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Thin Yale Student Can Stop Stuffing Her Face at School's Insistence

By Alexandra Ward   |   Wednesday, 09 Apr 2014 07:48 AM

A naturally thin Yale student claims the Ivy League university forced her to eat and gain weight because the medical staff there was convinced she had an eating disorder. Now she can stop stuffing her face.

Frances Chan, 20, insists her 5-foot-2, 92-pound frame is not unhealthy, but until last week she was subjected to Yale-ordered mandatory weekly weigh-ins, counseling sessions, nutritionist appointments, and was even threatened with suspension if she didn’t comply.

"It felt really bad to be this powerless," Chan, who said she's always been naturally skinny, told the New Haven Register this week. "I ate ice cream twice a day. I ate cookies. I used elevators instead of walking up stairs. But I don’t really gain any weight."

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It all started last September when Chan visited the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven to have a breast lump examined. The lump was benign and she forgot about it until a couple months later when she received an email from Yale's medical director asking her to come back to discuss "a concern resulting from your recent visit" — her weight.

At that appointment, she was told she would have to attend weekly weigh-ins and gain weight or risk being put on medical leave. Chan was also "forced" to see a mental health professional who, convinced she had an eating disorder, grilled her about her eating habits.

No matter what she ate, though, she couldn’t gain more than a couple pounds.

"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," Chan wrote last month in essay for The Huffington Post. "I just don't gain weight easily."

A Yale spokesman declined to discuss Chan or her story at all, citing federal health and privacy regulations.

Chan's months-long ordeal is reflective of a bigger problem within the educational health system, she says. Yale only looked at her body mass index, or BMI, as an indicator of overall health when it often isn’t.

"It seems like assumptions were being made based on her appearance, and that it was very discriminatory. Low BMI doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy," clinical psychologist Maria Rago, vice president of the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, told Yahoo Shine. "Even if you have an eating disorder, you have a right to go to school."

Chan finally got through to Yale officials last week after a meeting with a new doctor and the school's medical directors. The new physician said there's no need for weekly weigh-ins and acknowledged that BMI is not the sole indicator of good health.

"So she trusts that I do not have an eating disorder and admitted that 'we made a mistake,'" Chan told the Register.

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