Monday, 20 December 2010

A Really Long-Ass Pathetic Post

I'm not sure if it was consumption of far too much food, actual exhaustion, a bit of depression, or a combination of all three, but I slept until 10 today, and then slept, on and off, until nearly 5:30 pm.

Yes, really.

This was after sleeping until noon yesterday.

This is not like me at all. I'm usually up at 6:30 or 7, and even on a weekend I struggle to sleep past 9. Once I'm up, it's nearly impossible for me to go back to sleep.

But I feel under water at the moment. Or like a stray molecule. Or something like that. I spend an absurd amount of hours (lawyer hours, really) doing a job I loathe. One of my favourite people in the world is gone. And I just feel... disconnected and out of place. I know I'm unhappy, but I'm not even sure at this point what would make me happy – and whatever it is, I probably lack the energy to get it.

And so here I am on Sunday night, having spent the weekend reverting to behaviours I haven't resorted to for years. Yesterday I binged on food in my apartment, something I haven't done in at least four years.

It all started on Friday. I could feel myself being edgy, irritated, exhausted. I wasn't even particularly hungry, and yet I ate my snack an hour early, at 3 pm. I just wanted to eat.

At 4:30 pm we had margaritas and chips in the conference room – a holiday party of sorts, because our editor loves Mexican food. I didn't have any, not particularly a struggle. I dragged myself out of the office, wanting nothing more than to go home yet fearing that being home alone would depress me. For all the usual reasons, but also because Friday was the seventh anniversary of my mother's death, and I had a Yahrzeit candle in her memory flickering in the kitchen. When I'd bought it earlier in the week, I couldn't help remembering the struggle to find the candles in England, and how I'd always take them from my grandmother when I visited her. I thought to call her – my mother was her daughter – and realized I couldn't; in fact, that I never will again. It's still like a ninja kick to the stomach.

On that oh-so-cheerful note, I carried on with the evening's plans – to Brooklyn to meet a friend for dinner, and then on to a party. I perked up slightly en route to Brooklyn – my friend who I was seeing is one I consider myself lucky to have. I could feel myself flagging en route to the party, and almost from the minute I arrived I wanted to leave. Not actually so much for the food – macaroni and cheese and all kinds of Southern things that made me super-grateful I'd eaten first and didn't have to navigate – but just for how totally out of place I felt. Besides one other guy, my friend and I were the only white people at the party – a small party where everyone knew each other well, and where it was difficult to mingle. Normally I'd almost enjoy the challenge, but in this case it just made me feel hopeless.

I made a few attempts at conversation, and then gave up. I just wanted to go home, and I took off, feeling lame.

When I got off the subway I had a text from another friend saying she was having a party with her (American) football team and that friends of ours from college were there and wanted to see me, and I should come by if I were around. It was only a few blocks away, and against my better judgement, I went.

There was brie in puff pastry. And s'mores. And marshmallows. And pound cake. And chocolates. And nuts. And bourbon pecan pie. And multiple kinds of fondue (chocolate and cheesecake). And I just dove in. Quickly, I felt so full and so tired all I wanted to do was lie on the sofa. I watched people put their coats on to leave and kept thinking: I should go now. But I sat on the sofa, ate more, and retreated further.

Someone asked me about the job transition and all I could hear was our editorial director earlier this week. "You were running around Afghanistan and now you're editing Love Your Month," she said, sounding bemused.

I nearly burst into tears.

I shared a cab home with a couple – wife so drunk she could barely form a sentence (I say this by way of description, not judgement) and husband quizzing me about my job in a way that remind me so exactly of the evening I met my friend O.

I got home, still so full and exhausted I didn't even have the energy to set the alarm for a noon exercise class I'd committed to take (one of those you-miss-you-pay type – and one of a handful I've tried in a futile attempt to replace my beloved heartcore Pilates).

I woke up at 11:25 am, wondering why I always have to turn everything into a drama (couldn't I have just set the alarm?), and dove into a taxi.

