What Even Is My Job?
Is the F*ck It Diet my job anymore? And if not... what is my job?
This post is free, but I’m also experimenting with the best ways to thank and reward paid subscribers, so I’ll be trying out different tactics. I’m going to experiment with adding a little bonus at the bottom of some free posts just for the paid subscribers.
I just realized that if I only live to be 68 years old… this is my mid-life crisis. If I live longer, I guess this is just a standard crisis…
In this post, I’m trying to take stock of all of the time I’ve been forcing myself to post about The F*ck It Diet, even after I was ready to move on. How much pressure there has been to be a person who is wise and helpful and “not triggering.” How odd it’s been to have people think I have all the answers to save them from some of the darkest stuff humans can experience (eating disorders). But also how nervous and untethered it makes me to not be focusing on anti-diet content anymore, after ten years of being ‘that anti-diet girl.’
But, the purpose of this post is taking stock of how I got here, writing about god-knows-what on substack. And what DO I write about now? And what about The F*ck It Diet? Am I throwing away everything I built to get here? And won’t people get bored now that I’m not helping them heal?
What The Hell Have I Been Doing?
For the past ten years, I’ve been writing about our relationship with food. I’ve probably told the origin story 4,000 times, and you’ve probably heard me tell it: the birthday epiphany. I was a chronic dieter who finally woke up and realized I was in a cycle that I had to tear myself out of. I started researching, all while following my hunch that eating more food was the way forward… and The F*ck It Diet was born. And it changed my life in many many ways — my relationship with food, my career… everything.
(I am going to refer to The F*ck It Diet as “TFID” sometimes, so, don’t be confused!)
There were a few other things that preceded TFID taking off the way it did:
1: Online Business
I had been really fascinated by ‘online businesses’ for a few years. I followed Marie Forleo, an online business/marketing coach, during my first few years after college, and I was really enthralled to watch videos on how to turn your passion into an online business. And actually, before The F*ck It Diet, while I was still dieting, I tried to start a website/online business around “my passions.” From Tired as F*ck: “ . . . what was my passion? Well, at this point in my life, I was passionate about being a French woman. I was passionate about pretending my disordered eating was my passion. And… I wasn’t sure how to turn that into a business.” (I wrote a lot about this evolution in Tired as F*ck.)
If I hadn’t been doing researching online business, I wouldn’t have known to immediately make a website and start collecting email addresses as soon as I started writing about TFID… who knows if it would have grown in the same way it has. I have no idea…
Oddly… it took me a while to realize that I’ve always been a writer. And the reason it took so long for me to realize, is that being a “writer” was not my official identity. My identity, ever since I was a toddler, was that I was a singer. Then later, a singer/actress. That’s how I thought of myself, and that’s how people thought of me and referred to me, so even though I probably loved writing as much as performing, I never would have thought myself as one.
But I was always writing. I wrote my little livejournal in high school — I spent all my free time at school trying to craft weird and funny little posts (that nobody read except for 2 friends). Then I started my ‘blogspot’ blog in college. Again, only 12 readers. Most were friends. Then at a certain point, before instagram, I wrote daily, absurd posts on my personal Facebook account, always just for fun. I only just took stock of how similar my daily facebook posting was to what I have been doing on instagram for the past few years: small, consistent, absurd posts. And I love it. I really do. (As toxic as social media is, there is something extremely fulfilling to me to write small throwaway absurd posts. That’s what instagram stories are good for, even though instagram hates me and keeps throttling and shadow-banning me.)
To be honest, I worry about lonnnng posts like this. Especially when it’s just me, talking about myself. Like… ok when are they going to lose interest… This is probably the kind of essay I included in early drafts of Tired as F*ck, only to realize how boring and unnecessary it was, and it got cut it later down the road.
But anyway, back to writing: I didn’t really get much attention for writing, until I started writing The F*ck It Diet. (And actually, I think that’s part of what makes me uneasy as I try to move away from focusing on TFID.) A few friends would tell me they loved reading my silly little posts, but those were my only readers, just some people I knew in real life. So it all felt like this hobby that I lovvved, but I didn’t think much more about it than that.
My goal with writing was always to just entertain. To entertain you and to entertain me. That’s what I loved. That’s what I would skip auditions for. I’d skip auditions to sit alone in my apartment and write an absurd blog post. You can actually read the one post I’ve left up from that blog. A few years ago, when I saw people start getting cancelled for shitty things they said ten years ago, I got nervous that I would somehow have written something that isn’t socially acceptable anymore (and most likely: something “fat-shame-y” and “diet-y,” since I wrote the blog in the height of my dieting) so instead of reading through years of posts, I took down the entire blog, except for this one post.
