takearespite

I first noticed I had sleep apnea when I was in high school. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the disease, I’ll explain it. Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the type I have, is a byproduct of my obesity. When you go to sleep at night (regardless of your weight) the lining of your throat relaxes to allow for shallow breathing. If you have too much fat in the lining of your throat, then when it relaxes, the airway will be too small for enough air to get through. The result is that you will have a difficult time falling asleep, staying asleep, and will often feel like a ton of shit in the morning. The human body is smart, though. When you stop breathing in your sleep, due to the obstruction of fat, your body wakes you up to keep you from dying. However, you can wake up hundreds of times a night and not even realize it. Because of this, you can end up with day apnea, which looks like you have narcolepsy. When I was in high school, I remember falling asleep in class while I was writing my notes. I’d nod off and my pen would make these weird scribbles all over my loose-leaf paper. Also, because you were so oxygen deprived at night, you wake up with headaches that literally make you feel like you’re going to die. I always had the worst trouble falling asleep, because as soon as I would nod off, I’d stop breathing and then wake up. It feels like every time you fall asleep, someone is strangling you. Then you wake up and try again, only for the same thing to happen all over again. It really is a miserable existence.

Everyone always told me to get a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. What a CPAP does is it senses when you’ve stopped breathing and forces oxygen down your throat so that your sleep isn’t interrupted. But everyone’s oxygen needs are different, so in order to get a CPAP you have to first go to your doctor, get a referral for a sleep study. Then you have to go to the sleep clinic, have them hook you up to what looks like the first half of Robocop, then they test your sleep to see how badly your breathing is while you’re asleep and how often you wake up during the night due to airway obstruction. Then, they have to fit you for the CPAP (which I imagined to be big an intrusive) and then you have to go back to the sleep clinic so they can put the CPAP on you and test your sleep again. This all may or may not be covered by your insurance. Then you have to wait like two weeks for the company who provides the machine to give a shit, and then some guy comes to your house and shows you how to work it. Now, after all of that, you have to sleep every night with a giant oxygen mask on your face? I wasn’t having it. Having decided that the whole ordeal was just more trouble than it was worth, I just dealt with the disease as best I could. When I lost 140 lbs. between 2008 and 2011, my apnea got so much better I would almost say it disappeared. However, then I gained all the weight back, and then some.

Over the summer of 2013 and well into the Fall, my father wound up in the hospital for his emphysema and bronchitis. My mother moved into the hospital with him, and I was left alone to fend for myself. (Yes I live with my parents…for now.) With no one around to lecture me about carbs and calories, I went a little crazy. I’d lived my entire life always binge-eating in secret, trying to hide my small (or big) treats from my parents so they wouldn’t get mad or bitch. Now it was like my house was my haven, and Dominos became my everyday crutch. I couldn’t stop. I was like Augustus Gloop, so obsessed with the chocolate stream that he falls into the water and gets sucked up the pipe. My body paid the price for it. My sleep apnea got not only worse, but disastrous and what I consider life threatening. I literally could not sleep. Every time I would nod off, I would stop breathing and wake up. In the past, eventually I would be able to get to sleep, even if that sleep was fraught with problems, and even if the next morning I had a headache that was so painful it left me paralyzed and crying, eventually I knew sleep would come. But now that I had put on weight (what I would later find out was almost 70 pounds), the sleep just didn’t come. I would fall asleep for an hour, tops, and then wake up because I’d stop breathing. It was the worst my sleep apnea had ever been, by far. And it made me want to die. Even Hitler, I would think to myself, was able to get a good night’s sleep once in awhile.

