15% Is Not A Good Tip

Has your life become empty of meaning? Are you spending less time rearing your children and more time drinking alone?

I’ll tell you why:

I haven’t blogged in a while.

Heartbreaking, I know. But here’s what’s up: Due to my monthly loan payments costing more than my rent, I’ve recently begun a second job

…drum roll please…

waiting tables.

waitress

This is me.

It’s possible you’ve never waited tables. It’s possible, in fact, that you’re a Kardashian and have never held any menial, shit-pay job whatsoever. Not to worry, though: that’s where I come in! Pull out your trapper keeper and start taking notes, because I’m about to slap your ass with some serious spanks of knowledge.

spank2

If you’re an asshole, here’s how to prove it next time you go out to eat. Some ideas:

Avoid looking into your server’s eyes…like…at all. Okay, wait, actually there’s some modifications to this rule. Is your server a robot? A house plant? An ottoman? If so, ignore this suggestion. However, if your server is a human, go ahead and look at him or her when speaking. Maybe, like, you could talk to your server the way you would talk to, like, another human being. (I know – I’m blowing your fucking mind right now.)

Point at what you want on the menu instead of using your words. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, “We’re going to share one of these and then have this, and I think I’d like to start with that,” I would have like four dollars. Do you know how much shit I could buy for four dollars? When you point to shit on the menu instead of actually using the gift of language and sound, I want to teach you to read. Sound it out.

Avoid using words like, “Thank you.” When your server drops something off at your table – say, a new soda or an entree or an extra spoon so you can share dessert (as if sitting on the same side of the booth wasn’t enough of a HEY WORLD WE’RE IN A RELATIONSHIP, please go ahead and share some shit as well), do me a favor and don’t just continue with your conversation as if your diet Coke appeared by magic. Take a hot second to utter the phrase (wait for it) – “thank you”! I know you can do it. Otherwise, expect just a tiny bit of poop in your tiramisu.

Complain about shit that cannot be fixed. For example: some restaurants feature outside seating. If one more mother fucker complains to me about falling leaves or rogue bees, I’m going to flip your table. Also, I’m going to punch you squarely in the throat.

Start your complaint with, “I never complain, but…” Do you know what you did there? You just lied.

Do obnoxious shit. For example: tonight, my husband and I enjoyed a lovely late dinner on the outside patio area of a restaurant. We started eating at around ten pm, long after the sun had set. Inexplicably, a couple seated near us demanded that the large table umbrella near their chairs be raised to cover them. If you’re wondering whether it was raining or sunny, the answers are no and no. There’s no rhyme or reason here, just obnoxious people doing obnoxious shit.

Tip 15%…or less. Listen, here’s where you’re probably thinking, “Pardon me? 15% is an excellent tip, and besides, I shouldn’t be required to pay my waitress!”

Listen, I get it. In fact, I actually agree with you! We live in a pretty ridiculous society which demands that you, the consumer, not only pay for a service, but also provide the paycheck for the person who executes that service. It’s bullshit. In a perfect world (or, in like, almost every other industrialized country), companies would pay their employees a living wage and tips would be superfluous.

Unfortunately, we do not live in such a world. That’s where you come in.

Here’s the thing: the tip you leave your waiter or waitress doesn’t actually go to your waiter or waitress. Part of it does, yes, but some of it also goes to the busboy, the bartender, the food runner, the host or hostess. Let me break it down for you:

Let’s say I work a waitressing shift in which I only have one table. The total bill for that table is exactly $100. My total sales for this shift, then, is $100. At the end of my shift, I tip a percentage of my total sales to the runners, bussers, bartenders, and hosts. In some restaurants, this is as much as 8% of the total sales. So, back to my $100 table. Even if this table leaves me zero tip at all, I still have to pay out 8% to the other people who helped me serve that table. Therefore, if I receive zero dollars on a hundred dollar table, I’m still tipping out eight dollars out of my own pocket.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

So do everyone a favor and leave a good tip – I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that any time someone leaves less than an 18% tip, a kitten gets punched in the face.

