Saturday, 19 May 2007

This Thing I'm Doing

Thanks for the comments and kind words! I’m going to do my best, but Cannes is unlike just about any travel for work I – and probably most people – have ever had. It’s 20-22 hours a day, large chunks of it wearing heels (unless you’re lucky enough to be on a yacht, where slippers are mandatory) and an evening gown that doesn’t hide enough (it’s 95 degrees in the south of France). I’ll stand around parties trying to get up the nerve to ask celebrities totally nosy questions I might pause to ask my friends (I know it’s my job, but I am ridiculously ill-suited to it. Could I be becoming British? Discuss.)

But thanks to your comments, I’m feeling more positive about it. Thursday I got sent a dozen posh cupcakes – not by Friend Bearing Chocolate, for the record – and walked around the office distributing them. There would have been a time when I would have scarfed three or five of them, thinking: Oh, I’m going to screw up in Cannes so I might as well screw up now. I’d try (probably unsuccessfully) to get back on track before Cannes, and would arrive already feeling fat and a failure. But Thursday I thought: OK, I’ve got dinners out tonight, Friday and Saturday, and close-fitting Cannes dresses putting the fear in me, so decided to skip them.

The other thing – besides your comments – that has helped steel me for next week: Fitting into not one, not two, but three UK size 14 (US 10) dresses Thursday. And in two separate shops, too.

* * *

So what is This Thing I’m Doing, you ask? It’s a UK diet called Slimming World, which I do online here, because I can’t bear the thought of a group meeting a la Weight Watchers.

It’s a diet I never thought I’d do. As I’ve said before, when I read the Slimming World magazine, I don’t see myself in any of the success stories (besides the starting out fat part, of course). For starters, I’ve never once seen a success story from London. Many of them have had children at age 19 or 20. Two in the past two months have been maids. The success stories have cheesy titles like “I feel a million dollars -- but enjoying life like this is priceless” and “[Name here] has a lot to smile about since losing 12st” (and I’ve read the magazine long enough to see headlines like that last one re-used.) The clothes in the photo shoots are of cheap, shiny material, and they’re – in a word – trashy, even if you don’t have an extra ounce of fat on you. And chocolate and cakes and wine and other things like that are called “Syns.” Ugh.

And yet.

And yet, the diet works.

There are a lot of variations I haven’t bothered to learn because I like to keep things pretty simple, but at heart the diet is this: Eat as much healthy food as you want. There are no limits on fruits (not even bananas) or vegetables or eggs (yes, whole eggs, not egg whites) or lowfat yogurt. Each day, you choose whether you’re having a Green (translation: carb) or Original (meat) day, and you can – as I do – choose Green day after day if you love your pasta. According to the rules you can eat pasta or rice until you’re full on Green, and as much meat as you want on Original. I’m OK with the “unlimited” with meat, but with pasta when I’m at home I measure it – I don’t trust myself with carbs. (If I’m still hungry, I fill up on fruit. And with fruit, I really do eat as much as I want – sometimes nine or 10 servings a day.)

Each day, there are also Healthy Extras (if you’re having a Green day, it’s servings of meat or cheese; on Original it’s servings of pasta or rice), and the aforementioned Syns. Though they recommend about 10 Syns a day, I never actually calculate mine. One of the things I always hated about Weight Watchers was the constant calculating and figuring with what I could do with my last remaining point or two, so with Syns there are plenty of days where I don’t use any, and on the other days, if I want to have three glasses of wine or lemon tart, I figure I am justified. For the past six months, at least, it’s worked, because not counting for me means not that they don’t count, but that I’m not obsessing.

For me, it has been ridiculously simple. I eat a lot of oatmeal and pasta with vegetables and sushi and baked potatoes topped with cottage cheese. If I’m hungry, I eat more fruit (and sometimes eggs – I eat a lot of eggs). You can make the diet a whole lot more interesting – there are loads of recipes in the magazine, and the few I’ve tried have been rather delicious – but I am both lazy and busy.

Must run to last body pump class pre Cannes – my arms need all the help they can get! I’d like to say I’ll post from the Croisette, but with both A Mighty Heart and Oceans Thirteen premiering in my week, it’s going to be a crazy one.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Fear and Loathing

As of yesterday – my 32nd birthday, and 12 days shy of six months of This Thing I’m Doing – I have lost 48.5 pounds.

