Tuesday, 26 February 2008

True North

Repeat after me: No matter what the problem is, eating will not solve it.

I don’t really know what the problem is, but on Friday I ate over it. Yes, I binged – only less than four days after the last two-day bender. I left a lunch with a fellow journalist and just kept eating. That night I felt so sick I could hardly concentrate on what a friend was saying at dinner. At one point, I went to the bathroom and stood with my sweaty forehead against the cool stall door, willing myself to remember how awful being too horribly full feels so that I don’t do it again. I hate being that full. I hate being unable to concentrate; just wishing time would pass so that I’ll feel less full.

I feel OK now, if a bit shaky. I’ve made it through four days of eating appropriately, although I’m seriously nervous about the next couple of weeks. I’ve got a cream tea on Saturday for a friend’s leaving drinks, then a birthday dinner that night. And next week I’m running around Spain with a certain Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love actress (hint: she looked like one of those pink-covered Hostess marshmallow cupcakes – I think they were called Snowballs -- when she accepted her award) and a very famous chef while they make a food show (eek!) for television. Then it’s back to London where I’ve got another fancy tea for a friend’s birthday Friday. And then it’s a ton of time in airports/on airplanes (a huge binge trigger for me) en route to Indonesia for vacation. (I’m already considering bringing all of my own food for the plane trip out so I don’t even have to think about what would be a good option.)

I’ve got two big problems at the moment. The first is that suddenly, all the foods I could just look past or through suddenly look very appealing. Every bakery window, every newsagent, everywhere I look there are things I want to eat. Even going into a market to buy fruit is a challenge – I’ll think I crave a grapefruit, but then end up buying an apple and a pear as well and being unable to choose which to eat. (I know an extra piece of fruit isn’t going to kill me – it’s just the idea that I don’t seem capable of making any food decisions at all.)

The second problem is that I’m not sure what the problem is – well, what the underlying problem is. Why am I suddenly bingeing? What am I trying to fix? I have this vague idea that it may be connected to Bachelor No. 2. As lovely as he is, as comfortable as I feel with him (and I do feel remarkably comfortable) and as well as things seem to be going, I’ve got a sense of uneasiness and imbalance that’s throwing my internal compass off its generally healthy north. I think a huge chunk of this is me and not him – the first therapist I had for binge eating told me I shouldn’t date at all while in treatment because it would just be too messy for me to handle; that I was just learning my own feelings and wouldn’t be able to deal with someone else’s. I also think part of my lapse is due to relationships in general – more meals out, more drinks, more reasons to stay cuddled up at home as opposed to trekking to Gloucester Road on a Sunday morning for Pilates! (But I did drag him for a run Saturday afternoon…It was short and about half the time I would have gone for had I gone myself, but at least we went.)

I’ve decided I probably won’t get on the scale until after my vacation, although I reserve the right to change that if I decide what I’m doing is avoiding facing the facts. But at the moment, my clothes still fit and today someone I haven’t seen in several weeks came into the office kitchen and said: “Hello, Miss Skinny.” Wish I could bottle that rush of pride – along with the memory of how it feels to be way too full – for weak moments.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

The Long and Winding Road

I scale-hopped this morning: 11 stone 8.

(And you thought I was exaggerating how much weight I can gain in a couple of days.)

Frankly, I’m only slightly upset. Mostly, I’m just relieved. I’m still in the “acceptable weight category” (barely, but still), and I’ve had two days of eating appropriately – and it’s the day or two after the binge that, in my experience, are the trickiest.

Yesterday was particularly tough. Despite being up very late Tuesday closing stories for the magazine, I got up early Wednesday to fit in Pilates (and, yay me, managed to hold the dreaded plank for two minutes, something I’ve not yet been able to do.) Then, despite the wide availability of cookies, chocolate and champagne in the Brit Awards press room – because PR people know that the press are like small children: feed us junk and we will shut up and behave – I touched none of it except for diet Coke and a couple of bananas and strawberries. I brought my own dinner so there was no need to even contemplate the food table at length.

After the awards, I headed to an afterparty hosted by Kylie Minogue at a nightclub I loathe. It was the sort of frustrating evening that makes me (a) want to quit my job on the spot and (b) eat, but I did neither. Tonight I’ve got a drinks event that historically has been both boring and with very delicious canapés, not a diet-friendly combination (at least not for me). I may try to eat dinner beforehand.

