Is eating healthy a form of activism? It is for some. The British BPS posted an article about one such teen.

A quote from the original source:

Adolescents are sometimes characterized as concerned only with short-term selfish aims, but recent developmental science high- lights that this is a period of increased concern for social justice and beyond-the-self aims (15, 16). This phenomenon is instantiated by attraction to social movements such as vegetarianism or antiglobalization activism (17) and is tied to neural and endocrine system developments that heighten attention to unfairness (18) and create a greater concern for finding meaning in life (19). This attention to social justice often manifests as reactance against authorities (e.g., parents and teachers); adolescents are often highly motivated to avoid being seen as aligned with the interests of unjust adult authorities. But it can also manifest as a more general condemnation of societal unfairness and motivate prosocial action to address that unfairness (16). The opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the world beyond the self can create a powerful feeling of eudaimonic reward in the immediate term (15 – 17, 19).

Some thoughts on the research and the title of the article.

Looking at the study, 75% of subjects in the treatment group chose a sugary drink (control: 82%) the day after the intervention. So only a very small minority made a different choice (7%), compared to control. This pretty much invalidates the title: "Teens reject junk food when healthy eating is framed as rebellion".

Also, since the study only tested choices 1 day post-treatment, we don't know anything about long-term effects. What are their choices 1 week after the intervention? 1 month? 1 year? Do they need to be reminded in frequent intervals for the treatment to work?

What about contexts outside of school?

The title is consistent with the results of the paper. It's better to look at the statistical significance, rather than raw percentage, which actually isn't all that useful as a metric of significant difference. From the paper:

Adolescents chose fewer junk food options in the exposé condition than in the control: MControl = 2.30, SD = 0.79; MExposé = 2.13, SD = 0.85; ordered logistic regression, χ2(1) = 5.34, P = 0.020, d = 0.22

It was a significant difference. Meaning the experimental group was significantly less likely to choose junk food options compared to the control group. You can argue about the effect size if you want, but you can't simply say the title has been invalidated, full stop.

I actually kind of feel like eating healthy is much more 'chic' and fashionable than it was maybe 10 years or so ago.

So instead of rebelling like teens would, young adults make themselves appear more sophisticated by their well-informed food choices. Just look at how much people love avocados now. Or how many healthy meals are posted to Instagram. I think because eating well makes you look attractive (thin, healthy skin, etc) its the natural leap to think that healthy food is sexy food.

So it manifests differently in adults, but still follows the same sort of path, I think.