Food is the new chastity belt

Once again, the Onion nails it. This time, it was the piece titled "Study: Abstinence-Only Lunch Programs Ineffective At Combating Teen Obesity," which managed to poke fun not only at many of the anti-obesity initiatives, but also at abstinence-only sex ed. And it really drove home the point that food is the new chastity belt.

Some highlights from the article:

"There's no evidence to suggest that instructing teens not to chew, swallow, or even think about food is actually going to stop them from eating," Sebelius told reporters. "Let's face it: Kids are already eating. And not only during lunchtime. They're eating after school, at the mall, in their parents' basements. Pretending like it's not happening isn't going to make it go away."

"After all, they're teenagers," Sebelius continued. "Eating is practically the only thing on their minds."


Perhaps more troubling, students who completed the abstinence-only program were reportedly unable to answer the simplest questions about their own digestive systems, and some as old as 17 still believed they could catch high blood pressure from their very first Snickers bar.

"Kids need to know the truth about food," said Sue Weber, a nutritionist. "It's irresponsible for these schools to fill their students with misinformation about the devil working through trans fats, instead of just saying to them, 'Look, I know eating that entire box of Cheez-Its might feel good now, but when you're older, you're going to wish you had gone for the salad.'"


"I'm never ever going to eat, because eating is wrong, and I'm worth more than a chicken sandwich with asparagus and rice pilaf," Woodbridge seventh-grader Tracey Holmes said. "I heard Jennifer Hines eats all the time, like 50 times a day. I heard she eats all her ice cream upside-down, though, so she doesn't get fat. That's how it works."

Food and fat have almost replaced sex in our cultural repertoire of Things That Make Women Bad, so the comparison to abstinence-only sex ed is more than spot-on. Thankfully, I'm no longer a teenager (and I have less than one year left in my 20s), so I can't tell you from experience whether this is true or not, but when I was in high school, the big freak-outs were over STDs and teen pregnancy. Certainly things like "healthy eating" were mentioned and discussed, but there were also cupcakes for birthdays and Coke in the vending machines.

Now it seems the obesity epidemic has almost overshadowed all those worries. Maybe in another ten years, we'll find something else to freak out about. In the meantime, read the article and enjoy.

(Image courtesy The Onion)

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Harriet said...

I love The Onion! Once more they hit the cultural nail right on its head.

Lindsay said...

Love this post. Thanks for bringing the article to my attention! It was so perfect, and so timely.

As a teenager, I still can't really weigh in on this. I went to a sort of weird little high school where people both accepted that sex is a part of life and brought giant pizzas to class. Nice for me. I'm curious to see how this changes in college... said...

I am (or... was... I just quit... sad.. but right...) a middle school teacher. One time I tried to teach them about nutrition (yeah, I know, irony - an ED person teaching about nutrition...). Anyway, my students were super interested. But, basically, this is their diet:

Breakfast: McDonald's Iced Coffee

Morning Snack: Rockstar Energy drink and chicken flavored lollipop covered in chili sauce

Lunch: Hot cheetos and more chicken flavored lollipops covered in chili sauce

Afternoon Snack one: McFlurry or another iced coffee from McDonald's

Afternoon Snack two: These things that appear to be fries but are not covered in chili sauce OR corn on the cob smothered in mayo and cheese and chili sauce OR mango covered in chili sauce OR vanilla flavored shaved ice

DINNER: varies by student

I am not one for judging others' food intake; however, it is clear that some adequate nutrition education is needed.

My students talk all the time and say things like, "Whatever I don't care, I'm just gonna eat." I'll say, "Are you hungry?" They'll say, "Yes and I don't care anymore, I'm just going to eat." And I'll say, "Good! That is what you are supposed to do when you're hungry." And then they'll eat candy.

My students also say things like, "I'm just going to eat and get fat. Whatever." I tell them, "Eating one lollipop does not make you fat." I also tell them, "Eating lunch doesn't make you fat either." Etc. ETc. And they'll say things like, "This candy probably has like 10 calories in it!" (They're meaning 10 as if it's a lot. They have no idea about what a lot or a little amount of calories is).

I have even had students pinch their non-existent fat on their stomachs and say things like, "This is because I ate a McFlurry yesterday." As if the McFlurry instantly produced fat.

Yesterday I encountered a woman ordering ice cream. In front of her kids, she said, "I'll just have to not eat tomorrow." As if eating ice cream at night and not eating tomorrow = her weight loss plan.

I supposedly have an eating disorder. But, you know what? So does most of America. America has an eating disorder.

Anonymous said...

I'm no longer in high school (thank God), so I can't tell you what's "normal" right now, but at my school - this is, actually spot on. Sex/Pregnancy was scandalous, but that was about it. As for me, I was praised for my strength and willpower when I consistently skipped lunch, and I was only once ever confronted about the fact that I had been caught in a lie about when I did actually eat - one friend figured out that I wasn't eating at all, if I could help it, and we didn't speak for a few days. But she used to complain about how she had to "suck in" all day, and we'd often compete in terms of exercise or "good" food choices. This was about 2000-2003 (3 year high school).

I've always maintained, though, that ours was not exactly a "healthy" high school.

Anonymous said...

I had a group of friends in high school who used to confuse the dickens out of me. They'd get upset when they found I wasn't eating (I'd go through cycles when I wouldn't eat at all for days, then I'd binge), yet they'd complain all the time about how fat they felt. Since I was the fattest one out of them all (and yes, after almost 10 years of looking back, that isn't hyperbole -- I was the tallest by half a foot and I had the most body fat), why on Earth would I feel it was safe to eat around people who apparently villified fat, ALONG WITH eating disorders?

Meh. Just remembering.

Carrie Arnold said...

Now is now,

I agree- nutrition education can be a very good thing, and I do think it is needed. But part of the problem is that even the adults are so confused, what do you say to kids?

You're right on the last count, too. We have eating disorders, but so does our whacked-out, messed-up culture.

I Hate to Weight said...

brilliant article and all so depressing.

what's missing in our society that we're either binging or starving and there's such focus on something like weight?

how come so many of us don't know how to put food in its place and move on?

wish i could

Special K said... are right, the new "slut" is the overweight girls, skinny girls are given the title of being "better" because they are more strongwilled and disciplined. I am so happy that I was a brainiac in highschool and found a niche outside my looks(13 years ago) but at the same time, found my "nourishment" to be praise, being "the best" and achievement. We have to take a look at what we feel is "worthy" who a person is, or WHAT.
Carrie: You are super, thoughtful, insightful, as always! Check out my website and latest challenge
and giveaway

Anonymous said...


I read in your comments about you that you believe there is a full recovery from ED. 25 years ago I was hospitalized, near death from anorexia---yeah, I gained the weight and went on to live a life but my ED has NEVER left me. If I feel bad about something, or if I'm stressed, I lose a couple of pounds to make things 'better'. I know it doesn't really work, but the brain is hard-wired for "lose weight, feel better". I still can't stand to look at myself in the mirror. It's good to be optimistic and I hope you do reach a 'full recovery'. I wish you every luck in the world and every happiness.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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