Please, don’t leave a bad tip. The kittens are in your hands.

sad_kitten1

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The Politeness Curse

Recently, Pantene produced a commercial about the compulsion of many women to constantly apologize – for everything. It’s a great ad, so much so that when it depicts a woman starting a conversation with her employer by saying, ‘Good morning,’ rather than, ‘I’m sorry’, my mind was blown because I had literally never even thought of that.

Basically, women are pretty much conditioned to constantly apologize for taking up space. I know this, you know this.

But today, while getting my eyebrows waxed, I had an idea – a musing, if you will – about how I manage to take this compulsion one step further with a little problem I like to call:

The Politeness Curse.

Why do I feel that no matter what anyone does to me, I must not only show gratitude, but make sure they feel wonderful about it?

Some examples:

When I was in college, I got my eyebrows waxed once in a little hole in the wall nail salon. I generally have pretty thick eyebrows, especially then, and I like them that way. However, the salon employee immediately explained to me that my eyebrows were too thick and would look better much thinner. I said, “Oh, I like them thick, I just want them cleaned up a bit,” and she said, “Okay, we make them thin.”

My skin went cold.

Nonetheless, do you think I argued with her? Do you think I said, “Excuse me, but I’m paying for a service and I would like it carried out a certain way, please”?

Answer:

FOUND IT

Who drew those on my face?

Whenever I get my hair cut or colored and it doesn’t go the way I wanted, I will literally sit in disguised horror as the stylist adds pink highlights when I ask for brown (true story) and say nary a word about it. Even when the chick stands back and is all, what do you think? Without fail, I will respond with: “Perfect! I love it. Thank you so much.”

(If you ever give me a gift and I say those words, in that order, I hate everything about it. Sorry.)

If you’re a waiter and you bring me a veggie burger (gross) rather than the steak fajitas I ordered, I will approach the situation like this, “Um, I’m so sorry to do this, but I don’t think this is what I ordered…….”

I will then wait uncomfortably until you come to my aid, hoping you’ll say, “Oh my gosh, you’re right! Let me grab your fajitas.”

If, instead, you say something like, “Nope, you ordered the veggie burger. I’m certain because I never write down orders and just keep track of everything in my mind like a Jedi,” there’s a good chance I’ll say,

“Oh. Of course. So sorry.”

To make matters worse, I should probably mention my tipping compulsion.

To be clear, I spent years in the service industry and think that tipping well for good service is an absolute obligation, not a choice.

My problem is that, if you shave my head bald when I ask for a trim, I will thank you profusely before tipping you 20 percent.

Why?? Why do I do this?

The worse example of my need to please everyone in spite of myself is this:

Before I got married, a good friend came with me to shop for a wedding dress. We went to the trunk show of a designer well out of my price range, at a boutique well out of my price range, just to see different styles.

Within five minutes of being there, my very dear and very pregnant friend dropped the drink she was holding in an opaque travel mug (which the employees, like myself, had probably assumed was water). To our abject horror, the cup was full of a hot pink smoothie, and when the mug hit the ground its contents spewed heavenward like a cartoon geyser with Wile E. Coyote trapped on top.

Smoothie went EVERYWHERE. This is not an exaggeration – thick pink liquid literally seeped into the intricate vintage lace of at least five dresses.

My heart stopped. I considered shoving innocent bystanders out of my way and simply running for my life.

Alas, my 8-months-pregnant friend was in no shape for running, and so we resigned ourselves to whatever consequences the store employees would see fit.

Happily, one of the employees was lovely. She explained that these were sample dresses which couldn’t be sold anyway, that they would simply be sent for cleaning, and that everything was all good.

The other employee?

She wanted us dead. Not just dead, actually – I imagine she wanted to hold our heads down in a bathtub filled with strawberry smoothie until we stopped struggling.

She, of course, was the woman assigned to help me try on dresses.

(You’re probably thinking, why oh why would you stay to try on dresses?? Answer: I felt bad and couldn’t think of a polite way to simply leave. I was kind of just hoping my girlfriend would go into early labor.)