I’m starting to fear for my ability to lose any more. Lately, This Thing I’m Doing has been alternately automatic and extremely fluid, both of which scare me. In the past, automatic and fluid (in that I suddenly eat and drink lots of things I wouldn’t have dreamed of touching before) eventually has led to my undoing. In all the times I’ve lost weight – and I’ve lost a lot of weight a lot of times – I’ve never once gotten to goal. Partly it’s because not thinking (see “automatic”) I think lulls me into thinking I can eat like someone who is naturally thin. And partly it’s because one “fluid” day suddenly becomes two or three or a binge or seven. I fall off the wagon and into a vat of cake – preferably with frosting -- and never surface again.

Next week I’m off to the Cannes film festival, where champagne and ice cream are the major food groups, and the studios woo journalists with lavish lunches (and the company of the cast). This week I have my birthday plus dinner on Saturday with a foodie friend. Last week it was Sunday lunch for my birthday, dinner with the Fig, and office drinks in the middle of the day to toast our old offices (and empty our liquor cabinet) as we moved to the new ones. (The last of which, thanks to the will-knock-you-sideways-in-one-sip-or-less $160 Roberto Cavalli vodka I’d gotten at the launch last year, turned into more drinks at the wine bar, plus a huge plate of cheese. Oh cheese, how I have missed you!) I feel like I am barely hanging on here, and Cannes – although this year I will be thinner there than I’ve been in years past – is never good for my self esteem.

Most worryingly, last night at dinner I felt the overwhelming urge to binge. I’d like to think it was because it was past 9 p.m. before we had dinner, and because I’d already had a couple of drinks, but after dinner and dessert (which I ate anyway, even though it wasn’t the chocolate I would have liked) I wanted to keep eating. I thought briefly about chocolate, and then about hunting around for food after my friend went to bed – I was staying over – but managed to go to bed myself instead.

I’m putting it down in writing that I have to come up with a plan for Cannes, where the hotel doesn’t have a gym and it’s too hot and crowded to take a walk – never mind that I’m exhausted from working 20 to 22 hours a day. Last year Cannes was the end of a two-month diet – I binged the first or second day and couldn’t stop. I’d wake up each day with a food hangover – feeling fat, fearing my dress wouldn’t fit, and feeling like I’d rather crawl under the table than collar celebrities at parties. (Well, the last of those I feel almost all the time, but that’s another story.) Yoga? I’ve done a little yoga on other trips this year and even a little bit of exercise helps me feel more in control. But I’m open to ideas. It was a very wise commenter several months ago – when I wrote about feeling fat in the jeans I’d worked so hard to fit into – who wrote that I should think about where I’d like to be two months on: “Celebrating that your 34s are too big or still feeling fat in them or worse, not able to get them on any more.”

It’s two months and two days since I wrote that post, and the jeans – which I’m wearing today -- are rather roomy. (Even my sister, who is not known for compliments, suggested I needed a belt with them in Los Angeles.) I hope two months from now I can say the same thing about the 33s I bought in the US, but…

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Dear Old Blighty

This morning – before a birthday Sunday lunch in the country – I decided to go to bikram yoga, partly because I have a pack of classes I need to use up, and partly so I could feel virtuous at lunch.

I arrived back home a sweaty mess, with exactly an hour to shower before dashing to catch my train. Except my water didn’t work.

I called Thames Water, which did a computer check and told me that there was no construction in my area. They then told me I needed to check with my neighbors to see if they had water before Thames Water would do anything. So I dutifully trotted upstairs to call on my neighbor, who I’m sure was thrilled to hear from me at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

I called Thames Water back to be told I needed to check with neighboring buildings to see if they had water. But I don’t know any of those neighbors, it’s pouring rain, it’s Sunday morning, and what if there’s nobody home, I protested.

Thames Water won’t do anything until you do that, I was told. So – now a sweaty, rained-on mess – I banged on various doors, and called Thames Water back. (Hey, where’s my pension, now that apparently I work for Thames Water?)

This time I was told that I also had to check with properties on the next block to see if they had water.

I confess I lost it then. I had exactly 17 minutes to get ready before catching a train for a party I was throwing, and I snapped: “What exactly do I pay you for? Do you people do anything?” (Nothing like doing my part for the Ugly American stereotype.)

I checked with properties on the next block, who did have water. On the way back, I spotted a couple of men in fluorescent vests.

“Can you tell me what you’re doing there?” I asked.

“Do you live there?” one of them asked, pointing in the direction of my building. “You won’t have water for another hour.”

Sigh. I called Thames Water again, and asked why their computer system hadn’t known about this particular construction. No answer. Sometimes I love this country soooooo much.

With eight minutes to go, I dashed upstairs, grabbed a couple of bottles of Evian, and hopped in the bath, a la a supermodel.

