Thursday, 30 October 2008

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Earlier this week I attended some fashion press days, which are like attending one excruciatingly boring cocktail party after another without even the promise of a cute boy (or a friend you haven’t seen in a while) eventually turning up. You check out the samples of the brand’s new line (in this case, spring/summer ’09), and make polite conversation about its inspiration, detailing, or anything else you can think of that conveys how totally omigod totally fabulous (did you hear me? Fabulous!) you think it is. talk vaguely about how you really must meet said PR for lunch one of these days. Oh yes, definitely. (How about the fourth of Never, about 6 pm?)

And then, if you’re lucky, you get a goodie bag for your efforts. (More often than not, the goodie bag is nothing to write home about – I’ve deliberately left mine on the Tube before – but sometimes it’s nice, like the summer cashmere tank top I once got from Pringle. Never mind that the moths got to it before I did…)

Even down nearly 80 pounds, I still feel hugely uncomfortable around PRs and fashion journalists. I feel like a fraud. I feel like they’re looking at me and thinking: What is this fat girl doing writing about fashion? (Much like making a fat joke before anyone else can make one first, I feel the need to insert at the earliest possible opportunity that I write about fashion, but it’s not prescriptive…) I also feel like the PRs are thinking: There is no way she will fit into any of this.

So imagine my delight when a PR sized me up and checked tags on the goodie bags. When I got outside (it’s poor form to check out your loot until you’re safely out of view) I checked the tag myself: size small!

My mind being what it is, I promptly managed to dismiss this as: Oh, the sizes were probably small, XS, XXS, and XXXS. (I know, I know…)

But then at the next shop I got the PR full-body size-up and the checking for the proper bag. And when I got outside, I checked the tag: size small.

* * *

Today at lunch I found myself unreasonably excited by the Godzilla-sized potatoes. For background, I should explain that there are days where I have specifically chosen not to have my baked potato/cottage cheese/apple (a staple lunch for me – though sometimes I add a hardboiled egg or two) because the potatoes were just too tiny, and I cannot be bothered to figure out what would be an appropriate addition to round out the meal.

Actually, I shouldn’t say I can’t be bothered. I should say I am still too scared. I don’t do well with too much choice, and to walk around the cafeteria weighing and measuring and calculating in my mind – well, it usually ends up nowhere good. (I’m slowly branching out, but the key word is slowly. I like foods I feel safe eating, and I do enough restaurant eating where I have to weigh and measure and figure that I figure I’m justified in having some “safe” meals when I can.)

But anyway – the potatoes today. Huge. I’m talking the Potato That Ate Manhattan. So big I’m sure they would elicit a comment if someone else saw me eating one – and so big I’d quite possibly be embarrassed to be caught eating one. Definitely the sort that nearly 80 pounds ago, I would have eaten awfully quickly lest I be caught.

I took a huge potato (it was in the front – I didn’t even have to hunt for it) and thought about how ridiculously, unreasonably happy I was about its size – about the thought of a lot of food and, quite possibly, the thought of feeling very, very full. And how happy I was about what seemed like a legitimate cheat – hey, my lunch is supposed to be a potato, but nobody specified the size.

And then I thought: Who am I cheating? (Yes, really.) And I thought about the chain of thoughts a hugely oversize potato would set off in my head.

When I got back to my office, I cut off a small chunk of the damned potato and threw it in the bin.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

I’ve been a little lax on the cardio front lately, and today seemed destined to be one of those days where no matter how much I push at various commitments in an effort to squeeze out some time, nothing gives an inch.

And then I had a flash of inspiration: Why not run to the dentist’s office and back?

It was slightly embarrassing turning up at the dentist’s a bit sweaty, but hey, loads of people cycle in London, and at least I’d brushed my teeth. Total cardio notched up: A half hour. And not only did I have no cavities (I have the world’s worst teeth), the dentist said to me approvingly: “You don’t eat much sugar, do you?”

Um, except for my twice daily (trying to cut it down to once daily) chocolate snacks. But hey, I guess the brushing and flossing is paying off.

* * *

Yesterday – for the first time -- I wore a skirt that doesn’t fit if I gain so much as a quarter of a pound. Yes, it is a frivolous purchase, but would you pass up a £1,500 skirt (no, special magic powers are not included at that price) you found for £75 at a sample sale? I thought not.

The World’s Most Hideously Overpriced Skirt is dove gray, ruched and knee length – and totally impossible to walk in. I’m not kidding. I had to use the elevator at work to go three floors up, something I never do, lest I rip the skirt trying to get a foot up on the stair. And as I stood there in the elevator I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it was that I have to be at my thinnest to wear the damn skirt, yet its design prevents me from doing anything to maintain that weight.

And when I checked myself out in the elevator’s mirror (because let’s face it, everyone does) I decided the skirt’s ruching actually made me look fat.

* * *

It's been nearly two years since I started losing weight (well, this time around), and still I can't stop noting all the ways life has changed.

Here's another one, courtesy of Tuesday night’s Kaiser Chiefs show: I was jumping up and down (grateful that I was light enough -- and fit enough -- to do this without breaking into a major sweat) and landed squarely on some poor guy's foot. Instead of groaning, saying something nasty and/or rolling his eyes at his (male) friend, he smiled at me. (I was so flustered and surprised I nearly forgot to apologize.)

