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.

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An Open Letter to My Racist Neighbor, or: My Dog is a Better Person Than You

So yesterday I witnessed the strangest and most unexpected display of racism that I’ve ever seen in real life. Since most people don’t actually think that they’re racist, you might be surprised to hear that it was you, O Racist One, who was the star of the show.

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This is not my dog, but I assure you that my dog is just as awesome.

Here’s a recap:

You, A White Person, became irritated at A Black Person (or otherwise darkly-hued individual of unknown ethnicity whom you assumed to be “black”) for crossing the street in front of your car. From what I could tell, the two of you engaged in a verbal argument which culminated in you (the White Person) calling him (the Black Person) the N-word. Like…a lot. Also, you threatened him with violence, called him several other terms which I will not print here (even with little stars in the place of the vowels), and said things like, “I’m not the [n-word] here. You are, you f*cking [n-word]. Do I look like a [n-word] to you?”

Um………..

If we’re taking “the n-word” to mean bad, nasty, ugly, cruel, stupid, ignorant, uneducated, immature, disgusting, or backwards, then I have to say that yes, in fact. You do look like that.

Since you and I had crossed paths many times before, exchanging pleasantries and talking about our dogs, I guess I had assumed a few things about you. You’ve never been mean to me, so I suppose I assumed you were kind. You seem to be pretty cool to your dog, so I may have imagined you were a lover of animals (like, um, humans). You don’t immediately look like a demon, and you generally don’t carry any visible weapons or severed heads, so I guess I prematurely decided that you weren’t some sort of sociopath. (But then, that’s probably what all severed-head-carrying-sociopaths want us to think.)

Really, though, I didn’t know the truth about you because I, like you, am A White Person. (Which makes me a-okay in your book, I guess.)

I’m actually not sure what you were so mad about. Were you mad because the guy walked in front of your car? You you upset because he looked at you a certain way? Was he someone who has wronged you in the past, and you saw this as the perfect moment to exact your revenge?

Here’s the thing, though: Even if this guy was, like, a total douche, or waltzed in front of your car as you were trying to park and shot you a “sorry-not-sorry” type of look which I know can be super annoying and inconvenient, and even if you felt like you just had to say something: isn’t it at all possible that you could have thought of some other way to say it?

I take it you’re not at all clever, so I’ve kindly thought of some examples:

“Excuse me, but I’m trying to park here.”

Too mellow? Okay, I hear ya. What about something like, “Hey, buddy, why don’t you move it along?”

Not really driving the point home? Alright, I didn’t want to do this, because this blog is a classy place, but how about: “Get out of my way, asshole!”

Because, see, if you had said any one of these things, I would probably be on your side. I would think, “Why, my kind, animal-loving neighbor has been inconvenienced by this inconsiderate gentleman!” I would rush to your defense.

But you didn’t do that. You didn’t defend yourself or your position with language or reason or logic or respect. You didn’t explain why you were angry or try to talk it out. You didn’t ignore the situation and move forward with your life, letting bygones be bygones and inconsiderate assholes be inconsiderate assholes.

Instead, you took the easiest, most destructive path you could think of. Like millions before you, you decided to turn a conflict of interest into a conflict of power, asserting something about him, and about you, that you mistakenly think makes you Better Than. That other dude didn’t “play the race card.” You did.

You took the coward’s way out.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t defend him, or contradict you. I was afraid of making the situation worse or scarier or further agitating you in some way. I’ve wished all day that I had said something so that he knew I didn’t feel that way about him, that I didn’t think he was scary or stupid or worthless. In fact, like you, I didn’t know anything about him at all.

I can’t imagine what it must feel to be reduced to a slur every time I bug someone. I’m White, and Heterosexual, and Middle-Class, and a few other things which put me in The Majority. Which is a pretty good place to be, especially if you happen to walk in front of some racist’s car.

Listen, if you get into a fight with A Gay Person, and your only response is to call them a faggot, you are a homophobe. If you get into a fight with A Woman, and the only insult you can think of is “bitch” or “slut,” you have a serious problem with women. If you get into a fight with A Black Guy, and all that comes to mind is the n-word, you are a racist.

Oh and also, you’re probably pretty stupid.