* * *

I honestly believe and fervently hope this will be my last year in this job, and with that in mind, I’m trying to whine a little less and appreciate a little more, if for no other reason than my own sanity. Hours or days where I like or enjoy – let alone love – my job are incredibly rare, but they do exist.

Last night the Brit Awards were two of those hours. Besides performances from the Kaiser Chiefs and Amy Winehouse – both of whom I love – there was a five-song medley from Paul McCartney. Whatever you feel about McCartney’s post-Beatles career (there were multiple snide references to the Frog Chorus in the press section), it was hard not to feel lucky just being in the room for his set. The man still has it. Only Macca could get a bunch of jaded record company execs – plus a flotilla of rock stars – standing on their chairs, pumping their fists and singing along to “Hey Jude.” And there was a sweet tribute to Linda with “Live and Let Die,” with the crowd cheering as images of her lit up the screen during a video montage.

You’d think the man would be used to this sort of reception, but even he looked (pleasantly) surprised. And as a slightly jaded reporter who’d already been waiting around for hours not expecting much, so was I.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Several Steps Back

It started out as just a jam doughnut and a cream finger. Then it was another jam doughnut. And then another four jam doughnuts. Then an apple cinnamon muffin and a piece of Victoria sponge. (I threw away most of the Victoria sponge, somehow – it didn’t taste very good, not that taste is ever really the point of this sort of thing.) Then a brownie (which tasted – ick – like it had orange in it. But I ate it anyway.) Then Chicken McNuggets and a vanilla caramel sundae. (Never mind that I don’t even like McDonalds.)

That was yesterday’s binge, the worst binge I’ve had in years, I think. Well, except for the binge I had on Sunday, which also fits into that category.

I didn’t even think I physically was capable of eating that much any more. Apparently I was wrong.

I can’t begin to describe how awful it feels, both physically and mentally. There is the feeling of my jeans being too tight – and the fear that any day now I’ll be too fat to wear them ever again. There is that too-full, too-hot, too-sick, too-tired feeling that’s accompanied by the fervent wish that I could throw up. (I’ve never been able to force myself, and long ago stopped trying.) There is the disgust, and the anger, and the sadness. And again, there is the fear. Where did this come from? Neither of these two binges were preceded by triggers I recognize. There was no despair and no loneliness – and no alcohol, usually the lit match to the oil.

On Sunday I’d finished a very late lunch with Bachelor No. 2. I’d been nearly frantic by the time we sat down – it was after 3 p.m., and I hadn’t eaten since 9 a.m. (and had had only a very small breakfast). I was so hungry I could hardly decide what to eat; so hungry I was cross about even trying to make good decisions. Why couldn’t I just have the fried Brie with the raspberry sauce as a starter? I asked the waitress about the Waldorf salad (mayonnaise dressing – nope) and the prawn cocktail (not available without the sauce – which I loathe – already mixed in). I had a small green salad. I was still seriously hungry when the main courses arrived.

I had a six-ounce fillet steak without any of the sauces. I had a bit of the mashed potato and some of the sautéed mushrooms. When I’d finished – and BN2 still had about half of his left -- I felt like I could have eaten more. Very embarrassing. He didn’t want pudding; I did, but didn’t feel like I could have it if he didn’t. I’m not sure I’m at that point with anyone, let alone him. (A few weeks ago I avoided a binge by asking a friend to accompany me to have a piece of chocolate cake “like a normal person.” I avoided a binge, but it was a very close friend who knows all about this particular struggle. Anyway, I didn’t eat the cake like anything approaching a normal person – I think I inhaled it.)

I should have gone through the Tube ticket barriers with him at Green Park (he was getting on one line; I was getting on another), but I’d been plotting since we left the restaurant. I said I was going to buy a bottle of water, and watched him disappear down the escalator. Then I bought a raspberry flapjack and ate it on the way back out of the Tube en route to the Starbucks to get some chocolate cake. I’m already ashamed enough of the binge detailed above so I’ll skip the gory details on this one. Suffice it to say it was huge.

I’m working out what happened here – or what may have happened here – as I write about it. So all I can conclude is that I let myself get too hungry – something I usually try to avoid – and then I felt like I was being denied something. (I remember this acute feeling of disappointment when he said he didn’t want pudding, and was so powerfully pulled back to being a child, being promised dessert for one reason or another, and then it not materializing.) There is also the question of whether I’ve been denying myself too much in general. I have been pretty good about incorporating chocolate lately, but apparently there’s an ocean of things I really want to eat (ugh, though – can I please have better taste than McDonalds?) that I’d better start letting myself eat in moderation.