After a few weeks of this, I felt like I was going insane. I was so sleep deprived and so oxygen deprived that I lost the ability to speak in functional sentences. When I would try to talk, it felt like my tongue was swollen. The words just wouldn’t come out right. It was scary. I had such terrible day apnea that I would fall asleep for a few seconds literally hundreds of times throughout the day. I couldn’t dial a phone, because I’d fall asleep in the middle of dialing the numbers, only to have to start all over again. I couldn’t text, because of the same reason. My friends started to get worried about me, because I would fall asleep during phone conversations. My doctor even became concerned because I fell asleep during a discussion in her office. Sometimes, when I’d nod off, I’d fall off my bed and land on the floor. A lot of the times I’d nod off due to my day apnea, the transition from awake to asleep would be so sudden that it’d literally thrust me off my bed and onto the floor. My friend moved in and slept on my floor to help me when I’d fall. I also started to hallucinate from the sleep and oxygen deprivation. I would see people in my hallway, shadows of evil creatures. One night I was positive there was a rabid dog coming to eat me. It was the most horrible experience of my life.

My parents were beside themselves and my mother wouldn’t stop crying and begging me to get a CPAP (and lose the weight for crying out loud). Finally, I agreed. I wanted to fix my sleep apnea by simply eating right and exercising, but that was proving easier said than done. I had my doctor refer me to a sleep clinic which was thankfully right by my house. My friend came with me and stayed overnight at the clinic with me that first night. Then, once the level of oxygen I’d needed was determined by the right people, I went back to the sleep clinic to be fitted for the CPAP and finally, finally, sleep with the mask on. I couldn’t wait. It took some getting used to, but in the end, it was nothing short of a miracle. My friend who came with me overnight to the sleep clinic (the same friend who’d slept on my floor to help me up off the floor when I’d fall) knew only too well the difference as he’d witnessed it with his own eyes. No thrashing around, no waking up gasping for air, just pure beautiful serene sleep. “You went from doing the Harlem Shake in your sleep,” he said, “to like someone knocked you out unconscious.” The next morning after I’d slept with the mask for the first time, I felt like a new person. I was awake, and able to form cohesive sentences! The problem remaining was that I now had to wait a good two weeks before I could actually get the machine in my home. To make matters worse, the company called and said that the CPAP would not be authorized by my insurance company and would cost us almost $2,000. My mother called them (and my insurance company) off the hook for a week straight, asking them why I wasn’t covered for this and how it was literally saving my life. In the end, the company who provided the machine wound up giving it to us for free, as a courtesy, which is such an amazing beautiful thing that I could never repay them for. I am so grateful for their kindness!

Finally, the day came that I got my CPAP. It did take some getting used to. Sometimes the mask slips down on your face and blows cold air into your eyes and you have to know how to adjust it so that it suctions to your face and no air escapes (except from the vent). Often times during the night I’d wake up and fling the mask off and onto the floor and turn over and go back to sleep without it on. But now it’s been almost six months since I first got it and I must say, this thing is my new best friend. I use it every night when I sleep and I don’t it off until I wake up in the morning. I also dropped 60 lbs. as well, which also helps, and I’m not done yet!

The reason I wanted to write my experience down in my blog is because I can remember how set against getting a CPAP I was and how I just knew it would all be tedious and intrusive and a big annoying waste of time. I was wrong. A lot of the prep work – going to the doctor, the sleep clinic, waiting for the machine, etc. – was tedious and annoying. But it was more than worth it. I don’t want anyone else in my situation to make the same mistake that I did. Don’t miss out on one more horrible night’s sleep. Go get that CPAP. Sweet dreams.

Every employer under the sun, whether the job is online or in your face, wants to hire qualified employees. This is why, when applying for work, we’re often asked for a resume or cover letter. The person hiring you wants to know that you can do the job efficiently with as little training as possible. When I worked for Amazon.com doing customer service, training was Monday through Friday, 9-5, and it was paid at minimum wage. The entire time I was in training, I didn’t take one customer service call. I really did no work for Amazon or the company that hired me, Alpine Access. And yet, I was still paid. Minimum wage might be a shitty worthless amount to pay someone but before taxes those two weeks earned me a shiny $600. So why pay me to train when I’m not even taking calls? Because it is in their best interest to make sure that when I do start taking calls, that I am knowledgable and the best at my job. When I started training I figured I would never be able to do the job. By the time training was over I was confident in what I’d learned. The training I received made me a better worker, which benefitted the company I worked for. That’s why I was paid.

