Saturday, 24 February 2007

Yes, Virginia, Life is Unfair

Today I went for brunch with a couple of friends I met in Iceland and haven’t seen for months. (No, they did not notice I had lost weight.) They are thin, yet talked about having just had their blood types analyzed so they could do the blood-type diet. Then they promptly ordered fried breakfasts: eggs, sausage, bacon, baked beans and toast. I ordered the vegetarian version: eggs, mushrooms, veggie sausages, baked beans and toast.

They cleaned their plates. I left over the white piece of toast (I’d eaten the whole wheat one, sans butter) and the veggie sausages, which looked suspiciously greasy and fried potato-y.

We shopped for a couple of hours on Upper Street, where thing they tried on included, but were not limited to: gorgeous Comme des Garcons knee-high boots (which do not fit over my calves), Stella McCartney rompers (not in my size, but anyway, ew) and crazy huge titanium necklaces (which would fit but I'd never wear, because they scream "Look at me!", and when one is my size, that is not really something one wants or even needs to scream). I tried on one pair of trousers that -- although labelled a not-totally-unrealistic size -- were not even on the same planet as fitting.

After such exhausting and expensive decisions, they wanted to break for coffee. Coffee included a cheesecake tart for one and carrot cake for the other. I had peppermint tea.

Life is not fair.

On the plus side (I accidentally wrote plus size, and had to delete it), yesterday I craved broccoli.

Dare I Say It?

So of course I had to click when I saw "Are you a binge eater?" on Yahoo, referring me to a CNN article. (Of course I know I am one, but I’m always curious to read what, if anything, the media has to say about binge eating.)

I read about Natalie’s two pints of ice cream and sleeve of Ritz crackers with peanut butter, mentally measuring it against my own binges. I wondered if people who knew nothing about binge eating got any sense of the urgency of bingeing, the depths of self-loathing, and the sheer waste of days and weeks and years of a life spent thinking about food. (Personally, I didn’t get any sense of that from the article, and I know the feelings all too well.) And I sighed when I saw how prominently Overeaters Anonymous was mentioned.

On the continuum of self-loathing, I think I hated myself most during my two years of OA. I hated the cultishness of it – how, even in a room full of people who shared the same dirty secrets I did, I felt ostracized because I only had time to attend one meeting a week, as opposed to the three or four or seven a week most people managed (and therefore didn’t understand any of the inside jokes during meetings). I hated the quasi-religious aspects of it – the endless talk of higher powers and surrendering, when I felt like all I was doing was drowning in misery. I hated that, after wasting (that's how it felt) an hour in a meeting, people I didn’t know at all would call to check on me, asking me incredibly personal questions and feeling offended if I didn’t want to answer or chat with them for another 30 minutes. I hated that my life was such a mess that I was desperate enough to think that this would fix it. And I hated myself for hating it; hating nice, well-meaning, decent people and their nice, well-meaning, decent meetings.

Perhaps more than anything, I chafed at the complete lack of flexibility – the belief that it was the OA way or nothing. OA’s credo is three meals a day and life in between – meaning no snacks (though some members have a small one in the afternoon.) When I asked for advice about what to do about a dinner that didn’t start until 8:30 p.m., the response I received was to eat my "abstinent dinner" (abstinence being huge in OA) at home, and then not eat anything at the dinner. Or to not go, since the time didn’t suit my abstinence – and nothing in OA is more important than abstinence. Neither option was appealing.

Making OA – and therefore, my food and eating – the center of my life was the theme of all the answers to all of my questions. When I tried to explain why it was impossible for me to attend more meetings ("more meetings" being the answer to a lot of questions), I was told I’d have more time if I attended more meetings. Huh? (Yes, I assume the idea was that I’d obsess less about food and therefore have more time, but…) Another person suggested I get a new job, since mine didn’t seem compatible with OA. I nodded and said I'd think about it, and still spent another year and a half trying to surrender -- and hating myself for instead feeling like giggling or screaming.

According to its statistics, OA has worked for hundreds of thousands of people – and no doubt it has. But in all the meetings I went to in cities around the globe, I never found a person it worked for who I wanted to be.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

46.5 To Go

I lost a half a pound this week.

A measly half a pound – and it’s still near the beginning, when I have plenty of weight to lose and, if past experience is any guide, it should be coming off faster.

