. It’s time we truly look into our health as a holistic, complex entity, and revolutionize the way we think about our bodies.

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