But, the reason I share that, is because when I ask myself what I truly love doing... What would I skip everything else to do? It’s to write a long post, and make it fun. (I also felt that way about writing the two books, because it was the same task: how can I write this, but make it entertaining?) I will spend hours— HOURS — in a fugue state, just editing and editing… (However, this does not feel like one of those entertaining posts. This is a boring post where I tell you I like being funny? Oh GOD. Poor you guys.)
Enter: The F*ck It Diet
When I had my “F*ck It Diet epiphany,” I was 24 years old, and I was a professional (struggling) musical theater actress, and I’d already started and abandoned a failed website/business the year before, inspired by my online business guru, Marie Forleo.
But, I was also now reading The Artist’s Way, a book about creativity and perfectionism that really changed my life. And it was the perfect book to read while I was starting my journey to heal my relationship with food, because it was addressing perfectionism, the fear of messing up, and the fear of being seen. And those things were soooo relevant to my self-critical and obsessive relationship with food and weight… and applicable to my self-critical relationship with creativity, and art.
If you read Tired as F*ck some of this info will be redundant. Sorry sorry.
When I started writing The F*ck It Diet blog, I was anonymous. For all of my fascination with online business, and my love of writing, I didn’t think this new topic would be it. I didn’t want my name attached to: “hi i’m an actress who is obsessed with food and weight,” especially not in the beginning. It was personal. It was all very unhealed. So, I was just “caroline.” No last name. Then after two years, once I started getting more attention and started being on other people’s podcasts, I had a pen name: Caroline Haagen (as in, the ice cream brand). But for the first two years, I was not trying to turn it into a job or a career, I was just trying to process what I was learning and experiencing, and have a creative outlet in the process.
But, it had a life of its own. The F*ck It Diet blog grew really quickly. Those other little “writing projects” I’d had before never grew, but this one was different.
And that was a notable thing for me: this anti-diet project was not funny. It was actually a very heavy topic. I had this sense of: Why doesn’t anyone know about this? Why isn’t anyone talking about this?!?! It all felt important to write about, but compared to the things I’d loved writing before, writing about TFID was never particularly “fun.” My writing before had always been absurd and silly, but now I was trying to communicate something that felt important. And pretty soon, as it took on a life of its own, I had accidentally positioned myself as an authority on healing from eating disorders.
In the beginning of me healing my relationship with food, and writing about it, I didn’t even have the awareness that I was embarking on a mild eating disorder recovery. But pretty soon I was receiving hundreds of emails, telling me that my writing had changed their life, healed their eating disorder, and begging me for more advice. What a strange position to be in, honestly. I didn’t even realize I’d had an eating disorder until I healed it, and all of a sudden I was some guru on eating disorders? It was odd, and I didn’t know how to handle it.
I was just trying to write TFID for other chronic dieters, not realizing how many of us were dealing with something on the spectrum from disordered eating to an eating disorder. I started hearing from people who said: This helped me heal my bulimia! Thank you so much! Or this is the only thing I’ve read while at my treatment program that actually helped. What?! That was crazy to me. I was not positioning TFID as eating disorder recovery, but people still said it helped. I now try to be very very clear that it is ONLY a supplement, because there are absolutely eating disorder factors that TFID does not address. But if someone tells me it helps heal their eating disorder… I’m not going to argue with them.
However, among the thank you so much! emails, there were tons that were extremely dark, desperate, self-hating, and coming from people who really were not well. Think about what a crazy position that was to be in… what was I supposed to do? Tell them to stop emailing me and go to a treatment center? Or stop writing and saying no no, I’m not actually an expert in this. Was I supposed to respond to the emails? Was I supposed to try to help them? Was I supposed to ignore them? The crazier part is how many therapists and dietitians started sharing my work, and later my book once it came out. So, no, I’m not a therapist or a dietitian or trained to work with eating disorders, but so many people who are still tell their clients to read The F*ck It Diet…
It was all crazy, actually. This was not my plan. At all. Never in a million years would I have thought that if I became a “successful” writer, that it would be because of writing about dieting and disordered eating. And I never dreamed that I would have an inbox filled with ecstatic emails thanking me for saving their life, next to the darkest emails you’ve ever read in your life. Eating disorders are some of the darkest and most difficult things to recover from. And here I was… in the middle of it all?!
I wasn’t the first person to say what I was saying about food and weight and health by a long shot. There were scientists, activists, dietitians, and doctors that came before me, who all laid fundamental anti-diet groundwork. But I do know that I put it all together, made sense of it, and explained it, in a way that was unique. I can’t take credit for intuitive eating, or a weight neutral approach, but I can take credit for writing about it all in a way that people enjoyed and resonated with.