I don’t want to hear from well-meaning friends about how I should be grateful that the scale is heading downward at all. I just want to rant. Because that Marc Jacobs party I went to on Friday? I didn’t eat or drink anything. I didn’t idly sip champagne at all the shows I went to, unlike nearly everyone else, including the whippets in skinny jeans. In Paris I ignored the siren call of macaroons and pastry. I exercised.

A half a pound? It seems mean, and unfair. And it scares me, because if progress is this slow so early on, when is it going to stall entirely? It’s true I haven’t been hungry, but I have been very, very careful these past 85 days. Except for Christmas, I can count the drinks I’ve had on one hand, and I haven’t been eating out much. I won’t live this way forever – I can’t – but my plodding progress is striking fear that the minute I am even slightly less careful I will gain. It makes me fear eating, say, oatmeal raisin cookies, or having a glass of champagne – things I know I need to do from time to time so I don’t end up bingeing.

At the rate of a half a pound a week, it’s going to take me nearly another two years to lose the other 46.5 pounds. Sigh. (And don't get me started on how I still can barely see any difference with the 23.5 I've already lost. Oh, wait -- I've already ranted about that.)

I’m starting to wonder about This Thing I’m Doing. But like the Washingtonian I am at heart, I'm going to give it a presidential 100 days and then reassess.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Thursday was my last binge-eating therapy session. Friday – not 24 hours after randomly discussing at a cocktail party how ex-boyfriends can ruin certain London neighborhoods for you forever – I ran into the ex-boyfriend to whom I was referring, not, for the record, in his neighborhood. Later that night I suffered through a Marc Jacobs party with the always-bitchy Sofia Coppola (I’ve loathed her since a friend at Cannes asked her how she’d describe something, and La Coppola snapped back: "Isn’t that your job?"), a charming Selma Blair, and a totally adorable Rufus Wainwright, who dashed out at 11 p.m. to save his voice from the smoke and noise. (As they say here, bless.) And today I spent in the Paris atelier of Nina Ricci, writing a story about the making of two Oscar dresses for a certain Academy Award-winning Legally Blonde star.

It’s been a busy week.

* * *

So I’m cured.

Well, not exactly.

But I was discharged from binge eating therapy (technically, cognitive behavioral therapy) on Thursday after 16 sessions. As my therapist pointed out, I’ve met the goals I set at the beginning. Plus, I waited over a year for these 16 sessions on the NHS, so I imagine it’s time to let someone else have her turn.

I haven’t binged for more than 80 days now, but – as I pointed out to my therapist – I have gone this long before. (Six months is the longest I have gone without a binge.) So I spent my last session working out a relapse prevention plan. It was meant to be helpful, but instead I found it terrifying to see on paper the sheer number of binge triggers – and my still-woefully-small list of ways to cope.

I read somewhere that it takes an average of eight years to recover from binge eating, and I certainly have done my part to push up the average. I can’t pinpoint my first binge the way some people can, but I know it’s been going on – with varying degrees of intensity – for more than 16 years, or over half my life.

Thursday I felt at a point I’ve also been at before – where you can’t imagine bingeing, either the physical act of doing it, or why you would even want to do it. I then spent much of Saturday fighting (successfully) the urge to binge. But it was a struggle.

* * *

I ran into F. – the ex – while standing outside Claridges, waiting to get into the Marc Jacobs fashion show that preceded the party. I have never once in four years run into F. accidentally, and haven’t seen him at all for two years. I blurted his name out involuntarily as he dashed by, then felt ridiculous. F. has (not surprisingly) never heard of Marc Jacobs, and couldn't understand why anyone would wait to see his show. (Privately I sort of agree, though if you're female, chances are MJ has infiltrated your wardrobe whether you know who he is or not. Big buttons? Quilting? Military jacket? Chain-handled bag? Cute pointy flats? They're all Marc's influence.) Anyway, F. and I chatted awkwardly for less than two minutes, until the police (thankfully) shooed him off the sidewalk – it was for people waiting to get into the show only.

When I told my fashionista Greek Vogue acquaintance standing next to me that F. was somebody I’d dated, she asked in her usual blunt way: "Was he really good at something?"

Me: "Um, no. Why?"