Anyway, I ended up trying on a couple dresses, all the while subjected to the saleswoman’s hateful remarks about my girlfriend (“That’s the worst thing anyone has ever done. She should be embarrassed”) and myself (when I offered to pay for the dresses to be cleaned: “Don’t you think you’ve done enough? You can’t fix this”).

Do you think I said, “Hey lady! Relax! We said we were sorry!”

Or

Do you think I allowed the woman to put me in a $3,000 dress, a $700 sash, and accessories which came to a grand total of well over $5,000?

And then, when she said, “So are you going to buy something after all this or not?” do you think I said, “No thank you, Rude Saleslady.”

If you imagine that’s what I said, you haven’t fully grasped my politeness compulsion.

I took out my credit card (which was not intended to pay for my dress) and agreed to spend over $5,000 on a wedding dress I didn’t really want because I felt bad.

anchorman

This is not normal.

If you’re balking at how ridiculous I am and what a terrible decision that was, have no fear: my dear smoothie-loving friend saw the terror in my eyes, pulled me aside, and said, “Do you even want this dress?” To which I responded:

“I don’t know.”

(Seems like a reasonable way to feel about a $5,000 purchase, right?)

My friend immediately informed the saleswomen that we would not be making the purchase while I stood cowering in my own fear, barely holding myself back from screaming, “Like me! Like me Rude Saleslady!!”

So my question is this:

Is this another generally female habit? Do you do this? Am I a lunatic? Why must I not only apologize for other people’s issues, but then fall all over myself to make sure that the other people feel good about them?

That’s it for today. If you don’t like this post…I’m really sorry.

My Anti-Women #YesAllWomen Post

Okay, so it’s not really “anti-women” per se, but I needed to get your attention. This is important.

The #YesAllWomen campaign is about telling the truth about women’s rights in this country and worldwide. It’s about the fact that yes, in fact, all women have experienced some form of sexual harassment, abuse, or assault at the hands of men. It’s about women and men standing up for other women and telling the world that events like the shooting and stabbing deaths that occurred in Santa Barbara last Friday and the misogyny that provoked them are not uncommon.

Caught up? Awesome.

So anyway, I started checking out the #YesAllWomen campaign on twitter – you should too! It’s interesting, captivating, heartbreaking, and empowering. It’s sometimes eye-opening, and sometimes not.

Here’s some examples of the types of things I was not surprised to see:

https://twitter.com/moedurden/status/472123587684753408

https://twitter.com/Jimmy007_007/status/470944842877779968

Obviously, any time a marginalized group wants to fight back or stand up for their basic rights, the group doing the marginalizing gets all freaked out and fights back. In this case, the marginalized group is us chicks. I want to be clear, however, that the oppressive group is not “all men” but is actually misogynists of any type (which hopefully includes only a small and pathetic subset of “all men”).

As we’ve already discussed, the comments section of anything is where humanity goes to rot and die, and so naturally we’re going to see the ignorant asshole guys who threaten to rape any woman speaking out against rape, or who use the ever-popular “everyone is oppressed” defense.

Par for the course, really.

Here’s what I was surprised to see:

I double-checked each profile just to be certain, but these last few tweets were all composed by women.

Oh, ladies.

Here’s the thing: some men are rapists and abusers and trolls and monsters and misogynists. This is an absolute truth. These men hate women and hate losing control to women and hate women having any power.

And that sucks, and it is absolutely not okay, but we knew that already, and it’s why #YesAllWomen was started in the first place. The whole idea was to get the attention of men and call on them to join us in the fight for equality.

What I didn’t expect was the amount of women-hating women out there. That’s right: to me, if you are a woman, you have certain obligations to other women. You have an absolute responsibility to be a safe haven for women everywhere – for victims of abuse, assault, rape, violence, aggression, hate. You should be the one who takes another woman into your arms and whispers, “I am with you. You’re safe here.”

Every time, every single time, there’s a sexual assault that gets attention in the media, there are women everywhere who condemn the victim for being slutty/stupid/naive/ugly/pretty/fat/skinny/annoying/drunk/high/naked/flirty/popular/lame. There are women everywhere who roll their eyes and shake their heads and exchange knowing glances because she must have been asking for it. What they’re really saying, these women, is, “That would never happen to me. I’m too smart. Too proud. Too cautious. Too sober. I would never let that happen.”

