US College Promotes Weight Bias and Discrimination?

What is not shocking is that according to a report on CNN, a US college (Lincoln University, Pennsylvania) has mandated a fitness course that its students have to pass in order to get their degree. 

What is shocking, however, is that only students with a BMI greater than 30, who fail to lose weight during their time at that school are required to take and pass this course.

The underlying assumption of course is that fat people are apparently too stupid to know about healthy eating and exercise and that requiring them to take and pass a course on this will make them drop those excess pounds and become healthy and successful human beings.

Apart from the fact that you would expect college educators to know that wasting resources on well-intended but largely useless weight interventions based solely on “healthy” eating and exercise are not an evidence-base approach to weight management (due to their rather modest effectiveness), assuming that it is even remotely possible to identify individuals in need of “lifestyle education” by simply calculating their BMI (or measuring their waist circumference), is ridiculous.

Perhaps the folks who came up with this idea are unaware of the fact that there is indeed no shortage of “thin” people frequenting fast food restaurants, living sedentary lifestyles or simply using cigarette smoking (if not other drugs), unhealthy dieting, purging, and/or excessive exercise to control their weight.

Singling out students based solely on weight for intervention is nothing else than stereotyping individuals who meet population-based BMI cuttoffs as unhealthy or unfit.

Not only is this discriminatory practice reflective of a limited understanding of the determinants of health, it is also an insult to anyone who’s BMI is greater than 30 despite trying their best to manage their excess weight in this obesogenic environment.

If excess weight is truly affecting a students’ health (and it takes more than a scale or measuring tape to determine this), I have nothing against these students being offered appropriate counseling and interventions by a licensed health professional.

Dictating “lifestyles” to people identified only by virtue of an arbitrarily defined “excess” weight is neither helpful nor supported by scientific evidence.

Perhaps, as one reader comments on the CNN website in response to the college’s response that they are less concerned about health than about the fact that obese students may be less successful in life, “the ones voted as ugly should take a beauty class as this is also related to success”. 

As always, I appreciate any comments on this topic.

Frankfurt, Germany

p.s. Hat tip to Gabriela Tymowski for drawing my attention to this story