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Just Wondering

The answers to everything, plus some grammar tips.

I have a habit of eating mindlessly, and because of this, I spend a lot of time feeling horrible about my body, which makes me eat more, which is a cycle that continues until I ultimately get too tired to keep eating things and fall asleep watching My So-Called Life on Netflix and wondering why Rayanne is infinitely more perfect than I am. Every time I start to ask someone for advice, I just feel like a middle-aged woman at Weight Watchers. How can I approach people about this problem? How can I stop being so obsessive about my food intake? How can I feel better about myself? —K.

Before I get to the meat and potatoes of this question, I first want to delineate the difference between compulsive eaters and those who very occasionally like to snack on entire pints of Ben & Jerry’s. The people in the latter category might get down with more food than they normally do every once in a while, but be able to feel fine about it and return to regular portions the next day. You and I, however, feel an addictive relationship with our food–one where we have little to no control over how often, and how much, we eat. As a child, I stole sleeves of Girl Scout cookies to scarf alone in my room. When I babysat, I would prepare enormous portions of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets “for the children” in order to feel better about eating 20 of them myself. Last year, I would sometimes receive three sets of utensils with a delivery order that I placed for only myself. I was eating to excess and then feeling terrible about it.

I would recommend, first and foremost, that you talk about this with your primary physician, a nutritionist, or a psychologist, if you have one, and if not, consult with your school guidance counselor. They should be able to point you toward resources that will help you take steps to feel more in control of your eating. If you’re not ready to talk to someone yet, you can check out these resources: an interview with a former FDA commissioner about how to recognize and treat addictive relationships to food, and this website from an organization called Bodywise. Trust me, you are far from alone in this struggle, and reading more about it might help you feel less isolated.

Normally, we at Rookie do not condone counting calories, because we don’t want anyone to obsess over what they eat. However, in my situation, I needed some help to figure out what a healthy portion looked like. I realized that, no matter how much I ate, I was never going to feel full, so I kept a log of what I consumed every day. I used a website and application called MyFitnessPal, which made it easier for me to keep track of my portions according to what was appropriate for my body. Although this kind of program is IN NO WAY a substitute for consulting a doctor, nutritionist, or dietician, it helped me understand what portions even were, as I had absolutely no idea. It also helped me take charge of my food intake and slowly develop a more conscious relationship with food.

Another thing that I always keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter if I slip up and eat WAY more than your average pachyderm might in a day. It doesn’t mean that I am back at square one. Nobody can meet all of their goals all of the time. It just means that I’ll try to take care of myself a little better the next time I eat. It’s also good to learn how to make healthy and well-proportioned versions of the food that triggers you–that way, you can fulfill and enjoy your cravings without feeling deprived or like you’ve lost control.

Eating is one of my greatest pleasures in life, so I really do not want this to sound like I’m bashing indulgence. It’s just that a lot of us have complicated relationships with our diets, and I feel good about myself when food doesn’t rule my life. —Amy Rose

I have a lot of noticeable (but old!) self-harm scars on my arms, and this fall, I’m going to be a nanny for a family with young children. How can I cover up my scars or explain them without getting fired from my first job? I don’t want the parents to think I’m a bad influence/going to kill myself, because I’m not. So far, the best explanation I can come up with is that I got bitten by a shark, and I don’t think that is going to work. –Gracey

First of all, good for you for stopping the habit of self-harm. I know from experience how hard that is, and you should feel proud of yourself. I also know from experience how it feels to live with those scars. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel comfortable going sleeveless and dealing with any questions that may arise, but it definitely took a while for me to get there. Because self-harm can be such a secretive habit, I advise against lying about it. Plus, working up a big story about shark bites (or anything) can be anxiety-inducing. You are going to be an awesome nanny and a GOOD influence, but if you start your job with a lie, it might reflect poorly on you.

