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.