Thick Dumpling Skin

[It's what's on the inside that counts]

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More Thoughts on Frances Chan

Since we posted about Frances Chan and her fight with Yale to convince them that she does not have an eating disorder, I’ve seen more and more insensitive commentaries and ridiculous headlines about her case. 

Ridiculous headlines like this one over at the New Haven Register:

I’ve been mainly disappointed that some people, including those in the Asian community, have called this story - the story of Frances having to “stuff her face with cheetos and ice-cream to pacify school officials” - an “Asian problem.”

Let me be clear. This is NOT an Asian problem, and the fact that we think it’s an Asian problem simply perpetuates the stereotype that Asians are supposed to be petit, slim, and that we can eat whatever we want and not gain weight. 

This is simply not true and we are only doing our community a disservice by laughing this story off as if it’s some joke. 

Grace Hwang Lynch shares her thought about this issue on Blogher and asks the question of whether or not being “underweight” means having an eating disorder because she herself was there once as a college student. 

Like Frances Chan, I was self-conscious about the attention I received for being so thin. I ate three square meals a day, including ice cream after every dinner at the dining hall. But unlike Chan, I wasn’t advised to do so by medical staff and there was no threat of being suspended from the university.

While I’m impressed by Yale’s vigilance about the potential for eating disorders, I have so many questions about the way the university handled the case. According to a 2010 article in the Yale Herald, an incoming student must submit medical information, from which her body mass index (BMI) is calculated. The newspaper reports that a BMI below 18 is cause for concern by university officials.

Our bodies change, especially during periods of high stress and especially during our college years when we’re transitioning into adulthood. This is certainly a journey that I experienced. However, let’s call this story for what it really is: “Nobody can tell you if you have an eating disorder except for yourself. So much of it is not about BMI or weight but the obsession,” says TDS cofounder Lynn Chen. 

The obsession, of having the “correct” body, whatever that is. 

- Lisa

Filed under frances chan yale obsession new haven register

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On Our Radar: Frances Chan

Is BMI causing trouble again? Yale student Frances Chan had to meet with Yale clinician for weekly weigh-ins and was threatened to be put on medical leave if she did not comply to gaining weight. 

"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.

Read Frances’ story here.

UPDATE from Yahoo:

“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, tells Yahoo Shine, adding, “Even if you have an eating disorder, you have a right to go to school.” 

Rago notes it’s clear the university means well. “But eating disorders are more about your behaviors and your thoughts than your weight,” she explains.

Finally, though, after Chan’s struggling with weigh-ins, pleading with doctors to not place so much emphasis on her body mass index, and eventually writing to university President Peter Salovey to apprise him of the situation, officials relented. 

“Just visited Yale Health with my parents and met with a new doctor. She apologized repeatedly for the ‘months of anguish’ I went through and admitted that BMI is not the end all be all,” Chan posted to her Facebook page on Friday. “She also looked at my medical records since freshman year (which the previous clinician had not done) and noted that she saw that my weight had remained around the same. So she trusts that I do not have an eating disorder and admitted that ‘we made a mistake.’”


Know something that should be On Our Radar? Contact us!

Filed under frances chan yale On Our Radar bmi

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On Our Radar: Geena Rocero on TED

Geena Rocero, a Filipina transgender model, talks about her powerful story at the most recent TED conference. 

We love this part in particular: 

"All of us are put in boxes by our family, by our religion, by our society, our moment in history, even our own bodies. Some people have the courage to break free, not to accept the limitations imposed by the color of their skin or by the beliefs by those that sit around them. Those people are always a threat to the status quo to what is considered acceptable." 

Sexuality is fluid. Gender is a social construction, just like how race is a social construction as well. 

Thanks Geena for sharing your story. You go girl. 


Know something that should be On Our Radar? Contact us!

Filed under ted talks ted geena rocero On Our Radar

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FREE Eating Disorder Support Group for Asian Americans in the Bay

Super excited to announce our sponsorship in Living Arts Counseling Center's FREE eating disorder support group just for Asian Americans. Aileen reached out to us a while back about wanting to do something like this and we chatted up a storm.