Thursday, 10 May 2007


A friend suggested the other day that I need to change the Fig’s nickname, since it was never meant as a term of endearment. For the moment, it shouldn’t be.

I’m still at the point of wondering if I’m ever going to hear from him again after each date, and it is not a nice feeling. He does my head in, one minute saying I look good enough to kiss sober while in public (not done by the posh and English) and doing so, and the next saying we are not meeting up this weekend, aka the first weekend I’ve been in town since this all started, despite the fact that he’d said otherwise the day before. It shouldn’t be this complicated so early on.

This morning, after an upsetting conversation with him, came anger and insecurity and rationalization and fear. I considered them all, like subtle notes in a fine wine. Then I went to my last body pump class – we’re moving offices next week, making the gym too far to go at lunchtime any more – and came back and packed and stewed. And then came another feeling: The one that I want to be with someone who wants to be with me as much as I want to be with him. And maybe, just maybe, that I deserve that.

How is all of this related to food and weight? Sigh. I love reading – and very much admire – all the weight-loss bloggers who never loathed themselves for being overweight, but much as I wish otherwise, I’m afraid I’m not one of them. It’s painful to write about how little I felt I deserved 40-plus pounds ago – and equally painful to remember that I often still feel that way. I’ve been relatively thin (well, average) before, so I know firsthand that losing weight isn’t the fix-all solution it’s so easy to think it is when you’re very overweight. I still have a good 25 pounds to go, but it seems the real work is just beginning.

Monday, 7 May 2007


I am just back from nearly 3 days in Norway with my dad, which is about 2 more than I easily can handle.

Why? For so many reasons, among them him quizzing me about my opinion on everything from the French election to the war in Iraq, then spending 20 minutes explaining the similarities between leprosy and tuberculosis (no, I didn’t ask) and asking me to guess, in the professorial way of his, why our average mph was dropping even though we had the car in park. He thinks the rules of the world – including airplane takeoff times – merely are suggestions, and so you can be super late to the airport and he will still have a chat with a non-English-speaking Norwegian about nothing and stop for a leisurely cup of coffee.

My dad is also a dieter’s nightmare. He likes to discuss how he has to watch his weight, then orders fish and chips for lunch and eats half a bag of trail mix (150 calories a handful) for a snack. He doesn’t usually eat breakfast except on vacation, where his idea of a “light to moderate” breakfast includes bread thickly spread with butter, cheeses, assorted meats and fishes, eggs, and fruit. When you say you are hungry – a very hard thing for me to admit to, because what fat person likes to admit to that? – he never is. It is always too early to eat lunch (well it would be with a breakfast like that, wouldn’t it?) and too early for dinner. And when he deems it time to eat, you can never just stop at the first place. Even if you’re in, say, France, he’ll make you trek all over town looking for Bulgarian food, or some other ethnic cuisine he deems interesting (Chinese, Italian, Greek et al don't count.) I have long had a theory about how my dad’s life isn’t that interesting, so his food has to be, but that’s another story.

This trip I was prepared. Despite the fact that Norwegians frown upon doggy bags, I took bananas and apples and hardboiled eggs (note to commenter asking about This Thing I’m Doing – I promise I’ll explain soon!) from the breakfast buffet and stashed them in my handbag. On the first day I pointed out (to no avail, but still, I was assertive) that things in Norway close early when it’s not high season, and that we ought not be eating lunch at 3 p.m. as nothing would be open when he was (note lack of use of “we”) ready for dinner. That night we ended up sitting in the car, eating prepackaged muesli and yogurt – two containers apiece -- from a gas station mini mart, and I did not even try to resist the “I told you so” urge. (My dad is a slow learner. We also ended up dashboard dining on Night Two.)

But I quietly ate my bananas and apples and hardboiled eggs (sometimes in the bathroom, to avoid the inevitable comment and discussion) and I didn’t binge out of extreme hunger or – as I have done before – frustration. I did lose my temper with him a few times, which I’d vowed not to do, but I’m trying not to feel too guilty. There’s next time to hit that particular goal.

Or to throw something at my dad.

Friday, 4 May 2007

All the Umbrellas in London...

I spoke to the Fig briefly while I was in Miami a couple of days ago.

“You’re in the diary for next week,” he said.

“Do you want to see Spamalot?” I asked. (We had talked about it as a possibility the previous week.)

“No,” he said. “I just want to see you.”


Alongside the giddiness – sometimes actually replacing the giddiness, sometimes not -- is incredible wariness. I can’t help it, and apparently I’m not the only one who thinks it’s warranted. As one of the very few friends I have dared to tell wrote in an email yesterday, “Great about the Fig, but make sure he is nice to you.”