So anyway, the other dude walked past me, and into the evening. For all we know, this was just one of hundreds of racial minefields he navigates daily, desperately trying not to get blown up.

You looked at me, smiled, called out, “Goodnight!” and retreated into your house.

My dog tried to chase after you, but I caught her leash and walked her home.

You are not a good person, and I don’t think I want our dogs to play together anymore. I don’t want your ignorant and pathetic backwards beliefs or utter lack of rhetoric and human decency to rub off on her, because she loves everybody. Even you.

Nuts. Literally.

Grammar is a really big deal to me. By that I mean, if I’m reading a book, and I come across a typo, I immediately strip the author of approximately 99.75% of his or her credibility. And then I set the book on fire.

I know. Harsh.

Books aren’t really the worst offenders, because let’s face it: if you’ve written thousands of words, over hundreds of pages, there is bound to be a mistake or two. I get it. We all have problems.

My issue is more with things like advertisements, magazine articles, even television commercials which use words incorrectly or misspell their message or generally just piss me off. It drives me crazy. Like, “Silence of the Lambs” crazy. Or bath salts crazy.

That said, there is one grammatical mistake I make about 67 times a day, and it is this: incorrect usage of the word “literally.”

I love this word. It is, without a doubt, the most overused word in my vernacular, so much so that I have tried, on more than one occasion, to eliminate it entirely from my daily vocabulary. But I can’t. Because the word “literally” literally makes everything better.

For example: If I were to say, “I am going to kill you with knives,” that would be okay. I mean, it might be sort of funny, or sort of scary, depending on our relationship. If I said, “I am going to kill you with knives, but you know, figuratively. I would never hurt you, lulz!” that would be lame. But if I said to you, “I am literally going to kill you with literally, like, seventy-two knives,” the awesomeness of this threat increases by a great deal.

(I also enjoy a good exaggeration.)

My point is, I know that I’m using the word incorrectly, because I’m not literally going to kill you, and if I were, we would probably not be friends and you would probably not be reading this blog. (You might be thinking, “Lauren, we are already so not friends, despite the fact that I am reading your blog.” That’s fair. Carry on.) I also didn’t literally sleep for 100 hours last night, nor will I literally give you a million dollars to hang out with me, and I can almost guarantee I could never literally eat my dog’s face because she’s so freaking adorable and slobbery and gross. Nevertheless, I have said all of these things, and with glee.

Anyway, one day I literally decided to start a blog. (Wait…that one works.) And in doing so, I imagined many names for said blog (most of which involved the word “blog” because I am nothing if not creative). My friends chipped in and offered their suggestions, and while I almost decided upon my personal favorite (My Milkshake Brings All the Boys to the Blog), I wanted the title to have something to do with me. (And while my milkshake does a lot of things, I’m not sure it does exactly that.)

Which brought me to the phrase, “Literally, nuts.” Because nuts are funny, one, and two, because I am pretty much actually and very literally insane in a myriad of ways, which I’m sure we’ll get to later. And also because then I could put a picture of actual, edible, adorable little kernels on my title page and giggle to myself because they would be literally nuts.

Oh, puns. I wish I knew how to quit you.

Update: One of my friends just texted me to say “Did you mean to have the typo at the end?” No, I did not mean to have a typo in the post about how much I hate typos. I am an asshole. (Don’t try to look for it, I’ve killed it with fire.)

Putting My English Degree to Good Use, or: Does This Mean I’m a Published Writer?

So here it is, world. My blog.

I’m not gonna lie, the word “blog” really freaks me out. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that I used to want to be a writer, and by “writer” I mean of books, and by “books,” I mean those things that we used to buy and share and feel and smell and occasionally read before reading stopped being a thing. As much lighter as it would make my purse, I just cannot bring myself to buy a Kindle because A) I’m poor and I hear they’re literally giving out books for free at the library, and B) I love the physical experience of turning pages, and of that specific kind of anxiety you feel when you start running out of pages to turn and you know that it just can’t end like this.

You don’t really get that from a blog, am I right?

But alas, the world is changing without me, blogs are the new books and the internet is the new coffee shop, so here I am.