Now, I can totally understand not wanting to sit down and explain everything to your new employers right away. Concerns about the job aside, it’s personal! So I’d suggest keeping the scars covered in the beginning. Because I hate getting a lot of sun, I usually wear long sleeves year-round and, as a result, I’ve discovered these great and SUPER CHEAP lightweight cardigans by DNA Couture. By cheap I mean six dollars, and they have all kinds of styles and colors that are school- and work-appropriate. I got this one in black for my birthday, and I’m hooked.

At some point, you may get sick of wearing long sleeves, or you might need to take the kids to the pool or something. Hopefully, after a couple of weeks, you will feel more comfortable with the family, and when they do see your scars, things will go one of three ways. One, they won’t even say anything. They’ll see that you are awesome with their kids, assume your story is personal, and leave it at that. After getting to know the family, you may trust them enough to talk about your past history, which brings me to the second option: if you feel safe enough to broach the subject yourself, or if they see your scars and react with concern, tell an abridged version of your story. Share whatever you feel comfortable sharing, and end with how much stronger and happier you are now. That will actually demonstrate what an awesome role model you are—you got through something hard and faced it head-on. The third option, and the worst case scenario, is that they notice, say something, and you don’t feel comfortable telling the truth. At this point, a little white lie may be in order, but keep it simple. Say something like, “Oh, I had an accident, long story, but I’m fine now.” The truth is, everybody has issues, you are entitled to privacy, and the people you work for should understand that.

Finally, though I’m comfortable with my scars, I understand that you may want to try to minimize or get rid of them, and you do have options. If you want to go the natural route, try rose hips oil, neem oil, or vitamin E cream. A lot of people recommend the product Mederma Advanced Scar Gel, which markets itself as the number-one doctor-recommended brand for scar treatment. I haven’t tried treating my scars with any of these products, so I would actually speak to a pharmacist or your doctor before trying them. Finally, you could consider laser treatments, but this is pricey, and you absolutely have to talk to a doctor or dermatologist about it.

Congrats on your nanny job, and I hope this helps.

Love, Stephanie

Some of the things that I do with my boyfriend could be considered “slutty”–like going to second or third base in the movie theater, or hooking up in the changing room at a department store. I enjoy what we do, but sometimes I feel bad and question whether I am respecting myself. Where does one cross the line into being a slut? –Candysays

We need to differentiate between two things here. First: are you enjoying what you’re doing with your boyfriend, and is it making you feel good? If yes, then there’s nothing bad or wrong happening here. If your boyfriend is pressuring you to do things you’d rather not, or making you feel uncomfortable, then that’s a whole other story. From what you’re saying, that doesn’t seem to be the case, but if it is, please talk to him about it and be firm about your boundaries.

But assuming you’re having fun, who gives a damn what anyone else thinks? You cannot cross a line and become a “slut,” because “slutty” is a judgement other people make that they’re not entitled to make. The women that people tend to call “sluts” are just women who enjoy sex in the way it’s meant to be enjoyed, and society sometimes judges them for it (including, regrettably, other women). It’s up to you to decide what makes you happy, but don’t (or try not to) internalize misguided and often sexist standards in the process. And carry on having fun. —Cindy

I recently dated a guy for a little more than a year. The relationship was fine, I guess, but the spark was gone. I wasn’t expecting rainbows, fireworks, and skipping angels every time we made out, but I was expecting something would still be there. This has happened to me before. Now I am afraid that I will never be able to have a long-term relationship, because I will just get bored eventually. This scares me. How do you not get bored?

This is a very hard question, and I’ll tell you why. Relationships go through phases–sexy phases, romantic phases, annoying phases, over-it phases–and it can be tricky to know if you’ve drifted into the friend zone for good or are just less horny than you used to be. Also, don’t beat yourself up! A year is a long time! It sounds to me like you’re doing a good job sussing out when things have run their course.

