A revolution in a revelation

As I was browsing in the grocery store this afternoon, people were handing out samples and telling me what they were, what was in them, and so on. And some items I sampled, others I didn't. The samples, however, weren't what stuck out in my mind. It was the comments by the people handing out the samples.

The scene: some garlic bread. Not the buttery kind, the actual bread-with-roasted-garlic-baked-in. The lady handing out the samples was putting just a dab of butter on each little piece. So I took one and she said, "It's fat free butter, of course." I looked at her blankly. "You know, [giggle], the butter doesn't have any fat [giggle]." Oh. So if I just pretend something doesn't have fat, I don't have to feel guilty for eating it!

If I wanted a piece without butter, I could have just, I don't know, asked for it. I don't have to play an elaborate game of charades to give myself permission to eat about a half teaspoon of butter.

It IS just butter.

Scene two: I was deciding between sorbet and gelato at the bar at Whole Foods. The guy behind the counter was doing his little spiel, telling me what was in the sorbet and what was in the gelato. But, he told me, we use LOWFAT milk to make the gelato so it has LESS FAT than the other kinds. Not that there was any other kind right there, nor was I objecting to it on the grounds of it having fat.

(I went with the raspberry orange sorbet, which I highly recommend.)

Scene three: last night, I was looking at a tea place in the mall. They had several kinds out to try, which I was duly tasting. And--you guessed it--a helpful clerk came over and hyped each one up. Annoying enough, though it was his job. But with the last kind, he told me that it could curb my cravings for all of those sweets I wanted but shouldn't have. I thought, "I don't have problems with that," and left.

I get that these are sales pitches, and that because I am young and female and decently dressed, I am assumed to be Watching My Weight to Prevent Obesity and Stay Thin and Catch A Man. Yet I gave no outward indication that any of this information mattered to me. Frankly, the extra information just pissed me off and, other than the sorbet, I didn't purchase anything.

Maybe I'm the exception to the rule. That could be. But I don't want the comments from the peanut gallery. I don't need to pretend that the butter isn't there, or that it's fat free. I can drink tea without needing to curb a craving for sweets. I can just eat the bread and drink the tea.

Sad that this is becoming revolutionary.

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Anonymous said...

Wow, Carrie. I absolutely love this post. I read it with the perspective of a fat woman, and it really struck me how you recount your interactions with these salespeople. The low fat, fat free, totally satisfies your cravings shenanigans come at me all the time, but are so much more condescending, almost "why don't you know about this?" Anyhoodle, before I ramble any more, great post, as so many of yours are. Thanks for writing it.


Laur said...

That is what I'm always saying to your posts. ha ha.
I am already having dialogue in my head about the food, I do NOT need any extra ammunition.
and when I'm feeling UNconflicted about a food choice someone always makes it their place to MAKE me conflicted!
I want to wear a sign on my forehead that says
"no unsolicited advice, please
particularly uneducated or annoying comments about food, weight, etc."

A said...

Carrie -- I think if I had had to face that today it would have driven me crazy.

I had to go grocery shopping and I spent the time walking around the store almost in tears trying to decide what to buy for breakfast and if I deserved to have the pudding that I wanted. . .

Arg. . .


Ai Lu said...

I often think similar things when people tell me that their food doesn't have any fat in it, or that it's all whole-grain, or uses all-natural sugars. SO WHAT? Maybe I DO want to have fat and refined carbohydrates once in a while -- and there's nothing wrong with that.

Thanks for calling a spade a spade.

Ai Lu

Standing in the Rain said...

so sad, but so true.

man i hate our society at times like these. the damn "obesity epidemic" sure isn't helping to cure ED's one bit, and, imho, probably isn't reducing the rates of obesity either.


MelissaS said...

i got a salad today, and the guy at the counter said, "you want a wheat roll, right"? well, actually i wanted that white roll -- the one with no nutritional value for all its calories. i can't believe that i actually said, "yes". some teenager at the salad works shamed me into.

Bekka said...

I will admit that I work as a barista, and I'm guilty of this with our whipped cream. But I always wait for an "appropriate" moment--that is, when someone hesitates or looks conflicted when I ask if they'd like whipped cream, or they say "the coffee's naughty enough" (and yes, I have heard that exact phrase). I just say "it's light whipped cream, if that helps." I've had several customers thank me for letting them know. I know I frequently have experiences like yours and want to hit the person, but I feel like I'm not making assumptions about my customers, but instead reacting to their reactions. Does that make sense?

Sally Comes Unraveled said...

I suspect that the people in all three scenarios weren't targeting you. I imagine this is part of their canned spiel about the products, especially in the last two scenarios. I imagine in places like Whole Foods, people tend to be more health conscious and concerned about fat.

The first one is most interesting. I imagine when you spend all the day giving out samples, you probably recycle the same phrases over and over again. I'm going to guess she reserves this one for women in general. I think women have a lot more guilt than men. I think this is an interesting commentary on how we are always justifying the "bad" things we do.

Overall, I think these are good examples of how are entire society is obsessed with weight and food on some level.

(And I agree with satisfiction. As a fat woman, I would also wonder if they are targeting these comments to me.)

Carrie Arnold said...


I probably would have done the same, if only because I have anxiety when talking to strangers and it's easier to nod than to say "no" and feel I have to explain myself or worry that I am being judged. This also applies with things besides food.


I don't think they're targeting me at all- it's that they're NOT. That's what I find so disturbing, that people naturally assume I care, and that I'm counting every calorie and fat gram.


I think your comments as within the realms of the appropriate. If I had objected to the gelato, say, because I said it had too much fat, I wouldn't have thought it odd that the guy behind the counter said it was lowfat. My response would make the "lowfat" potentially useful information.

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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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