Learning To Restrict Calories Isn't College Wellness — It's Dangerously Unhealthy

Having been forced to disclose her eating disorder status to four people, Morgan was now at their mercy in order to graduate while maintaining her physical and mental health.

Morgan Stacy is in recovery from bulimia. She has been behavior-free for six months, which is major progress.

However, Morgan's college is putting her recovery in serious jeopardy with one of their required courses. 

Morgan is a student at Vanguard University, a four-year, private “Christian” school that receives state funding. At Vanguard, every undergraduate is required to take a class in which they must calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI), which is a ratio of weight and height. They are also required to measure their body composition via Biometric Impedance Analysis (BIA) and measure and calculate their waist-to-hip ratio.

In another lab, they are required to keep a food log and answer questions about their caloric intake like “what are you eating too much of?” Students are next given an assignment to determine the “factors” that “influenced your performance in these tests,” create a "body composition goal,” and then develop a plan for how they will achieve the results. 

In addition to this class being utterly inappropriate and fatphobic, it’s dangerous. The University has no way of knowing the circumstances of each student — who might be on the edge of an eating disorder, who might be in the throes, and who is trying to recover. For those of us practicing Health at Every Size and/or Intuitive Eating for whatever reason, these assignments go against our core beliefs and practices and can conflict with the recommendations of our healthcare providers. 

That the class exists at all tells us that the University doesn't understand the danger they are dragging students into. They have no idea how many students they have hurt, are currently hurting, and will hurt in the future. 

 

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What we do know is that somewhere between ten and twenty percent of cis-female college students and four to ten percent of cis-male students have eating disorders. (Problematically, statistics are not often kept on trans and non-binary people.) We also know that participating in weighing and measuring one's body and diet and setting “body composition” goals for a grade will not make students healthier

Morgan consulted with her advisor and Disability Services to see what could be done so that this ridiculous requirement neither throws her back into a potentially deadly eating disorder nor prevents her from the psychology degree that she is earning. She was asked to e-mail the teacher of the class. He, in turn, forwarded the e-mail to the Chair of the Kinesiology Department (the department that houses the course).

Having been forced to disclose her eating disorder status to four people, Morgan was now at their mercy in order to graduate while maintaining her physical and mental health.

After a ton of difficult work and emotional vulnerability on her part, she was able to arrange alternative assignments. Now, Morgan has decided to work to end nonsense requirements like this one (which also create financial hardship since students have to PAY to take these classes) — not just at Vanguard but at all schools.

When we talk about “health” and “wellness,” whether at school, at work, in workshops, or elsewhere, we need to prioritize the needs of those made vulnerable by a culture of healthism. That includes members of marginalized communities and people who are at risk for, suffering with, or recovering from eating disorders. 


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