GV: "He’s really unattractive."

Actually, I’d noticed while I was speaking to him that he’s not aging well, but…

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

It's All Greek to Them

London Fashion Week is the bastard stepchild of a month that also includes New York, Milan and Paris. But because London is often the breeding ground for young talent (that then goes on to show their clothes elsewhere), fights still break out at the doors to fashion designers no one but the fash pack has ever heard of.

Today it was Christopher Kane, who’s funded by Donatella (she’s-a-fella, I always want to call her) Versace. (Admit it, she looks like one, doesn’t she?) I watched open-mouthed as the ice queen facades of some 50 fashionistas melted as they yelled at the doormen (and women): “Don’t you know who I am?”

Well, if they had to ask…

A Greek friend of a friend solved her lack of invitation problem with one of the best door coups I’ve seen since I was 19, and managed to get myself laughed into a notoriously strict bar in Collegetown by handing the bouncer an ID for a 250-lb-plus African American man. She announced the (Greek) title of her publication in a tone that shrieked: “How could you be so uncool as to not have heard of my magazine?”

Inside, she had a good laugh. The translation of her magazine title: Best Grills.

As in barbecues. “You know, skewers, shish kebabs,” she said.

I wonder if I could pull that off next time, but instead using “F—k you” as the title? In Greek, of course.

* * *

Another two pounds down, for a total of 23 pounds. I’m trying not to obsess about my plodding progress, but the fact that I’m writing about it means, of course, that I am.

I read a statistic somewhere that it takes approximately eight years to recover from binge eating, and I can’t help thinking I have more than done my part to push up the average. This morning I thought back to 1993, when I started a low fat diet with help from my roommate (who was studying nutrition) and went on to lose 50 plus pounds. I can remember about four months in, when she told me that I could start adding in foods that I loved – “like you have a piece of apple pie instead of your sandwich,” I can still hear her saying. (Before I’d started the diet she’d had me make a list of foods I loved, which were all off limits.)

I said OK, but I didn’t actually ever try it. I wanted to keep losing weight, and I feared the loss of control. I started the diet on – don’t ask me how I remember this – Feb. 11, 1993. When I returned home for the summer I managed to maintain on a bizarre diet of bagels, frozen yogurt, and diet Coke. But by September, I was bingeing. By October, nothing fit. That’s how every diet I’ve ever done has ended – not with a whimper but with a bang.

This time has to be different. Please let it be different.

Sunday, 11 February 2007

From the “Be Careful What You Wish For” Department

So one day my clothes fit fine and the next they are loose, very loose. How does this happen? It’s like coming home from an evening out and seeing a zit on your face that most definitely was not there when you left. At what point – what second – in the evening did it appear?

I’ve shrunk just enough for my clothes to look sloppy, but not enough for the next size down to fit. (I know, because I’ve been out shopping both yesterday and today and came home empty handed.) Sloppy is not a good look when my next three weeks include fashion shows and parties in London, Milan and Paris, plus a behind-the-scenes Oscar dress fitting (for a celebrity who shall remain nameless – not for me).

There are people who literally do spreadsheets for their outfits during these weeks and pay astronomical airplane extra luggage charges and I have one dress and exactly zero pairs of trousers that fit. And nobody wears dresses (unless they are little smock dresses, which I can’t wear because they make me look pregnant) to the London shows.

I dread these shows under ordinary circumstances, when I have my black armor at the ready – clothes I know suit me (and fit me). I can’t help but be slightly amused that losing weight has made me dread the shows even more.

Grateful as I am for some visible sign of progress, I still wish I could call in fat to work. Either that, or keep my coat buttoned up until the next size down fits.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Let It Snow!

Yesterday I dug my pink polka dot Wellies -- used only for tromping around the mud at summer music festivals -- out from under the bed.

Rain makes everyone in London crabby, but snow makes them positively chatty and friendly. Even at The Westbourne, a far cry from the friendliest local in London (it's in Notting Hill -- what do you expect?), the guy standing next to me at the bar was positively chatty. So was the one behind the bar.

Or maybe it's just that thanks to the Tube -- which cannot function if there's so much as a leaf on the tracks, let alone some snow -- I arrived to meet a friend 45 minutes late, at 9 p.m., meaning everyone had had at least a couple of hours of solid boozing already.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Umm, Thanks. I Think.