To answer your larger question, though, I think the answer is that you don’t get bored when you begin to look at relationships with different goals in mind. In high school, maybe you’re looking for make-out practice and someone else who hates geometry and loves Taylor Swift. In college, maybe you’re looking for someone sexually adventurous and into Tuvan throat-singing. After that, maybe you’re looking for someone who knows how to build their own furniture and brew their own kombucha. My point is, your tastes are going to change. That’s part of getting older. I wasn’t with anyone for longer than nine months until I was 22. I always got bored and moved on. What changed? I did. Instead of wanting to meet someone new, I wanted a more serious relationship–an actual partnership, as cheesy as that sounds. Was it that I found the right person for this? Sure. But it was also that I found the right me, at the right time. Don’t pressure yourself into pushing a relationship past its expiration date. When the time comes for an epic love, you’ll know. Sparks don’t always look the same year in and year out. One day, when you’re as old as I am, they might look like someone who remembers to buy the cat food. That might sound boring, but remember, definitions of boring change, just like definitions of sexy change. One of these days, you’ll feel yourself relax into a stimulating, rewarding relationship that might last forever. It’ll happen the minute you’re ready, and not a moment sooner. —Emma S.

I just landed an internship at a local magazine. But to be honest, I haven’t received much feedback on my articles. Do you have any advice about writing leads and using commas? These are my two weak areas. —Emily

I’m gonna answer your sexier question–the one about leads–first. Because it makes for a better lead! Also, notice that I put the word “sexier” in that first sentence. That’s because I wanted people to read the one after it. If you’re reading this sentence, it worked.

A lead is the first sentence, or first few sentences (or sometimes first couple of paragraphs), of a story/article/essay/whatever. Making it good is crucial, because it’s how most people will decide if it’s worth it to read the whole article. It’s like a commercial for the article that’s to come.

Here are just a few of my favorite leads from Rookie articles:

I don’t know about you, but if I read any of those leads, I’d keep going.

Now let’s talk about commas. See your second sentence? “To be honest, I haven’t received much feedback on my articles.” The comma is placed correctly in that one. One thing commas do is set off adverbs (“honestly,” “disgustingly”) or adverbial phrases/clauses (“to be honest,” “even though I hate ice cream,” “as I clambered onto the giraffe”) at the beginning of a sentence from the rest of the sentence. You did that perfectly.

But to tell you everything you need to know about commas, I’d need page after boring page, and I couldn’t do it anyway because I don’t know a lot of technical things about grammar. Instead I’m gonna give you two resources that will help you so much more, because you can refer to them again and again in any kind of comma-befuddlement situation. If you want to be any kind of writer for a living, these will come in handy for years to come:

1. The Careful Writer by Theodore M. Bernstein. Just read this book cover to cover. Bernstein is entertaining and funny, and the rules he gives you will make your writing clearer and more concise.

2. The Grammar Girl podcast and website. The podcast is short and easy to listen to, and the website is searchable, so you can look up whatever you’re unsure about on a given day.

I like a lot writing that goes against the rules. Many great writers (Sady Doyle, Jenny Zhang, Padgett Powell, Cormac McCarthy, etc.) do things in their writing that your average grammar/syntax/writing guide is going to advise you against. But they do it on purpose, which you can’t do unless you know the rules to start out with. So go read that book and listen to that podcast, then just keep reading and writing—every day, if possible.

I’m sorry that your internship sucks. Tell them you want more feedback. If they say no, find another internship. —Anaheed ♦

If you have a question for Just Wondering, please send it to youaskedit@rookiemag.com.

20 Comments

  • RainingMiceAndMen September 4th, 2012 11:22 PM

    To K- vitamin E works miracles! I had shingles a while ago and the doc said to put some weird medicine-y goop on it, but that didn’t work so I just split open a vitamin E capsule and applied that to the scars for about a week. You can’t see the scars now. It does get kinda sticky, so I’d put it on before bed.

    Good luck nannying!

    rainingmiceandmen.blogspot.com

    • RainingMiceAndMen September 4th, 2012 11:23 PM

      Oops that was for gracey

  • enwarhola September 4th, 2012 11:34 PM

    The relationship one sort of hit home today… seems as though I may be ending my year long relationship tomorrow evening. Too much to think about, but thank you Rookie, as always.