Also, a person’s education level and work history are the two beacons of light that shine so brightly on a person’s work potential. I see a psychologist once a week. He received his Ph.D from Hofstra. He was hired based on his level of education and work experience. Once it was determined that he was properly qualified, he was hired and paid for his work. Nowhere under the sun will you find employers expecting educated, qualified individuals to do work for free. Unless you’re a freelance writer.

Recently, I applied for a job on Craigslist to be the editor of a romance website. It actually later turned out that the guy hiring me was a crook (Google “Alex Hammer” and the word “scam”), but it didn’t occur to me that his requests were extreme or unfair (24 articles in 2 weeks, for no pay, as some sort of “trial”), and that’s because in the world of freelance writing and editing, you are almost always asked to either write or edit something before getting hired. For free. A large majority of these companies are not scam artists. I worked as a transcription editor for a very legitimate company. I sent them my resume, which explained my work history and my Masters degree. And yet, when they responded to my application, it was to send me a “test,” to see how efficient I would be at editing some transcribed audio interviews. Why? I have an MA in English. I spent almost nine years learning how to write and how to edit. I know what makes good grammar good, and I know what makes good grammar great. I know what a semi-colon is and when to use it; I know what a dangling modifier is and where to put punctuation within quotation marks. I know about the Oxford comma. In fact, the job only required a Bachelors degree, so not only was I qualified and in no need of a “test,” but I was overly qualified. To make matters worse, the people who hired me supply all editors with a .pdf of all their grammar and style rules, thereby rendering a test useless. And yet, a test I was sent. Now I had a choice to not take the test; I’m sure some do refuse. But if I’d refused I wouldn’t have been hired, so what do you do when you need money and there are hundreds if not thousands of people just like you willing to do start-off work for free. So I completed the test, passed it, and was promptly hired.

But should I have declined? It seems that my field is the only field in which this type of thing is not only accepted but seen as downright normal. Can you imagine a doctor applying for a job, straight out of med school, done with his residency, and his employer says, “You seem to have all the right stuff. Here’s a guy with an illness. Fix him and then send us the results. We’ll get back to you within 72 hours.” Never. It’s so ridiculous it’s laughable. My mother was a teacher for 35 years. No one ever said, “Oh, you have a degree in Education? OK, teach these kids for free for a few days and if we like your style we’ll hire you.” Would never happen. My father owned his own barber shop so he didn’t have a boss. But can you imagine if somoene had hired him and asked him to do a few haircuts for free? He’d refuse, because he has a degree from the Vaughn School of Barbering (that’s a real place, or at least it was). His final exam was to shave a balloon without making it pop. No one would “test” him. No one would be that presumptuous.

And yet, in my field not only is it usually almost always expected of you, it’s glossed over as some sort of standard aspect of the job application process. And it shouldn’t be. I have an MA in English. I have written and edited all over this fucking world wide web and I’m damn good at what I do. I’m versatile; I know WordPress (obviously), and I am versed in many different formats. I also ran my own editing website for some time, so not only do I know how to edit, I also know how to run a business.

But none of this matters. As it always has been, so it always will be. The next time I need a job, I’ll send in my application and in return I’ll get an email with a buttload of information. I’m supposed to do work for free so that strangers can use said work to assess whether or not I’m good enough for their company. But you’d be surprised the level of work people do when they aren’t getting paid for it. Refusal is pointless. All that does is give someone else your spot and your money. What really needs to happen is for all the freelance writers and editors to band together and form a real coalition in which we strongly and openly refuse to work for free. Until that happens, we’re allowing ourselves to be ripped off by greedy employers who are simply taking advantage of young people’s desperation in this bad economy. If you wouldn’t ask a doctor, teacher, barber, bus driver, waiter, or astronaut to do free work and call it a “test,” then why ask writers? Intellectual property is still property. And the sooner we ALL realize that, the sooner we can start getting paid.