Two different “voices”
Remember how I said that I would post absurd little posts on facebook every day? Well that was overlapping when I was writing The F*ck It Diet blog. The F*ck It Diet was my serious, semi-anonymous writing (I got more lax with the anonymity the more time went by, the more successful it was, and the more I healed.) And facebook was where I enjoyed my writing, because it was ridiculous. And that’s what I love: the ridiculous.
But I remember being very disgruntled by the fact that it felt like I had two totally separate “voices.” One was my serious voice, the one that helped people heal. The other one was my absurd “I’m such a ridiculous mess of a 20-something” voice, that I… preferred. It was more fun. But, I felt like I had to keep them totally separate, because who would want to learn how to heal from someone who posts ridiculous and absurd things?!?
I actually spent a lot of time thinking about how I could “merge my voices” - and I came up with nothing. I felt like I was stuck. I had two lives. Two voices. Two totally different energies. It was a weird feeling.
Then, unrelatedly, I started my podcast, and it was the accidental answer I needed. I immediately I felt like I could bring some levity and absurdity into The F*ck It Diet, and my podcast was the thing that really took off. But, I was pretty much healed by that point. I’d been healing, eating normally, and writing about it for three years, and I was already getting tired of feeling like I was repeating myself at this point, and receiving desperate emails that I didn’t know what to do with. But, I was also very aware that this was the thing people wanted from me. They wanted me to talk about The F*ck It Diet. And they said it was changing their life. Also, this was the only thing in my life that was turning out to be actually… successful. How could I stop?
In 2016, someone else emailed me out of the blue, saying that my TFID blog changed their life, and could they introduce me to their friend, a book agent, because I should turn it all into a book. This is a way longer, extremely magical and serendipitous story that I will tell in detail at some point, but it would take way too long right now. Long story short: All of a sudden, I had a (really amazing) literary agent, who wanted to represent a book where I compiled the lessons from my blog, into a comprehensive self-help book. And it would be titled: The F*ck It Diet. Duh.
So, even though I was already getting weary of being an accidental anti-diet “guru” so to speak, and fielding lots of dark, desperate, and triggering emails from people begging me to help them, or telling me how much they hated their body… I knew I had to write this book. First of all, I’d been actually wanting to turn it all into a book. Second, I’d always wanted to be able to say, Hello sir, I am a writer. No, for real, here is my book. And, I hoped I could also continue to “merge my voices” by making The F*ck It Diet funny.
Now, meanwhile, while I thought The F*ck It Diet was this serious writing project all along, I got an email from someone saying: “Your blog helped so much, and it’s so FUNNY!” I remember thinking “… funny?! This couldn’t be more serious!??” But I guess there is… a vibe. I dunno. I write really casually. I get exasperated. I write in all-caps. I get it now, but I did not get it then.
So I’d begun to write the book. I had no book deal yet, because I wanted to write the whole book before we sold it to publishers. But by that point I had started to almost primarily make money through my TFID “business,” by running workshops and group programs where I was also able test out how certain lessons landed with other people. All of that also really helped when it came to putting the book together too. I had case studies. I knew all of the most common questions, concerns, fears, not just from my experience, but from other people’s experiences too.
But I remember vividly, in 2016, I was doing a “business and energy work training” (it was a total scam that I wrote about for Tired as F*ck, but deleted it from the book because the book was wayyyy too long, but I will be releasing the deleted chapter “How I Got Scammed By a Woo Woo Guru” behind the paywall soon…)
And I said to the group: Well, I am actually pretty sick of talking about anti-diet stuff at this point. It’s really heavy stuff, and I also feel like I’ve said everything there is to say, but I feel stuck for now, because it’s the thing everyone wants me to keep writing about.
And someone else said: Oh, then you should pivot! Follow your passion!! Life is too short!!!!
And I said: I don’t actually think that’s a good idea yet. I know for a fact that my work and audience is only growing so fast, and I only have this book agent, because I’m hyper-focused on this one topic, even though I’m already getting tired of it.
That was 6 years ago now, just for time reference... and I think about that all the time... I think about how long I bucked up, and kept writing about The F*ck It Diet, every. single. day. for years after I was already getting tired of the topic.
And Guess What Happened Next Over the Following 6 Years?
First, mid-2016, I decided to go on my “Two Years of Rest,” because I was, in fact, extremely burnt out on a variety of levels. Actually nothing to do with The F*ck It Diet. I was burnt out from acting, and being an asshole to myself, constant emotional guilt, and all the rest. That is what Tired as F*ck is about.