I made the class (just OK – not sure it's worth the trek to the Upper East Side), then decided to walk across Central Park to the Upper West Side, partly because for weeks I've been craving these iced sugar cookies they sell around the corner from my aunt's (and because I know they're within my calorie limits for a snack) and partly just because. I bought a couple of cookies and some fat free blueberry pound cake (another Upper West Side treat) and headed home, managing to lose one of my favourite (and warmest) gloves along the way.

I got home about 3 pm, and that's when the trouble started. I wasn't sure if I had plans for the evening – one friend L. had mentioned possibly meeting for a drink – and I felt restless, edgy. I had my sugar cookie and settled down to finish a biography of Katherine Parr. I soon realized I'd reread the same page at least four times – my thoughts were on (you guessed it) food.

I justified eating the other sugar cookie I'd bought because I'd missed my morning snack (never mind that I'd eaten thousands of calories the night before). The next thing I knew, I was eating all the blueberry pound cake (fat free or no, it was still 1,000 calories), a macaroni and cheese frozen entree, huge forkfuls (yes, forkfuls – don't ask) of peanut butter from a jar I'd never opened, ginger cookies, and bunch of other things I looted from my cupboards and refrigerator.


It was barely 5 pm and an empty evening and Sunday stretched out before me. I knew being too full would keep me from being able to focus on my book, I didn't want to do any work (although I had tons to do), and I just wanted to go to sleep and wake up weeks or months from now, when everything is OK again.

I lay down and saw I'd gotten an email from another friend saying she and her friend were going to see Harry Potter in about an hour in Brooklyn, but the logistics of getting there were enough to make my head explode. Actually, that's a lie – I just didn't want to have to try to put any jeans on, and I knew my head was still too full of food to focus on a film.

I fell into a food-induced coma and woke up somewhere north of 7:30 pm to a text from L., saying she'd be at a bar in the East Village for a friend's birthday about 8:30 pm.

I finally dragged myself out of bed at 8:30 pm, wondering if there was any way I could just wear my stretchy gym leggings. Instead I threw on a huge purple sweater (ironically, last week's treat for having made it through a record two weeks without bingeing) that I hoped hid how tight my jeans were. It's possible I brushed my hair. I put on one of the foundations I was given to test for work, and it looked orange. I wiped it off and couldn't be bothered to put any more on.

En route, I got a text from L.: "Notice – small and mainly ladies."

"Noted," I wrote back. "I don't need to get married tonight."

The bar was tiny – the size of an alley – and packed with perfectly groomed New York girls of the sort I probably never will be. "Every guy here is married," L. shrieked when I arrived. She'd already had several glasses of wine. "You should meet M's husband – he's English."

I couldn't think of anything I less wanted to do.

There was tons of food but I didn't touch it. I got myself some water and proceeded to focus on attempting to be polite and friendly – easier said than done when one is not particularly in the mood to be quizzed about London or her current job, and when I quickly realized I had little in common with most of them.

At one point, edging my way around the island in the middle, I complimented a woman on her necklace and ended up falling into conversation with her and a guy I assumed was her husband. Turned out he wasn't – he's a longtime friend of hers who's a reporter for a suburban newspaper with an extremely sarcastic sense of humor. (Too sarcastic, probably – at one point he made a joke that involved suicide and mothers and even I was stunned speechless.)

He asked for my number and sent me a text telling me it was "very tolerable" to meet me (this was a joking reference to a part of our conversation.) I responded that I could say the same about him, only in a British accent (another part of the conversation involved everyone's disappointment that I don't have an accent – something I can't understand and that frustrates me no end. Do people in this country really want me to sound like Madonna?)

This morning I woke up at 10:30 am, ate breakfast, and got back in bed, thinking about what else I could eat. I fell back asleep, waking up only to eat (appropriate calories) at various (vaguely appropriate) times. Finally at 5:30 pm, even I'd had enough of myself and my lethargy. I dragged myself out to the gym, promising myself I could leave after 20 minutes. I left after a sweaty hour, the longest workout I've logged in a while.

I felt better. Sort of.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Adventures on JDate

So against my better judgement I agreed to sign up for JDate. Yes, my sister and one of my best friends from college both met their husbands there, but (a) I don't think I care that much about marrying anyone Jewish, and (b) my job takes so much out of me that I have even less tolerance for BS than usual. And God, there is a lot of BS.

