Sunday, 30 December 2007

New Year's Eve Eve

Braved a scale hop this morning to find I am the exact same weight I was the day I left for Christmas – which is to say, two pounds above my lowest weight ever. Um, I’ll take it.

Tomorrow I’ve got a New Year’s Eve party about which I’m more than a bit apprehensive. An email about it yesterday specifically discussed how much food there will be… and food + alcohol + party not living up to expectations (which, frankly, New Year’s Eve parties rarely do) + still slightly fragile Beth = possible disaster. Despite specific orders to arrive hungry I am seriously debating having dinner before I go out and banning myself from the food. But I don’t know the plan for tomorrow – I’m possibly meeting up with friends first, so…)

* * *

Bachelor No. 2 rang today and we had a good laugh about our prying friends. His best friend and O. have apparently been texting about us (they’re as bad as women, aren’t they?) and BN2 saw some of the texts. Of course, I only know the texts BN2 chose to share with me – I’m sure there were others, which makes me wary, but I can't worry about it too much. I do think I’m going to have to be very, very careful what I say to O., who is hands down the most indiscreet person I know (and he knows it). O. has been friends with BN2’s best friend for at least 15 years – and BN2 and best friend are, of course, best friends.

BN2 and I might try to meet up on New Years Day, but no set plan at the moment.

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Against (My) Odds

So I texted a friend to say I was getting a quick drink and that I might be up for meeting up later. Six hours later Bachelor No. 2 and I were still sitting at the Medicine Bar.

I was expecting to hightail it out of there after a drink, so to say the date went better than expected would be to damn it with faint praise. The night went by in what felt like a minute.

Of course, this morning I've already received a text from my friend O. – who knows Bachelor No. 2, and whose best friend dated Bachelor No. 2’s best friend (this honestly doesn’t even begin to hint at how incestuous English social circles are) – saying: “Well, well, well.”

Thursday, 27 December 2007

The Best I Can Say Is: It's Over

It was not a great Christmas, foodwise. Actually, that is an understatement. It was a pretty damn freakin’ bad Christmas, foodwise – and also an embarrassing one, because I reached the point of bingeing as a houseguest, which is a new low.

I’m writing this post for a bit of accountability more than anything else – I’m not really up for analyzing and wallowing at the moment (though I’ve done a fair bit of both).

I did pretty well the first couple of days, then binged Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day, with Christmas Day’s being particularly bad. (I might have eaten an entire box of shortbread, among other things. Yikes.)

The good: I got in at least some exercise every day except Christmas Day. (I tried to run but it was seriously too icy, and it was black ice. There was a car accident outside the house and the ambulance skidded down the road on the way to it.) I got up super-early and ran on the 22nd before getting on the train, ran on the 23rd, did about a half hour’s worth of yoga from my yoga deck on the 24th, did a 20-minute run on the 26th (despite feeling miserable post-binge), and got off the five-hour train ride and did a 20-minute run and 25-minute walk tonight at about 6 p.m. (On the 23rd and 24th, I also sneaked in some cheeky pushups and dips and even a couple of planks – basically, whenever I’d run back to my room to get something, which was often, I’d reel off something quick, like 10 pushups.)

Also good: I stopped the bingeing before the end of the trip. I’m one of these people who can find it hard to stop without physically removing myself from a difficult situation, but I didn’t binge on Boxing Day, despite lack of control over what I was being served, plus various other triggers. I actively decided not to have anything to drink – alcohol being a trigger – and didn’t. I did have pudding but turned down chocolate, crisps, cheese and other snacks when they were offered.

The bad: I had a couple of flashbacks of trips past where I literally had clothes that didn’t fit by the end of the trip. (Didn’t happen but I felt like it could have.)

The ugly: Bingeing in public, as houseguest. Embarrassed (esp because friend’s mum is the type who comments on everything). Feeling a bit worried I wasn’t too polite yesterday – I’m always a bit tetchy and anxious post-binge, and having my every move watched and commented upon (literally) wasn’t helping.

Sigh. I’m feeling huge and fat and wishing I could hide out for a couple of weeks, eating only safe foods and working out, but that’s not really an option. I’m not sure what’s a reasonable goal for myself at this point besides staying off the scale for a few days – I know I ate poorly; I don’t need the scale to confirm it at this point – and getting in my workouts. We shall see.

* * *

Bachelor No. 2 texted me on Christmas Day, then rang today to organize meeting up. We’re meeting up late-ish tomorrow afternoon, exact time and place TBA. I hate that sort of non-plan plan but it actually makes the most sense in this case. Still, as we were getting off the phone, I said something like: “We can set a time if you have something you have to do tomorrow.” To which he replied: “I have to see you tomorrow.”

Very sweet. If only the only thing I remember about him from that party were not: I could not be less attracted to you.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Pulling Power

“But we never got to talk about films and books and things,” the barrister said (almost mournfully?) as I left Thursday morning. I didn’t say anything. Then he said something like: “You would have been nice to meet at another time.”

That’s what I was thinking about this afternoon when my mobile rang, flashing up a number I didn’t recognize. It was another guy from that same party, who’d gotten my number from his friends (and who, for the record, left the party before the barrister even arrived).

(The barrister thought my new python knee high stiletto boots were trashy, and just typing the description, I almost agree. But they seem to have, erm, pulling power…)

I’m not remotely attracted to Bachelor No. 2, who, among other things, is divorced with a child. (After years of saying no freakin’ way, I am finally coming around to the idea that maybe maybe maybe I might want a child, but someone else’s wigs me out no end.) But it’s flattering to have someone get up the nerve to call you, especially in this country, and I can’t really think of a reason not to at least get a drink with him, so… Sigh. He seems nice. Maybe it will be fun.

* * *

I did binge at the Christmas party Wednesday – a medium-sized binge, but definitely qualifies as a binge because the feeling (the panic, the need) was there, and I’m not quite sure where it came from. Today – two days post-binge – I’m still feeling horribly fat. I washed my jeans and seriously feared they might not fit this morning (but they did).

Yesterday I went to a power plate class taught by an instructor wearing a sparkly gold dress as she was off to a Christmas party afterwards. I made a comment about Christmas eating and she said: “Well, at least you’re still at the gym. It’s been dead here this week.” Yes, but…

I’d planned to relax a bit foodwise over Christmas, but I don’t think I’ve earned that right at this point. Last year the food wasn’t so amazing that I should be eating 10 tons of it – actually, it wasn’t even that good -- so I need to keep that in mind. Ditto for the chocolate. There is no reason to mindlessly eat Celebrations or Cadbury Roses or whatever – I don’t even like it that much. If I am craving chocolate I shall wait for good chocolate. (I debated bringing a small bar of Green & Black’s dark, but I know if I have it I will definitely eat it.)

On that note, I must confess that I waited until the absolute last minute to buy Friend Bearing Chocolate’s parents some chocolate. I’m bringing a small box as an extra present (in addition to the other things I’ve bought them), and the box is just small enough for me to fear that I’d open it and dig in and then have to buy them another box. Chocolate isn’t usually such a big deal for me, but I seem to be so fragile these days I didn’t want to chance it.

I’m most likely offline until the 27th, when I’ll return and (hopefully) post about my great Christmas success. Have a happy one, and see you on the other side (preferably not size)!

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Swearing Off Men

Last night, in good British Christmas party fashion (which is to say, very bad behavior), I drank lots of champagne and went home with a very cute, very charming barrister.

This morning the doorbell at his flat rang and he said: “I hope that’s not my girlfriend.”

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Five Pounds

This morning I woke up, freaked out when the scale showed I’d gained five pounds, and proceeded to spend the day systematically dismantling the story of a model claiming an affair with a certain basketball star married to an actress.

I took screen grabs of photos she claimed were her and e-mailed them to various fashion houses and asked them to identify the model. (To make life extra fun, one of the places I had to call was the Fig's old employer.) I checked her itinerary from going to visit him – did those flights exist on that airline on that date? (For security reasons, obviously airline won’t confirm whether she was aboard.) Has anyone ever met this woman? I would almost enjoy this sort of detective work were it not in service of giving more publicity to a delusional woman who clearly wants only that. (And, as I pointed out to my boss, I can spend the next week identifying every model in every photo she claims is her and that still will not prove definitively whether she did or did not shag this basketball player. It makes it less credible, sure. But it does not prove it definitively.)

Oh right. This is a weight-loss blog (sometimes). I was supposed to be talking about the five pounds.

I binged again Sunday, despite my best efforts.

I got up and went to Bikram yoga. Then I had lunch with friends, and made perfectly healthy choices. Then we had pudding, which I’d planned to enjoy. I ordered bread and butter pudding, which I love. Except this one was tasteless, and yet, I couldn’t stop myself from finishing it. I kept taking more bites, as if hoping the accumulation of bites would equal some sort of actual flavor. Then I wanted doughnuts, which I purchased on the way to a friend’s Christmas open house that I absolutely did not want to attend, but had to. (It’s Friend Bearing Chocolate’s – so a bit of an obligation, especially because she’s moving abroad next month.)

I’d feared drinking too much at Friend Bearing Chocolate’s out of boredom – I do like her, but it’s always the same 10 people at her parties, and… how can I put this politely? I can’t: They’re boring. And I say this as someone whose job it is to make some of the most boring people (celebrities) interesting. So it’s not through lack of trying on my part.

To combat the drinking-too-much problem, I’d booked a Power Plate session for 8 a.m. Monday morning. That would give me an excuse not to stay over (FBC had invited me since her flat is as far south in London as you can be and still have a London postcode) and a point at which I’d have to quit drinking lest feel beyond wretched. So… I only had about two glasses of red wine, but I ate. I ate cheese. I ate bread. I ate loads and loads of both. I ate half a seriously buttery lemon tart (and not an individual lemon tart, either). And on the way home I had cookies and dark chocolate, although I managed to ditch half of a cookie and a bit of the chocolate. I'm not sure where this binge came from, honestly.

I felt beyond wretched yesterday morning. And nearly all day.