I can’t explain why I binged on Monday, the second day. My best guess is that it’s what a nutritionist I consulted years ago called “last chance eating” – I hadn’t finished consuming the list of mostly forbidden foods on Sunday, so I went back for more. (I actually remember – on top of my disgust and annoyance with myself for bingeing – a feeling of frustration and annoyance that I was bingeing on a Sunday night, when an awful lot of things in this country are closed.)

So where am I now? Still angry and disgusted and frustrated with myself. Annoyed and upset and frustrated that in two days I’ve negated all the losses since Christmas and may in fact be up at my post-Christmas weight, if not higher. (I don’t want to get on the scale.) I’m also anxious – I’ve got a busy couple of weeks (including another champagne-soaked very long night tomorrow at the Brit Awards plus a bunch of leaving drinks parties), and then a vacation. (I don’t always do well with being out of routine, especially an exercise routine.)

But… even with my hugely distended stomach I went to Powerplate this morning, although I didn’t do my usual run there. I went to yoga at lunchtime. And I ate appropriately. Tomorrow I will do my best to stack the odds in my favor, including hitting Pilates in the morning, bringing dinner with me, and – most likely – not drinking at all during the awards. Fingers crossed it works.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Oh Frabjous Day

Last night I had with my sister the same conversation about dieting and food we’ve been having for years. She whines about her weight and how hard it is to maintain and describes in almost pornographic detail the French fries/dessert/chocolate/Indian food she ate – then asks how I’m doing with the bingeing (cue circus freak feelings) and then, almost hopefully, how I’m doing with my own weight. What she’s hoping is that I’ve gained.

I listened with half an ear last night to her recitation of Bad Foods Consumed and Bad Foods She’d Like to Consume and Bad Foods I Feel Like She’s Mentioning to Inspire Me to Consume Them. This morning I woke up and suddenly realized: I am the same weight as my sister. That number she mentioned that – although she complains about – sounds so low to me that I can’t imagine ever weighing it? I weigh that now. I can’t even begin to explain how much that set my head spinning.

And then, of course, I immediately wondered if I’d still manage to weigh it the next time I see her. Some things – certain thought patterns – never change. Or not yet, anyway.

* * *

One of the reasons I had only half an ear tuned in to my sister last night was because I was waiting for Bachelor No. 2 to call.

We didn’t talk about Valentine’s Day. We tiptoed right up to the edge, but nobody blinked. He mentioned two friends of ours who he thought left the country – literally – so as to avoid Valentine’s Day. I didn’t point out that he, too, was avoiding it. What I wanted was for him to say definitively that he couldn’t deal with it, or didn’t want to deal with it, or had other plans for Thursday. It was the not knowing I couldn’t handle.

Why didn’t I say anything myself? For the record, I didn’t need a big fuss or a restaurant dinner – it’s just that it’s been years since I was dating anyone on Valentine’s Day, and I would have appreciated the novelty of not spending it either alone or with girlfriends. I knew he wouldn’t know Valentine’s Day was a big deal to me unless I said something, but by saying something, I’d automatically make it a big deal. So I didn’t say anything.

Last week he suggested doing something we’d talked about “on Thursday” – I noted he didn’t refer to it as Valentine’s Day. But the booking he was offered disappeared before he grabbed it. On Wednesday I asked him – casually -- if he’d made other plans. He said he wanted to chill out at home. I felt stung.

Yesterday I had a voicemail on my mobile phone, saying I had a delivery, and when would I be home to receive it?

Not for hours, I said – I had fashion shows and parties to attend for work. In fact, I called the delivery man while waiting to get into the Issa show.

“Well, I’m sure I’ll have the same problem trying to deliver it tomorrow. And I think you’ll want this,” he said.

“What is it?” I asked. I could hardly hear him above the din.

“Flowers,” came the reply.

I didn’t say anything.

“You don’t sound very impressed,” said the delivery man.

“That is the sound of stunned silence,” I said.

Bachelor No. 2 sent a dozen red roses. This morning I emailed a very close friend – one of only two people I’d told how I felt about the whole Valentine’s Day thing – to tell her.