First and foremost, there are a few things that need to be said before I get down to business. Number one is that no one knows what really happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin except the two involved. The facts and events that I state while giving my opinion are things I’ve either heard/seen on TV, or read in articles from reputable sources. I’ve also been watching the trial relentlessly because it’s the only thing my father will allow on our living room television. So, basically what I’m saying is all I have to go on is what I see and hear. If you’ve heard something different from what I’ve heard, please by all means let me know.

The second thing I want to discuss, and this is VERY difficult for people to comprehend, is about racism. Racism is not an action; it’s a state of mind. There are people out there who say the “N” word like it’s nothing who probably aren’t racist at all; meanwhile someone who has never said the “N” word a day in his life could be sitting at home plotting to kill all the black people on his block. You can never know. What I’m saying is, it’s difficult to prove whether or not someone’s actions were racially motivated, because to hold a prejudice involves no action; it’s entirely a thought process and nothing more.

Which brings me to the third thing I want to preface this with, and this is also difficult for some to process. Being a racist in and of itself is not illegal. Whether or not you think it should be, is irrelevant. It isn’t. If you break the law and a court can prove that your law-breaking was racially motivated (like, for example, you attack a black guy on the street and yell racial slurs at him while you’re beating him) then you’ve committed a crime, and since the crime bears a racial motive behind it, it gets upgraded to a hate crime. BUT, being a racist in your mind, is not – in and of itself – against the law.

Now we can begin. George Zimmerman made a lot of mistakes the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Frankly, I think he should’ve just stayed in his car, called in his sighting of a suspicious youth, and called it a day. But he was somewhat of a vigilante, a wannabe cop out for his chance to make a difference. And make a difference he did. But the question is: did he break the law? I don’t think so.

To make a long story short, since I’m sure all zero people reading this know the tale inside and out, I’ll summarize. Zimmerman was part of a neighborhood watch. He spied what he thought was a suspicious looking youth (Trayvon Martin). He followed this youth to see what he was up to. At some point Trayvon Martin realized he was being followed and decided to confront the follower (George Zimmerman). Once Zimmerman was told by police that following Martin was not necessary, Zimmerman made his way back to his car. But Trayvon allegedly accosted him, questioning him as to why he was following him. Allegedly Trayvon threw the first punch. Witnesses saw Martin on top of Zimmerman, beating him up and banging his head against the concrete. Photographs of Zimmerman after the fact corroborate this story. Also, witnesses nearby heard Zimmerman cry for help. There was not a scratch on Trayvon Martin when his body was examined. It is my opinion that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense.

Were Zimmerman’s suspicions of Martin racially biased? I don’t think so, but it doesn’t matter. When he pulled that trigger, he did so because he feared for his own life, not because Trayvon Martin was black. Therefore, race becomes moot. Should Zimmerman have stayed in his car? Of course. Should Trayvon Martin have just gone on his merry way instead of accosting the stranger who was following him? Of course. Both men made egregious errors in judgment that night. But the question is: WHO BROKE THE LAW? The answer is, Trayvon Martin. Once he attacked Zimmerman, he was guilty of assault. And once he was assaulting Zimmerman – and winning – Zimmerman was within his right to defend himself.

What’s really sad about this case is that if these two men hadn’t been so hell-bent on playing the role of the ‘tough guy’ that night, Trayvon Martin would still be alive, and George Zimmerman wouldn’t be on trial for his life.

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The only thing that grinds my gears more than my PhD rejection from NYU is when people who actually HAVE PhDs use them for evil, instead of good. Being a professor gives you clout, and that clout gives you a voice, a voice students just might listen to. So with that voice, UNM Professor Geoffrey Miller decided to take to Twitter (where all the brainiacs go) and voice his opinion on why apparently obese people shouldn’t bother to apply for their PhDs, because heck, if you can’t put the fork down, how will you ever be able to write a dissertation? You can view his tweet in the photo above. The tweet has since been deleted and an apology of sorts put in its place, but I am not swayed. I have written an open letter to Professor Miller (I shudder to call him “dr”) and posted it here, as well as on my Facebook page. I’ve also sent him a copy of it via email. I doubt it will have any effect on his level of ignorance (or that he’ll even read it) but I want him (and everyone who thinks like him) to know that I am obese, but I’m not stupid.