If you’ve ever said any of those things, then it is you, my friend, who ties your best friend’s hands behind her back while her boyfriend punches her in the gut. It is you who holds your sister down while some guy at a party takes advantage of her. It is you who holds open the door to every misogynistic rapist loser looking for a target, because as your voice echoes, “It’s HER FAULT!”, you become another hand clamped over her mouth, silencing her cries.

Yes, I feel pretty strongly about this.

Are you a woman? Then you should too.

Being the “cool girl” or the “non-feminist” or the girl who can take a joke isn’t worth stealing the voice of one more victim.

I promise you, one of your best friends or your cousins or your classmates has been raped. I promise you, the last time you made a joke about some girl “asking for it,” someone close to you felt your knife twist into her back.

#YesAllWomen deserve support and compassion and loyalty and respect.

From, yes, all women.

Putting the “Die” in “Diet”, or How Many Calories are in This Water?

So, telling funny stories about snow days and puppy butts has been a blast, but today we’re going to talk about Something Serious. If that’s not really your thang, tune in next week for more Random Crap.

Recently, I began to notice that something was Very Wrong with the way I eat food. You may be thinking, “Why, what’s the wrong way to eat food? Were you eating it with your feet instead of your hands?”

No, silly. It’s just that terms like “healthy eating” or “hunger cues” or “food as fuel” are pretty much lost on me. Honestly, up until not long ago I couldn’t have begun to tell you what a balanced meal should look like. I pretty much assumed that it shouldn’t look like any of the foods I ate throughout college (pizza, Oreos, fistfuls of peanut butter), nor should it resemble any of the foods I ate whilst “dieting” (Splenda, water, plain tuna from the can).

It seems that, unbeknownst to me, I’ve spent 28 years living on two very extreme ends of the disordered eating spectrum: eat very little to nothing at all or eat everything in sight as quickly as possible.

Perhaps you’re thinking that sounds very normal. Perhaps you, like me, have been overlooking something very sinister hiding behind your diet programs and weight-loss books: a great deal of the time, “dieting” actually just means “living with an eating disorder.”

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Yep, I said it: dieting is bullshit. And not just the diets that are obviously bullshit either (weight-loss cookies? please). I’m talking all the diets, even the ones that seem very reasonable and cute. They’re just wrapped up in a shiny bow, sparkling with promises of narrower hips and better relationships and smaller dresses and brighter futures, always reminding you of just how much better you can be. Always reminding you that this person that you are right now is nowhere near Enough. The diet industry has duped us, working tirelessly to convince us that we’re Too Big.

Put down the Lean Cuisine, we’re going somewhere with this.

Once I realized that food isn’t the enemy (but dieting is), I decided to consult a nutritionist to learn how to eat in a healthful way, to nourish and energize my body rather than punish or comfort it. The first thing she told me was: Stop doing weight watchers, stop counting calories, stop weighing yourself, and don’t diet. Ever.

I’m sorry, what?

Not knowing what I weigh would be like not knowing my own name. Not knowing if I’m good or bad, beautiful or ugly. Not knowing what I look like, sound like, smell like. Without that number, how do I know what I’m worth? Exactly how many pounds of flesh I owe for taking up such an unseemly amount of space in my own body? My weight – that number, down to the tenth of a pound – is all that’s ever mattered. That’s what we’re taught, right? That’s what every commercial/billboard/magazine/movie/frenemy/celebrity/fad diet has taught us since the day we were born…right?

And stop counting points? Stop torturing myself for each piece of food that passes through my lips? How would I know what was too much? How would I know when I had failed, or had a “good” or a “bad” eating day? How would I know to go into fasting mode to punish myself for too many slices of pizza the night before, or to go into binge mode because I had painstakingly saved up my points? How would I weigh my value if I couldn’t weigh my food?