Anyway, I decided to start a blog because I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things, and while the world may have absolutely no use for those opinions, that hasn’t stopped TMZ, has it? For a long time I have been unburdening myself by means of Facebook statuses and long-winded text messages to friends, and very often the response I’ve received has been positive. That said, it’s always been painstakingly obvious to me that I was taking the easy way out, that these positive responses are due to the fact that my audience is comprised of people who generally agree with me and my views (hi, Mom). Not always, but most of the time. And so it’s been sort of like asking your husband over and over and over if he really and truly loves you, knowing full well that each and every time he’s going to say “Yes, of course, you’re lovely,” because if he says anything else you both know you’ll choke him out. Or so I hear.

While it’s definitely ego-pumping to receive positive comments from your friends and family, it’s not really helping anyone grow or expand in the long run. It doesn’t make me mature as a writer or force me to re-evaluate my views, and I imagine it hasn’t done the same for anyone else, either. Which is why I’ve decided to take my thoughts to the streets. (And by “the streets” I mean the wires and satellites which magically make the letters appear on this screen as I type them, and then supernaturally fly those letters into your home by way of what I can only assume is fairy dust and hamsters in wheels.)

So anyway, back to My Feelings.

I’m a person who’s burdened by a lot of concerns. Lots of things worry me. You may be thinking, “Oh, Lauren, everyone has worries, duh,” as I would if I were reading this, and then I would think, “You must be SO full of yourself to have started a blog just to talk about your concerns!” (I’m pretty judgmental, obviously.)

But, to give you a better idea of what it’s like to be In My Brain, here’s a laughably tiny list of the things I’m concerned about at this very moment:

That my boss will notice that I’m using her computer to write my first blog entry, even though I’m writing it in a gmail window (on top of being judgmental, I’m also very sneaky).

That I’m hungry. Duh. And speaking of food:

donuts, and their merciless hold over me.

That terrible things are happening in Russia, which goes hand-in-hand with:

gay rights.

Animal rights.

Women’s rights, paying special attention to the subcategory of:

women’s reproductive rights, which leads me to:

public health care.

Private health care.

My privates. (I’m sure most women can attest that it’s pretty much a full-time job to keep up with what goes on down there.)

My dog.

My dog’s privates. (This actually is not a joke – at all times she is either A) licking her butt, B) itching her butt, or C) doing something to her no-no place that you’re really not supposed to do in mixed company.)

My dog becomingly increasingly obese and my role in this. Also, the fact that she’s a total bitch. (Figurative or literal? You decide.)

That my dog is home alone right now, and what if that makes her sad? And what if that sadness is also contributing to her growing belly? And what if she’s picked up on my bad happens and she, too, is a stress-eater? Which reminds me:

Stress-eating.

The snow outside and the fact that I refuse to do any shoveling and the potential this has to do real damage to my marriage.

My marriage. Not because anything is wrong with it – quite the opposite, in fact. It’s lovely. Unless I’m missing something important. Maybe we’re on a downward spiral because I’m subconsciously ignoring some real problem that’s slowly driving a wedge between us. Like my refusal to shovel. Perhaps we should talk about it. I’m going to go home tonight and talk to him about it, because obviously he resents me but is keeping his feelings locked up inside to avoid confronting our issues. What a dick.

Speaking of the snow outside and my refusal to shovel it: Seasonal Affective Disorder. (Which, by the way, I totally didn’t believe was a real thing until I moved to Boston and realized that New England weather is America’s way of weeding out the weak.)

Poverty, sadness, illness, depression, hopelessness, worldwide despair. Also,

national disasters, global warming, killer bees, dying coral reefs, and sad, fuzzy polar bears clinging desperately to glaciers the size of whiskey rocks.

Money/taxes/paychecks, or: Things That Fall Under the General Umbrella of “Not Enough.”

The mysterious creature known as the “401k.” Because I am almost 30 and genuinely have no idea what that is.

Self-control. This is probably a skill worth looking into.

The pros and cons of spending five years on an English degree and half of a Communications degree. If only they gave out halves.

The fact that the amount of money in my savings isn’t enough to even warrant being called “a savings,” but would really be more appropriately titled, “a measlings.”

And in the “What a Surprise! Said No One Ever” category:

How to make a blog.

And that’s just the stuff I’m worried about right now.

So if you’re looking for a candid exploration of any of the hard-hitting issues mentioned above, look no further. We may even go into my privates. (That one’s figurative.)

You’re welcome.