Then I had dinner out with friends, which I didn’t want to cancel because yesterday was the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death. They didn’t know that, of course, but I knew it, and I didn’t want to sit home staring at the memorial candle I lit and thinking about it and remembering that day – and the weeks that preceded it – in minute detail. (Usually I try not to eat out in the day immediately following a binge so I can eat as cleanly as possible.)

My jeans felt uncomfortably tight yesterday. It’s true I’ve been spoiled by loads of people complimenting me lately, but I couldn’t help noting that one of the friends – whom I haven’t seen for at least six weeks – didn’t say anything (and she has before). I feared I wouldn’t be able to button my coat. It wasn’t a nice feeling.

All day today, I’ve felt the weight around my waist -- like an inner tube, like an ugly belt, like a doughnut of fat. I never knew five pounds could feel so heavy.

I have a little more than three days before I head up to Scotland for Christmas. Then three days to do a little damage control before New Year’s and the first week of January, when I have a friend visiting (which will certainly throw off my schedule). And I’m trying not to freak out and eat now because in mid-January I have to go to the Paris couture shows. Sigh.

One day at a time, right? I got up and ran today, and at lunch I went to yoga and taped the class, the last class of 2007. Food has been fine. I’m trying to remember that I’ll feel a lot better going into Christmas if I can do the healthy thing at least until I arrive in Scotland. That’s the goal, anyway.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Hard Core

Tonight I skipped a Dita von Teese party out of laziness, and instead subjected myself to one of the hardest workouts of my life.

Come again?

Well, this morning I was too lazy to figure out what “festive burlesque” meant (yes, that was the dress code on the invitation), let alone figure out some kind of work outfit that might double as such (or schlep extra clothes and shoes with me). I was also too lazy to try to run home after work and fetch clothes (party didn’t start until 8 p.m.)

But while making my way through my inbox (I swear I found a magazine dated Dec. 13, 2004 – yowza), I read about heartcore pilates. And so instead of filing expense reports, writing a story due Monday, or otherwise doing anything that really needs to be done, I booked myself a class for tonight. (They were all booked for Saturday, which is when I originally thought I’d try it.)

I am a little cross-training fool – yoga, running, Pilates, walking, crosstrainer, Body Pump, the occasional swim, blah blah – and hardly anything makes me sore anymore. But this class fatigued my muscles to the point of them shaking. Really shaking. As in: I don’t think I’m ready for this jelly.

I loved it. If I could afford it -- and if it were anywhere near my office or flat -- I would definitely do it regularly.

I’m curious to see how sore I am tomorrow.

On the subject of exercise, I’m starting to have a mild freak out about my exercise routine for what is known in England as “the festive period.” I know perfectly well that a few days without exercise won’t kill me, but a little exercise for me goes a very, very long way towards not panicking about food that I don’t normally eat (or eat much of). And if I can keep from panicking, I can keep from bingeing.

I leave for Scotland on the morning of the 22nd and am there until the 27th. I’ll be staying with the family of Friend Bearing Chocolate, and if the past is any guide, if I fell into a vat of oil, I myself might be deep fried and served up, possibly with a side of chocolate and a double helping of alcohol.

Seriously, I’ve got little privacy and even less space. It’s going to be freezing and daylight is limited, so I think I’ll be lucky to run once in those five days. I’m debating taping my yoga class and downloading it to my ipod, but I’m actually not sure there’s enough space to do it. Any suggestions? I'm trying to remind myself that I did not binge last year and nor did I exercise at all. So apparently it can be done, although I'm feeling considerably more vulnerable this year.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

That's A New One

Last Friday I decided not to mope about the Australian and so went to a Christmas party, chatted to a guy for at least an hour, and he asked for my number. (Yes, an extraordinarily bold British boy. How refreshing.) I typed it into the mobile he told me was his personal one – he works for the Home Office. Given previous -- and recent -- experience I’ve nearly stopped believing any man is going to do as he says, but for a few reasons I really did think this one would call, and soon. He didn’t. I wasn’t superkeen anyway but a distraction would have been nice.

I bumped into him at the gym today – for the record, having never once seen him there before in my life.

“I was going to call you but I didn’t have your number,” he said.

I tried not to roll my eyes. Why not just say he’d been busy, for heaven’s sake?

“I think what must have happened is that you didn’t press the ‘done’ button after you typed in your number, so it didn’t save,” he said. “I was going to ask [the party hostess] for it, but I thought I remembered your connection to that party was pretty tenuous.” (It was. I went with two male friends whose pal had been dumped by the hostess when he moved back to California.)

I laughed. “Wow, that’s definitely a new one.”

He laughed, too. “Believe me, I never bother to make excuses why I haven’t called. I wouldn’t have asked for your number if I wasn’t going to call.”

He typed in my number himself this time.

We shall see.

Shrinking, Again

Today I walked toward a colleague's desk as she was speaking to me. She stopped in midsentence and stared.

I quickly looked down at my jeans and too-big turtleneck, wondering what sort of disaster had befallen them.

“I haven’t noticed you in your jeans for a while,” she said. “You’ve lost so much weight.”

I haven’t, honestly – not a single pound. (In fact, I’m up two pounds.) But apparently that’s not how it looks to everyone else. On the way out of the elevator – wearing the above ensemble, plus my winter coat – a writer at another magazine announced: “Wow, you’re the shrinking woman.”

And so it has been for the past few days. Friend Bearing Chocolate – who I saw not more than two weeks before that -- said she almost didn’t recognize me when she came out of the Tube. At dinner last week, my (male) friend O. said: “You look fit,” then quickly added “I mean, you look toned.” (Fit being a synonym in England for gorgeous – and heaven forbid any male in this country should pay me an actual, unadulterated compliment.) And my hairdresser caught sight of me while finishing another client’s hair Saturday and shrieked: “Look at the size of your butt!” (I confess to sneaking a peek when I went to the bathroom. Frankly, it doesn’t look any different to me.)

These were especially nice (and somewhat soothing) to hear after a week that included not one but two binges – more binges in a week than I’ve had in more than a year. (There was the Chanel binge, and then another – hands-down the worst binge I’ve had in more than a year -- both during and post-Christmas party Saturday night.) Because of my weight loss history, the minute I binge once I tend to freak out, think the whole weight loss caper is over, and that I’ll promptly wake up fat within days. (Don’t think I exaggerate. In August to September ’05, I literally went from a size 12/14 to a 16/18. It’s almost enough to make me laugh when I read these articles that say you didn’t gain the weight in a week so you can’t lose it in week. Almost.)

I desperately wish I could pinpoint what is different this time around, but somehow when I binge the next day I don’t feel like carrying on eating haphazardly and badly – which was, of course, always the thing that turned a binge into the end of a diet. I’m immensely grateful for this, but somewhat terrified that since I can’t identify where it’s coming from, it will somehow disappear.


The Australian emails me tonight at 10 p.m., many hours after I emailed him to see if we were still on. He says he forgot we were meeting tonight and does not suggest another date. (Also -- because I’m the kind of person who notices and can’t help analyzing things like this – he signs it with his name, instead of his first initial and a kiss, which is how he’s signed all the other ones.)

I am trying awfully hard not to tar all men with the same brush, but the ones I’m meeting these days certainly aren’t making it easy.

A friend I saw in DC in September listened to some of my tales of woe and announced: “You are so overdue a prince.” She doesn’t mean William or Harry.

I don’t need a prince. But I don’t need this kind of crap, either.

I got the email on my blackberry as I was leaving an excruciatingly boring drinks party that I can’t even claim was for work. In the car on the way home – thinking of the therapist who pointed out I’d be better off crying than bingeing – I did cry a bit. Lest I seem totally melodramatic, it was at least as much because of the loss of possibility and what he represented – the first person I actually really liked since the Fig, and the first person I’ve felt any kind of connection to in ages – as just, well… feeling crummy.

The tears didn’t help, but then again, the food never really does, either.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Dontcha Wish Your Job Was Hot Like Mine?

I am up a creek without a paddle -- lame metaphor intentional because I'm doing the missing/reappearing/fraudulent canoeist story. Which has just been assigned TONIGHT -- despite the fact that we've been pitching it since last Wednesday -- and is due tomorrow.

I just spoke to one of his former students. Apparently when he caught them chewing on their pens he would snatch the pens and dip them in the classroom fishtank.

I am so winning a Pulitzer this year.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Do-Over, Pretty Please?

I binged last night – at the Chanel Paris-Londres show in London, of all places.

Food at a fashion show? Yes, loads of it, and quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen at a fashion show: duck with fig reduction and sweet potatoes, foie gras with apples, Thai glass noodle salad, Laduree macaroons. (Not that Karl Lagerfeld was eating any of it – he had a butler following him around with a lone glass of diet Coke on a tray. If only I’d had the same!)

It’s been a tough week. Lots of eating out, lots of events, not enough exercise, which is the first part of the panic equation. Then there was alcohol (our office Christmas lunch had been earlier in the day, and then I stupidly had some champagne at the show) combined with despair.

Where did the despair come from? I met the first guy since the Fig that I really, really liked. Not the physicist – he’s an Australian computer programmer. (Who, by the way, also picked me up off the ground. Do I suddenly look like a little Beth doll, accessories not included?) We went out last Thursday, and planned to meet up Sunday before the evening even ended. We met up Sunday and…nothing since, because I’ve managed to screw it up by being a complete and utter nut case.

Don’t tell me that I probably wasn’t as bad as I think, and that he still could call – I know that he isn’t going to. I broke a bunch of rules in the course of those two dates and so decided I’d break another one by contacting him in an attempt to explain what was going on. Of course I just managed to make things worse. Sigh. If only do-overs were granted outside of elementary school playground games.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

If My Refrigerator Could Talk

Today I received a shout-out in the big morning news meeting… for my update on a certain, um, wino's bra episode.

Dear God, how is this possibly my life?

I also opened my refrigerator today to discover it contained only semi-skimmed milk (necessary ingredient for morning oatmeal) and a big leather handbag.

Why the handbag in the fridge? It’s got gum on it, and I don’t have a freezer or peanut butter (another of Google’s get-out-the-gum suggestions).

Lots going on but it’s been to crazy to blog. I’ve been out every night for more than a week, and quite a lot of those have been late nights. Must get sleep, but first must close this week’s stories…

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

One Year

The physicist picked me up. As in, lifted me off the ground and started carrying me up Upper Street.

