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Don't Eat and Swim

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"But most importantly, after you eat, wait three full days, get a complete physical, have an ear candling, and press UP, A and START before re-entering the pool."
Strong Bad, on pool safety, from Strong Bad Email 154, "keep cool"

Let's say you're going swimming at the beach or pool, when suddenly, hunger strikes. After eating, you jump into the water, but experience a stomach or muscle cramp, causing you to struggle to stay afloat. If you're really unlucky, you might drown.

Looks like you should have waited at least 30 minutes or an hour after eating!

This is an old wives' tale that has long been debunked. While swimming cramps are not rare, and stomach cramps caused by the direction of oxygen away from the stomach muscles are debatable, there have been no reported cases of drownings or near-drownings from them. Why the stomach would be so sensitive to post-meal cramps when you're swimming, yet fail to suffer them if you're exercising out of the water, is never explained. As such, Don't Eat and Swim is a Dead Horse Trope. If it gets used at all anymore, it'll be either subverted or parodied (like a character getting a cramp after just dipping a toe in the water), but it won't be played straight.

The best thing to do in the event of a cramp suffered while swimming is to relax and tense the affected muscle, or stay afloat until help arrives. Otherwise, feel free to satisfy your cravings by the water.


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  • In this commercial for Crispy M&M's, Orange is at a pool, where a lady tries to eat him. Orange reminds her that she's not allowed to eat and swim, at least for half an hour, but to no avail. He also tries to alert the lifeguard, who tells him "No running!" when he runs out of the pool.
  • A Slim Jim commercial featured a man eating the product, then jumping into the pool. The personification of the Slim Jim (now in his stomach) tells the swimmer that he should have waited it out, causing both to suffer the consequences.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Great Teacher Onizuka:
    • PE teacher Fukuroda states this as fact when he sees Onizuka nonchalantly eating lunch before racing him in the pool. He still loses to Onizuka.
    • Fujiyoshi mentions a time Murai did this at the beach and threw up on the train ride home.
  • GTO: The Early Years: In Chapter 1, Ryuji gets a cramp after jumping into the water, though it's not clear if it was due to him eating.

    Comic Books 
  • This happened to Wally Walrus in an issue of the Andy Panda comic book.
  • In Asterix in Helvetia, one of the Roman legionaries tries to use this as an excuse not to cross the lake after the escaping Gauls.

    Film — Animated 
  • Big Hero 6 has Baymax keep Hiro from falling into the water for no other reason than the fact that he ate recently.
  • In Igor, the main villain Dr. Frederick Schadenfreude is knocked into his large indoor hot tub. His servant asks why he is swimming because he ate recently.
  • Lampshaded in Ice Age: Continental Drift, where Sid begs a kangaroo not to throw him overboard since he had to wait an hour before swimming since he ate recently.
    Sid: What, you want me to walk into the water? I can't because I ate less than twenty minutes ago and you know the rule!
    Raz: (crossly) That's a myth!
    Sid: (uneasily) Oh, okay... as long as it's safe.
  • In The LEGO Ninjago Movie, when the ninjas infiltrate the base of Garmadon's former generals, Nya takes out several guards by pulling them into the water. When another guard notices this, she says "Guys, no swimming. We just ate!" before being knocked out by Cole.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In The Princess Bride, Miracle Max and his wife Valerie warn Indigo not to let Westley go swimming for an hour after he takes the resurrecting pill of life. Never mind that he's mostly paralyzed for the rest of the day.

  • Desperation: While visiting the land of the dead in a trance, David learns that reverend Martin (a priest from his home town, whom David became close to since his conversion to Christianity) drowned two days after the Carver family left on their holiday because he went swimming too soon after lunch and went too far out into the sea.
  • Exploited in the children's book Don't Play With Your Food: a monster wants to eat some bunnies but they come up with a different excuse every time he comes. One time, they take him swimming and tell him not to eat them first, or else he will have a cramp.
  • Parodied in the Just book "Just Doomed". Its list of 101 Ways to Be Doomed lists swimming 59 minutes and 59.999999 seconds after eating instead of a whole hour.
  • In the third book of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Aunt Josephine tells the Baudelaries that they must wait one hour after eating before swimming in Lake Lachrymose. Klaus initially assumes it's because of cramps, but Josephine informs him that it's actually because of the lake's carnivorous leeches.
  • A Tale of Time City: Jonathan and Sam's parents hold them to this during the picnic at the lake.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, a character mistakenly thinks this applies to having sex after eating.
  • Adam and Jamie on MythBusters debunked this, as well.
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! had a go at this as part of an episode on overblown reaction to child dangers. They exposed a "lab rat" six-year-old kid to various old wives' tales in order to debunk them, the "wait 30 minutes after eating" myth among them by having him eat a sandwich and immediately go swimming afterwards. Obviously, the kid was fine.
  • An episode of Small Wonder had Ted stage his own drowning by cramps to get rid of his Nosy Neighbor's alleged life debt.
  • Exaggerated in a The State sketch. Someone at a barbecue goes swimming and gets a cramp. One after another, everyone at the party jumps in to save the drowning people and gets a cramp.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of That '70s Show when the characters have a covert party in the backyard of an unoccupied house, and Fez is afraid to walk into an empty pool because it hasnít been an hour since he ate.