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Dear Professor Miller,

I am writing you this letter because I have a few problems with a tweet you sent out recently. In this specific tweet, you said that obese PhD applicants lack the willpower to complete a dissertation because they (apparently) lack the willpower to lose weight.

Here are my problems with this assertion. First off, it implies that all obesity is caused by simple lack of willpower. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I have struggled with weight virtually since birth. Did I suffer from poor willpower when I was two? There are an infinite number of reasons, both physical and mental (and emotional) as to why an individual is obese. To lump us all in under the broad headline “lack of willpower” is to trivialize a complicated and complex problem. You’d think that someone with a PhD like yourself would know better.

Second, your tweet also puts forth the assumption that having poor willpower in one area means having poor willpower in all areas. I don’t think this is true for anyone. An individual might have poor willpower when it comes to food, but be studious and hardworking when it comes to their studies. I put myself in this latter category.

I got my BA in 2007 and my MA in 2009, both in English, both from Queens College, CUNY. I was one of the obese PhD applicants you spoke of in your tweet, as I did apply to NYU back in 2010. And while I did not apply for the program in which you currently reside, I shudder to think of what might have happened to my application if someone in the English program shared your ignorant view. I struggled throughout college, but it wasn’t because of my workload; it was because of my size. It took me longer to get to class than my fellow classmates. I couldn’t fit in the desks so a special desk and chair had to be provided for me. This desk and chair was never where it was supposed to be, so at the start of every class you’d find me roaming the halls, sweaty and out of breath, looking for a chair I could use just so that I could get my education like everyone else. Sometimes in the middle of class we’d have to take a walk to the campus library, and I’d be the only one left out, because by the time I got there everyone would be gone.

I struggled throughout high school as well; graduating at 430 pounds you can imagine my classmates did not treat me with respect. But my senior year English teacher actually called my mother to tell her that if it hadn’t been for me, he’d have quit teaching, because those ungrateful brats were leading him to an early grave. I could appreciate Shakespeare and Dickens and I could write about them too. I won first prize for a personal essay as an undergrad and I won third prize for an essay I wrote on secularism as a grad student. I also got an A+ on my Master’s thesis on melancholy poetry. Funny how I wrote all those things and got such good grades all while being obese. I guess I’m the exception to your rule.

Now you could argue that PhD programs are infinitely more difficult than grad school programs and require a higher level of willpower, and I’m sure I’d agree with you. But with overall college enrollment starting to drop, do you really want to do or say something that could potentially dissuade students from applying to get their doctorates?

I am astounded that someone with your education would be so ignorant as to say such offensive and discriminatory things. Frankly, I do not accept your apology, because despite what it says in your tweeted retraction, I do think your initial tweet reflects your views. If it didn’t, you wouldn’t have written it.

You want some #truth? If even one doctoral candidate decided not to apply because of your words, you should be fired. Because you are not only a detriment to the educational system as a whole, but you are openly contributing to a prejudice and an ignorance that can spread like wildfire. And the funny thing is that kindness, requires no willpower at all.

Sincerely,
Andrea Nostramo

Long before HBO’s new series Girls was even a glimmer in writer and creator Lena Dunham’s eye, there was another HBO show, also featuring four young women trying to find themselves in New York City. And while Sex and the City will always have a soft spot in my heart (and a huge chunk of space on my DVD shelf), that show was about four women and their relationships with men, because they had their shit together. Only once did any of them really want for money and when Carrie found herself homeless and living in her shoes, she got offered a check by Mr. Big and in the end, a ridiculously expensive ring from Charlotte. These are not the lives of relatable New York women, but what made SATC so incredible was the dynamic between the four of them, the way they loved each other, and the way they so encapsulated the fragile strength of modern-day women.