  • Adrienne September 5th, 2012 1:22 AM

    Thanks for the tips Anaheed. I’m doing the school newspaper this year, and great leads (and grammar) are a must!

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • LeatherStuddedFae September 5th, 2012 1:23 AM

    Oohhhh, interesting. I’ve learned so much in this article. =3

    http://thywanderingfaerie.blogspot.com/

  • Nikilodeon September 5th, 2012 2:02 AM

    Hey, this is about the “slut” question from Candysays. I agree that someone who does these things with her boyfriend shouldn’t worry about what other people think. I mean as long as you’re doing this stuff because you want to and not because you’re being forced or pressured, you shouldn’t concern yourself with your “image.” I really agree with Cindy’s advice. However, I think another important issue that wasn’t mentioned might be respecting other people in the vicinity. Like, maybe if they’re trying to watch the movie but can’t hear or get bothered because the couple behind them is doing third base or whatever, it might not be the most respectful thing. I dunno, just my honest opinion. Maybe while you shouldn’t about what others think of your image, someone who does those things should still be respectful and considerate of the people around if they get bothered. I guess that’s an important thing to keep in mind if other people are having the same issue? Just thought I’d put that out there.

  • Miss Erin September 5th, 2012 2:56 AM

    Another really really good book about commas and grammar and things is “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss. Funny and easy to read, but also completely useful and helpful.

  • Violet September 5th, 2012 3:08 AM

    Hey K,
    I had exactly this type of eating disorder from about age 16 to 22. It was “mild” in the sense that I never made myself throw up, but I was stuffing myself aimlessly while feeling terrible about both my body and my own sense of self. I came home from school obsessing about what I was going to eat, then would jugg down an entire pack of (not so good) dry cereal – anything to feel “full”.

    Now a few years later I can say that I am completely FREED from obsessive eating. With the perspective of time it seems that I was eating because I was just very, very unhappy about my life. There was a constant feeling of being “beside” the person I wanted to be, not being in control of my studies, my time, my relationships. Eating was the only thing that I allowed me to choose something that gave me “affection” in return. I was inside myself and didn’t fight for my dreams.
    Healing for me came from the moment I started breaking the boundaries of the system I was in (I took a 3 months break from university), met people who helped me get closer to my dream (costume design), and navigated in environments that made me feel whole (in my case, theaters and artistic peeps). The food issue settled itself naturally and I lost all my “unhappiness” weight. Also I started buying more natural and wholesome foods (fresh bread from the bakery, wholewheat pasta, organic veggies and fruit when I could afford it, etc). Today I just eat with joy and APPETITE, and it’s bliss. I like my life.

    I hope this helps!
    All my thoughts of love and support for what you are going through, girl.

    • Violet September 5th, 2012 3:22 AM

      Oh, and yeah, as Amy Rose was saying: splurging from time to time on something I find delicious is totally ok nowadays. My old feeling of guilt is replaced by SIMPLE ENJOYMENT of the food, and it doesn’t affect my weight at all (which by the way I’ve stopped checking compulsively as well).
      Love,
      V

  • anonymouse September 5th, 2012 5:49 AM

    Here is a play-by-play of my thoughts while reading Candysays Question “No! Enjoying sex doesn’t make you a slut!…Please tell me you sat in the back of the theatre…Oh gross! Don’t do it there! People go in there! Seriously..ugh.. I wanna go into a dressing room and find someone has taken a crap as much as I would like to find your bf’s ejaculate. Which is to say, not a whole lot” Cindy I liked your answer but felt it was lacking in the, be respectful of the people around you way.

  • smilingrottenflesh September 5th, 2012 2:00 PM

    An inkling for drama/play themes:

    Can Rookie plz do a how to post on playing D&D? :)

  • kendallkh September 5th, 2012 2:35 PM

    MyFitnessPal helped me a lot with becoming aware of what and how much I was eating, too! I lost weight keeping track of what I ate without dieting or anything, just because I could see what a healthy portion was and if I was going overboard with stuff that was bad for me.

