I happened to have been in Starbucks this past week. The last week of summer, and the final few days for kids to enjoy their time out of the classroom. I walked in, drenched in sweat, having just finished my run. I desperately needed some ice cold water, and it’s the nearest place for me to stop, rest, and cool down before walking back home. While I stood there watching the baristas grab cups, label them, and then mix drinks, I noticed there were four young girls placing their order. They had to have been middle school-aged, twelve or thirteen years old, and without their parents. These girls were skinny, lengthy, and dressed in short shorts and tank tops. Their attire wasn’t inappropriate, and it appeared that they had not yet experienced puberty.
“What can I get for you?” asked the cashier.
The first girl answered, “A grande iced water, please.”
“No, thank you.”
The same conversation and orders were repeated by the next two girls.
Finally, the fourth girl said, “I’ll have a grande frappucino, please.”
Her friends looked at her in disgust, and gasped. “Did you really just order a frappucino, and a grande one?”
I continued to listen, attempting to be discreet.
“Yes. Why is something wrong with that?” she asked.
One of the girls said, “Well, do you know how many calories are in those? That’s why we only got water. There are zero calories in that.”
My heart sunk. And, not just for the girls who ordered ice water from Starbucks because of calorie consumption, but for the girl who ordered a frappucino. Obviously, that was the drink that sounded most desirable to her. Not because of the amount of calories it had, not because she thought twice about its contents, but because that was what she wanted to drink. Her innocence was something I was able to relate to at that age. I, too, used to order whatever sounded tasty off a menu; and, it usually wasn’t the healthiest option.
I was a young girl once, and Starbucks was a hangout for my friends, too. My childhood seemed different than it is today. The girls I spent time with indulged in the unhealthiest of unhealthy foods. We ordered chocolate chip frappucinos, along with a piece of cake we spotted behind the pastry counter. We ordered pizza and spinach artichoke dip at California Pizza Kitchen. And, we dined at P.F. Chang’s, and ordered spicy chicken that was deep-fried. No one ever discussed the unhealthy factor–we were just kids enjoying popular dishes at great restaurants.
Everywhere I turn, people always say, “It starts younger and younger these days.” The word “it” is never elaborated on; it’s just understood. “It” insinuates the act of calorie restriction, diet, body image, and guilt with food consumption; all things that many women tend to struggle with post-puberty, and after their body develops and goes through significant changes. These young girls I watched at Starbucks had no reason to deprive themselves of a small, iced treat. They are obviously developing such thoughts, behaviors, and habits from someone or something. Iced water at Starbucks because of calorie count at twelve years old? Can you imagine these girls at an ice cream parlor? Or at a ball game? And, can you imagine what these simple behaviors could end up turning into over time?
Poor body image.
Exercise to burn calories.
Is this how we want our girls to think? Is this what we want them to value? These are just a few issues I foresee in the future of young, innocent girls. And, as a society we are not doing a good enough job preventing this from happening; in fact, we are creating it. We are continuing to focus on body type, physique, and weight when we refer to beauty. That, in itself, is placing an immense amount of pressure on girls to look a certain way. We are obsessing over diet fads, cleanses, and eliminating major food groups out of our diets to lose weight. Our children are intelligent. They pick up on everything we do and say. We are creating a world that is depriving our children of youthfulness, fun, and guiltless pleasures. Girls should be concentrating more on their character and how they are contributing to the world–not defining themselves based on appearance.
The truth is, no one should be defining themselves based on appearance. But, for twelve year olds to be ordering iced water at a Starbucks because of calorie count is sad to me. It shows what we are emphasizing and focusing on as a society, and as parents. And, that is what I would like to help change. It will prevent many from developing eating disorders or feeling insecure about what they eat and how they look. Though it’s challenging for many of us to not pass down or display these thoughts and behaviors to our children, it is our obligation to do our best not to prioritize weight, diet, and body type to our innocent youth.