Girl Scouts don't need to hear about your dumb diet

Published February 22, 2024

By Celia Rivenbark

I’ve been doing it all wrong and I’ll bet you have, too.

Let me explain. When the Girl Scouts show up with their fresh faces and foldable tables in front of the grocery store, shopping mall, etc., I’m usually smack in the middle of a post-holiday diet that has me teething-toddler levels of cranky.

Why don’t they sell their delectable treats during the holidays when we’re already conditioned to snack on things like shortbread, which is basically butter with a little flour attached? Sales would skyrocket! By February we’re in our favorite “fat pants” already having white-knuckled it through dry January. OK, damp.

 According to an article in USA Today, you are not supposed to respond to the Scouts like I do: “Cookies? You kidding? My butt is six axe-handles across. The last thing I need is COOKIES.”

Sometimes I do buy them but even then, I mess up: “These are for my skinny friend who can eat them all day and never gain an ounce because she’s demon-possessed or something, I guess. What’s a demon? Ask your mama…”

Girl Scout mom Nicole Romanella O’Neal, who has struggled with an eating disorder, went viral with a social media post in which she said when greeted by Girl Scouts selling cookies you shouldn’t mention calories, diets, point out your body flaws (oops), narrate out loud why you aren’t buying the cookies because you will “eat the whole box” (well, duh), or ask “Which cookies are the healthiest?”

So, what do we say?

Ms. O’Neal says the only thing you have to say is “No thank you.”

Hmmmph. That seems a little curt to me. So much has been left unsaid, though I do get that she doesn’t want young, impressionable girls fixating on their weight or asking their mamas “How exactly wide is an axe handle?”

Ms. O’Neal’s post, created while she was attending a Girl Scout cookie sales meeting with her daughter, generated a tsunami of online support, with comments like “body shame is learned,” something everyone should remember when approached by Girl Scouts hawking cookies.

While I agree you don’t want to metaphorically place your lumpy thigh and side boob baggage on the tiny shoulders of 6-year-old girls, I think we’re overlooking the customer here and her need to vent. It’s possible no one has talked to this very, very hungry woman all day and she’s feeling vulnerable.

If this misunderstood, pear-shaped woman doesn’t say something really dramatic, her resolve could weaken and next thing you know, I—I mean, “she”—is stuffing six boxes of Thin Mints in my—I mean “her” -- freezer.

To be clear, I applaud any movement not to discuss dieting in public, not just in front of impressionable children. Let’s be honest: Talking about your diet is almost as boring as hearing someone describe the “crazy dream I had the other night.” (Why do people do this? It was a dream; it didn’t happen. If you showed up for the big exam wearing no clothes in real life, I’m all ears, of course.)

I bet most people who don’t buy the cookies think they’re softening the blow by announcing they’re on a diet and need to avoid sugary treats. That said, how can you see their hopeful little faces and spit out “No, thank you” without even breaking stride?

Maybe it’s because I’m Southern but I don’t think that’s the right response. It’s why we yammered about the diet stuff for so many years. Wrongly, we now know. (Also, while we’re on the subject I probably shouldn’t have said “fat pants” in an earlier paragraph because that could be triggering to someone. What I mean to say was “lasagne pants.”)

So, what SHOULD we say to the cherubs when they approach?

Smile big and say, “I’ll get ya later.” Hope is priceless.