Sad, so sad
It's a sad, sad situation
And it's getting more and more absurd
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word
-- Elton John
Bryn Mawr college apologized. Is that enough? Did they violate HIPPA? Did they just do something incredibly insensitive or is it worse?
It appears to many observers Bryn Mawr College, an all-female college, completely violated its student's privacy by going into their health records and offering the "opportunity" to be in a weight loss class because of their BMI.
Some are still outraged at the news that broke last week. It is best described in an article from the college paper of one of their local rivals,Swarthmore.
As a recovering fat person, I never needed anyone to point out to me that I was overweight. I was in the morbidly obese category and it wasn't like it was news to me. They certainly didn't have to comb my medical records to clue me in. If I wanted to join a weight loss class, I did. Many times.
According to a UCLA study and numerous other research projects, the majority of people who diet do not keep the weight off long term.
Until I did the gastric sleeve weight loss surgery, I was morbidly obese. I had also tried every diet program in the world, numerous times, and as I noted in a previous Huffington Post blog, none of them were successful.
Thus, Bryn Mawr College decided to call out their supposedly overweight students and put in a position of likely failure. What a great way to build their self-esteem!
I'm writing a book about my weight loss journey and living the journey. I'm granted a lot of positive self-esteem from the other good things that have happened in my life, but that is not always the case for overweight people.
There are people who feel like they have a license to take pot shots at those who are overweight. How many times do you see a television news program that feels compelled to show overweight people, obviously without their consent, walking down the street?
There is a word for people who make fun of those who have different physical characteristics than them. It's called bigotry, and in 21st century America, bigotry for any reason is wrong.
At an all-girls college, the idea of "shaming" students into losing weight is unbelievable. College students are teens or barely post-teen. I'm of the theory of that we are at impressionable age our entire lives, but especially during those years when we are being educated.
I've done a ton of research and many personal interviews with people who have had or are considering weight loss surgery. I don't know how to quantify it, but it is obvious that society makes life much harder on overweight women than overweight men. I've never suffered professionally, or really personally, from being obese, but I've talked to numerous women who get overlooked in the professional world because of their weight.
It's like the line in the Janis Ian song, "At Seventeen": "For those whose names are never called, when choosing sides for basketball."
People never get over the hurts of discrimination and being picked on, or picked out, because of their weight.
I am particularly stunned since Bryn Mawr is an all-girls school. I read Carl Bernstein's book, A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton several years ago, and one of the things that jumped out was that Hillary going to an all-girls college allowed her to take a leadership role (she was student body president) and gain the self-esteem and skill sets that might not have been available at a co-ed college in the 1960s.
Thus, the Bryn Mawr attempt to do some self-esteem crushing goes against a basic premise for their existence.
Maybe Bryn Mawr should do a weigh in and add that to admissions criteria along with academics.
Elton John said that "sorry seems to be the hardest word." Actually, that is pretty easy to do. They are hoping this all blows over and life goes back to normal. What is harder is finding some evidence that the people at Bryn Mawr truly understood the gravity of what they did.
Don McNay is a best-selling author and financial consultant based in Lexington Ky. You can read more about him at www.mcnayconsulting.com. He is writing the book: Project 199: My Business Plan to Lose 175 Pounds, that will be released in August.
From Don McNay: I have to thank Dr. Debby Herbenick at Indiana University for posting this on Facebook and bringing it to my attention.