For the billionth time since I moved to New York to take this horrendous job, I have to ask myself: Why do I not trust my gut?

First I made the mistake of checking the box indicating that I speak some Russian, so I had to tweak my profile to explain that I am not, in fact, from the bridebasket of Europe. I still get emails from every Russian or Slav in the New York area and beyond, plus various suitors whose conversational gambits include: "So what do you know about Hungarian Jews?"

On the phone the other night with another guy (a Canadian living in New York) I got grilled like a hot marriage prospect – or, given his reaction, a rather cold one. The guy clearly has issues, though: He told me he carried on watching Sex and the City "even after my fiancĂ©e left" and proceeded to ask me which two characters I was most like. I'd already told him via email that if he was looking for a TOTAL SWEETHEART (something he had, capital letters too, at least four times in his profile), I probably wasn't his girl, and yet he berated me for describing myself (I played along with his stupid game) for not being more of a Charlotte.

I get emails from 69-year-old men with 3 kids living in Los Angeles. And lots and lots of emails from men who are 5'6" and 5'7" (sorry, but no). Emails from men who are separated (sorry, I've lived through BN2's divorce and I'm not doing it again), and men who have kids living with them (ditto). Of the some 50 people who've emailed, I genuinely want to have a conversation – never mind an actual date – with exactly none of them. I think it's because they're all jaded, too – they send lists of questions, or generic emails, or just: "Emails are a waste of time. Send me your phone number."


The other night I logged on to delete my profile only to receive a request for an IM chat. Usually I decline but I was mildly curious about this guy, especially because he was in Zurich. I mean, yes if I'd met him already and was mad about him, but not under these circumstances. It was 5:30 am there, so I wrote: What are you doing up? And he wrote back: Dreaming of you.

I had to log off before I could even end my membership.

And so I got an email from a guy whose profile includes photos of himself with various celebrities. He says something about ignoring the celebrities in the photos, that that's his job, but um, then why post them? I respond to his email because he's 5'11", roughly the right age, and seems vaguely literate (hello, scraping the bottom of the barrel) and he writes back to tell me he's been to England to film with Duran Duran. I haven't told him about my own celebrity past, and frankly, I'm not at all interested in his (name-dropping) celebrity present. Plus he mixes up your and you're.

Today's email is from a 50-year-old man whose profile picture shows him blowing a bubble with his gum. Be still my beating heart.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Three Wishes

My grandmother – quite possibly my favorite person on the planet – wanted three things this year. She wanted to meet her great grandsons, my sister’s triplets. She wanted me back in the U.S. And she wanted to die before estate taxes went up.

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving – on what would have been her seventy-something wedding anniversary – her last wish was granted. She was 92.


Last week, when I was trying to describe my grandmother to the rabbi, I jumped from her famously jet black hair to her love of jewelry and anything purple to how proud she was to become a great grandmother and finally gave up and said: “I hope I’ve given you enough.”

“It’s OK,” the rabbi said. “I know the type.”

And I thought: “But you can’t, because she’s an original.”

Doctors, waitresses, bank tellers and pretty much anyone who ever came in contact with her would all say some version of: “Your grandmother is a character,” and she was. Anybody who heard she was in her 90s and was expecting a doddering old lady probably never knew what hit them. She was climbing the Great Wall of China in her 70s, putting my social life to shame in her 80s, and pointing out a tiny error in a bank statement just last month. She was sharp and funny and perfectly accessorized and you never had to wonder where you stood with her – or what she thought (good or very bad) of what you were wearing. One roommate listened to me on the phone laughing and gossiping. “’Bye Grandma,” I said at the end of about a half hour.

“That was your grandmother?” my roommate asked. “I thought you were talking to a friend.”

One of my favorite stories about her: Years ago, after an exhausting day at the hospital when my mother had had an hours-long surgery, we got home and the phone rang. It was a telemarketer. “I’d like to speak to [your husband], please.” I held my breath, but Grandma didn’t pause. “He’s been dead for 10 years – I’d like to speak to him, too.”