She emailed back promptly: “I think you’ve got a boyfriend.”

* * *

I was seated in the front row in two fashion shows this week. The front row is where the celebrities are seated. It’s where the top editors and most powerful people are seated. It is not anywhere I thought I’d ever get to sit.

At Issa yesterday I watched one of the PRs double-checking a couple of interlopers’ tickets and shooing them to row D or E or – even worse – the standing section. I held my breath, sure she’d come over to me next, because surely there can’t be a fat girl sitting in the front row.

She walked right by me.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Happily Ever Bafta

So I had to switch handbags at the 11th hour (evening bags are so not designed to hold mobile and blackberry) and forgot my carefully packed portion of cashews. Not good.

But my Bafta (eating) experience could have been a whole lot worse. OK, so I had champagne at the pre-awards drinks (I’d planned to drink sparkling water in the five hours until dinner was served). And I practically inhaled my dinner – dessert and all – when it finally appeared. And then I had some Bafta-mask-shaped chocolates and a chocolate-dipped strawberry and some madeleines after that, in a decision I feared was dangerously close to a binge. (Everyone else had left the table to head to the afterparty and it was just me hunting for my other opera glove. But I really was hunting, not pretending to hunt as a pretext to stay near the food – something I’ve certainly done before.)

I was angry with myself for the post-dessert eating. But that day I’d done a hard Pilates workout, and I didn’t totally give in and give up at dinner: I left over the mashed potatoes and didn’t butter my roll (it sounds crazy, I know, but buttering bread is a sure sign for me of an impending binge. Another crazy sign: When I go days and days without straightening my hair. It’s a sign that I’ve given up and don’t care.) And when I got home, I didn’t continue eating. I hung up my gown (something I likely would not have done had I been bingeing – even small things are too much effort), washed my face and went to bed. This morning, I was straight back on track.

* * *

I spent last night thinking alternately about how being thinner has made dealing with a job I hate both easier and more difficult.

It is more difficult because being thinner – and really, not bingeing so often – means I have energy to deal with things in my life I don’t like. If there’s a problem in my flat, I call the landlord. (If you think bingeing has nothing to do with this, see “wouldn’t have hung up gown,” above.) If I don’t get an answer, I call again. Stripping away the food has made me painfully aware of how much I used it to deal with my job. But it’s true: Eating is not going to make the unpleasant tasks any easier, or make them go away.

At the same time, being thinner has made certain parts of the job easier to bear. A last-minute invitation to the Baftas – which this was – would have caused untold amounts of clothing angst 70 pounds ago, plus an entire evening of feeling hugely (and I mean hugely in all senses) self conscious. But yesterday – confident I was at least as slim if not slimmer than when I bought it -- I plucked out of my closet a vintage Courreges gown I bought in Madrid in November, grabbed some shoes and red lipstick and Grandma’s jewelry and was good to go. I was a bit self conscious about my (so-huge-they're-the-size-of-people's-thighs) arms, but I didn’t feel like the elephant in the middle of the room. It’s amazing how much easier it is to speak to people you don’t know when your head isn’t full of self-loathing thoughts.

Friday, 8 February 2008

A New Low

This morning the scale hit 11 stone 4.5 (158.5) – the lowest I’ve weighed in my entire adult life.

Glee was swiftly followed by a touch of fear/anxiety/dread.

The fear and anxiety is because of my plans next week, which include not just the BAFTAs and fashion week but a big dinner out tomorrow night. I’m sure I’ll gain something in all of this, and I’m already dreading trying to get the weight off again -- every half a pound at this stage is a fight. And did I mention that on the 16th I’m hoping to wear a dress that just barely fits now?

Sigh. But this is going to be my life, isn’t it? Going up a few pounds and fighting them off before they get out of control. That is what “normal” people do, isn’t it?

My goal for the week – above all – is not to binge. There are several events that are possible triggers, not least of which is the BAFTAs. I have to meet for drinks at 5 p.m., but dinner will not be served until at least 10:30 p.m. I can’t eat dinner before I go, obviously. May try to carry something small – cashews or similar – in my handbag.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Heading in the Right Direction

Weighed in today at 11 stone 7 ¾ -- down three pounds from last week’s horror weight of 11 stone 10 ¾. (I say “horror weight’ knowing full well that at most other points in my life 11 stone 10 ¾ would be a dream weight… It’s all relative!)