I had forgotten about this until late Sunday afternoon. It was nice, even though I made him put me down for fear of being unceremoniously dropped. (Splat. On Upper Street. In a minidress. That would be bad. Minidress?, you ask. Minidress was a 25 euro gamble in Spain – a gamble because I doubted I’d have the nerve to wear it. I’m still not sure I do. Some of my old t-shirts are probably longer than that dress.)

Anyway, about being picked up: It was thrilling, if a little scary. And I don’t just mean fear of being dropped. I know this will sound crazy, but there was something almost scary about finding out someone can pick me up and there’s not much I can do to stop it. (This wasn’t the case on Saturday – I was fine – but…)

Fine Print: Before anybody – myself included – gets too excited about the physicist, let us pause to note that there is absolutely zero long-term potential there. He’s fun, but he’s all over the shop (part of what makes him fun). And there are other reasons.

• * *

Yesterday I did something I never would have done a year ago: I put myself and my health ahead of my work.

This week I’m dealing with an editor who has kittens over things as minor as stray commas, and this morning at 2 a.m. I actively had to talk myself out of doing the Devil Wears Prada thing and tossing my blackberry into the nearest fountain or river. (Also out of quitting my job on the spot.) I had a follow-up appointment yesterday about my binge-eating problems, and the appointment is hard enough to get in the first place, let alone change or cancel. Plus, I reasoned, for what reason was I canceling? The magazine doesn’t close until tonight, and the bottom line is that this is a 300-word story we’re talking about.

So I told her, calmly and politely, that I had a hospital appointment that could not be changed and that I would be back by 5 p.m. (noon EST).

Like most NY editors, she cannot get her head around time change, and said: “Well, you’ll have to do it before you go.” I pointed out that it was 2:45 p.m. my time, and that I had to leave right that minute to get to the appointment on time.

“Oh,” she said. She started to protest, but shut up when I told her I’d planned to stay late that night. (Not until 2 a.m., but never mind about that.)

I went to my appointment. I tried to focus on it instead of worrying about the article (and mostly succeeded, except when we ran over a bit and I started panicking about time). For the record, the therapist was a whole lot nicer than she was the week before. Yes, everyone is capable of having a bad day…
* * *

Today marks a year of This Thing I’m Doing.

Height: 5’8”
Start weight: 233 (105.91 kgs)
Today’s weight: 160.5 (72.95 kgs)
Pounds lost: 72.5

Starting size: 18/20 UK – probably really a 20, but I had to pretend an 18 would sometimes fit (20 US)
Today’s size: 10/12 UK (6/8 US)

Total binges this year: 5 or 6 (I can just about remember having that many in a single week or two)

Servings of fruit and vegetables consumed: Far too many to think about
Workouts completed: ditto

Wow. A whole year. I remember exactly where I was a year ago: I’d just finished a pasta, arronicini, and chocolate-fueled assignment in Italy covering TomKat’s wedding, and stayed there for Thanksgiving to further bloat myself with more pasta, chocolate, and the festive dinner at a wine editor friend’s (she gets two bottles of every vintage produced in Italy – think we drank much?) By the end of the holiday weekend, I felt revolting – and was almost excited to get started on Project Me.

My goals then were just to put one foot in front of the other and not to gain (too much) weight during the holiday season, so as not to make my task harder in January.

And here I am. I hit the first goal weight I set for myself (164 – the very top number of my healthy weight range), but now I think I’d like a few pounds buffer for the inevitable five pounds I’m told weight usually varies. (I’d prefer to not be technically in the “overweight” range the minute I have a big meal.) So I’m thinking 158, which is a neat 75 pounds.

That said, I’m not sure it’s a realistic goal to peel off the last 2.5 pounds during December. So current goal is to fit in as many workouts as I can (I’ll be packing cold weather running gear for Christmas in Scotland!) and not to go above 164. Frankly, I’d like to not put on any weight, but let’s be a little realistic, shall we? Last year I was seriously hardcore (as in hardcore dieter) in December, and I know – for sake of binge eating recovery, if nothing else! – I need to let myself enjoy the holiday a bit.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Girl With a Plan

Dates are binge triggers for me. The combination of alcohol (a given on a British date) and an entire evening struggling to connect with someone is – for me – potentially disastrous.

But last night I had a plan. I’d decided that no matter how much it cost, if I were feeling at all fragile I’d take a taxi home, since being delivered straight to my door would take me out of temptation’s way. I’d emailed one of my best friends – and one of the few people I can discuss binge eating with (I wouldn’t say “feel comfortable discussing” because I’m never comfortable with the subject) – for help coming up with a plan for when I got in my door.

What I hadn’t planned for was him cancelling. At 5:30 p.m., 45 minutes before I was about to head out to meet him. Because of illness. (Yes, this is the same guy who cancelled three hours beforehand last Friday, also claiming illness. When he said he’d call later in the week I had to bite my tongue from saying the illness I’d have to have to even consider going out with him again would be mental.)

I called a friend, who told me she was at Selfridges with a friend of hers and that I should come out and have a drink with them. We had some wine in the Wonder Bar and they talked me into trying some Nars smoky eye makeup. (I almost never wear any eye makeup, let alone extremely visible eye makeup.)

We hit Wagamama’s and I was dropped off at Highbury Corner at 10:30, still feeling vaguely depressed and very all-dressed-up-with-nowhere-to-go. (Although I bought the ingredients for smoky eyes, I’ll probably never use them, let alone get the look as good as the makeup artist did.) For the hour before I got home, I’d been thinking about buying a small Green & Black’s dark chocolate bar, and when I walked into the newsagent, I only saw the big ones. I wavered. I spotted the small ones, finally, and bought one, feeling very sane; very in control.

After I ate it, I teetered briefly on the brink of a binge. Then instead of crossing the street to go back to the newsagent, I walked down the road to meet another friend in the pub. Where, for the record, I managed to pull at 6’4” tall dark physicist. Take that, Mr. Short (my height) Balding I Was Only Going Out With You Tonight Out of Boredom.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Just when I’d finally gotten used to the idea of three months in Los Angeles, the deal fell apart. In the end it was my choice not to go – I decided there were too many strings attached, and I didn’t want to be in the position of fighting for something that realistically I might hate. But still, I feel a bit let down.

Part of what made the negotiations fall apart was that – partially fearing I could be stuck there for months against my will, and partially because it’s true – I was open with everyone about wanting to get my permanent residency in England. I never thought I’d last this long, but now that residency – as in, the ability to work here without my current employer (or anyone else) sponsoring me – is within my grasp (10.5 months), I don’t want to give it up. Unfortunately, without the three-month respite of LA (where I likely would have worked at least twice as hard as I already do, but the assignments would have been good), I’m already wondering how I’m going to make it that long.

* * *

My date Friday night cancelled at 3:30 p.m. – as in, four hours before we were supposed to meet up.

Via e-mail.

Claiming possible illness.

No mention of rescheduling.

I wasn’t all that into him – this was the friend of a friend I went out with over the summer, and for one reason or another (see “not all that into him”) we haven’t met up again. But still, I was (unreasonably?) disappointed when he cancelled. A date’s a date. And what he did is especially crummy on a Friday night.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Cry, Cry Again

“I always feel a little silly after I cry like this,” I said to the woman evaluating me Wednesday to decide if I need further binge eating treatment. It had been a very painful hour, where occasionally – suddenly – I’d be choking back tears, unable to speak. “It’s just always feels a little funny to me to tell someone I don’t know all these personal details*, and to cry.”

“You don’t cry?” she said.

“No, I totally do,” I said. “But usually it’s out of frustration, or it’s about my mother.”

“Do you cry a lot?” she asked.

“Not usually. Every once in a while I will, but I don’t sit around my flat and cry or anything.”

“Well you should,” she said.

“I should?”

“Bingeing is a dissociative behavior,” she said briskly. “You’d be a lot better off if you went home and cried instead of bingeing.”

Um, OK. I take her point. Actually, I know perfectly well that she’s right. But it’s not as simple as deciding to cry instead of eat. And I had taken an instant dislike to her, the manner in which she treated me, and the tone in which she spoke to me.

I have to go back and see her another time for her to finish evaluating me, because – and I have heard this before – I am a tough case. She told me rather sharply that I hadn’t given enough thought to a few issues I’d brought up, and that she wanted me to think about them in the time between appointments. I bit my tongue to avoid snapping back: “I don’t think about them enough? Are you kidding? This [referring to one particular personal issue] is almost all I think about.”

So not looking forward to Appointment Two, the Appointment of Doom. Perhaps I could have a root canal instead?

*Yes, yes, I know I have this here blog thingie where I tell people I don't know loads of personal details, but for me that's not the same as sitting face to face with someone and doing it...

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Viva Espana

Hola from Madrid, land of the tiniest clothing sizes this side of Asia. I haven't felt like this much of a giant since I tried to buy a top in Indonesia and the shop assistant kept yelling "Big, big. Very big!" and holding her hands as far apart as they would go. Ugh.

Despite my love of olive oil, manchego cheese, tortilla espanola (article in El Pais yesterday about the tilde conquering cyberspace, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to get one to appear), and various Spanish sweets, I'm managing not to eat my way across the city. I brought oatmeal with me from London, which has helped immeasurably. (Don't laugh -- I've discovered that if I eat a familiar or otherwise healthy breakfast, I do a whole lot better the rest of the day. Plus it only leaves two meals for which I can make crappy choices...)

I also braved a step class (don't ask me why -- I don't even do it in England)in a Spanish gym, which ended up being a rather amusing lesson in both Spanish dance and the vosotros conjugation of verbs (a conjugation particular to Spain). I was pretty much a disaster at this class, and I'm not sure whether I'd rather blame my Spanish or my two left feet beneath cement hips. Anyway. Debating whether to brave Body Pump tomorrow -- presumably there can be no cha cha'ing or, um, flamencoing while doing, say, a cling and press?

Hasta luego...

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Speechless in Southwark

A lovely Scottish guy I’ve spoken to maybe four times in my life stopped me as I was walking from the kitchen back to my desk. He was standing at the photocopy machine. There was no one else within earshot.