  • chipmunk September 5th, 2012 4:14 PM

    I’d like to add something to Cindy’s comment about being “slutty:” “Slutty” is a term that means different things to different people. It’s hard to determine whether or not you’ve fallen into the category of “slut” because there is no set category of what it means to be a slut. It’s easier to do away with the term and define what you are comfortable doing. Living according to a term that is always changing is tiring. Someone might think wearing a short skirt is slutty, while it might take a lot more to make someone else use the term. People use the word “slutty” to describe articles of clothing, actions, and everything in between. Basically, the term is kindof vague, not easily defined, and therefore it’s hard to live your life determined to avoid that title. The only person you should let judge your life is yourself!

    • chipmunk September 5th, 2012 4:27 PM

      Also, amongst all the deep info on this page, my favorite thing might be the website full of $6 cardigans from Stephanie. THANK YOU

  • Maddy September 5th, 2012 5:55 PM

    I adored Naomi’s lead about capitalism and blond hair the first time I read it, and I enjoyed it just as much the second!

  • elise September 5th, 2012 8:11 PM

    We’re reading “All the Pretty Horses,” by McCarthy, for English this year, and at first the lack of grammatical structure bugged me, but now I LOVE it. It makes for some great stream-of-consciousness and descriptive moments. So good.

  • jaz-understated September 8th, 2012 1:45 AM

    Ugh! Why are so many of the questions answered here, so spot on!? Especially the second and third, I feel really self unconscious about my burns and I’m tired with lying and I always push up my long sleeves. I find that a little make up works on them too.
    Not to mention I didn’t feel bad about doing “stuff” in public areas (behind the theatre, at the park, etc) with my former bf. Though, when I talked to my girl friends I realized how bold they really were (considering I was thought to be the most innocent of my group). But these answers both made me feel better in knowing it’s really not about what everyone else thinks!

  • mintskaa September 9th, 2012 1:57 AM

    Amy Rose-
    I have compulsive eating disorder as well. I don’t even know where to begin explaining about it, but for example today for lunch I had some risotto, pizza, carbonara spaghetti, some salad, and a piece of garlic bread, although I was full enough after the salad (I had a lot for breakfast). So even though I was that full, I proceeded to eat a frozen yogurt, gelato, some brownie, sweet potato, olive foccacia bread, and now im munching on yet more food of pineapples. All this in 3 hours. I feel so terrible and full but I can’t stop and I know I’m gonna go finish my piece of brownie as soon as I finish typing this. I don’t know what to do. I live in Korea, and people barely know about eating disorders like bulimia here let alone a clinic for compulsive eating disorder. What can I do? Please, please help. Someone. I feel terrible and I don’t want to go on like this, please.

    • Amy Rose September 9th, 2012 8:39 AM

      Hi, love. This all sounds really familiar – I have been there and done this, many times over. You’re not alone, even if it feels like no one will understand what’s going on with you, food-wise.

      Don’t despair – I never went to a clinic, as you mention, in my slow process of getting over compulsive eating (one which I still have to work at every single day). Instead, I wrote in a journal, started closely monitoring my own food intake (the hard part), and talked to the people that love me and, even if they hadn’t experienced disordered eating themselves, try their best to understand and show me support. I think these steps are possible in any area of the world, heart.

      Do you feel like you could start with any of these things? Even doing one of them will lift a big part of your burden, I think. I know it sounds tough, but also consider telling your parents or a counselor at school what’s going on because they might have some better resources or ideas about how to help. For now, I found this list of online support groups for you: http://www.livestrong.com/article/379707-online-support-groups-for-overeaters/

      And also in the meantime: I love you and I think that even your ability to say that you need help is 50% of getting it. I know you can do this.

  • Antionette November 2nd, 2012 11:44 AM

    All of this is perfect. Thank you so much for always giving some of the best advice on the internet.