As my sister and I drove up to New York from Washington last week, Grandma’s three great-grandsons in the back seat, it was almost a reflex to pull out my phone and call her. My sister and I talked about how much she would have loved that we were together, and all the lines we could still hear her say. How if her food didn’t have steam rising from the top it was “ice cold.” How she’d always ask: “How’s your social life?” How when we made her proud she would say, “My buttons are popping.” Tops on my list of Grandma-isms was how she would start every single phone call: “So what have you got that’s good to tell me?” Last year, I finally said the line was starting to make me feel like I couldn’t call her unless I’d won the Pulitzer Prize or gotten engaged or both, and she answered with uncharacteristic gravity: “Just you calling is a good thing to me.”

A call from her, however, was a very rare event. I can remember my mother saying ruefully: “Ma, the phone works both ways.” The first thing my sister said to me in the hospital after her triplets were born was: “You’re never going to guess who called me.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Grandma,” she answered triumphantly.

Sometime in the past year I asked Grandma why she never picked up the phone to us. She said: “That way I’ll know you really want to speak to me.”

In the last couple of years, often she would say she was too old to be of any help. Yet the next time you spoke to her she would say something like “I woke up thinking about” and it was always the answer to some problem you’d just told her about, even if it was just a passing mention weeks ago. She was always looking for some way to make your life better or prettier, and there was no rack of clothing in some faraway corner of a store that she wouldn’t patiently pick through to find it. “You never know who might have put a size 12 in with the 10s,” she’d say as we rolled our eyes and tried to give up.

“I don’t need that,” we’d sometimes protest.

“Buy it and you’ll find a place to wear it,” she’d say. And as always, she was right.

She suffered great loss in her life – her mother died when she was nine months old, she lived with a foster family, and she buried her husband and both her children -- but she remained an optimist. If not always for herself, but for everyone she cared about she believed something good was just around the corner. I remember telling her once about a date I was going on and saying I couldn’t remember how tall the guy was and whether I could wear heels. “So you’ll know on the second date,” she responded.

She would not feel sorry for herself and did not approve of anyone who wallowed. Last year, when I had little work and less money, I complained that I’d eaten nothing but peanut butter and eggs all week.

“That’s fattening,” she said.

Last week I spoke to my cousin, her only grandson and the only child of Grandma’s son, who died suddenly in 1996. He wasn’t coming to the funeral. Though privately I thought it disgraceful – and was glad Grandma wasn’t around to be hurt by it – I told him not to feel bad. I told him Grandma would probably say what she said when my sister and I wanted to come great distances to see her in the hospital.

“What do you want to do that for?” she’d demand to know. “That’s no fun.”

“Come and see me when I’m home,” she’d add.

Grandma, I wish I could.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Today's Lunch

There is a restaurant around the corner from me where no menu item is over 500 calories.

I had a whole wheat wrap with brown rice, black beans, lowfat cheese, and, um, ground bison. Whatever -- it was tasty and filling and I could pronounce all the ingredients.

I chased it with a small pumpkin and tres leches frozen yogurt, supposedly 85 calories.

God Bless America.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Get Your Skates On

I'm trying hard not to pickle myself in job hatred. Writing about it and talking about it and thinking about it saps my energy in a way not dissimilar to overeating, actually. And I need to conserve what little energy I have left after doing the job (and moving across an ocean and adjusting and dealing with lots of logistics) to enjoy New York.

The temptation is to buy myself endless (non-food) treats – after all, I'm making a decent salary doing this job I loathe. But I'm trying to walk a fine line between treat and just endless consumption: I hope I'm not doing this job for too long, and when it's all over, it's likely I'll be a freelancer again. (And depending on how soon it's over, with a much more expensive rent than what I had in London.)

The literal translation of all of this? Less buying of clothes (actually, no buying of clothes), more buying of ice skates.


Thursday morning a friend (visiting from DC) and I went ice skating in Bryant Park before work. Not that you can call what I did ice skating – it was more half-creeping, half-shuffling along the perimeter. (Al the while I earned smiles from passersby that looked suspiciously like the benevolent smiles people give toddlers and poor saps caught in the rain without an umbrella.) Still, it was really fun, and certainly gave me a little lift all day.

