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.)

Monday, 23 July 2007

Prospects, or Lack Thereof

So the American guy appeared a week and a half ago to ask me what I was doing this week, but then radio silence ensued when I responded. He then reappeared to ask me if I had pulled in Ibiza, and now has disappeared again. We had spoken about his being my plus one at a music festival this weekend – I didn’t imagine that, because he said he’d handle the logistics of getting there -- and I find myself unsure of what to do. Yes, I’ve read “He’s Just Not That Into You.” That’s why I hate the idea of e-mailing to see if we are still on – because it appears we very obviously are not.

Behind Door No. 2 we have an English lawyer working in the London office of an American firm – which is bringing me very forcefully and very exactly back to my time in DC. Why? After being sent to Geneva and Paris for work (though not when I was in Paris for work), he has returned to London to cancel on me not one, not two, but three times because of work. This last time he did get bonus points for sending a text message saying he swears if work intervenes again on Thursday – when we are attempting to reschedule – he will throw himself under a car and we can at least get a cup of tea in the emergency room.

And behind Door No. 3 we have the English internet consultant I went out with Saturday. He’s the one I am the least interested in, so of course he is the nicest, most thoughtful, and most persistent. Yes, send therapist recommendations to the e-mail address at the right.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Digging in My Heels

So the weekend before I went to Paris I went to two parties, including one at a Georgian restaurant that included my favorite khachapuri. That Monday evening I went out for drinks. Then I proceeded to spend a week on assignment in Paris, a week that might as well be known as a sea of binges, chocolate, and 500 euro dinners. I returned home to dinner with O and a weekend that included five birthday parties (among the treats I could not resist: Nigella’s lemon pound cake, fresh from the oven).

Then it was off to Ibiza, where I interviewed Penelope Cruz, ended up in the local newspaper, for among other things, eating an orange (must have been a slow news day in Ibiza), and consumed a couple of pieces of manchego cheese and enough champagne to think heading off to Pacha at 3 a.m on a magazine closing night was a good idea. And finally back to London and dinner with a friend I hadn’t seen in months, who emailed news of the dinner booking with the message: No cocktails are not an option. (Why do people say things like that? I hate feeling the need to explain what I eat and drink, or don’t eat and drink.)


I never thought an extra five pounds could feel so heavy – or be so terrifying.

In my defense, I made a good faith effort. I haven’t missed a workout amidst this tidal wave of travelling and disastrous overindulgence. In most cases, I haven’t consumed anywhere near the amount of food I would have a year ago. And I’ve tried to trade off a bit: I had only one piece of khachapuri, instead of the seven I would have eaten last year. In Paris during dinner at Baccarat, I didn’t have a starter or dessert. In preparation for Saturday and Sunday, I had only one drink at the two Friday parties during the five-birthday-party weekend. And at the two Sunday parties, I walked the hour from my flat to Hackney for the first, and while there tried to fill up on vegetables. At the second, I limited myself to one piece of lemon cake.

There are two things that make a gain of five pounds terrifying (and just writing the words is a little terrifying). The first is that not once in my long and checkered diet history have I ever really recovered from a gain of more than a pound.

The second is that life goes on, with no chance for me to wrap myself in a cotton ball and sit on my sofa for a week or two, eating only things for which I know the precise calorie count. Which is all I want to do, as I look at my calendar and see more land mines to dodge: dinners and office picnics and drinks and (mostly) things I should be happy to be doing, instead of worrying about. But in the back of my head, overshadowing everything, is this dark cloud of fear. All day yesterday I felt like bingeing. I walked into a shop to buy a banana and eyed up Bakewell tarts and flapjacks and chocolate and all sorts of things I’d gotten used to (mostly) ignoring.

I’m digging in my heels and reminding myself that my jeans, although snug, still fit – that the tide is not irreversible. Last night I went out with big-drinking friends I see only about once a year, and decided not to drink at all – partly for the calories of the alcohol itself, and partly because drinking seemed a bad idea when I’d been fighting the urge to binge all day. In an hour, I head to an office party that includes some stringers I loathe, and I’ve planned what I’ll order – and planned not drink.

Here’s hoping the scale resumes its downward trend – or at least, doesn’t climb any higher – on Tuesday.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Indecent Proposal

Last night at dinner, O asked me if I’d consider marrying him.

This is not how I imagined a marriage proposal – over lamb and sweet potatoes at Ottolenghi on Upper Street, somewhere between discussion of the Fig and O’s six-week-old daughter he has not yet seen.

O wants an American passport, mostly, it seems, so he can have a legitimate excuse to see said daughter as infrequently as possible.

I pointed out that O could get an American passport by marrying the mother of his daughter – she has an American passport, although she’s never lived there.

