Thursday, February 28, 2008


New diet that works

The foreign exchange student diet.

Jonathan McCullum was in perfect health at 155 pounds when he left last summer to spend the school year as an exchange student in Egypt.

But when he returned home to Maine just four months later, the 5-foot-9 teenager weighed a mere 97 pounds and was so weak that he struggled to carry his baggage or climb a flight of stairs. Doctors said he was at risk for a heart attack.

His host family didn't feed him very well. However, that is not what they claim.

The host father, Shaker Hanna, rejected McCullum's story as "a lie," suggesting that he made it up because his parents were hoping to recover some of the money they paid for his stay as compensation.

"The truth is, the boy we hosted for nearly six months was eating for an hour and a half at every meal. The amount of food he ate at each meal was equal to six people," Hanna said. He added that the boy was active, constantly exercising and playing sports.

Apparently there is a sport in Egypt called Starve American.

The McCullums said AFS discourages parents from telephoning or e-mailing their kids abroad, believing the distraction would run counter to the program's goal of immersing them in local culture.

"They told us to have as little contact as possible, and we bought into it," Elizabeth McCullum said. She said she had confidence in AFS, regarding it as "the gold standard" of exchange programs, but now is aware that things can go terribly wrong.

Johnathon was immersed in the culture of being abused by the host family. On that count, the program was a success. I would like to know if the kid has any history of eating disorders but beyond that it just seems like the kid was in a terrible situation and he just wanted to survive. I doubt the Hanna's will be getting any more students. On the other hand I could use a year abroad with them.


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