Today a contact I was having lunch with -- an incredibly skinny woman who talks about how much she loves her food -- listened to my order and said: "What are you, on a diet?"

Surprised (most people in this country are not that direct), I nodded.

"I think you look great," she said. "You know, some people are not meant to be skinny."

Then she launched blithely into a tale of a drunken conversation with David Beckham and run-ins with minor royals.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

So Here I'm Sitting in My Car at the Same Old Stoplight

I didn’t lose any weight this week.

I thought I’d stew about this all day, all the while craving foods I rarely eat any more. After all, the last time this happened to me – right around this exact week last year, in fact – that was it for that diet. I was just about to head to Turin for a month to cover the Winter Olympics, and the gain plus the hunger plus the stress plus the hours plus the crappy food in the media centers plus the cheese polenta at the restaurants (ohmygosh the cheese polenta!) meant I fell off the wagon. By the time I got through the snowdrift, the wagon was long gone.

But at the moment, I am surprisingly OK. This morning I was angry, but just briefly. I thought about the unfairness of it all: Of all the events I successfully navigated this week, and of the fact that it’s been 2 and a half months and the loss still isn’t visible. I briefly blamed it on the chocolate chunk cookie I had, which I know cannot derail an entire week of good effort. But I didn’t seriously think about eating. Instead I thought – in my best sarcastic voice: And how is eating going to solve this problem?

I’d gotten up a bit too late to get to the gym, but too early to leave for work. So I read a bit of Jude the Obscure and did a bit of non-blog, non-work writing. By the time I left the house, I felt fine. (I went to the gym during lunch, by the way.)

I keep poking at myself to see if I want to binge, kind of like the way you constantly probe the spot in your mouth where it hurts.

Prod. Pull bottom lip between teeth. But still… nothing.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Faustian Bargains

For the past three days, in between reading Jude the Obscure, I’ve been checking out Neris and India’s Idiot-Proof Diet. These two self-described cocktail-happy, greedy mums each lost five stone – approximately what I’d like to lose – by eating cream, mayonnaise, butter, sausage, cheese, and nuts. (It’s not Atkins, but it doesn’t seem awfully far from it.) This Thing I’m Doing (and have been for 69 days) allows virtually none of those, but does allow unlimited fruit and, on some days, pasta (really – though I measure mine because I don’t trust myself). Both are supposed to be “eating plans for life” – so which foods would I rather have more often? Ummm, whichever I’m not allowed, I suppose.

Pasta or cream? Bananas or butter? Do I really have to choose?

It’s been a tough week. Fashion party in honor of the ugliest handbags I’ve seen in years. High tea for a colleague (he doesn’t drink so the standard “leaving drinks” were out of the question). Birthday party at this insanely trendy club Prince William and Kate Middleton like, where all the size zero sprites are wearing miniskirts and I recognized half the staff of Wallpaper sitting on one banquette. Told to stop running by physiotherapist. And then a depressing trek across Oxford Street yesterday, hunting for jeans I might actually like. (No luck, and still the same size as when I started.) Saw two separate people I have not seen in two months and 21 pounds, and neither appeared to notice I’ve lost any weight. Not surprising, since I can’t even see it myself. Sigh.

Onward and downward, I hope.

* * *

Last night my friend O. and I saw quite possibly the worst theatre I’ve ever seen in my life – even worse than this (I've told O. he's fired from choosing shows to see.) The play, Pinter's People, was slated on Newsnight, too, apparently, but today O. texted me to tell me the Sunday Times had given it four out of five stars. My bet is that like us, the critic didn’t get what it was about – but instead of having a laugh freaked out that it was too profound for him to understand and gave it a good review.

O. has returned to London after three months escaping his life in the U.S. It was good to see him, but I felt preternaturally aware of the passing of time – the way you do when you’re a college senior and it’s almost over. In a few months we won’t be able to sit around cafes until after midnight talking our usual trash. I can’t get my head around the fact that in May he’s going to be someone’s father – and that his ex, who has been known to respond to profoundly important questions of his by leaving three minutes of Chopin but no words on his voicemail – is going to be someone’s mother. My January has been incredibly quiet, but after talking to O., I felt newly grateful for that.