O laughed. “I don’t want to flatter with you with compliments, but you’re a lot higher than she is on the list.”

Ah, these English men and their idea of compliments… I forgot about O for a moment and instead heard the Fig’s voice saying: “You’re not hard to look at.”

As we walked toward my flat O joked about telling a friend of his -- a friend I loathe (not that O knows that) -- that we were getting married, and asking him to be best man.

"I don't think M has the sincerity to be best man at our sham of a wedding," I said. O laughed. I laughed, too.

O is off to Hong Kong in a couple of weeks, and as I'm off to Ibiza on assignment next week, I may not see him for a while. We're not getting married -- I could never do that -- but we stood on my stoop awkwardly. O kissed me goodbye in the English way -- both cheeks -- something he never does with me. I felt the urge to hug him, but didn't. I opened my front door and didn't look back.

When Someone Says Yogi...

…I still think Yogi Berra. But yesterday was another milestone for the lowercase-y yogi: I had enough arm strength to lift myself into a backbend. I never thought it would happen.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Le Bingeing

Wednesday night – after an evening where I’d already consumed wine and part of a 200 euro bottle of champagne, plus steak, potatoes dauphinoise, and a chocolate dessert – I stumbled up to my room and finished the complimentary box of chocolates the hotel had left there. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I ate one and a half chocolates of the nine in the box earlier in the day, freaked out that I would finish the box, and so ran water over them and put them in the trash can. So I finished a box of chocolates I first had to fish out of the trash.

One after another, I ate them, unable to stop. I kicked myself for not having flushed them down the toilet. I hated myself.

After the chocolates, I debated nuts and chocolate from the mini bar, but firmly and resolutely shut the refrigerator and went to bed.

On Thursday I woke up feeling sick and bloated, and returned to my Paris fashion week diet from March, which consisted largely of mango chunks and bananas plus lentil salads with poached egg and mustard sauce (much yummier than it sounds) from the Monoprix. I drank lots of water. I felt better.

Friday, after a long, stressful day that included hours and hours in the company of a correspondent I loathe (and who spends time repeatedly and very deliberately needling me) plus residual feelings of despair about the state of my love life, I had a couple of glasses of pink champagne. At dinner, I had lamb and some kind of feta cream and truffled potatoes (perhaps better described as butter, more butter, and possibly a little potato somewhere in there) and bread, and finished off with a cheese plate. I drank Chablis and then a dessert wine made – of all things – from rhubarb (it was delicious). I was very full, but I didn’t stop there. I ate the bag of candied nuts we’d been handed as we left, then went upstairs and pulled the chocolate from the mini bar. I ate a few bites, put it down, ate a few more bites, and flushed the rest down the toilet. (At least I learned something from Wednesday.)

Saturday I woke up feeling horrible and dragged myself to the hotel gym where – feeling and looking like something the cat dragged in – I got to work out next to Jessica Alba and her equally cellulite-and-fat-free pal. I stared at myself in the gym mirror, feeling huge. I wondered if – when I got back to the room – my clothes would fit. I feared the dinner I had to attend that night, and the long worknight that probably wouldn't end until crazy o'clock Sunday morning.

And I thought about what I have learned from this experience.

1. Feeling trapped and miserable makes me want to binge.
2. Being too hungry makes me want to binge (Paris dinners are very late).
3. Being drunk combined with any one of the above means I will binge. Must remember this.

And now the more positive:

Neither of these binges reached anything close to the intensity of my old ones. The feelings were still there – the fear, the jumping off the cliff feeling, the surge of disgust – but the consumption wasn’t. Last year I would have made my way through the whole minibar – nuts, chocolate, and all. Only as I write this now to I realize that it never occurred to me last night to order room service or try to go out and get more food, both things I might have done last year. I overate and I feared people were looking at me as I couldn’t stop overeating. But I did stop. I felt powerless, but I wasn’t. Must remember that, too.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

One is the Loneliest Number

So apparently I have this special talent where – when in my presence – men are compelled to say promising-sounding things like “You should come to my father’s in the country this summer” (see The Fig) or “I’d like to see you again” and “I’ll organize that” (see “The Fig, attempt to get over” OR “seemingly nice American guy I just went out with”).

And then the second men are out of my clearly supercalifragi-magnetic presence they come to their senses and totally fucking disappear.

And now I get to go on assignment to Paris, where people kiss on the street corners to pass time. Oh, goody.

And when I return, I get to go to Milan. Which sounds all very well and possibly even glamorous except that it's a scary fashion story (interviewing a certain Italian designer whose name rhymes with Liberace) over a weekend where I have a five-car pileup of parties I actually want to attend (hint: there will not be a single celebrity at them). So I'll never actually meet anyone.