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Yale Thinks I Have an Eating Disorder

This is outrageous — the Yale Administration’s Mommy-Knows-Best attitude, if that’s what it is…but no, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s the “You’ll do what I say, OR ELSE, young lady!” attitude. In loco parentis* on steroids! I have to cheer this woman for writing this up, even if she did see fit to post it on HuffPo.

Coming on the heels of Prof. Rubenfeld, he of the Yale Law School, and in light of Yale’s reputation for having an unfortunately highly Progressivist weltanschaaung, I find myself disgusted with Yale altogether. When Lucy grows up I’m sending her to Oxbridge.

Herewith, the whole thing. I just don’t see how to break it up without ruining the flow.

–J.

Yale University Thinks I Have an Eating Disorder

“I don’t know if my body is even capable of gaining three more pounds.”

The nurse looked at me apprehensively. “It’s easy to gain a couple pounds. What I’m afraid will happen is that you’ll lose it again and you’ll just be cheating yourself.”

I couldn’t keep the impatience out of my tone. “So you’re just going to keep checking on me until I graduate?”

“If we don’t tackle your low weight now, it will kill you.”

***

In the past three weeks alone, I have spent ten hours at Yale Health, our student health center. Since December, I have had weekly weigh-ins and urine tests, three blood tests, appointments with a mental health counselor and a nutritionist, and even an EKG done to test my heart. My heart was fine — as it always has been — and so was the rest of my body. So what was the problem?

The medical professionals think I have an eating disorder — but they won’t look past the number on the scale, to see the person right in front in them.

I visited the cancer hospital on September 17, 2013, worrying about a lump in my breast. It turned out to be benign, but I received an email in November from the medical director about “a concern resulting from your recent visit.” My stomach lurched. Was the lump malignant after all?

I met with a clinician on December 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.”

I’ve always been small. I’ve been 5’2” and 90 pounds since high school, but it has never led to any illnesses related to low weight or malnutrition. 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.

Yet the clinicians at Yale Health think there’s more to it. Every week, I try to convince my clinician that I am healthy but skinny. Over the past several months, however, I’ve realized the futility of arguing with her.

“You should try to gain at least two more pounds.” (What difference does two pounds make?)

“Come next week to take a blood test to check your electrolytes.” (No consideration that I had three exams that week.)

“I know you’ve said in the past that you don’t eat as much when you get stressed out.” (I’ve never said that.)

So instead of arguing, I decided that perhaps the more I complied, the sooner I could resume my normal life.

I was forced to see a mental health professional. She asked me all of the standard questions — how I felt about my body, how many calories I ate. I told her everyone’s body is beautiful, including mine. When I said I didn’t know how many calories, since I don’t care to count, she rephrased the question, as if that would help.

Next step was a nutritionist. The nurse passed a post-it note, saying “Here are two times for the nutritionist next Tuesday. Usually it takes three months to get into nutrition at all.” What a privilege! Now I get to feel guilty about using clinical resources in desperately short supply!

Finally, I decided to start a weight-gain diet. If I only had to gain two pounds, it was worth a shot to stop the trouble. I asked my health-conscious friends what they do to remain slim and did the exact opposite. In addition to loading up on carbs for each meal, I’ve eaten 3-4 scoops of ice cream twice a day with chocolate, cookies, or Cheetos at bedtime. I take elevators instead of stairs wherever possible.

Eventually, the scale said I was two pounds heavier. When I saw her last Friday, I felt my stomach tighten, my heart racing. Would I finally be granted parole?

“You’ve gained two pounds, but that still isn’t enough. Ideally, you should go up to 95 pounds.” I hung my head in disbelief. I’ve already shared with you the memorable exchange that followed.

She had finally cracked me. I was Sisyphus the Greek king, forever trapped trying uselessly to push a boulder up a hill. Being forced to meet a standard that I could never meet was stressful and made me resent meals. I broke down sobbing in my dean’s office, in my suitemate’s arms afterwards, and Saturday morning on the phone with my parents. At this rate, I was well on my way to developing an eating disorder before anyone could diagnose the currently nonexistent one.

It seems Yale has a history of forcing its students through this process. A Yale Herald piece from 2010 told the story of students in similar situations. It’s disturbing how little things have changed. “Stacy” was “informed that if she kept failing to reach [Yale Health]‘s goals for her, she would be withdrawn for the following semester.” Unfortunately, “the more she stressed out about gaining weight, the more she lost her appetite.”