If you’ve never counted points or calories or grams of fat, imagine that this morning you woke up and were told that you had a certain number of minutes to live. Maybe that number is 36 or 72 or 410. You would spend each second, each millisecond, obsessing about the number of minutes left to your precious life. You would spend each moment trying desperately to cling to its specific sensations, only to be reminded that this minute of happiness means one less minute of sorrow, or love, or pain. Knowing, with every passing second, that you were losing precious time, and trying to take everything in as quickly as possible before using up all of your moments and being lost forever in nothingness.

Now, imagine waking up from that nightmare only to find that it happens again, every. single. day.

This is the never-ending obsession of point or calorie counting.

Dramatic? Certainly. But such is the life of a chronic dieter. (Especially one with a flair for the dramatic, such as myself.)

You see, those points or calories are as precious and vital as moments of time, breaths of air. Each one is delicate but powerful, representing success or failure, joy or pain. Each one is a persistent whisper, following you into the pantry to remind you to wait until dinner. Chasing you through the grocery store, breaking your heart as you do additions in your head only to realize you were just fooling yourself, that you’d have to go hungry for three days to justify those fresh-baked muffins. Haunting you in the middle of the night as you count and recount, promising yourself you’ll go without tomorrow to make up for your indulgence today. The whispers turn into screams at your best friend’s wedding, the office birthday party, a night out at the bar. The message is always the same: there’s not enough. You’re overdoing it. Stop eating, stop drinking, stop cooking, stop baking, some munching, stop snacking, because you’re running out, and there will never be enough.

If you’re like me, you might be thinking, “But I need to count points! I need to measure calories, or I’ll be out of control!” Pipe down for a second, I’m trying to tell you something.

I get it. I felt the same way. For the first twenty years of my life, I gobbled up everything I wanted, telling myself that I was obviously being punished for something so I may as well enjoy it. I assumed that the very body I occupied was my punishment, because it, like the rest of me, was very very bad. I binged and purged and hid food and owned, at any given time, pants in six different sizes. I didn’t wear shorts or skirts for the entire four years of high school in Florida – including summers topping out at over a hundred degrees – because I thought my calves were fat. I owned only one-piece bathing suits and still wore an oversized teeshirt at the beach. I covered up. I hid. I punished. I mentally beat the shit out of myself for being so ugly, so unattractive, so disgusting, so fat.

I overcompensated. I became really good at being the center of attention. At telling stories. I became hilarious (you’re welcome). I was a good student, outgoing, intelligent, driven. As long as I maintained the exterior of perfection and stability and happiness and self-assuredness, I hoped everyone would simply overlook what I felt was the sheer repulsiveness of my body, the lack of beauty in my face. I hid in plain sight.

hated the other girls. The girls with perfect rod-thin upper arms that never squished against their torsos (I’m looking at you, high school cheerleading squad). The girls who could sit in a desk chair without watching their thighs roll together like thunderclouds before a tornado. The girls with flat, tan bellies and shiny navel rings, which I always wanted but never allowed myself because I knew what every chubby, funny, “she-has-such-a-pretty-face” girl knows almost as soon as we know how to talk: that some things just aren’t meant for us.

And those things certainly include anything which actually draws attention to our bodies. That’s precisely what we try to avoid every second of every day. That’s how we know that certain clothing styles, certain boyfriends, certain jobs, certain foods, certain looks are just out of our reach.

And oh – we make sure to find the people who reinforce our perception of ourselves.

I dated the guy who made a bet with me to see which of us could lose the most weight (spoiler alert: I lost 14 pounds, and he lost none). I dated the guy who said to me, “You’re really pretty, but you’re not hot.” I dated the guy who declared that I was “bigger than any other girl” he’d ever dated, and the guy who told me to cover my stomach one night during sex.

(Yes, these are all different men. No, I did not stab any of them with an ice pick.)

See, when you decide at a very young age that you’re ugly and horrible and worthless and, most importantly, fat, you fall at the feet of the men who make you feel otherwise (even if only for a little while). You tell yourself that they’re settling, that they could do better. Or, you tell yourself that they must have something wrong with them – perhaps they’re not very attractive, or they actually can’t do better.

And then, I’d had enough. I decided I was going to lose weight, and right this moment. I found weight watchers. No, that’s not telling the whole story. I found religion in weight watchers. I prayed at the altar of the weekly weigh-in and baptized myself in the points.