During those two years, I finished writing The F*ck It Diet book, and stopped posting on my personal facebook, and started posting on an @thefuckitdiet instagram, (my now nemesis). I posted an anti-diet post every single day, all the way up until about 6 months ago when I officially burnt out on it.
It’s interesting because I was trying to heal my other burnout, but I wasn’t actually burnt out on writing anti-diet content yet. It was on it’s way, for sure, but I still had a little fire left in me. Plus, I had a specific goal. I had a mission. I wanted The F*ck It Diet book to be successful. I wanted it to sell. I wanted it to be good, and clear, and entertaining. And I wanted it to help people. Ideally, it would be able to help people without me having to constantly keep on talking about it. I was transferring my knowledge from my brain, into the book. Also, I also wanted TFID book to give me the opportunity to write other books, on different topics. I already knew that then. But in order for that to happen, the first book had to be successful. I had to really really lean into The F*ck It Diet, both writing the book, and marketing the book, and give it all I had. And so I did.
I spent a huge chunk of 2018 sharing anti-diet content to try and get people to pre-order The F*ck It Diet, then I spent the following few years still sharing anti-diet posts to try and get people to buy the book. I went from being a writer, to essentially being a marketer. Every day, my job was to go on instagram, and post stuff that would inspire people to either: share the most recent anti-diet post, or buy my book. Every. Damn. Day.
And for a while, it was really fun. It was like a big elaborate art project. I knew what I was talking about, I felt strongly about it, and it was a quest: figure out instagram, and sell the shit out of this book. It was my creative life and career project. And I was rewarded for it, which helped me keep doing it. My instagram account grew like wildfire for about three years. And getting those little social media clout rewards (100K followers. Then 200K followers. Then the blue check mark) gave me the push to keep going, way longer than I otherwise would have had the energy for.
One big downside to becoming this accidental anti-diet guru (obviously I don’t identify as a guru, or want to be one, but people still treat me like one), I censor myself. There are things I feel like I cannot say, or cannot share, because I worry they will be “triggering” to people in the beginning of their recovery. And, in some ways I think it’s good that I’ve been so careful with that, because I do believe it helps people who are recovering, but it also leaves me feeling stuck. I am stuck as this “anti-diet” girl who can’t trigger anyone. I am afraid to write about other things, or talk about the nuance with food and health I am finding 10 years into this journey, because I don’t want to trigger people who are still in the beginning.
And I will always be the author of The F*ck It Diet. I will always want people to buy and read that book. And I will always want people to get the full benefit of the healing experience. So… it’s tricky.
The F*ck It Diet book has been successful, relatively. It’s not a National Bestseller. I’m not making millions like Glennon Doyle, much to my dismay. I still worry a lot about money. But it was successful enough to get me a second book deal for Tired as F*ck, and an opportunity to do what I’d been wanting to do for years: zoom out. Pivot. Expand the kinds of things I write about. And I did. Tired as F*ck was the perfect pivot, because it was still about my experience with TFID, but it was about so much more. It was about my own experience navigating dieting, self-help, TFID, cult-mentality, and being a melodramatic biatch.
But… in trying to figure out what I do now, I’m in a little bit of no man’s land.
Where Am I Now? Ohhh Great Question.
First of all, I am so tapped out from nonstop marketing of my books for the past few years, that I’ve done kind of a terrible job marketing Tired as F*ck. It just came out a little over two months ago, and I should be making tons of instagram posts about it, and constantly thinking of creative things to post that will make people intrigued enough to read it, but whenever I try to do that, my brain just shuts down. My brain does not want to market anymore. I don’t want to sell my books, I just want to write.
And for The F*ck It Diet? Marketing it now is like pulling teeth. I feel like… I already did this. I’ve been doing this for 10 years. And I’ve already been marketing the book for 4 years, and now I have to keep posting about it and begging people to buy it for the rest of my life? OMG. Should I be hiring someone to do it for me? Yes. Can I afford to do that? Eh….. not really. Plus instagram is literally at war with me right now, so if I was paying someone to post anti-diet posts on my behalf only for instagram to show it to the 1,500 who already bought me book? Eh.
But I do want people to read it and buy it! Even though I’m mentally beyond it now, I feel so lucky that I still stand by it all 100%. How terrible would it be if I didn’t? That would be an even worse crisis. I’m so thankful that I still believe in it. I love the book. And that was my prayer the entire time I was writing it: I want a book that I can stand behind whole-heartedly. And that’s what the book is. I’m just… ready for my next project. But, I don’t know what my next project is.
It’s this, for now, I guess.