“Beth,” he said. He paused. “I don’t really know you, but if you lose any more weight there’s not going to be anything left of you.”

What does one respond to that? I wasn’t at all angry, if that’s how I sound – just flummoxed. Speechless. “Thank you,” seemed the wrong response. But what is the right one?

* * *

I haven’t been in any immediate danger of bingeing, but I called the hospital four times (from answering machine, I was never quite sure I was leaving messages in the right place, and I couldn’t get a live person) and finally was rewarded with a call back. I’ve got an appointment in two weeks for an assessment. Part of me wonders if I’m jumping the gun calling after a handful of binges, and the other part of me knows that I have to do this. What makes this so difficult is that I spend my life presenting myself like I have it all together, and that whatever problem might crop up, I’ll solve it. It is hard to sublimate this instinct – the instinct to edit – at all, let alone to someone I don’t know and for long enough for her to figure out what’s wrong and how it might be solved.

This, I have been told by at least three different people in the binge-eating field, makes me an extremely difficult case.

She sounded very nice and sympathetic. She said she hadn’t wanted to call back until she’d read my file.

This sounds promising.

Just having an appointment makes me feel like everything is going to be OK.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Normal Weight

As of today, my BMI is 24.5, and I’m safely in the normal weight range.

I’ve never been in the normal weight range in my life. (Or if I was, it was certainly before the age of 12.) I can’t believe it. I can’t help thinking that I currently weigh 38 pounds less than I did when I was 13 years old, and about to get my tonsils out. I remember getting weighed in the hospital, and my grandmother peering over to have a look at the number and then looking at me. I remember that look. That look, to me, said: “I am going to keep quiet about this only because you’re about to have general anesthesia and I know you’re terrified. But you will definitely be hearing about this later, and don’t even think you’re going to get to eat loads of ice cream like everyone else after this.” (I ended up being too sick from the anesthesia to be particularly interested in the ice cream.)

This morning as I thought some more about Los Angeles I couldn’t help thinking that I wouldn’t be in this situation 72 pounds ago. There’s something about losing weight – taking charge of something that has affected me for so long – that makes it easier to take charge of other aspects of my life. Seventy-two pounds ago, I might not have asked to see my old boss when he was here this summer (depending on how much weight I’d gained since the last time I saw a person, I might avoid him – or at least, not actively seek him out). I wouldn’t have wanted to go visit other offices – I would have felt too fat to go to LA at all, and I wouldn’t have wanted our New York office to look at me and think: “This is who we have sitting at catwalk shows in Paris?” (Of course, they may well have thought that anyway…) I would have freaked out about what to wear, and felt uncomfortable and fat and self conscious and unable to speak my mind. And none of these choices would be before me. It is an awesome – by which I mean, inspiring awe – thought.

I’m in the middle of closing two stories for tonight’s issue – and operating on very little sleep – so more tomorrow.

PS I called again about the binge eating treatment, and yesterday was rewarded with an actual live person answering the phone. She said someone was going to call me today, but that would have been too easy, hmmm?

Sunday, 28 October 2007

My Place in This (Magazine) World

I’ve been insecure about my writing all my life. Even though it’s something I do for a living – or used to do for a living, since I’m not sure the Mad Lib type stuff I do these days qualifies – I constantly feel like an imposter.

Friday I got found out.

My annual review – done by a senior editor who is a self-described hard grader (just my luck, when everyone else in my office got the easy A’s) – marked my writing as below par. Based on two stories, one of which was less than 200 words and both of which were last-minute fires I was the only one around to put out.

I nearly burst into tears. It had been a crappy week for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, and I’d had to sit around until 8 p.m. on Friday night waiting for this editor, who’d rescheduled my review six times in four days and had stood me up earlier in the day.

I hate this job. I hate this place. The review didn’t make me want to work harder. It just made me wonder – as I have for years – what the hell I’m doing there. It made me want to attempt to coast in London for the next year until I can get my indefinite leave to remain, instead of busting ass in LA. Well, coast in London and find other places to write for on the side (or better yet, working on some personal writing projects of my own), instead of having zero time in LA.

How can I be so angry when I was just being told what is, perhaps, the truth? I won’t get into the Kremlinology of my magazine, but it has to do with how I was assigned the person who did my review and what it says about the type of assignments I’m going to be given this year. Sigh. When I saw a very old friend in NYC last month – also a journalist – he said: “Hey, Beth, have you come up with new careers for us?”

“I’ve got a few ideas,” I said. Pause. “Housewife.”

“Are you close to that?” he asked. (We have a complicated history.)

“No, but if you know any cute investment bankers who will let me stay home and only have to accept writing assignments I like, I might even cook dinner every once in a while.”

He laughed. “You’d never do that.”

“Try me,” I said.

* * *

Last night I went for dinner at friends I like to call my big brother and sister in London -- the nicest people in the world. Our (unwritten) deal is that they feed me a dinner that involves lots of vegetables and I tell them ridiculous stories about the single life.

They've been trying to have a baby for the past two and a half years -- she's tried all kinds of diets (she's a tiny little thing; these are for her blood sugar and insulin levels) and fertility treatments. It's been painful to watch, because they'd be the best parents anyone could ask for. Anyway, she's three months pregnant and I'm thrilled for them both. But when I got home I couldn't help thinking: She started trying at the age I am now.

* * *

Sometimes a laugh arrives when you so desperately need it.

I e-mailed my friend O. to tell him the other night I’d pulled a Kiwi rugby player-turned-investment-banker (no, not from any plot to make the above scenario happen). How on earth, I wondered to O., did this guy get to be 34 years old and think it was OK to kiss like someone taking a lollipop and ramming it at your gums? (Rugby Dude mentioned an ex-girlfriend of two years; is she now perhaps toothless?)

O. responded that he remembered the days of pulling – that people were celebrating the end of the Falklands War, and maybe even were still travelling by horseback. “What I wouldn’t give for a lollipop to the gums, or anywhere else,” he wrote. “Or something more straight-sounding.”

Friday, 26 October 2007

At Least Buying Cleaning Supplies

Yesterday I called the hospital to ask about some follow-up binge-eating treatment.

I had promised myself I would call if I binged again in the month following the wedding binge (Sept. 28). Well, I made my own deadline – I binged last Saturday night, three weeks later.

I can spot a pattern in all of my recent binges – five since July. They have all occurred after I’ve been drinking. They seem to be triggered, in part, by romantic despair. (Hello, don’t I sound tragic?) But for example, on the Friday before Binge Saturday, I’d been out having a few drinks, thought briefly and urgently about chocolate, started hunting for an open shop, then resolutely put myself in a taxi and went home (and did not stop at the 24-hour shop on my block). Did denying myself chocolate Friday contribute to the severity of the binge on Saturday? I don’t know. Maybe.

While five binges may not seem like a lot when you consider that at one point I was doing it almost every day, these have been severe ones. And just watching the intervals between the five binges shrink is frightening for me. This is how it has been in the past: I manage months without bingeing, couple that with a diet and exercise and lose weight. Then I have one binge. Then a couple of months later another one. Then one maybe a month later. And then two or three weeks. And then it’s once a week. And then I’m kicking myself for giving away my fat clothes and not wanting to leave the house at all (let alone in the one pair of too-tight black trousers that still sorta fits as long as I don’t wash it too often).

I know that doesn’t have to happen this time. But I also know that I have a big problem waiting until things get out of control – avoiding and waiting to be forced to do something instead of behaving like an adult and sorting things out when things start to get messy, as opposed to when they reach epic frat-house disaster level. I do this with my flat. I do this with my desk. I do this with my job. I did this, a couple of years ago, with a cavity (dumb move). I’m not proud of this trait, but it – like the bingeing, I guess – is something I recognize and I’m working on.

Anyway, of course the hospital hasn’t called me back. But I’m not going to let myself get away with that – if I don’t hear by next Wednesday I’ll call again. I make a living by being persistent, so one would think I could apply this to my life with some effect.

* * *

Yesterday, lest I be too pleased with myself after a Pilates teacher commented on my “bony” bits, I was at Selfridges killing time before a party started.

“Could you please explain the James Perse sizing?” I asked the salesgirl, seeing shirts numbered 1 to 4.

She looked me up and down. “If you’re a 16, you’ll need the 4.”


Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Can I enter an artificially (that is, flu-induced) low weight on my tracker?

Hmm. Didn't think so.

Tonight in LA

There are decisions to be made – lots of them – and as usual, I don’t want to make them.

So I’m up in the middle of the night -- and with the worst ever case of the flu -- thinking.

Which friend do I want to spend Christmas with, and where? (Yes, I am very grateful to have options, but I wish I didn't have to decide now.) Do I want to live in Los Angeles for three months? Could I live in Los Angeles for three months? What if I hate it? As my sister wisely pointed out, if I don’t want a career at this magazine, why am I even thinking about it? And most worryingly, what if they don't let me come back to London?

I would do it in a heartbeat, I think, if it weren’t three months. A month? Sure. Two months? Oh, why not – especially when you consider I’d be swapping London for LA in January. But three months is a long time – a quarter of a year. It’s barely been four months since everything ended with the Fig, and frankly, it seems like eons.

I’m terrified of driving. I’m terrified of driving and Blackberrying at the same time, which is all anyone in our Los Angeles office seems to do. I’m a little scared of working harder than I ever have in my life, but mostly I’m scared of being absolutely crap at it no matter how hard I work. (Just because I don’t want to spend my life doing it doesn’t mean I want to be crap at it, especially when top editors will be watching.)

The plus side: It would be an adventure. I’m not sure that’s enough of a draw, but at the same time I can’t seem to turn this opportunity down so easily.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Size Six

A new friend V. – we met a couple of months ago – was clearing her cupboards and insisted I come over to try on some of the (designer) clothes she said she’d rather I have than put at the whim of eBay.

I was flattered that she’d think we were remotely the same size, but was positive we weren’t. “[V's friend] H. and I were talking at breakfast about whether my things would suit you,” she said. “We think the only problem might be the chest.” (Mine is, erm, ample – I can never buy button-down shirts.)