If you know anyone who can benefit from this support group, please help us spread the word! 

The group meets on Saturdays from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm (begins March 15th, 2014) at 1265 65th St. Emeryville, CA 94708. 

Pre-screening is required. Contact: aileenbcho@livingartscenter.org
or (510) 595-5500 Ext.17

This ongoing free and confidential support group is open to all ages and genders who identify themselves as Asian or Pacific Islander and are struggling with anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, compulsive overeating, overexercising, eating disorder NOS, chronic dieting, and other disordered eating and body image issues.

Eating disorders are more than merely about food, weight, and body image. They involve serious emotional and physical problems that can have life‐threatening consequences. Eating disorders also do not discriminate—they affect us all. For Asian‐Americans, the struggle is also social, racial, cultural, and familial. Come and find support on your journey towards recovery in a safe, non‐judgmental, and welcoming environment and feel less alone in your struggle. The group will be process‐oriented and address topics such as: Eating Disorder Symptoms & Warning Signs, Stages of Recovery, Coping Skills, Relapse Prevention Techniques, Managing Triggering Situations, Reducing Isolation and Shame, Building Peer Support while gearing towards the culturally specific, complex, and unique experiences of Asian‐Americans.

Filed under free support group aileen cho sponsorship living arts counseling center

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On Our Radar: Lee Price, Women, Food

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Artist Lee Price on her portraits with food:

…my intent with my subject matter is not to discuss American over-consumption per se. The paintings, on a literal (and slightly narrow) level discuss women’s issues with food and compulsive eating. In a broader sense they discuss compulsive behavior in general - the distraction that’s involved in the act of it, the waste (both in regard to actual material waste and to energy/time waste) that is the result of it. I do believe over-consumption is a compulsive behaviour - a behaviour that we use to “check out”; to distract ourselves from sitting with discomfort…I think society plays an enormous role in regard to the aspect of my paintings that is concerned with how women relate to food. Often women are brought up to control their appetites. Not just for food but in many areas of life. We are taught to be givers, to nurture others at the expense of our own needs (in a way that men are not).  I think food, for some reason, is one way we have chosen to give back to ourselves- to attempt to nurture ourselves. This, mixed with the pressure to be thin, has caused many of us to consume in secret.

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Read more from her interview with Don’t Panic, and visit her site.

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Filed under lee price women food art

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Travel Guilt

It has been almost a month since I boarded a plane in San Francisco and left for some personal time off. During my trip, I slept, wandered, and ate. Oh I ate.

I was fascinated by all the different kinds of goodies both Australia and Japan had to offer, savory or sweet. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see some of the amazing foods I encountered. Red bean paste in pretty much everything, pickled vegetables, and all different kinds of ramen, just to name a few of my favorites from Japan.

However, week two of my vacation I started to feel guilty. Real guilty. I started to feel terrible about myself. One, because I kept on putting things in my mouth that I knew were not as “healthy.” I was not eating all the different colors of the food pyramid/food board/whatever that thing is called. Two, I would eat even when I wasn’t hungry for the sake of trying new things, like the two dinners that I had the other night. Three, because I was totally and utterly out of my usual fitness routine.

Despite the fact that I would walk all day due to sight-seeing, I felt horrible about my exhausted body at the end of the day. I would think back on all the things that I ate and silently feel ashamed. It also didn’t help that a friend remarked kindly, “you haven’t been eating very healthy at all.” 

… Accurate statement. 

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Sea urchin croquette. How do you not try this?!

It took a few days for me to stop feeling shameful. I had to really remind myself that I am on vacation and out of my element. I admire those people who bring their running shoes with them to Egypt (ahem I brought mine too), but what I was doing was quite normal for a tourist. Of course, I miss sweating it out at yoga down the street and going for my usual jogs, but hey, I won’t be gone forever (although that sounds amazing). I’ll be back at it in due time.

I say when in Rome… 

How do you deal with travel guilt? Are there particular things that you try to do or fit into your itinerary so you can stay above it?  

- Lisa

Filed under travel guilt japan