HBO’s Girls, which premiered this past Sunday night, was a far cry from Manolo Blahniks and Vogue. It was a show less about the relationships of four women with their men and more about the relationships with their lives. And while I have come across a smattering of good reviews, like this one and this one, the show was not received too well. And from the negative reviews that I’ve read (and I’ve read A LOT) they all seem to be saying the same thing: white women who are financially supported by their parents can’t have real life problems. And this is a travesty, this new phenomenon that I call “brat-shaming.”

I was born in 1981, which lands me right on the last leg of Generation X. I spent a good solid 8 years in college, trying to pursue my dreams of being a writer and college professor, only to find myself with a Masters degree I can do nothing with, a weight problem I can’t seem to shake, and a whole slew of mental illnesses, all of which find me still living in the Queens home I grew up in, making me one of those spoiled assholes almost completely supported by my parents.

I am not as forutnate as Lena Dunham’s Girls personna, Hannah, who gets to live in a Brooklyn apartment with a sassy roommate. My parents don’t have the kind of money (or at least they claim they don’t) that could support me in an apartment. Apparently, I’m only supportable while under their constant and watchful (and disapproving) gaze. But I digress. My point is simple. In today’s society (or at least in New York society) there are those people who are forunate enough to have found full-time work. They are often folks who have pulled themselves up by their boot straps and struggle to pay their bills every month while still waking up every morning before the sun. That level of tenacity, that work ethic, admirable, no question.

Then you have the rest of society. The Hannahs of the world, fortunate enough to have parents who can support them while they try to follow their dream. I wanted to be Keats. I wanted to sit in a tree with a spiral notebook and pen sonnets about the Heath. Yeah. I know. And now that it’s 2012 and the economy is in the toilet (and “English” is one of the top worst majors to pursue), I find myself almost as unemployed as I am broke. So why shame me? Why get mad that I can sleep til noon and you can’t? Why not feel blessed, that in an economy so shitty you have managed to be able to do the covetous thing that is earning a living wage. I have never in my life earned enough money at one or more jobs that allowed me to live outside my parents’ home. But I have worked (always from home), and at jobs I’ve hated, just to have some money to help put a dent in my debt and maybe go out for a few drinks with friends once in a blue, or buy myself a new laptop. Never once did I ever look down on those women (or men) like Hannah, who have the luxury of living in a brownstone while interning for free. I don’t even look down on Paris Hilton, so indoctrinated into a life of luxury that she’s incapable of walking without posing. I try not to look down on anyone. Everyone’s worst day is their worst day. Right now there is a homeless man on the street whose only food is the scraps he gets from good samaritans or the dinner he gets from a soup kitchen. Does a starving child in Somalia have the right to judge him simply because his misfortune is worse?

I have the utmost respect for people, like my parents, who work hard. While they’re both retired now, my parents had an enviable work ethic. My father woke up at the crack of dawn every day and stood on his feet all day giving haircuts to folks who didn’t tip. Towards the end of his career he got diagnosed with emphysema, and even though he couldn’t breathe he still went to work. That’s just the kind of man he is. But does that make him a “better person” than fictional Hannah, who considers herself “the voice of a generation” (or maybe just “a voice of a generation”) and wants to pursue her dreams of memoir writing and awkward sex? At the end of the day, the have-nots will always look down their nose at the haves, because of jealousy. But the truth is that any number of my hard-working friends would probably love to be able to sleep til noon and have most of their bills paid for each month. What they wouldn’t love, however, is the rest of it, the not-so-awesome parts. Like how I still don’t have my drivers license and how I can’t walk a goddamn city block.

But contrary to popular belief, I’m not spoiled. I work hard for the things I want that fall outside of the realm of “bills” my parents pay for. Just about everything in my bedroom, from my Holmes fan to my Canon printer to my Sony dvd player, I paid for myself. Yes, that was only doable because my parents cover the basics, but I do have drive. And so does Hannah, or else there’d be no memoir written, no confident requests for a job from her boss. And even if Hannah and I were sitting at home in a cloud of opium tea, contemplating our navels and spending our parents’ hard earned money on designer lamps and eating lunch at the airport, so? What business is that of yours? Jealousy, as they say, is an ugly color on everyone. And the desire to bring fortunate people down to your level so that they too can wallow in your misery is an even uglier color still. The grass is always greener on the other side; I covet your paychecks, and you wish you could sleep til noon. At the end of the day, we both lose or we both win, depending on how we choose to perceive our own little slice of the world. Be better, not bitter, and you’ll go far in life.