Furthermore, a recent graduate messaged me saying that her cholesterol had actually gone up due to the intensive weight-gain diet she used to release herself from weekly weigh-ins.

It is clear that the University does care about students suspected of struggling with eating disorders. And it should. Eating disorders are particularly prevalent on college campuses and Yale is no exception. However, because the University blindly uses BMI as the primary means of diagnosis, it remains oblivious to students who truly need help but do not have low enough BMIs. Instead, it subjects students who have a personal and family history of low weight to treatment that harms our mental health. By forcing standards upon us that we cannot meet, the University plays the same role as fashion magazines and swimsuit calendars that teach us about the “correct shape” of the human body.

I was scheduled to have a mental health appointment at 9:00 a.m. and a weigh-in at 10:30 a.m. this past Friday. But I’m done. 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.

. . .
If you are struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

16 Comments

  1. Julie near Chicago says:

    *The cris de coeur of the students when I was in college….

  2. 90 Pounds – that is small by the standards of a big (well actually FAT) middle aged man such as me.

    But by the standards of a 5’2 tall young lady it is not ultra small – the authorities are being nasty busy-bodies.

  3. RogerC says:

    “they won’t look past the number on the scale, to see the person right in front in them”

    Sums up the nanny state mentality in a nutshell. It’s all about control. Sod the individual, as long as they comply.

  4. Kevin B says:

    A quick word of warning Julie; if you’re basing your opinion of Oxbridge* on old reruns of Morse or Lewis, (assuming you get such things near Chicago), I should point out that while there are fewer murders, (especially by dons), than in those fine programs, there is a lot more left wing lunacy.

    * I suppose this caveat should only apply to Oxford since, in Lewis, Cambridge features only in derisive sneers at Hathaway’s old Uni and is hardly mentioned at all in Morse. But it is even more loony than Oxford.

  5. RAB says:

    I’m six foot two, weigh ten and a half stone and look like a piece of wet string, my whole family did. We eat exactly what we want when we want and somehow all manage to live to 90.

  6. NickM says:

    Reminds me of a quote from Marilyn Monroe… I’ve spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on therapy and you ask me why I’m unhappy?

  7. Julie near Chicago says:

    RAB, I don’t worry so much about The Luce. She can take care of herself in the face of Oxbridgian Authority anytime. For example, suppose I say “Lucy, come!” Unless she has reason to suspect a doggy treat may be on the agenda, she simply gives me the “Why should I?” look, and if no good reason is presented, the next look is “The hell you say,” and it’s back to sleep.

    Murders?? Tchah! She would prepare ham sandwiches and beer for any potential bad guys, and when they were replete she would lead them to the family valuables, for instance my third copy of one of my favorite SF paperbacks from 1956, in which all the pages have come loose and therefore are bound together in a rubber band.

    “Morse”? As in “Inspector Morse”? Yes, I think they ran it on PBS, but I never did see any of it. Who’s Lewis?

    RogerC, you’re absolutely right. Agree 100%. Observation applies to too many doctors, too. Grrr.

    Nick, I can’t believe it but I never heard that quote. It’s VUHN-DUHFULL :>))))!!!!

  8. Kevin B says:

    Julie, when Inspector Morse died on duty, (because – I believe – John Thaw, the actor who played him, was dying), ITV, the network that made the series, waited a decent interval then promoted Sergeant Lewis, Morse’s trusty sidekick, to Inspector, gave him his own trusty sidekick in the shape of Sergeant Hathaway, and carried on the series as Lewis,

    Then when the actor who played Lewis got tired of it all they promoted his trusty… No! No! Even ITV wouldn’t do something so crass.

    Instead, they created a prequel starring the young Morse, called Endeavor, so now they can do what I’ve only seen Star Trek do and broadcast three generations of the same program on the same day.

    And the point of all this waffling is that the three generations all solve vicious and nasty murders in and around Oxford, and usually involving the University, its students and its Dons.

  9. RAB says:

    Spot on Kevin B.

    And have you noticed that there is role reversal going on here? Of course you have!

    Morse had himself as the intellectual times crossword solving ex Oxford student, classical music loving beer drinking Bodleian passing frequently (the locations manager is obsessed by the place) and Lewis (incidently a Welshman in the books, not a Geordy… There are many welsh in Oxford, it is towards the end of the old drovers road, and many ended up milkmen of all things…) a bluff working classlessness sort of bloke from a Comprehensive, but steady and reliable.