I feel like I'm getting boring in all of my gratitude. I wouldn't say I used to radiate negativity, but I'm definitely Ms Glass is Half Empty, and I've been known to be awfully critical of myself (not to mention other people). It's a strange, strange feeling to be so pleased with myself and the changes I've made -- and yet at the same time feel like (actually, be quite sure) they can be undone in a weekend.

It's been more than 70 days since I've binged now, and day by day I feel stronger. Except -- paradoxically -- on days when I don't. There are still days when all I want to do is toast half a loaf of bread and cover it in butter and eat it, one slice after another, without stopping. (And I never even used to eat toast, weirdly enough.) There are still days where I feel like all I do is wait until my next chance to eat again.

I wish I could take comfort on those days in knowing that the wheel will turn – that the feeling of needing to eat, to stuff myself will pass. That it will fade – actually will just suddenly turn -- into happy, at-peace days where I think: I can live like this. I can live with eating the way I currently do. On days when I’m at peace with food, I can’t imagine why I would want to live any other way. Life may not be worth living without my yellow cake with icing and my macaroni and cheese and my biscuits (the American variety) and my butter and my food in general, but at the same time, nor is any food in the world worth setting off the downward spiral of “I need more of that in huge quantities rightthisverysecond” or “I ate way too much” or “I haven’t heard a single thing anyone’s said all evening because all I can think is ‘how can I sneak more?’” But where is the balance between the two?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Becky, Look at Her Butt

Even at my heaviest, I never thought much about the size of my butt in particular. I guess I was always so busy worrying about how big I was in general, or about my stomach or my arms in particular. Basically, I guess I was more worried about the parts of my body I couldn’t help seeing every day to spend too much time thinking about the rear view. (Plus, I never did – and still don’t – understand what makes a butt great. Really. It can’t purely be size, or is it just that so many women think theirs is out of proportion to the rest of their figure?)

I remember a few years ago, after a (temporarily) successful weight loss attempt, my best friend came to visit me in London. She started to follow me up the stairs to my flat, then stopped and said: “Your butt is the size of a small child’s.”

I was so stunned that for a moment I wondered if that was a compliment. Once I figured out that it was, I paused for a moment to consider that any part of my body would not only not be hugely fat, but actually would be worthy of complimenting. And that was about the last thought I gave my butt. It was 2005.

I put on weight. And then I lost it all plus more, and here I’ve stayed for, well, longer than I ever have before.

And suddenly in the past couple of weeks:

“You’ve got a great butt now. Now you just have to maintain it.” (my Pilates teacher – male, I might add)

“I heard your voice outside and then I saw your butt first, and I thought, ‘Wow, it looks amazing.’ What has she been doing?” (friend I haven’t seen for a few months)

“I don’t usually recommend this style, but you’ve got the butt to pull it off.” (bathing suit designer friend, recommending – you guessed it – bathing suit styles)

I have to say, my butt doesn’t look any different to me than it ever has. And I’m not complaining, believe me, but it is just my luck to have perhaps my best body part be one that isn’t exactly easy to display. I’ll know this has all gotten to my head if I start entering rooms backwards…

(No, I can’t believe I’m posting this either.)

Monday, 6 October 2008

It's Called Gratitude, That's Right

Apologies for the radio silence. I’ve been pretending to study for my UK citizenship test (memorizing population figures and saints’ days and the difference between an EU directive and an EU regulation, oh yay) and in full-on Justify My Existence mode at work. (Foreign bureaus are expensive to run, and most publications have cut theirs. I’m hoping mine won’t be next.) I’ve also been in social overdrive, catching up with friends I haven’t seen – thanks to my travel schedule – since August.

So: Stressed and busy, but also (mostly) happy and grateful. Grateful? Yes, grateful. Lately every day seems to bring a moment of gratitude that I’m not overweight anymore. My life isn’t any easier now that I’ve lost weight – in fact, it’s even created some problems – but so many things are less stressful.

For example: This past weekend I was invited to a fancy dress party (British for costume). I had to get a costume at the last minute and all I could think was: This would have been impossible at my previous weight – or at least, it would have been pretty bloody unlikely not to have involved tears of frustration. But I hopped on the internet, picked a few options to be shipped next day (included a couple of “one size fits all, but oh yeah, when we say ‘all’ we mean ‘up to a UK 10’”), and could be about 99 percent confident that at least one would fit and look OK.

Or: When the weather turned arctic suddenly last week, I could pull out last winter’s coat and know that it would fit.

Or: Checking out options for riding lessons in London with a friend, I noted on the web site that the weight limit is 14 and a half stone (about 200 pounds). It’s unlikely I can afford riding lessons, but at least that’s actually true – not the excuse I would no doubt have used when overweight because I’d have been too embarrassed to say the real reason.

Or: Having drinks Saturday with a friend of a friend, she mentioned she’d lost 26 pounds. When I asked how, she said: “Starving. It’s the only way.” Except it’s not. I watched her skip breakfast the next morning and thought: I am so grateful I don’t have to do that. And that I don’t wake up every morning, as I used to, tired and lethargic from the previous night’s binge or just overindulgence and think: I must do something about losing weight today.

I hope the novelty of being thinner – of constantly noticing how it affects my life – never wears off.