I covertly checked the tags of the dresses and coats: UK 10, US 6. Um, no freakin’ way. I protested that I was a UK 12 (US 8) on a good day. She insisted I try.

Of the five items, I could get into four of them: two dresses and two coats, all from different designers. All size UK 10/US 6. Insane. The Wakefield twins were size six, for heaven's sake.

“One dress fitting is a fluke,” said my friend, who actually knows very little about my weight-loss history. “Two means it’s your size.”

I took two dresses and have tried them on twice since then. Just to, you know, check that they still fit. I examined the seams for telltale tags that might suggest they were mislabelled. I know, I know – I’m crazy.

And yet: Two and a half pounds to go before I’m even classed as “normal” (my goal) as opposed to “overweight.”

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

I Am Not a Pretty Girl/That Is Not What I Do

I don’t expect people to be nice or to like me.

A bit reductionist, maybe, but that’s one of the ideas presented to me during binge eating therapy that still sticks with me – along with the idea that how I interpret and then react to events comes from how I frame the world.

As of yesterday I am officially at least 2.5 pounds and possibly five pounds below my lowest adult weight ever. And these days, the frame seems – perhaps – the wrong size and shape.


“We always like to welcome pretty girls back home.” (US customs agent, in rather non-smarmy manner, if you can believe)

“You’re a bit of a looker.” (date who favored silly American slang, via email)

“You look amazing – like Snow White, with your fair skin and dark hair.” (fellow customer watching me try on Laura Mercier red lipstick)

“You’re too pretty to be so cynical.” (taxi driver)

(Never mind the Fig, who used to tell me I was “not hard to look at,” and – once -- that I was “very good looking and very clever.”)

I’m flustered when people say things such as the above. That’s not how I think of myself. Nor do I think I would be going out on a limb – or breaking new ground -- to say the taxi driver had a point. Not that I’m too pretty to be so cynical – beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? – but that to some extent people treat you differently based on how you look. And if you’re always treated well – because you’re pretty – why would you need to develop the hard shell of cynicism to protect your, um, gooey chocolate center?

Almost daily lately I feel like the world treats me differently. I get served faster in pubs. I get chatted up more in pubs. The person sitting next to me on an airplane doesn’t sigh or roll their eyes when I sit down, and is it my imagination, or are people less grumpy when I have the window seat and make everyone get up so I can go to the bathroom?

And take last night.

I attended a black tie music industry dinner. (Forgive the name-dropping, but the demographic our magazine would like to attract isn’t interested and I have to squeal to somebody that I was seated at a table with A-ha, and they still look good enough to turn into a cartoon for.) I worried about half as much as I might have a year ago about whether I was dressed right, because I feel (rightly or wrongly) that you can get away with a lot more when you’re thinner. I shivered in the over air-conditioned ballroom (would I have worn a little black dress that was actually fairly little a year ago? I don’t know. Probably not.) and the guy sitting next to me promptly offered his tuxedo jacket. (I probably wouldn’t have accepted 67 pounds ago because I would have been too worried it would be too small.) As he handed it over, he made a comment about how big it would be on me. (See previous parenthetical.)

Is all of the above because I look different? Or because now that I look different I act different? Probably a bit of both. And in their own way, both are equally unsettling.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Signs That You (And By “You,” I Mean “Me,”) Should Stop Multitasking

My press badge for a film festival arrived yesterday bearing my name and the photo of a man I don’t know and have never met.

When I called the press office to ask what happened, they did some research and reported that this photo was indeed the one I had e-mailed them.

And then I remembered.

Last month, in the depths of Fig and related can’t-get-past-two-dates-with-any-one-person despair, I answered a Gumtree ad. This was the photo the guy sent. (My work computer forces me to download all attachments to my desktop.)

In the race to finish the application before I had to catch a flight, I clicked the photo of guy I’ve never met – and (not, thank you very much, based on photo) never plan to meet.

How did I explain mix-up to woman at the press office, alert readers (oh dear, channeling Dave Barry) may ask. Keep in mind I’d already told her the pic was “of some random guy.”

I told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me God, indeed.

She laughed. Everyone finds my love life funny.

Sometimes -- and right this very minute is one of those times, though I reserve the right to change my mind later -- that even includes me.

Los Angeles Waltz

“What would be your biggest challenge working here?” the Los Angeles bureau chief asked me.

“Um, I don’t think I can drive and Blackberry at the same time,” I answered.

She laughed. I knew it was a good line, but behind it there was truth I’ve spent the past several weeks avoiding thinking about too hard. I don’t like Los Angeles and never have. I can’t imagine being unable to walk anywhere (never mind all the fabulous shoes I could wear without a second thought because, um, I wouldn’t have to walk anywhere). I’d probably have to work 10 times as hard as I do now, the Blackberry would never stop going, and the stakes would be much higher.

Why did I even open this can of LA worms? Sometimes I wonder myself. The reasons are complicated, and at this point I can’t really imagine moving there full-time. But I may do a “rotation” there – provided I can get reassurance that it isn’t a de facto move.

The LA question is a partial explanation for my lack of posting over the past three weeks. Too much to think about coupled with extreme lack of Internet access (besides the trusty Blackberry) and time, even though much of this trip was meant to be vacation. This post is really just a placeholder/note to say I’m still putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes even quickly. (So many weight loss blogs end not with a bang but with silence, don’t they? You check back and check back and finally you just know that the blogger is on a gaining streak… That wasn’t, for the record, my reason for lack of posts.)

I had one binge – after the wedding of an old friend (erm, friend-with-benefits). The binge, however, was not rooted in our checkered history, but rather in the fact that I was the only single person at the entire wedding, and that I was home from a Saturday evening wedding by 10:30 p.m. because my table (all old friends of mine) had to get home to relieve babysitters. Sigh. (I’ve decided if I binge one more time I will investigate some booster-shot-type binge-eating therapy.)

On the plus side, I managed not to turn the trip into one long binge. I like to joke that I eat my way across the US, ticking off foods I must consume and relegating friends to drinks or coffees when they won’t eat what I want to eat, and I enjoyed things like an overstuffed corned beef sandwich, Mexican food, a Publix cupcake, and a black-and-white cookie without bingeing, though the urge was always there in the background. I exercised nearly every day and came home weighing about the same (maybe a pound or two less – my scale is acting funny) as I did when I left. Plus, I bought a handful of size 8 clothes -- enough that even I have to admit that that may be my size, instead of downplaying it and thinking said designer or brand must just have generous sizing.

I just got back to the office yesterday and already I’m swamped. But more from the trip – or maybe just more, full stop – coming.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Signs of the Apocalypse

This morning I had a psychedelic fever dream that involved a chase to replace my BlackBerry with an updated model.

I am a sad, sad girl.

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Darkness of Portugal

I wasn’t sent to Pavarotti’s funeral. Instead – in nearly the middle of the night – I was given about 20 minutes’ notice to pack up my stuff and get on a plane to Portugal, to cover the Madeleine McCann story.

I loved it.

It is one of the things that makes me so unsuited to this job that rather than sit at the Hotel Cipriani drinking 10 euro diet Cokes (or 30 euro bellinis), checking out who George Clooney is kissing, I would a thousand times rather be at the center of a white hot news story. Really.

So you’d think in the middle of an assignment I was enjoying – inasmuch as one can enjoy 20-hour days, large chunks of which are in the beating hot sun dealing with very reluctant (and often non-English-speaking) sources – I wouldn’t have binged. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sunday night’s binge in Lagos (15 minutes from Praia da Luz) was the worst I’ve had in nine months, and the first binge I’ve had in that time that really scared me. It involved three ingredients also present in the Paris binge: Several days out of routine and with very little control over where and what I ate and with whom, plus – more importantly – too much alcohol mixed with loneliness/despair on the romantic front.

What was scary about this particular binge? Well, after several months of eating well the idea of bingeing – at least for me – feels remote. You wonder why you did it. You can’t imagine doing it. You have a few episodes of overeating, but not with the urgency and desperation of a binge. You think maybe you’re even normal – hey, normal people overeat, right? Your nutritionist from years ago always used to say so.

Normal people, however, do not do what I did on Sunday night. A bit of background, first. I’d made it through a week in Venice – always a difficult week for me – which perversely may have meant my guard was down a bit. I’d spent Saturday night in an apartment in Praia da Luz that was so remote and lonely and dark and mobile phone-reception-free that I lay awake all night, wondering how long it would take my office to discover I’d been killed. I had all the lights on, and – though I go for months without turning on my television at home – BBC World for noise. I was out of bed and working by 6 a.m., and Sunday was a long and crazy day in the arc of the McCann story.

That night, I switched to a hotel and joined a couple of other reporters for dinner. Beforehand, we drank sangria. Two pitchers, one of them extra-strong. Service in Portugal is slow, and I was very hungry. I adore Portuguese sweets and had spent two days resisting them – not to mention a whole week resisting Italian pizzerias and pasticcerias and the treats left on my pillow each night by the hotel. So I tried to resist the bread and cheese and chorizo on the table, but couldn’t. I drank wine. I tried to ignore the fries on my plate. I found myself thinking about the box of 16 Italian chocolates I had upstairs in my suitcase – they’d been left in my room in Venice and I was bringing them back as a treat, as is our custom with foreign assignments, for the office. In a decision I do think I wouldn’t have made sober, I excused myself to go to the bathroom, dashed up to my room, and consumed the chocolates. The whole box.

On my way back to the table, I spied a couple (maybe it was three) pieces of wrapped pieces of chocolate – the sort given to you with cappuccinos – sitting on a table by the bar. I grabbed those and ate them. I returned to the table. I ate all of my fries and some more bread. I scanned the dessert menu but didn’t see anything like the doughnuts and vanilla cakes and custard tarts I’d seen in the pasticcerias. That’s what I wanted, and nothing else would do. But I had some port with one of the reporters (the other went to bed) and consumed a huge handful of the wrapped pieces of chocolate. When she left, I checked my e-mail. No word from a certain guy (and I don’t mean the Fig, who I also had spent quite a lot of time thinking about).