As someone who is morbidly obese (though I hate that term more than anything), I feel only too qualified to point out what so few people seem to realize: McDonald’s is not making you fat.

Do you know why Morgan Spurlock got sick after eating Big Macs every day for a month? It’s not because McDonald’s puts rat poison in their beef or because the cows they slaughter ate grass from Hitler’s front lawn. It’s because NO ONE SHOULD EAT THAT CRAP EVERY DAY FOR A MONTH.

There is one thing – and one thing only – that will make you lose weight (assuming you don’t have some type of glandular problem) and that is moderation. Eat right and exercise. There you go. That’s the diet secret that Weight Watchers and the creators of Acai Berry don’t want you to know. You don’t need meals home delivered to your door. You just need to STOP EATING SO MUCH and take a fucking walk.

So then why are there so many fat people out there galumphing around with their sweaty faces, you ask? Well let me explain. Because that shit is fucking hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life. I am addicted to binge eating. For me, eating a singular portion of anything is like eating a crumb. My mind craves tacos 24/7. I am like a heroin addict, and I must spend my ENTIRE LIFE fighting the most intense cravings for copious quantities of pizza and cheeseburgers and the WORST FOODS EVER. The top ten list of foods your doctor says never to eat, are the precise foods that keep me up at night. But addiction is a war, and so I fight. Or at least I try.

To date, I lost 140 pounds, then I gained back 90, then I lost 25, and then I gained back I don’t know how many because I haven’t been on the scale in two weeks. Like I said: the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my entire life.

But this notion that somehow fast food is to blame really sticks in my craw. Earlier today, Jezebel brought to my attention an article from USA TODAY in which the activist group Corporate Accountability International is seeking to have hospitals sever their greasy ties with McDonald’s food chains. Why? Don’t you get that people who overeat will overeat whatever they can overeat? You can take McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and all the Pizza Hut and Dominos chains and bury them at the bottom of the sea, and people like me will just sit home and binge on bacon cheeseburgers we cook ourselves. Just because you make them on the George Foreman grill doesn’t mean you can eat ten of them. And this is why I get so annoyed when people give me diet advice. I KNOW WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. No one tells alcoholics, the trick is just stop drinking. Because society understands that alcoholics have an addiction problem. Food addiction is kind of like pot addiction; it rarely gets identified as an actual addiction and it mostly just gets met with eye rolls and snickers.

The proof is in the pudding (pun intended); have you ever seen skinny people at McDonald’s? You have?? Well how on earth are they avoiding the lard-laden fray? Snarkiness aside, the truth is right in front of us; I know because I live it. Losing weight is science and math. You must expel more than you intake. If you do, you lose. If you don’t, you gain. Sure, genetics and environmental factors play a role in how proportionate you are and what kind of foods you can afford (sadly, the bad food is the cheapest), but at the end of the day the food chains are not to blame. McDonald’s has its purpose, to give people who can’t afford Starbucks a place to get coffee on their way to work. You can dismantle the Egg McMuffins all you want; you can force them to sell salads and apple slices, but IF PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH FOOD, THEY WILL FIND A WAY TO OVEREAT.

Since I’m not a doctor, I can only speak for myself. When my parents recognized that, if left to my own devices, I would literally eat until I puked, they tried their hardest to monitor what I ate. This left me with little opportunity to binge. So I waited until I was at school and I ate out of the garbage. I went across the street to the supermarket after school and shoplifted Hormel pepperoni. I FOUND A WAY. Granted, I’m an extreme case, but I don’t believe that obesity exists in a vacuum. There are plenty of people out there with my same problem. The solution is easy, it’s the doing it that’s hard. To get from simply having the knowledge to being able to utilize that knowledge in some kind of healthy way that results in longevity of life, now THAT’S the real question. But you can bet the answer’s got nothing to do with parfaits.