    Then Lewis, the same bluff working classnessless etc and the boss, and his sargeant, and intellectual times solving grad etc etc.

    I think Endeavour is very well written though.

  10. NickM says:

    I prefer Midsommer Murders.

    RAB, it is spelt “Geordie”.

  11. RAB says:

    Are you shure?

    Yes, agree, but only the John Nettles ones. God knows he isn’t the greatest actor in the world, but Nettles has a presence that the new bloke… well it’s like watching drying paint.

    Anyhoo I only watch them because of the locations manager’s taste in locations. I could watch them a dozen times, and often have, given my mum’s taste in entertainment these days, and still not remember who actually did it and why….

  12. Kevin B says:

    RAB, as you know Morse loves opera, and, as you probably don’t know, so do I. But the joy of the series for me is not just the opera music that plays in almost every episode, nor just the frequent opera mentions, but the sheer operatic nature of the plots.

    Get Verdi or Puccini or sometimes Wagner to write the music and you could stick the episodes on at Covent Garden to wild applause. (Maybe translate them into Italian or German).

    I thought they handled the Lewis transition very well, keeping the same tension between intellect and pragmatism but making it more complementary than antagonistic.

    Watching this week’s Endeavor and remembering where I was when watching the ’66 World Cup, (in an RAF H-block at Colerne, Wiltshere while Morse was solving yet another vicious murder), remindinded me of what the sixties were really like for most of us. The fifties with a bit of added pop music on the telly.

  13. John Galt says:

    I met the author of Morse, Colin Dexter in 2011 when he came to give “An Audience With…” type performance at Port Erin Arts Centre.

    Although quite frail he maintained a certain love of life (meaning he was still a drunken old lecher), by being brought on-and-off-stage by a busty blonde. This is allegedly in his contract. :-)

    Dexter was a writer of the Earnest Hemingway school, doing his first drafts of novels whilst tanked up on the best part of a bottle of Whisky each day.

    The final book in the Morse series “The Remorseful Day” was published in 1999, some years before John Thaw was diagnosed with cancer in June 2001, so the death of the character and the actor are unlinked.

    In Colin Dexter’s will, he has stipulated that no-one shall portray Morse after Shaun Evans, so “Endeavour” will be the last incarnation of Morse.

    I am somewhat of a fan, having every episode of Morse, Lewis and Endeavour that have been released on DVD.

  14. NickM says:

    RAB, I had much the same thoughts about Nettles going but… the new guy grows on you.

  15. Julie near Chicago says:

    Kevin B, I am desolate over my faux pas, my inexcusable gaffe, my utterly hamfooted addressing of my reply to your remark about the Leftness of Oxbridgians to our resident Woofer instead of to you. I can but plead loss of marbles and looseness of screws. :>((((

    Thanks for the info on the trials, tribulations, demise, and reincarnation of the Inspector. I wonder if there are any episodes on UT. I shall have to investigate. I love proper (old, Gothic, dignified, green-and-grey) Universities, and the Quad of my own alma mater evokes in just such a way the spirit of Oxford — as I imagine it to be, anyhow. Besides, UC is supposed to be a Community of Scholars, as inspired by the Great Tradition of Oxford. Though I’m not so sure it still is such … certainly the UC Law School no longer deserves such a title, having allowed the unspeakable Sunstein to desecrate its halls, and permitted the fairest and brightest (though sometimes terribly, dreadfully benighted) jewel in its crown, Professor Richard A. Epstein (be prepared for more videos featuring the Great Man), to assume residence at the smoggily unhallowed NYU Law School. Jove weeps.

    And I love a good mystery, whodunit, thriller, police procedural. (Especially when they have a bit of comedy to them. As in Witness for the Prosecution, starring Henry the Eighth, and also Rumpole.)

  16. NickM says:

    If by UC you mean University of Chicago then I have only this to think…

    “On that day a coded message was sent to the White House by one of the team of physicists, “The Italian navigator has landed in the New World”. The reply came back, “How were the natives?”. To which the physicist replied, “Very friendly.”"

    2nd December 1942. Enrico Fermi stole fire from the Gods, in a squash court. What isn’t mentioned is a host of grad students were present with buckets of boron to chuck at Chicago Pile 1 if things went a bit Pete Tong. That is the kinda science I like. That is the great tradition. Do something amazing and let the consequences work themselves out.

    It would never be allowed today of course. It ended the war against Japan decisively. And quite why it scares so many as a source of power is beyond me. Although perhaps I have answered my own question.

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