I stumbled out onto the street. It was past midnight, and there wasn’t much open. I got a piece of flan-like cake that wasn’t at all what I wanted and ate it. Then one Magnum bar. Then another. I walked down the street looking for a bakery of the sort I saw in my head. The Algarve in Portugal is poorly lit, and it was pitch black except for the occasional whoosh and blinding flash of a speeding car. There are few sidewalks. I thought about how I could get killed, and still I didn’t stop.

After a few more minutes, though, I finally decided I wasn’t going to have any luck. I went back to the hotel, scanned the desserts on the room service menu (none looked appealing), ate the cashews and then the peanuts (I don’t even like peanuts) out of the minibar, and went to bed.

I woke up feeling sick and full, both physically and with self-loathing. Immediately – and knowing the number it displayed would upset me -- I wondered if the hotel’s gym had a scale. But I was too full and ill to work out, and I’d woken up too late. The empty box of chocolates taunted me. I worked. I had a toasted sandwich (made with too much butter) and then some fruit. As terrifying as the binge itself was, the feeling I had the day after was at least as terrifying – it was the oh, fuck it one. The I’ve-binged-once-so-I-might-as-well-keep-eating feeling. I haven’t felt that in nine months, either.

I was hungry all day. I went to dinner and was unable to resist the cheese and bread. I sighed inwardly and thought about how much I’d wanted to go to the US next week the slimmest I’ve ever been. I mentally riffled through my closet, wondering what I'll wear to the wedding I have to go to, and wondering what on earth I'll wear to our New York and LA offices. I pushed it all out of my head. I was still hungry after my fish, so I ate my potatoes. I ate a bit more bread, but it was a decision, not a binge.

The next day, after a long hot day in Praia da Luz, I stood at the bakery counter asking the attendant in a mixture of Spanish and pantomime what everything was. Finally -- after I pointed to about the eighth cake -- he handed me a three-bite-size piece of something to try. "Obrigada," I said. Thank you. But I felt anything but grateful -- I nearly wanted to cry. I ate it and debated leaving, but I’d come in there to have one piece of something I wanted, and I hadn’t chosen that. After much deliberation I ordered a piece of the vanilla custard cake, and ate it too quickly.

That day, I got an e-mail about a Rosh Hashana dinner I was expected at in London Thursday. I debated lying and telling them I’d still be in Portugal (anything’s possible with this job, but I was supposed to get home Wednesday at midnight) just so I could stay home and eat something safe. I hated that I would even think of doing that; that I would let food rule my life just that much.

Yesterday I went to the gym and did my first yoga class in two weeks. I went to the dinner, where I skipped the wine but had a small piece of ginger cake and some vanilla ice cream for dessert (despite the fact that I’d originally decided I wasn’t going to have any.) Today has been OK – I took it one meal at a time. I took a Pilates class.

Tomorrow I’ll get up and eat my breakfast and go to my favorite class at the gym and follow it with sushi from the place I always eat at on Saturdays when I’m in town. I’ll hit the sample sale of one of my favorite shoe designers and meet up with some friends.

It’s not as dark as it was in Portugal, and slowly I’m finding my way back.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Checking In

Yesterday and today have been better. Peach consumption down dramatically; real meal consumption up. I always roll my eyes when I read for the kajillionth time that I should sit down to eat a meal, but it really does make a difference in terms of satiety. (Then again, the amount of olive oil and butter in my grilled salmon with a side of spinach may have had something to do with that…)

I was hoping to get home a couple of days early and get back to my routine before it’s shaken up again for London Fashion Week and then my US trip. But alas. If I’m yanked early from the land of bellinis – and of Johnny Depp and Heath Ledger, the latter of whom I only recognized (and at the table next to me at Cipriani, no less) because today he was wearing the same tangerine-colored sweater he wore on Tuesday – it will be to go elsewhere in Italy to cover Pavarotti’s funeral. Nine months ago the mere prospect of this would have sent me into a panic – because where on earth would I buy a size 18/20 funeral-appropriate black dress in Italy? (Then again, nearly everything I owned at that size was black, so maybe I would have had something suitable already? Anyway.)

Speaking of shopping, I have neither the time nor the funds to buy cold-weather clothing here, so I settled for buying a pair of knee high black boots and tights – presto, instant summer-into-autumn wardrobe! And let me pause to note that nine months ago buying knee high black boots (calves, I’m looking at you) would have been a pipe dream. Things to keep in mind when it seems every other shop is either a gelateria or a pasticceria!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Festival of A Thousand Peaches

Ciao from Venice, where I seem unable to stop consuming peaches.

I’m not kidding. I debated lying about this, but I may in fact have eaten nine today. Yes, nine rather amazing peaches, some of them perfect white ones. I’m trying to remind myself that this used to be the city where I was unable to stop consuming ice cream – which is a whole lot worse (diet-wise, anyway) than peaches, but I am concerned about my inability to stop eating anything. It’s not a healthy behavior.

In my defense – and apologies for the brain dump; I’m just trying to write this out – I haven’t been eating proper meals, just lots of grazing (mostly on yogurt, fruit, nuts, and lower fat cheeses like mozzarella and ricotta). But I also haven’t been starving when I’ve been chain-eating the peaches, which is the worrying part.

I am rather edgy. For reasons I detailed last year, I’m on my guard in Venice, and this year is no exception. The lack of actual access to celebrities here – despite their proximity – makes me anxious, especially because I feel like there is an increased focus (for positive reasons I won’t get into) from New York and Los Angeles on me and the job I’m doing. It’s like suddenly falling out of the tree pose the second the yoga instructor looks at me – nothing like performing poorly only when one is being scrutinized!

And – shallow as this sounds – it hasn’t helped today that my face is broken out and I walked around today in a I-look-homeless outfit of a fairly shapeless black summer dress with a green hooded sweatshirt zipped over it, plus sequined red sandals (picked up in a Paris supermarket, so not exactly glam). It’s not exactly a look that screams I-belong-in-the-suite-next-door-to-George-Clooney-at-Cipriani. (Dude, what's up with my outfit? Venice during the festival is always about 100 degrees, and was last week. So I decided this year not to bring jeans, as I’ve never once worn them here. Classy sandals were because my ballet flats slide over the rain-soaked Venice streets as if they were iced, and my sneakers would put me firmly in the American tourist category, where I refuse to go. As for the hoodie: it was given to me for free today and is a lot warmer than my windbreaker.) Nor did it help that in one shop the woman eyed me and asked if I were a UK size 16 (and looked doubtful when I said I was a 14), and in another, the woman asked: “Medium or large?,” and didn’t wait for an answer before handing me the large. Sigh.

Oh, and did I mention Date Two apparently was also the final date?

I have managed to exercise here so far, and I even tried to do these yoga and Pilates DVDs that came free with my newspaper several months ago. (The DVDs were a wash – too slow and, um, talk-y, for lack of a better word.) But still I feel… fat. And not far from a binge. Today I stopped in a shop to buy a drink, spotted an apricot crostata, and thought briefly – very briefly – about buying an entire one (they’re pie-sized) and taking it home and eating it. Well, probably I wouldn’t make it back to the hotel with it – it would be long gone.

So… my goals for tomorrow: Try to sit down and eat at least one proper meal. And only buy one peach at a time. Yes, I know – but now is no time for lofty goals, especially when it’s 1 a.m. and I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Fair of the Vanities

In one of the many, many lines of hers I wish I could have written, Wendy once described enjoying the continuing compliments about losing weight as vaguely inappropriate, like staying at a party for too long. (No quote marks because I am at the office and my copy of her book is at home.)

So here I am, metaphorically still skulking about considering drinking apricot schnapps (the only liquor left) while one of the hosts has fallen asleep and the token new couple of the evening is snogging in the corner. I lost a pound and a half this week, and suddenly my if-I-even-gained-a-pound-it-wouldn’t-fit pink, black and white coat is loose, I can get into a pair of size 30 Seven jeans, and none other than Friend Bearing Chocolate announced on Friday that I was looking “very slim and elegant.”

How that happened in a week that included two lunches out (including one where – under pressure from a buff male PR who no doubt has the metabolism of the Energizer Bunny – I had half of a slice of chocolate tart with white chocolate ice cream) and three dinners out (including a second date with a foodie and another evening where I sat next to a woman to whom I had to explain that Thackeray’s Vanity Fair was not a compilation of the magazine, but never mind about that), I have no idea. (In my defense, it also included lots of ignoring of the bread basket, plus five days of workouts plus a 12-mile hike Sunday, in the middle of thanks-for-ruining-my-weekend Wino – that would be Amy -- watch.)

I should pause to note that I am actually somewhat grumpy about the 1.5 pound loss – because I’ve been hopping on the scale all week and it was showing a 3 pound loss for a couple of days. Sigh. That should teach me not to weigh in more than once a week.

My next few weeks include a visit from my dad, work trips to Spain (possibly) and Venice (definitely), and a criss-cross across the U.S. in late September, as I have a wedding to attend in Washington DC, a grandma to visit in Miami, work in New York and LA, and possible other places to visit in between. So much as I would like to set ambitious goals of when I’ll reach goal (currently eight pounds away), I think I may have to content myself with holding steady.

• * *

Second date. Yes, I said second date. I didn’t describe the first one because I didn’t want to jinx it, but now I think it’s over, anyway.

He’s a philosopher-turned-computer-programmer who actually suggested a first date that involved dinner – and actually chose a restaurant and booked a table. I had a minor freak out on the way over to meet him. One: The restaurant was where the Fig and I had our second date. Two: I stopped at the pub where the Fig and I first met up to check my makeup. Three: Um. What are we going to talk about for two hours? (Never mind that I can usually talk for England if it’s required.) Four: He’s a computer programmer. See No. 3.

I arrived to find him reading the Economist and – geek that I am – this immediately calmed me down. (Private Eye or the New Yorker would probably have had a similar effect.)

We had fun. It took nearly three weeks to meet up again, and again, it was fun. But… he’s 29, peppered his conversation with multiple references to his plan to move to New York soon, and he’s just all over the place. Which is fun for an evening but not otherwise promising. I scanned in the last 30 pages of my copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude (he lost his copy just before he finished it) and e-mailed it to him to say thanks for dinner – this was the second £100 dinner for which he has picked up the tab – but am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

I Am, Like, Totally a Responsible Adult

I lost a half a pound this week.