For the next eight years, I counted. I weighed. I measured. I bought the serving spoons marked with portion sizes, the 100 calorie packs that take out the guesswork. I could go into my weight watchers online tracker right now and literally tell you every single thing I ate during that first year. I didn’t miss a single entry. No peanut butter cup went uncalculated, no glass of wine unmarked.

If you’re thinking this shows great perseverance and attention to detail and determination, you might be right. If you’re thinking this was yet another way for me to see, in plain black and white, exactly how awful I was each and every day (right down to the last bite of grilled unseasoned chicken breast), you’re also right.

I was so committed to counting points for the rest of my life that I joked about them in my wedding vows. (Actually, I joked about not following them. The exact line was, “I vow to eat pizza and ice cream with you and not count the points.” Even then, I knew that there was something wild and romantic about not calculating a meal.)

And I lost weight. Quite a bit of weight, for the first time. And that was amazing. Boys liked me more, girls liked me more, woodland creatures flew into my window to brush my hair and sew my dresses.

Except when I realized that I couldn’t keep it off unless I didn’t eat junk food, or drink beers, or go out, or celebrate, or take vacations, or go to restaurants, or go to parties, or go to movies, or see friends, or eat dinner in any environment that wasn’t conducive to my life-raft of counting, counting, counting.

So I gained some back. And then I lost some. And then I gained some back, and then I lost some. Each time I lost, I hit the same damning number – the one that had me in a size 6, but wasn’t technically low enough for weight watchers to promote me to “lifetime” (read: free) status. According to the Body Mass Index, I needed to be a full ten pounds less than my smallest weight ever (at which time I could just squeeze into a size four but only if I committed to eating only plain tuna and vegetables for several days prior) to be considered “healthy” – and even then, I would be at the very tip-top of the “healthy” range. (Can we talk about the Body Mass Index for a second? What sadist thought that up, and can I get his address?)

So, I was a failure. Weight watchers said so. The BMI said so. My mirror certainly said so. After all, why stop at a four? Why not a two, a zero, or the Loch Ness Monster of sizes: the double zero??

Even at my smallest, I was still taking up too much space.

And the real kicker of it is: I was still miserable. I still thought I was fat. Oh, believe me, I look back at those “thinnest ever” vanity pictures and think, “Holy shit, I was actually pretty thin!” But at the time, I was nothing but FAT. Fat face, fat thighs, fat back, fat butt, fat stomach, fat.

Once I got down to a size 10 (for most of my life, to be a size 10 was The Dream, like winning the lottery or getting asked out by Ryan Gosling), I needed to be an eight. It didn’t matter that putting on a pair of size 10 pants in the American Eagle dressing room had me literally crying and laughing at the same time like a lunatic, with the salesgirl standing outside the door nervously asking, “Do you need me to get help?” No, as soon as the euphoria passed, the whispers crept up again. They hissed, “Cut back. You’re too big.” I found myself dreaming about a size eight, then a six. At a six, I desperately pined to be a four, because on me, size six seemed ungainly and huge.

You would think this would have set off a red flag in my mind – it’ll never be good enough! Stop counting! Stop torturing yourself! You’re constantly trying to be ever smaller, smaller, smaller, and it’s impossible! But it didn’t. I thought this was all perfectly normal. My entire life, in fact, I’ve assumed that self-hatred and body-shaming were perfectly sensible pastimes; after all, doesn’t everyone want to lose a few pounds?

Perhaps I wouldn’t have been happy until I literally shrank down so tiny that I simply disappeared. Perhaps that’s what we’re all after, what the diet industry is feeding us (pun intended). Eat less! Exercise more! Lose weight! Gain confidence! Take this pill, drink this shake, eat these meals, count these calories, use this machine, read this book, join this club, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll simply disappear once and for all! You’ll get so small that no one will even notice you there!

