Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Amelia Kramer-Girl Wearing Glasses Sipping Coffee
Amelia Kramer-Girl Wearing Glasses Sipping Coffee
Amelia Kramer / Her Campus
Life > Experiences

Can I Have a Low-Fat Latte, Please: The Low-Fat Latte Bestie and Her Guilt-Lunching Friends

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

You are on hour three of an eight-hour dinner shift. Your section is packed. Table three is waving you down for more water. Table six is looking around for the check. You have the menus for five in your hand along with the coasters for their drinks, you’re ready to greet them, but first you stop at table two to see if they’re finally ready to order. 

At table two, there are three very sweet, older women. When they sat down, they told you they were celebrating one of their birthdays. After thoroughly complimenting their incredibly well-coordinated outfits (and having your beautiful, youthful skin complimented), you bring them their drinks and leave them to catch up, contemplate the menu and, generally, giggle like school girls. 

An hour or so later, they are finally ready to order. Never mind the restaurant was empty an hour ago and they would have gotten their food right away if they had ordered then. They’re ready now. It’s all in a day’s work for you. You’re used to it. What’s about to happen is something you’re also used to, but not something it is easy for you to smile or customer-service-voice away. 

The first woman orders toast and jam. The second woman loudly and lengthily debates between a cup of fruit or toast and jam. The third woman, the one celebrating her birthday, begins to look at the menu doubtfully. You feel, at the same time, the frustration of the other tables at this lengthy conversation and the uncomfortableness of the hungry woman before you. She confesses to you she was planning on the bacon burger meal, complete with fries, salad and a milkshake, but now she’s not so sure.

You smile and tell her it’s her birthday, and she can do whatever she wants. Her friends chime in and helpfully say things like, “Oh, be bad, who cares!” and “Calories don’t count on your birthday–everyone knows that.” At this point, your smile is becoming painful, and your customer service voice is cracking. The birthday girl finally orders her bacon burger, but she decides just to get the burger and the salad, not the meal. 

You leave the table gracefully, greet table five, pass table six the check and collect table three’s water glasses. When you reach the kitchen, your tears fall. This is not an uncommon occurrence, but it always hurts you no matter how many times it happens. 

This is a true story. One that has happened to me many times during my years of working in food service. When groups of younger women do this, I always jump in, say something like, “A beautiful girl like you definitely needs a large chocolate milkshake” or “Who cares how big it is, that steak is delicious.” When it is a group of older women or a mom with her family, I am at a loss for words. 

Women like this raised me. Not just directly but also by sitting in restaurants at the table next to me, implying that their eating was a bad thing loudly and proudly. It is difficult to fight the urge to cover a young girl’s ears when their mothers or grandmothers say things like this at their table. Because I know in 10 years they will be like me: uncomfortable putting food (fuel) in their body, or they will be like their mothers, proudly explaining that they are allowed to order a hamburger because they ran six miles today.

These women are not alone. Walk into a coffee shop and you’ll hear someone passionately explaining that they want their iced white mocha with caramel low-fat please. No actually, could they please have a low-fat iced white mocha with caramel and don’t forget the low-fat. After their coffee order they’ll explain to anyone around that they just came from yoga and that they deserve this. When they get their drink they’ll say, “Yum! I can’t believe it’s low-fat,” and when someone asks them what their go-to coffee order is they’ll say, “An iced low-fat latte, of course.”

Low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat, low-fat.

It’s easy to roll your eyes and brush people like this off. But I can’t. I don’t blame them for saying things like this because I know that society makes them feel like they have to. That you have to justify literally putting fuel in your body, that you have to work hard to deserve it. But I also know that statements like this do actual physical harm to people. 

I can’t pretend that I have a healthy relationship with food. I can’t pretend that I don’t occasionally feel guilty, especially when I’m eating out. At the same time, I’m also done pretending that people who act like this don’t hurt me or my already shaky relationship with eating. 

I was once out shopping with my mother when a woman stopped us, put her thumb and pointer finger around my side and loudly proclaimed that I was beautiful and she couldn’t even remember the last time she could do that with her own body. My mother smiled politely and agreed. I smiled politely and decided not to point out to the woman or my mother that the reason my stomach was so flat that morning was because I hadn’t been able to eat breakfast. That some days it takes me all morning to force myself to eat a full meal, and when I finish, it’s time for lunch and for me to start the whole process over again. 

As a person who identifies as a woman and as a person who society perceives as a woman, I find it difficult to put food in my body. I have friends and family members with eating disorders. I sometimes find myself saying the same or similar things as my table Two, or the low-fat latte women. I am disgusted by myself when I have the urge to proclaim those things out loud. 

I wish I could have told the birthday girl at table two that it is not a crime to fuel your body. It is not a crime to eat enough food to make it to the next meal. It is not a crime to eat and not a crime to eat a lot in front of other people. 

I know that people’s relationships with food are complicated. I know that Americans, in particular, have a complex and unhealthy relationship with food. I do not pretend to know how to live or eat healthily amidst reports of obesity epidemics, diet trends and fad body types. 

But I do know this, when I am hungry, I eat. When I want a food, I eat it. If I feel like exercising, I do. When I feel like sleeping in or spending the day on the couch, I do that too. I’ve worked in food service for years, claiming that I do it because the tips are good, but really I do it because I love interacting with people and seeing their faces light up when I put down a hot plate in front of them full of delicious looking food. 

In a way, food is a love language for me. I love to bring food to people. I love to make food for my friends and family. I like to try new recipes and new dishes. In the same way, I love my body, and so I feed it. 

All of this gets confusing when people change the narrative of food around me. 

When I returned to my table two later that night: the birthday glow had dimmed. The birthday girl asked me for a box for the rest of her burger. The other two women went on and on about how their toast had been the perfect size for a meal. The birthday girl kept offering them the rest of her salad. I brought the table their check, but I too had lost my usual enthusiasm and smile. 

This behavior is not cute. I refuse to allow it to be normal or acceptable. Now, even when I am at work, I try my best to politely and respectfully call behaviors like this out. I am only 20 years old, but I refuse to allow younger generations to be raised around conversations like this. I’m not perfect, and my relationship with my body and with food is still far from perfect, but I will not verbalize feelings like this because I know the harm they cause. 

I will not become the low-fat latte woman. I will remove guilt when I am out to eat with my friends and family or even when I am by myself. It is not a crime to put food into my body. It is not illegal to enjoy a meal. 

Ada Heller

Fordham '24

One tall Kansas goof with a lot of words to share. Busy choosing the path of her favorite resistance, not the path of least resistance.