September 22nd, 2002


Fat = Flava

I’m so happy that I work with cheese when confronted with customers weird weight issues. I get to spread my love of fat without any hesitation. When asked, "Do any of the reduced fat cheeses taste good?" I can answer with a resounding "No. Do you wanna try a sample of the triple cream brie?" Fat is where the taste is at.

Not that it insulates me completely. One customer, who I actually like a lot besides this particular quirk, often says to me, "You look good. Have you lost weight?" I always say "No, and I’m not trying to." But she forgets and asks me again on a regular basis.

Certainly, many people I interact with don’t behave this way, but the societal notion that complementing someone on weight loss is as persuasive as it is bizarre. After all, there are many reasons one loses weight, many of which are not so good.* A couple of years ago I had a stomach problem that made me nauseous whenever I ate. Because of this, I lost 25 Lbs. or so over a couple of months. I felt weak, sickly, and completely unattractive. But customers (and family members, but that’s a whole ‘nother entry) came out of the woodwork to compliment me. I tried treating these comments as invitations to talk about my illness but individual acts can’t counteract societal ideals on their own. It mostly went ignored because they couldn’t/wouldn’t react to the changing of the script.

‘Wow. How have you lost so much weight?" some stranger would ask.

"Well, I have some kind of digestion problem that makes me feel like puking whenever I eat more than a couple of bites of food at one sitting," I’d answer.

"Oh," they’d respond, "Where’s the fat-free cheese?"

And thankfully, the low-fat/fat-free craze is dying in the marketplace for the most part. When it was in full swing, I wanted to segregate all the low fat products into a fat-free island.** But I wanted to give it a stranded-on-a-desert-island them complete with sand, skeletons and pictures of starving super models in bikinis. My idea didn’t go over, partially because we would have had to buy a lot more low fat products to make the display big enough and that seemed counter productive. I still wonder whether people would have gotten the joke or simply read it as a normal marketing strategy.

*The amazing zine "Diseased Pariah News", a zine for people dying of AIDS in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s used to have good articles about this with their typical humor. "Try the AIDS Diet" was a typical article. They also devoted pages of each issues to recipes to help readers "Get fat, stay alive".

**In grocery terms an "island" is a free standing section, i.e. not just a space on the shelf but a big featured display, usually near the entrance of the store.
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