Maybe we’re all searching for that nothingness. That disappearing. That the thinness, the sheer smallness, of our newly dieted and exercised bodies will give way to an invisibility. That whoever hurt us won’t have anything left to hurt. Whoever abused us, beat us, belittled us, raped us, ignored us, terrorized us, bullied us, shamed us, mistreated us, will suddenly walk right past us without even registering our shrunken faces. That whoever told us we were ugly when we were children, or convinced us to diet when we were four or nine or twelve, or taught us that boys only love us because of the way we look, or that girls only like us if we’re pretty, or that we’re only as good as a number on a scale – if we’re small enough, maybe they won’t see us anymore. Maybe they’ll pick on somebody their own size.

The thing is, none of it’s true. It’s all a lie that you’re telling yourself, a lie that somebody else told you that you’ve absorbed into your body like scar tissue. That you’ll be better when you’re thinner. That you’ll be happier, smarter, more successful, more loved. If you’re thinking it’s a number on the scale, it isn’t. If you’re trying to reach a certain dress size, you’ll never get there. Just when you think you’ve reached the finish line, the finish line disappears, and you’re left running a never-ending race.

Trust me. I’ve been happy at a size sixteen, and I’ve been miserable at a size six. And vice versa.

You may be one who believes that counting points or calories or fat grams is the only way to control yourself. You may believe that without your diet/exercise regimen/low-fat bread/weight watchers meetings that you will truly grow uncontrollably until you are fifty feet in height and girth, stomping on the villages below. That you will gain a hundred pounds, or ten.

I felt that way, too. Like I said, dieting was my God, and He was merciless.

Imagine a world in which each and every one of us knew, from the moment we came into being, that we were enough. Imagine if you knew that you were perfect exactly as you are at this moment and not one pound less. Imagine, for a second, that you were filled with the comfort of knowing that no matter what happens, you will be enough. You will have enough. You will have enough food, enough love, enough comfort, enough energy, enough friendships, enough support, enough success. That you will be enough because you are beautiful, or funny, or smart, or sexy, or intelligent, or loyal, or strong, or all of those things. That you will stop telling yourself that the only thing that matters is the size of your ankles or the width of your waist. That you will start telling yourself that food does not control you, nor does it identify you.

Imagine a world in which “diet” was as ugly a word as “fat”.

dietMy journey to end the madness started slowly, and is far from over. At first I decided to still calculate the points in my head each night, but not write them down on paper. I vowed to throw out the idea that low-fat or low-sugar or diet or low-calorie meant “better” or “healthier” and realize that ten points of Oreos is not the same as ten points of oatmeal, but that both have their value and their place. I’ve begun to learn about nutrition, truly for the first time in my life. I’ve learned to indulge when I wanted to and to not hate myself for it. I learned that it is actually possible to not think about food more than you think about every other thing in your life. I learned to trust my body and my instincts, and I started to apologize to it for years of mistreatment and torture. I learned to nurse it back to health, like I would a beaten dog that had been rescued from a shelter. I learned to make and eat delicious foods that were sometimes nutritious and sometimes not.

The day I canceled my nine-years-long weight watchers membership was both gratifying and terrifying. (In case you’re wondering, that’s almost $5,000 in fees. When I think about the $5,000 in shoes or vacations or Candy Crush levels I could’ve purchased with that money I want to gnaw my own arm off and punch myself in the face with it.) The day I first ate a piece of chocolate without devouring the rest of the bag or starving myself for the next three days in repentance was a miracle. The day I realized I’d gone an entire month without bingeing or purging was like being re-baptized into a new religion, one that throws open its temple doors and welcomes you with open arms.

If any of these things remind you of yourself, then I urge you, too, to seek some real help when you’re ready to stop torturing yourself simply for existing in any shape other than the one you’ve decided is perfect. I promise you that perfection is a myth.

I believe there is still a long road ahead, but I refuse to spend one more second of it counting points or hunched over in a bathroom. Food is wonderful, and my body is wonderful, and its shape is such a small part of why that is so. There are so many things to do besides diet, and you’re missing it. We all are. Eat a cookie, eat a salad, have a drink, sing a song, help a friend, go on a date, take a bath, take a class, take a vacation, take a breath.

To steal a line from the brilliant advertising executives at weight watchers: Stop dieting.

Start living.