A Yale University student became a junk-food junkie because her Ivy League school thought she was too thin and demanded she gain weight or take a medical leave from the university, she says.
Frances Chan, 20, says she felt forced to eat large amounts of food because school officials believed she had an eating disorder and needed to gain weight.
The young woman, originally from Plainsboro, N.J., wrote a provocative article in the Huffington Post about her struggle with her weight.
“They won’t look past the number on the scale, to see the person right in front of them,” Chan wrote.
Yale can’t comment on individual students’ cases because of federal government regulations, but the “health and welfare of all of our students is our primary concern,” according to a statement from Tim Conroy, the New Haven, Conn., school’s press secretary.
California nutritionist Lisa Drayer told ABC News, “Eating disorders are common among individuals who are high achievers. We see a lot of these types of students at Ivy League schools.”
Standing 5-foot-2 and weighing 92 pounds, Chan is small, though she says she’s healthy and does not have an eating disorder.
But after a medical checkup in September, she says, university officials threatened to put her on medical leave if she didn’t agree to weekly mandatory weigh-ins and medical appointments because they told her that her weight was too low.
“While I understand that eating disorders are a huge problem on college campuses and many students with eating disorders are probably in denial, that does not mean that health care providers should automatically assume students of low BMI are anorexic and unhealthy,” Chan told ABC News Monday night in an email. “That also does not mean that they should force students of low BMI to gain weight while threatening them with expulsion.”
But nutritionist Drayer says she understands why a school would target a student with Chan’s height and weight.
“If someone has an eating disorder, there will be a red flag raised according to the body mass index, but you do have to look at other factors,” Drayer said. “You have to look at someone’s diet, their exercise level, whether or not they have any other health issues.”
Chan says she started stuffing herself with carbs and junk food daily to gain weight, including three to four scoops of ice cream twice a day with chocolate, cookies or Cheetos at bedtime. The result was just two pounds of weight gain, which was not enough for school officials, she says.
Chan says that’s when she refused to swallow their rules anymore.
“I don’t have an eating disorder,” she wrote in the article. “And I will not let Yale Health cause me to develop one.”
Chan says a new doctor is now using more than just her weight to evaluate her and Yale has agreed to let her stay in school with check-ins every semester.
“After a long email conversation with the Medical Director of Yale Health, my parents and I agreed to meet with a different clinician at Yale Health,” she told ABC News. “We were surprised at how compassionate she was: she listened to our concerns with genuine sympathy and apologized for the ‘months of anguish’ I went through. She also said that after she reviewed past records of my weight (which the previous clinician had not done), she noticed that my weight had stayed the same, so she trusts that I do not have an eating disorder.”