  • Nickelodeon Magazine: In the SpongeBob SquarePants comic "The Cool Pool", SpongeBob eats a bunch of snacks by the poolside before saying he's ready to jump back in, with Squidward retorting that he needs to wait an hour before going back in. However, Squilliam Fancyson rightfully points out how that's not true and that it's an old wives' tale, complete with him pointing out the old wife who started the rumor, with her saying that she created the myth just to gain attention.

  • Sleeping with Sirens: In the music video for Do it Now, Remember it Later, the band eats some fast food at a pier, then goes for a swim; the news reporters question why they would swim without waiting for an hour.
  • The "Weird Al" Yankovic song "Young, Dumb and Ugly" from the album Alapalooza mentions this as one of the non-misdeeds the gang serving as the song's viewpoint characters brag about.
    Swimmin' right after a big, heavy meal

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield: In this comic, after they finish eating, Jon, Garfield and Odie sit around staring at Jon's watch until it's exactly 30 minutes later, before going to cool off in the inflatable pool outside. Garfield states this trope to be the reason why they waited, never mind that there was no danger of drowning due to the size of the pool.
  • The Far Side had a young snake with a large lump in his belly attempt to go swimming at the beach. His mother tells him to wait a whole week before going in.

    Theme Parks 
  • Averted by the mermaids at Weeki Wachee Springs. Their "Fish Tails" show includes the mermaids eating and drinking underwater.

    Web Original 
  • In the Strong Bad Email "keep cool", Strong Bad apparently has some rather extreme ideas about pool safety while acting as a lifeguard.

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in the The Casagrandes episode, "Slink or Swim"; Carl deliberately makes Rosa feed him a large quantity of food so that he doesn't have to swim in the community pool.
  • In one Magnificent Muttley segment Dastardly orders Muttley to clean the pool since he wants to go swimming after lunch. He never gets into the water though as he gets bounced repeatedly between the two-level diving board.
  • Discussed in an episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy. In "Stop, Look, and Ed", Eddy invites the kids for an after-dinner swim as part of a campaign to abuse alone time from the parents. Jimmy fears getting cramps from doing so, but Eddy reassures him that "that's what grown-ups want you to think".
  • In the Fairly OddParents episode "Which Witch is Which?", Timmy uses this as an excuse to try and get out of being thrown into a lake to see if he's a witch. It doesn't work.
  • In the Goofy cartoon "How to Swim", Goofy's changing cabin falls into the water while he's inside and ends up walking out, setting up a picnic area and eating a full meal without being aware that he's underwater. The narrator points out the rule of waiting before eating and warning about cramps, which appear as knots all over Goofy's limbs and body.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: The episode "Billy Ocean" has Billy eating a crab named Ziggy (an expy of Sebastian) and, a minute later, suffers a stomach cramp.
    Billy: I shouldn't have gone swimming after I just ate.
    Ziggy: (from inside Billy's stomach) Serves you right, mon!
  • Disney has a few cartoon shorts from the twentieth century called I'm No Fool about safety, featuring a Right Way/Wrong Way Pair of young boys: one meant to be the viewer and one meant to be a fool who sometimes dies but always comes back. The fool eats and then swims and gets so cramped up that he "sinks like an overloaded ship". Jimminy Cricket the narrator says that you should wait two hours before swimming.
  • The Johnny Bravo episode "Adam West's Date-O-Rama" has Adam West fighting the minions of Black Widow near the end while giving advice, the first one being to avoid swimming for 30 minutes after eating.
  • On the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Lake Nose Monster", the captain of the titular lake decides to go for a swim after eating a hot wing, saying that this old wives' tale was just a hoax and they keep it alive so they could sell snowglobes of a kid getting a cramp. He steps into the water and gets a cramp just as Phineas, Ferb, Perry, and Lawrence in the Nosebud are about to hit him.
  • Parodied in the Rugrats (1991) episode "Tie My Shoes" where Angelica claims that you have to wait to tie shoes after eating (she likely was using this as an excuse not to tie Chuckie's shoes and got the inspiration from hearing about the swimming rule).
  • Exploited in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "SpongeGuard on Duty", where SpongeBob, being a substitute lifeguard who can't swim, finds a way to not go into Goo Lagoon by having people come out of the lagoon to get free ice cream, then reminding them that they have to wait an hour to go back in after eating. And to make absolutely sure they don't go in, he wraps everyone up in police tape.
    • In this same episode, it gets subverted when a guy almost drowns trying to read and swim! Weirdly enough, it seems to be because he somehow swallowed the book.
  • On Tiny Toon Adventures, Calamity Coyote works as a lifeguard at a pool. After he sees Hamton eat something and try to get in, Calamity warns him (with a sign) to wait 30 minutes. Hamton shrugs it off, and as soon as he dips his toe in the pool, he gets cramps all over and falls in.
  • In the Tom and Jerry Tales episode "A Life Less Guarded", both Tom and Droopy are competing for the lifeguard position at the local pool. While Tom has been sabotaging Droopy's chances the whole episode, Jerry has been retaliating by sabotaging Tom to help Droopy. For their final challenge, one of the senior lifeguards pretends to drown, testing their response for a real emergency. Tom instantly jumps in the pool to save her, but Jerry distracts him by throwing a pizza onto a life preserver into the pool. Tom eats the entire pizza, and consequently gets stomach cramps. Droopy then saves Tom from drowning, giving him the job.
  • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald: "The Visitors from Outer Space" ends with Org begging his dad to let him go to the pool and Org's dad replying that his son must wait 30 minutes because he just ate.