Saturday, 31 March 2007

Cupcakes on Fire

The great thing about This Thing I’m Doing is that I rarely crave sugar of the non-fruit variety. There has to be a trigger: Reading the food section of a newspaper or seeing cakes on a menu or in a shop.

After my physiotherapy appointment Wednesday morning I stopped in an EAT to buy some water and a banana and spotted some cupcakes. I love cupcakes. When we were old enough to drive, my sister and I used to go to Publix – a Florida supermarket chain with a scrummy (my favorite British English word – scrumptious + yummy) bakery – and buy a six-pack. (I always finished my half; I can’t remember if she did, only that for her it was a struggle.) Sometimes, when I was alone, I’d buy my own six-pack and eat it in the parking lot, feeling almost too sick and lethargic from the buttercream and cake to get out and brush away the telltale crumbs from the seats.

Gazing at the cupcakes, I felt a frisson of fear. As I did with the cookies in January, I decided to wait and see if I still remembered and wanted the cupcake later. Thursday morning I eyed the EAT just off the Strand and decided I couldn’t be bothered. I thought about the cupcake again briefly on Friday. So today when I passed yet another EAT in Knightsbridge I had to go in.

After checking to make sure the white ones were vanilla and not lemon, I ordered one. The cake tasted like… crumbly nothing. The frosting was overly sweet and the texture disappointing. (The chocolate eggs on top also weren’t very good, so I picked them off and threw them out.) Still I was unable to stop myself from finishing it – and from feeling frighteningly, I’ve-just-binged full, even though I hadn’t. I’m trying to resist the urge to skip dinner.

This, for me, is one of the hardest parts of losing weight. In fact, it is the part I’ve never mastered. Exercise. Check. Planning. Check. Eating snacks to avoid getting too hungry. Check. But eating food that I love and used to binge on, and therefore that scares me, I just avoided. I denied myself any cupcakes and cookies and chocolate and brownies, and after several months – and usually a couple of drinks – I’d eat everything I wanted all at once. Though initially I’d get straight back to my diet, it was always the beginning of the end. It might be a month or two before I’d binge again, but then it would be once every two weeks, and then once a week. Then daily – and finally, all day.

It seems strange to say I’ve got to force myself to continue to eat cupcakes (though maybe not the EAT version), but I have to. I know I do.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Of Rice and Men

Back from China – including a gruelling 10 km trek of an unrestored part of the Great Wall -- to find my BMI is now "overweight" instead of "obese." Or, in the polite British terms of the web site I’m using to track my weight, I’m "at risk" instead of "at great risk." Yay!

(For all you diet blogger/readers, I’m also officially back in onederland, something I was starting to doubt would ever happen.)

I’m still mulling over China, mostly the 2.5 days I spent with a lovely Kiwi guy I met just after I gave up on the Forbidden City (my hands were freezing through my gloves). He invited me to travel to Shanghai with him, but I was in Beijing visiting a friend, and – even at 31 and single, or maybe because I’m 31 and single -- I don’t believe in ditching one’s friends the minute a guy shows up. Besides, a 12-hour train ride for two days in Shanghai? And how could I go to China and not climb the Great Wall (something I’d miss out on doing if I went to Shanghai)? And because he had a penchant for saying "far out" to things that weren't, really, that I knew would irritate me in another day or so. And because of a dozen other things, small and yet cosmic.

The Kiwi has given me a lot to think about in terms of what I want, not limited to but including men I’ve been interested in in the past, and those I might be in the future. I adore funny and brilliant and preferably tall, and he was none of those. He was just… nice. Incredibly nice. The kind of guy for whom the description "a good guy" really is intended.

Can I also say that I’d forgotten what it’s like to have someone listen – really listen – to every word you say? As in, "oh, that’s the friend you mentioned in passing an hour ago" kind of listening?

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Funhouse Mirrors

In the past two weeks, I’ve started multiple posts but been unable to finish them. It’s been 107 days of This Thing I’m Doing, and I’ve lost 29.5 pounds. Still no one who doesn’t know about my efforts has noticed, and I veer between feeling a little thinner and feeling very, very fat. Frequently in the same day, and sometimes in the same trip to the bathroom (one peek at the mirror on the way in and another on the way out).

Today I wore a pair of James jeans I bought at Filene’s Basement in Boston in early November, thrilled that I’d found a size 34 (a rarity in premium brand denim, which often tops out at 32), and even more thrilled that they were marked down to $50. I was also more than a little bit sad. Sad that the last time I’d tried on a pair of James I was trying to decide whether a size 30 was too big. It was February 2005, and I was standing in a boutique in Chicago, close to the thinnest I’ve ever been despite a mad, shameful binge at the Four Seasons in Jakarta (where I got a couple of days to recover after three gruelling weeks covering the Asian tsunami) and an equally mad one in Afghanistan a little more than a week later.

