The dangers of diet culture

Jamie Holt // The Flat Hat

Carina Pacheco ’23 is a history major and hails from New Jersey. She’s a part-time barista and a full-time dog lover. In addition to contributing to The Flat Hat, Carina is a member of the club’s lacrosse team and the Young Democrats club. Email Carina at

The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author.

My grandfather had a saying: it is better to be silent and look like a fool, than to talk and be confirmed.

I was sitting in a cafe, working and flipping through computer tabs, when a woman and her elementary-aged daughter walked in, both sporting bobbed blonde hair and neat outfits. The little girl swelled with excitement over the pastry and exclaimed about the Victoria Sponge cake loud enough for the whole cafe to hear. Her tutor leaned down and whispered to her not to scream, but to control herself and ask what she would like. Correcting her posture and bulk, the little girl politely asked the barista for a slice of her coveted Victoria Sponge. The mother ordered a cookie for herself and a teapot to share for the two.

After this interaction at the counter, I tried not to listen. However, this proved difficult for me, as I was curious and the pair sat directly in front of me. The barista brought her tea and treats, and I subconsciously braced myself for a “big slice of cake for such a little girl!” No such remark came. The duo spent the rest of their time chatting over their refreshments and reading a book together.

From my own experience as a barista in a cafe and gelateria, I’ve heard it all. “Oh, just a little scoop for me.” “I’m so bad!” “Let’s have fun, we deserve it. “No dinner for me tonight!” These phrases were common. I got more and more used to them, but they are still not easier to hear.

“Oh, I’m not getting anything,” said a mother one summer night, chaperoning three young children with their fingers and noses against the window pane – “I’m not young anymore.” I even had a stroke “that’s enough!” of a woman, before I filled her little cup even halfway with a coffee dessert. This case really intrigued me, because I still had to charge him full price for a third of the product.

The toxic narratives of diet culture are so deeply ingrained in our culture that stupid and potentially harmful comments or phrases just pop out. Most of the time, these words do not convey any malicious, critical or judgmental intent. They are just that: thoughtless, thoughtless and trained reactions. Regardless of intent, every comment I heard from men and women, young and old, stuck with me, just as they likely stayed with their kids, friends, or even strangers queuing for their coffee. or their dessert.

But, as another clammy and sticky summer approaches, so do shorts, tank tops and swimsuits. Be kind to yourself and to others – and don’t be silly when you could have been quiet. We all make mistakes and we can all be wrong, but none of us want this little girl to grow up afraid of her Victoria Sponge cake.

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