NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s an unusual debate over weight involving a Yale student. She says the school threatened to kick her out because she was too thin. This all has to do with “body mass index.”
According to published reports, Frances Chan says she was told to put on the pounds or leave Yale. Based on her low body mass index or BMI, Health officials suspected she had an eating disorder.
The body mass index is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. But Chan has been thin all her life.
It’s an icon among institutions of higher education and learning but Yale administrators appear to have learned a lesson of their own. In published reports, 20-year-old Frances Chan, a student there, says Yale threatened to force her out of school unless she gained weight.
Health experts suspected she had an eating disorder.
“It’s ridiculous, that they would try to push somebody out of school just because there are underweight,” said John, a Yale student.
“They view it as a liability to themselves and it should be more about the student because we are a community,” said Dianne Kaiyoorawongs, Yale student.
It all stems from Chan’s five foot two frame, weighing 92 pounds with a body mass index of 16.7 on the scale of being underweight.
But the months of frustration are over. A family history of being thin, medical records and a new doctor minimizing the BMI led to Yale backing off.
“How many Americans are overweight or obese, we use the BMI to answer that question,” said Dr. David Katz, Director of Yale-Griffin Prevention Center.
Noted weight management expert Dr. David Katz says it can be misapplied.
“We always face the greatest likelihood of misusing any tool or instrument or measure when it comes out of context,” said Katz.
Medical advice he says is best when doctors know their patient well.
“We have to worry when we see any measure that hints at a potential medical problem. It is right to probe that but when you do the probing and you get information that tells you– no this is not a problem, then it’s time to back away,” said Katz.
Dr. Katz says another mistake doctors make is telling patients to gain weight by any means. He says it is not an excuse to fill up on junky calories. It should should still come from healthy food and exercise to build muscle.