My size 34 James were, of course, too small in November, but I bought them anyway, hoping I’d be able to do something about my weight when I got back to London. I wish I’d taken pictures of how much the jeans gaped when I first pulled them on months ago – how far they were from fitting – because now I can’t remember. I remember trying them on all too often over the past few months, thinking how slim I’d feel once they fit, because hey, unless you count the Sevens at Lane Bryant (which I don’t, because I think they’re hideous), premium brand denim most definitely is not something you find in the plus size department.

Now the jeans fit but I feel huge in them. I find fault with body parts that never bothered me before. I see an apron of fat around my waist that doesn’t seem to be shrinking even slightly, and wonder if this is the price I’m paying – and will continue to pay – for having so abused my body, having lost and gained literally hundreds of pounds, often very quickly.

I know from past experience that the next 15 pounds can make a startling difference. I just hope I can hang on until then.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Chic to Cheek

Does your butt fit on the 8.5 inch side of an 8.5 by 11 piece of paper – with room to spare? (I’ll wait while you go check.)

Mine doesn’t, I was reminded daily (and multiple times a day) during Paris fashion week this week. That side of a piece of paper (and sometimes a bit less) is the amount of space you’re allotted to sit on at the shows – one of several things that makes Paris fashion week so difficult for me to handle.

It was an exhausting week. There are the hours -- besides the shows, last night I was at scary fashion party until 3:30 a.m. (not fun), then had to be up at 8. (And on a Sunday.) Then there is the constant feeling of being sized up and found incredibly lacking, not just because of my size, but because of my outfit. (Don’t tell me no one’s looking at my outfit – that’s what everyone in the room does for a living.) And the constant rudeness of fashion PRs (don’t get me started) and the frostiness of the ice queens that are the fashion pack. Karl Lagerfeld on Friday showed his Chanel collection on a runway that looked like faux snow, saying it was because he was
sick of hearing about global warming. Let me tell you, no warmth has yet hit the fashion world.

* * *

At last night’s fashion party, I talked to girl who used to be the fit model for Rochas – the person on whom the sizes are based. She is 21 years old and six feet tall, and by her own account, she has trouble walking in vertiginous heels because she’s so tall and not nearly wide enough to balance. This is the person on whom sizes are based? New York, Paris and Milan, we have a problem.

Also at last night’s party: Jessica Biel and the Olsen twins, the latter of whom are two of the most unattractive women I’ve ever seen. And their outfits! It just goes to show that if you’re skinny and rich you really can wear a trash bag (preferably by Alexander McQueen).

* * *

Luckily, I did not stay in a hotel frequented by the fash pack, so did not have to face glossy hair, perfect makeup, and insanely expensive outfits at 7 a.m. What I did have to face at that hour was a breakfast buffet – and in Paris. Tarts and breads and muffins and pastries. But I ignored them – literally walked by them without turning my head – and stuck to fruit and yogurt.

This morning after I finished eating I took a quick look at them and felt a pang. Not of hunger, but of sadness. Three months ago I would have been trying to figure out how much I could eat without anyone noticing. I would have been eating quickly; shamefully. I wouldn’t have been able to look in the eye the waitress who comes around to offer tea or coffee. I’d start the day too full, and the feeling of being sick and full and sick of myself and disgusted would last all day – as would the cravings for more.

* * *

This afternoon between shows I met one of our Paris freelancers for lunch at Angelina, a Belle Epoque tea room on the Rue de Rivoli. It’s famous for its pastry and for its hot chocolate, but I wasn’t planning on having anything sweet. I had a salad – until P. started pushing that we had to have dessert. That I had to have dessert. I refused three times (yes, he’s persistent – he’s a journalist!) then gave in. I didn't feel like explaining, for one, and suddenly I thought: This is Paris and I haven't had any pastry or chocolate and I have to allow myself treats every once in a while, right?

The hot chocolate – Gisele Bundchen’s favorite, says a very good source -- is a pitcher of liquid fudge that comes with a separate pitcher of thick unsweetened whipped cream to stir in. Delicious doesn’t begin to describe it.

With effort, I managed not to finish my whole pitcher and all the cream. A smart move on my part, since my next show was Louis Vuitton, where my regulation 8.5 inches was downsized to about five. No kidding.