My eating has been saint-like, I’ve given up the diet Coke (I’m five days clean!), and I’ve been exercising hard, so I have to say I think I deserved it. (Also, I think that high weight was something of a fluke.) Still, it’s slightly depressing that I’m just now down to what I weighed on January 15th, let alone what I weighed before Christmas. Someone please remind me of this when next year’s cornucopia of champagne and chocolate hits…

I’ve got the BAFTAs – basically, the British Academy Awards – to attend Sunday night, and it’s a champagne-fueled dinner, so I have a feeling there may be a bit of yo-yoing going on between it and London Fashion Week, which also starts Sunday. (How does one gain weight during Fashion Week? Easily. As something of the bastard stepchild of the four fashion capitals, LFW is all about the parties, all with tons of champagne and the same caterer. By the end of the week I can literally tell you which canapés are coming – although hopefully this time around I won’t be able to tell you whether they’re any good or not!)

Monday, 4 February 2008

Bending Over Backwards

Yoga. Heartcore/hardcore Pilates. Power plate. Swimming. Running. Body pump. Cross-trainer. I did them all this week – and to top it off, this morning I was at the gym at 8 a.m. to try Kettlebells. (I’m not sure I should be taking workout cues from Russia, a country that believes vodka is the cure for everything, but…)

I’m the sort of person who gets in grooves (or dare I say, ruts): doing the same workouts and eating the same things, because they’re familiar and comfortable and safe and easy. So I was amazed when I was ticking off this list of workouts in my head. Plus this week included a big yoga victory for me: a full backbend, which I’ve been trying to do for more than a year, but never quite had the arm strength to lift myself off the ground. Frankly, I was so despairing of ever being able to do one that it was my yoga goal for the whole year – so I guess now I’ll have to come up with a new one. Head stand, maybe? Maybe not.

But I digress. I think all the variety is paying off. It’s a lot of effort to organize all these workouts (and some will be short-lived only because I can’t really afford them), but I’m enjoying them all – and they seem to be working. This morning the Kettlebell class was just me and one other girl, tall and beautiful and slim; the sort who puts on her teeny weeny bikini to sit in the sauna at the gym. (I’ve only been to the sauna once, and it was in my Speedo.) The instructor had us take turns doing a series of 15 fast squats with a 16-kilo kettlebell.

My classmate looked at me after several rounds and said to the instructor: “How is it she’s not totally out of breath from this?”

I tried not to smile.

* * *

Has anyone else noticed yourself slowly becoming more assertive as you get thinner? (Yes, yes, I know one does not equate “journalist” with “shrinking violet,” but for me it’s always been one thing to ask for things because my job requires it, and another to ask for them because I need or want it. I usually, erm, bend over backwards to avoid calling attention to myself.)

Today’s Kettlebell instructor was a fairly smug male trainer who seemed to delight in showing us how easily he could pick up the really heavy weights, and kept making constant references to how well he does in competitions. Exactly the sort of instructor who would have made me very uncomfortable more than 70 pounds ago (or even 30 pounds ago), and in a way, still does.

One of the exercises he showed involved flinging the 16-kilo weight above your shoulder.

“I can’t do that,” I said.

He started to say something cutting, and I cut him off. Not rudely; just firmly. I’ve spent a year rehabbing my arms and shoulders after my fingers went totally numb – totally frightening -- while I was typing last year, and I’m not about to sacrifice that because some random Kettlebell instructor was making me squirm.

“I have bad shoulders, and my physio has said I shouldn’t lift more than two kilos. I have exercises from her that I do,” I said. “Could I skip this one, or is there another version of it I could do?”

He asked what had happened to me, and I explained.

“Well, I’ve had a shoulder reconstruction, which is pretty much the worst thing that can happen to your shoulders, and I’m fine doing these,” he said. “Yours sounds like a postural problem. I’m sure it’s fine.”

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t feel comfortable doing those,” I said for the second or third time, feeling a bit silly.

“Fine,” he said, and showed me a variation.

* * *

Yes, Bachelor No. 2 is still in the picture. I like that he wants to know all the little details. Last week, for example, we went to a Greek restaurant and were choosing mezze to share. “I’m allergic to that one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t order it,” I said.

“I should know that, but what are you allergic to?” he asked.

I liked the sound of that: I should know that.