Which, considering that Saturday’s barbecue degenerated into drinking games – which I lost, and horribly – and I honestly cannot remember whether I consumed one Snickers bar or seven, or if the chocolate I consumed was indeed Snickers, I’m going to accept happily and move on.

(Move on into a future that will be drinking game-free, because, um, what a dumb idea. And before you ask: I’m 32, and haven’t played a drinking game since college, if I even played one then. The game was not my idea – it was raining, and the person whose idea it was actually stayed out clubbing until five a.m. No, I don’t even really like Snickers bars very much. And yes, I spent much of Sunday consuming vegetables, drinking water and – to continue the I-am-totally-an-adult theme -- playing Guitar Hero on my friends’ PlayStation. But you weren’t going to ask about the Guitar Hero, were you? And the friends are older than I am. So there.)

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Head Games

Tuesday I started to write a post about my yo-yoing feelings about my weight and how I look, but my feelings have changed (again and again) since Tuesday.

I was feeling positive Tuesday. After days of the Aimee Mann song "Calling It Quits" playing in my head, I'd been debating doing just that. Not giving in on the whole weight loss caper, just stopping now and trying to maintain, as opposed to getting frustrated trying to go lower, bingeing out of frustration, then not stopping until I've put the whole 60 pounds back on plus more.

But Tuesday as I tried Power Plate (is it me, or does that sound like some kind of New Age diet?), I thought: I'm going to do this. I'm going to blast through the last nine pounds I have to get to the very top of the weight range for my height.

And then the rest of the week I've not been so sure. I'm sure that I want to do it - I'm just not so sure that I can do it. I think about how many events I have over the upcoming weeks - dinners, barbecues, drinks, holidays (both of the American and British definition), weddings, the Venice Film Festival - and I think about how my weight is going to go. At best, it will go up down up down - at worst, well... that's why I'm trying to sort myself out on paper now. I'm at the point where small cheats (of the kind one might do at any of those events) add up to no losses - or even gains.

To complicate matters, I'm frustrated with my progress. I catch sight of myself in pictures and random mirrors and am not thrilled. I read success stories that include bikini-buying and think: "I am nowhere near that" (not that a bikini is something I ever plan on wearing). And – for some reason, the worst - Wednesday, in pre-date (more on that later) frenzy, dug out some trousers from the last time I reached what I thought was this approximate size. They were a bit too tight, one pair unwearably so. Will nine pounds make that much difference? I fear that it won't. I say "fear" because I fear what sacrifices it will take to lose these nine pounds – and the further sacrifices that would be required to get, and stay, lower than that. I remember starving in diets past, and exercising for hours, and lying to friends and family to avoid eating. While I know I am capable of that, I also know that I shouldn't.

I’d really like to lose that nine pounds. I’m just worried about where I ought to draw the line about what I’m willing to do to get there.

* * *

So the dates. Actually, there were two -- one on Wednesday and one on Thursday. Wednesday's was with a German guy I didn't fancy in the slightest but figured perhaps I ought to give it a chance. I was irritated with him from the moment he arrived -- I'd been standing near the doorway of the pub because I needed to check my phone and the reception in there is terrible. He arrived late, didn't apologize and said of my location: "Did you think I was going to miss you?" He then proceeded to finish my every other sentence, and not at all in the way that I would have finished them. Worse, he kept touching me -- not in any overly sexual way, just overly familiar. From about the 15-minute mark, he kept patting my knee (we were sitting together on a sofa) or my arm. Ugh. I debated saying something -- it was making me uncomfortable -- but couldn't think of what to say that wouldn't make it even more uncomfortable. Of course, he e-mailed the next day, wanting to go out for dinner next week. No, danke schoen.

Thursday I went out with the most persistent British man I've ever met in my life. We met a couple of months ago at the Cuckoo Club. He's a friend of a friend -- they went out on a few dates, and (he doesn't know I know this) she thought he was great but just didn't fancy him. He's texted several times since then, and I finally thought, "Oh, why not?" (I confess I was worn down slightly by the persistence -- it is somewhat flattering.) It was a fun if very British (alcohol, no food, though at least he did pay) date, but I think I feel the same way about him that my friend does.

Monday, 13 August 2007

By Jove I Think She's Got It

There’s a little bit of Eliza Doolittle in This Thing I’m Doing (and if you think it’s because I’ve got that awful Madonna I’m-American-trying-to-be-British accent, please kick me. Hard.) I’m a binge eater trying to squeeze myself into the corset of a “normal” eater. And nowhere is this more difficult than on a vacation.

Foodwise, I do best with routines, and I can – and do – tend to eat the same things repeatedly. (I’m not the only one – a nutritionist years ago told me most people eat the same 14 or so foods.) And because I live alone, I’m usually free to eat what I want, when I want.

Not so on vacation, where generally there are other people’s likes/dislikes/hunger levels/sleeping patterns (hello, breakfast!) to contend with. There is my own deep-rooted fear – slowly being dug out, but very slowly – of people seeing what and how much I eat for days on end, plus my fear of whether it’s normal to be hungry when we’ve just eaten X, and only about Y hours ago. And if I am hungry, can I admit it? And finally, there is fear around vacation eating. Much as I’d like to allow myself treats – and as much as I know I need to allow them – it’s hard to let go, even a little bit. My trousers usually feel tighter immediately, my head spins, and I start to fear what other things I might eat. Besides, I feel like I have even less leeway than usual, because all the eating out one does on holiday leaves you with even less of a calorie buffer zone.

But I did fine this weekend in Cornwall – both in terms of what I ate and how I (thought I) handled it. (Of course, this is before I have a peek at the scale tomorrow, but my new motto is -- or I'd like it to be -- that the scale is just a five-second snapshot of the 604,800 in the week.)

I had hand-made Cornish ice cream on Friday afternoon, and half a bottle of sparkling wine from a local winery I love, then passed on pudding at dinner, although of course my size 2-friend had one. Saturday I wanted a Cornish pasty -- I adore them, despite being unable to stop thinking that a pasty belongs in a strip club -- but kept finding only cheese ones (my stomach seems to be objecting to dairy overload, and I didn’t want to test it right before my surfing lesson* – yes, my surfing lesson!). Had to eat before lesson and food options in small towns limited (as was time), so ended up with a greasy steak pasty of the crappy variety I could have bought from a corner store in London. I managed not to be too cranky about it – or worse, binge later out of crankiness (as I embarrassingly have done in the past – binged literally because I didn’t get to eat what I wanted). Nor did I spend too much time obsessing about calories of said pasty and being cranky that I’d wasted them on something that wasn’t very good.

Saturday night all the puddings sounded delicious, but we were in a small-town pub that was very decidedly not of the quaint variety serving home-cooked food. My meal had been very average, and I didn’t want to eat an average pudding. (Size 2 friend had pudding again – on top of the huge cheese pasty she’d had earlier, the chocolate bar she had after surfing lesson and the huge English breakfast she had that morning while I was having my poached eggs on toast.) Besides, I was banking on pudding Sunday, when we had a lunch booking at Fifteen Cornwall.

Yesterday we did a walk in Cardinham Woods, then headed to lunch, where I’d given myself permission to order whatever I wanted. Fifteen had a special three-course meal for ₤24.50, but I wasn’t so thrilled with any of the starter choices – or, more importantly, the puddings. Sixty pounds ago I never would have dared do this, but I said to my friend – who can be extremely cheap – that the prices weren’t outrageously different if you didn’t do the deal, and that I wasn’t crazy about any of the puddings. She grimaced a bit, but didn’t say anything. So I had a lovely ginger parkin with butterscotch sauce and clotted cream -- from the regular, pricier menu. (And it was well worth it.)

We took a little walk along the coastal path afterwards, and I tried not to think too hard about how tight my jeans felt (and mostly succeeded). My mind flitted briefly to what I would say if I was hungry what seemed to me to be too quickly after a three-course meal. (I wasn’t.) In the gas station I bought a banana to stash in my handbag just in case.

This morning I got up and ate a normal breakfast – didn’t even think about trying to cut back, the way I might have in years past. When we stopped at a rest stop midmorning, size 2 friend had apple cake so greasy you could see the spots through the waxed paper. I was tempted, but I ate some berries and drank my water.

I adore Cornwall, but it’s good to be back.

*I'm sure I can't be the only person who has noticed that a wetsuit could just as easily be described as a neoprene catsuit, and is about as flattering.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007


Hoping to get some advice on what size to buy, I e-mailed a knitwear designer whose stuff I love with my measurements. My actual measurements, not my driver’s license/maybe when I lose another 10 pounds/wish-I-were measurements.

She wrote back: “You could be a small or a medium.”

A small?

A small!

Monday, 6 August 2007


I started so many posts about my food this week, but I haven’t been able to finish them. I guess it’s because – not quite six months after I finished my therapy for binge-eating, and a little over eight months into This Thing I’m Doing – I can’t say anything that feels like there should be a period at the end of it, only an ellipsis or a dash. Or maybe it would just end abruptly in the middle of a thought. You get the idea.

On Tuesday I didn’t finish my Magnum, Wednesday I ate my first fresh peach in 11 years, and several times during the week I struggled with this unreasonable anger when the server at Wasabi didn’t fill up my lunchtime container of rice to the tippy top (and anger again yesterday when my friend was served twice as much cheese as I was with our ploughmans at the pub). Call it a snapshot of my ever-evolving relationship with food.

First, the Magnum.

Few things say "summer in England" to me quite so much as a Magnum bar. I don’t crave them much when it’s cold out, but I could – and during certain weeks of summers past, did – eat them every day.

It’s been a cool, wet summer in England, but my thoughts have turned to Magnums anyway. I remember having a conversation with the Fig about them, for starters. And lately I keep seeing them – they are everywhere, in every newsagent on every corner – and telling myself: "When it’s warm, I’ll have one." (I should say for the record that my rule on foods like Magnums and Ben’s Cookies is that if I think about them enough, I go and have one.)