With all of this talk of the new documentary “Bully,” which hit theaters March 30, and with Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign becoming a YouTube sensation last year, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own days (years?) of being bullied. I didn’t have to look back too far.

As a kid, I was lucky (though it didn’t seem like it at the time); my bullying was mostly verbal. The few times I was threatened with actual violence nothing ever came of it. It was mostly taunts, which followed me from grade school into college. Yeah, you heard me. College. The hilarity at poking fun at me for being fat, apparently, does not elude the scholarly among us. If you’re different from the norm, or if you’re perceived as an easy target like I was, that’s it. Hunker down and count your blessings. Life will not be smooth for you.

The consensus of all of these anti-bullying sentiments seems to be the same thing: an attempt to eradicate bullying while simultaneously reassuring kids that, simply put, shit gets better when they get older. Personally, I hate this strategy. And here’s why. You can’t eradicate bullies. Bullies are like mosquitos; they’re everywhere and they can smell fear. The people watching “Bully” are the victims of bullying, not the bullies themselves. The bullies are too busy stuffing some chess club president into his locker and drinking beer behind the A&P; they don’t have time for life lessons. Ahhh, the circle of life.

Is it fucked up that I’m basically saying that the onus is on the victim? Yes. But this is the world we live in. There will ALWAYS be bullies. There will always be a flagrant douche who draws a picture of what he imagines you look like naked, and takes the time out of his day to carefully sketch your disgusting, fat, nude body – complete with hideous, crotch-blocking undercarriage – in pen, on a piece of cardboard and then show it off to all your friends. There’s always going to be some tall, towering bitch who accuses you of looking at her (or her boyfriend, or her best friend, or her schnauzer) the wrong way. Bullies are like cockaroaches; they will be here long after we all die. They are a part of growing up and, much to the contrary of what victims have been told of late, it doesn’t always get better when you get older. Adults can be bullies too. And adults have money. And a better vocabulary.

So what does this negative-nancy news mean? It means we have to build thicker skins, both for ourselves and for our children. In a perfect world, there would be a movie or a slogan or a voice or a YouTube video that would change the minds and hearts of bullies everywhere. They would realize that they pick on that dweeb in Math class just like their dad picks on them at home. They’d have an epiphany and start helping the homeless. But this kind of thing rarely happens, if ever. The truth is, bullies often get far in life because they bully their way to the top. Just look at Donald Trump, or the tools on Entourage.

I’m not excluding myself from this viewpoint, either. The bullying that I received growing up (and that I still receive any time I walk to the post office and some gaggle of douches in a Jetta moos at me) ruined my life. But I let it. And I let it because I’m generally a weak person; I admit it. There are people out there who are like me, but there are also people out there who aren’t. There are people out there who have the kind of constitution I’d kill for. These people aren’t arrogant, per se, but they are so utterly convinced that they are good, kind, decent people, people of value, that no one’s words can mold them into something else. These are the kinds of people who rarely get bullied. Bullies don’t bother with these kinds of people, because there’s no point.

So yes, ultimately I’m an asshole, I suppose, for daring to suggest that we as people (or as parents) try to create stronger selves and therefore stronger children. Kids learn more from how parents treat themselves than from how their parents treat them. And it applies aptly to my own life. My mother has – and has always had – incredibly low self-esteem. I inherited all of her weakness, and, sadly, very little of my father’s strength. But I cannot blame her, because you can’t instill in your children what you don’t have in yourself.

Is it the victims’ fault that they get bullied? No. I put 100% of the blame on the bullies. But trying to somehow universally “nicefy” assholes everywhere by showing them a video of a kid who killed himself is futile. Trust me, the assholes are laughing. They don’t care. We have to thicken our skins, and live the indelible words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who dared declare that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”