Okayyyy So What Do I Want to Write About
I don’t fully know. I know I want to write more stuff like Tired as F*ck — absurd and sincere storytelling. And what I do know, is that the sentiment of The F*ck It Diet is something that will be carried through everything else I write.
For instance: I do not agree at all with the mainstream narrative around health for these past few years. And I’ve been too scared to share it. But, hand sanitizer up the wazoo? Big-Pharma-Worshipping? Medical mandates to keep your job? People walking around afraid of other people? Liberals and other anti-diet writers begging for more government overreach and social media censorship? It’s honestly insane to me. I feel like I just watched a world collectively lose it’s mind, and become pretty cruel and cult-like in the process. And all the while, not be “allowed” to write about any of it unless I fully agreed with the insanity. To me: it is totally at odds with the sentiment of The F*ck It Diet. And it’s totally at odds with how I believe actual health and science work. Isolating for years and constantly wearing a mask over your face is not “health,” sorry. Saying “the science is settled” after a short study with no long term safety data is not science, sorry. And having this perspective is also not covid-denying, or being trump supporter. That’s the kind of binary thinking that is destroying us right now. If that makes you upset to hear me say this, I recommend unfollowing me. You will not like me going forward. (And maybe re-read TFID to re-learn about how bought off and corrupt the CDC and WHO are…)
I have a lot of thoughts on the fall of society happening right now. Ha. I have a lot of thoughts about binary black and white thinking and “cancel culture.” And I have a lot of stories to tell.
I also have a yearning to lean more into a grounded spirituality, and write about it. Spirituality isn’t usually… funny, but I think it could be. Or should be. Actually, that’s what I thought Tired as F*ck was first going to be: A Funny Book about God. But then it became something else.
I am trying to learn to be a gardener. I’m trying to force myself to date as a 30-something woman living alone in the suburbs with her dog (though writing about dating makes me uneasy, I need something that’s just to myself.)
I am also currently exploring “mineral balancing,” because of my restless leg syndrome… (literally, remineralizing my body, mostly with nutrient dense foods, and stopping most synthetic supplements that have probably knocked me further out of whack.) It’s something that I probably would have turned into a diet ten years ago, but now I can experiment with without stress or dogma. With ice cream. I want to be able to write about it without triggering people. I want to be able to write about everything that’s true for me, without feeling confined by The F*ck It Diet, or what I’m “supposed” to be saying.
The F*ck It Diet was such a gift to me. But now I have to figure out how to honor it as I go forward, but not feel caged by it? It’s weird. I’m probably overthinking it. But this transition is just proving to be a lot more disorienting than I expected.
All of this to say… the reason I’m excited about substack, is that it is encouraging me to actually just… write again. I don’t know what I want my next book to be yet, so this feels like an important transition period.
I also want to be able to write things just to entertain. Just for fun. Because silly absurdity was my first love.
I’ll still interview people about anti-diet stuff from time to time on my podcast. I even had an essay idea this morning about how my weight has slowly fluctuated, even on TFID. So, this topic will always be part of my life and my writing, but I’m also trying to find the way forward.
In the next few weeks, I plan to write about my current take on trauma and energy work (free), the deleted chapter “How to Get Scammed By a Woo Woo Guru” (paid), release my podcast episode with Seerut Chawla where we talk about cancel culture (free), write about the time in 2018 when I accidentally lead an internet pile-on (free), I also want to have monthly Q&As (paid).
Annnnnd the Boob Saga Update (paid). Yes I had the revision surgery! Yes I developed a high fever the night before! Yes I thought it meant I wasn’t going to be able to get the surgery. No they did not cancel it when I told them I was sick! Yes I got the surgery and then was sick while I was recovering! Yes! It was crazy!
I am still getting my bearings on what my posting will be like. Will I have a schedule? How will the free vs paid posts work? I don’t know. I am experimenting right now! Eventually I’ll figure out what works best for me, and what’s working best for you guys. There will be more free posts to come soon.
Easter Eggs Behind the Paywall
Lastly, I’m going to tryyyy something out. Even though this was a free post, I’m going to put a little bonus easter egg at the end behind the paywall at the bottom. Just an extra thank you to the people who are paying. I may do this on lots of free posts, or I may just do it on some, or I may abandon this particular method of rewarding paid subscribers in time! I’m experimenting.
But, what this means is: if you are a paid subscriber, I have a stupid little treat for you. You can read one of my archived blog posts from my college blog Nonquickoatmeal, called “All of the Businesses I’ve Considered Starting.” This post was actually from 2017, just before I took down the entire blog. Ironic (or is it coincidental) that the post is an absurd list of all of the different careers I thought I could have, while I’m actually at ANOTHER FREAKING CROSSROADS IN MY “CAREER.”