Tuesday was the first day in recent memory that there was no rain. It was warm and sunny, and despite my best efforts, I’d been hungry all day. Which made me even edgier and more binge-prone than I already was.

I got off the bus a few stops early, planning to buy plums for dessert. (I’d eaten my sushi on the bus – I was that hungry.) But the plums looked unappealing. That’s when I spied the Magnum freezer, and thought: "Oh, why not?"

As I walked home, I ate my Magnum in my usual style – first eating off the chocolate coating, then moving on to the vanilla ice cream. Which tasted, I realized, like creamy whipped chemicals. (This is what I have been dreaming about?)

I kept taking more bites, thinking: "Let me just try again, and maybe then it will taste like the delicious I-must-have-you-every-day Magnum of my memory."

The bar half gone, and still I kept eating, you know, because that’s what I do with food – I finish it.

My head spun the way it did when I binged – the self-loathing still intact enough for me to be furious with myself for continuing to eat the bar, and panicked because I couldn’t stop.

I paused. I realized I couldn’t throw the bar out because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t – of what I might buy and eat otherwise.

I threw the remaining third of the bar away without difficulty and went home to think about it. The only times I’ve ever stopped eating anything like ice cream have been either because I was post-binge full, or in mid-binge, putting the ice cream down to eat something else instead – something that deep down somewhere I am convinced is going to fill whatever empty hole I was trying to fill. (In all those years, I never did find the magic food, of course. I just kept bingeing.)

I feared that evening I might feel cheated and angry – the way I felt as a child when my mother promised dessert but then didn’t end up serving it. But then I thought: I’m 32 years old, and if I decided I want something – and, per rule above, I think about it enough – I will go and have it.

Now, the peach and the rice (and cheese).

It seemed somehow fitting the day after the Magnum revelations to go and eat a fresh peach. I haven’t eaten one since 1996, aka the Summer of 1,000 peaches, when over a period of weeks I whittled my calories from 1,200 down to three peaches a day. I’d run for an hour every day, and I’d go to bed with my fist pressed against my stomach, sickeningly pleased with how hungry I was.

Why peaches? Because of my obsessive tendencies I try not to look at calorie charts any more, so I can’t say this for sure, but… if I recall correctly, peaches were chosen over nectarines because they are approximately the same size but have half the calories. Yes, that is the state of mind I was in at the time. (It’s a state of mind that every once in a while – at my heaviest – I would rue that I couldn’t return to.)

As for the rice and cheese: I’m still working on understanding this unreasonable anger I feel when I’m given not quite a full portion of something, or not as much as someone else. I think part of it is a holdover from when I was child and I knew that one portion was all I was getting; my mother wouldn’t let me have seconds because of my weight. As for my feelings when my portion is smaller than someone else’s – I think that must be partly fear and embarrassment. I worry that I’ll still be hungry, and whether it would be OK to have more even if the other person doesn’t, because surely I can’t point out that my portion was smaller. I worry that I’ll finish much more quickly and be embarrassed about my empty plate – or that I’ll sit there and eat things I shouldn’t just because I’m still sitting at the table.

I worry, therefore I am.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Caught in the Act

So I’m on my way to yoga – yoga mat on my back just like one of those people I always hated, all smug in their “aren’t-I-healthy-ness” – and I spy our intern sitting at a table in the atrium of our building, eating her lunch and reading a book.

I wave and keep walking (I'm late), thinking: “Wow, I really should be better about bringing lunch – it would be so much healthier and cheaper and I could read an actual book, too. And isn’t it great that she leaves her desk for at least an hour every day?”

When I get back to my office after yoga (can we just pause to note how ridiculously, pathetically thrilled I was to be pointed out as an example in class again – “Here’s a little something I made earlier,” the instructor joked, pointing to me as she explained a posture to a beginner), there was an e-mail from the intern. Who, for the record, is an incredibly sweet, polite – and slim, as in skinny-jean-wearing-slim – Southern girl.

The subject title was a joke reference to the title of a celebrity spotting column we run on our web site. And the message, in part: “You made me feel guilty! I was eating Walkers [potato chips] while you were going to yoga. You are so healthy.”

I laughed out loud, thinking of how many quadrillion times in my life I’ve been convinced that someone was noticing that I was eating cake or chocolate (and judging me for it). I promptly walked out to her desk to tell her that I hadn’t even noticed what she was eating – that I’d been too busy admiring her organization (enough to bring lunch) and intellectual use of her lunch hour.

She smiled. We laughed. My (male) colleague wandered out and wondered what all the kumbayah-ing was about.

As if he could understand.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Funhouse Mirrors, Again

On Friday – despite the fact that I’m still up a pound – I could fit into a dress that didn’t button last month. This morning I saw a friend I haven’t seen since March, and her mouth literally dropped open as I approached her. And this afternoon I saw another friend I haven’t seen in a month who told me I was looking very slim.

And yet this weekend I’ve felt huge. It kicked off with seeing my current weight as a start weight in a diet magazine, carried on through trying on clothes for last night’s date and his subsequent teasing me about my sweet tooth (though actually I’ve consumed no sweets in front of him), and continued through today, where I sat at the ballet feeling how big my stomach still is, yet thinking how incapable I feel of losing much more weight. I am no more than seven pounds above my lowest adult weight ever -- and ten pounds away from the top weight in the "normal" range for my height -- so why do I feel so fat?

To be honest, it isn’t always like this. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think that I look OK… but then I remember the times I looked in the mirror 60 pounds ago and also thought I looked OK – an illusion often shattered by seeing photos of myself.

So when do I trust what I see in the mirror?

* * *

Last night was Date Two with the English internet consultant, and probably the final one. We saw Sherrybaby (his pick) – and possibly the only thing more depressing than that film would have been seeing it alone on a Saturday night.

Dates where I struggle to connect are binge triggers for me – they make me feel lonelier than I would have had I stayed home alone. I had the presence of mind to quit drinking halfway through my second glass of wine, because I knew I’d be flirty if I finished it, and I didn’t want to do that to a perfectly nice guy – or to myself.

We did have dinner, but I could have sworn my stomach was growling as I headed home. I flashed back to a binge I had after another uninspiring date with a perfectly nice guy a couple of years ago, and thought briefly – wildly – where I should go and what I should buy.

Then I came home to finish the package of cherries and the grapefruit in my refrigerator, and went to bed.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Sliding Doors

Today I walked upstairs to our “canteen,” as they call it here, someplace I hardly ever go because I choose to get lunch elsewhere. There’s a coffee bar there, its counter lined with glass jars of cookies: sugar, sugar with M&Ms, chocolate chip.

I tried not to look at them too closely, or to notice what, exactly, is in the ice cream freezer during these binge-susceptible days. But I could see myself clearly eight months ago (for the record, today marks weight months of This Thing I’m Doing), wondering if I dared buy them yet again, and probably cramming them in my mouth on the stairwell, hoping I wouldn’t bump into anybody. It’s been an unusually cool and rainy summer in London, but I could see myself, hot and lethargic and disgusted on a Friday afternoon where I don’t have plans for the evening, gearing up for a binge.

The doors clicked shut. I bought my diet Coke (I’m drinking it occasionally these days) and banana.

* * *

Last night I went out with the English lawyer. The first part of the evening was fun, though nerve-wracking in that way it can be when so much time has elapsed since the first time you met that you can barely remember what he looks like (less cute and did you really not notice his teeth?), yet you’ve exchanged so much e-mail that your virtual relationship is ridiculously far ahead of your actual one. (I learned that last bit the hard way during my brief experience with online dating a few years ago, but how quickly I forget.)

I’m shy about swapping intimate details with even my closest friends, so I’m going to be deliberately vague here, but… He got sick at an extraordinarily odd, ill-timed moment – a moment that just seems ripe for some kind of punch line, if only I could come up with it. For several reasons – namely several glasses of Rioja without food, in that time-honored British date tradition – it wasn’t my finest hour, either. When he texted to apologize – very sheepishly – today, I proposed we call it a draw. He sent an e-mail saying he’d left “the worst possible impression” and that maybe it has more to do with injury to his ego, but that he wasn’t sure how that “figures through with things,” and that he needed to think about it.

I think that’s the end of that one. Door No. 2 closed. Going out with the internet consultant tomorrow night. Suddenly the fact that his e-mails are short and confined to logistics of meeting up seems quite the plus.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Back in the Game

As of this morning’s weigh-in, I’ve lost four of the five pounds I put on in the Paris/birthday/Spain eat-in. I suspect some of that was water weight, but really, who cares? (Also, bizarrely, the weight has apparently come off my chest – I can now button the top button of a coat that was a wee bit too small even when I was down that last pound – instead of my stomach.)

I am relieved, though I still don’t feel on solid footing just yet. I have this constant low-level background noise urge to eat – and keep eating – that I haven’t had in months, and I’m honestly not sure where it’s coming from. On one hand the low-level urge means it’s not too difficult to resist, but the fact that it’s constant makes me fear the eventual erosion of my defenses.

* * *

So I returned to work today – after a day home sick (and I really was sick) finishing Harry Potter before it was spoilered – to find an email from the American guy, saying he was being really slack and should be making time to see me but was totally snowed under and maybe drinks next week. Ugh. “Should.” Yes, for the 30-kajillionth time, I have read He’s Just Not That Into You (or at least, skimmed an excerpt of it).

Never able to just leave things lie (except with the Fig, where I have resisted any further urge for contact), I hit reply and wrote that neither of us needed more obligations, and that I certainly didn’t want to be one. I didn’t even read it over, the way I normally would. I just clicked “send” and figured that was the end of it.

He responded, saying “should” was a bad word choice and that he didn’t feel obligated at all – just was “trying to convey my current sense of lame-ness” and that he’d be in touch when he got back from Amsterdam next week.

I won’t hold my breath. (And yes, I’m fully aware that there would be no need for him to write about lameness if… well, see “He’s Just Not That Into You.”)

I found all of this especially amusing considering today I was invited to appear on a British TV show to talk about why British men appeal to American women, and the differences between British and American men. (Serious Journalist – caps intended – that I am, I declined politely. The minor breakout on my face and the fact that I hadn’t blow dried my hair had absolutely nothing to do with it.)