Skating is free (yes, there are things in NYC that are free!) but the skate rental is $13. I spent $49 on skates. If I go 4 times between now and the end of February, my lovely white figure skates will have paid for themselves. Beth, get your skates on...


I'm not really crushed not to be buying clothes, because I really don't want to go and try things on.

My jeans are like sausage casing, and my waist has disappeared.

It's been weeks since I could wear my favourite pencil skirt, and instead I've been hiding out in wrap dresses, avoiding the truth. Yesterday for the first time in nearly a week I put my jeans on, and they're ridiculously tight. These are the jeans that already are one size up from my lowest. Not good. Especially not with Thanksgiving and the holiday season just days away.

I panicked, especially because (a) I'm hungry all the time, (b) I have a whole lot less time for exercise and I move a whole lot less during the day in this job, and (c) um, holiday season. I debated doing a couple of drastic diets I've read about, then realized that if I'm hungry on the amounts I'm eating, I surely wouldn't be able to handle severe calorie restrictions. Plus I wondered about the wisdom of doing that for a few days and then participating in the nationwide bingeing holiday of Thanksgiving...

I realized today that I've been complaining for months about things slowly not fitting (or not fitting well) and endlessly declaring that I don't need to get any heavier than I am at [insert particular moment.] I also know that I need to cut myself a little slack – it's been months of upheaval and uncertainty, and it's not over yet. Bingeing twice a week, which I've done for the past two weeks, also has not helped.

So... Goal No. 1 (not quite sure how "goal" differs from the "commitments," as I called them, I made Wednesday): Get to one week without bingeing. I'm well on my way, actually... I also need to buy a scale this week and see exactly the damage is.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Not a Clue How It's All Gonna End

I nearly put my head down on my desk and cried today.

This in no way distinguishes the day from any other I’ve had here, except maybe that it was just once instead of the five times that’s been my daily average. This is not a sign that life here is improving, only that (so far) I’ve been in the office fewer hours today – mostly because I could not face getting here and was late this morning.

I count myself so incredibly unbelievably lucky that I have never in my life had to do a job I hated so much, and with any luck, I will not do this for long. (I think I have to try to last 3 months, although even that seems interminable.) Life is too short to be this miserable, and I am. I don’t want to whip myself up into a frenzy of hatred listing all the things I loathe, so suffice it to say that the job is stuffed full of things I hate to do and almost nothing that I do like to do (never mind the time to do it in). Yes, I will get better at some of the tasks, but I will never ever like to do them. It also doesn’t help that I was bequeathed a series of disasters to sort out, so I constantly am behind. And if I have to go to one more meeting (and there are about a bajillion in my future), I really will cry.

I’d love to regale you with tales of insanity in the New York magazine world, and even though I’ve only worked here 13 days, I’ve got plenty. But I just wanted to pop in to let you know that I’m still here, and that I’m seriously struggling. I’ve gotten to the gym almost every morning, but I’m chained to my desk so barely moving other than that (which means I feel lardier every day, not helped by the fact that I’ve been bingeing oh, at least twice a week, plus eating out constantly).

I’m starting to panic – to really, really panic. I’m starting to consider crazy crash diets and generally freak out. So I need to commit to a few things, so here they are:

1. Return to doing 5 sun salutations every morning. (I was so good about this before I moved...)
2. Strength-train two times per week.
3. Alternate diet Coke with water in office. (I’m getting dehydrated.)
4. Aim to get up from desk at least once per hour. (Yes, seriously.)

More coming, but I’ll start with these!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

I Get By With a Little Help From the Gourmet Garage

So thus far I’m not allowing myself to use the word “hate” or to cry, but… well, it hasn’t been great.

I’m really trying not to whip myself up into a frenzy, but I just don’t think this is me. I spent yesterday pinioning what should be 400 or 500-word stories into 100 and 150-word straitjackets. At one point I had to go over to the art department to plead for an extra line for a salad recipe.

“Not with this layout,” said the art person.

“Well, I trimmed the instructions but I can’t cut the ingredients,” I said. “If I don’t get an extra line this isn’t going to be a winter salad with squash and pomegranate vinaigrette – it’s just going to be salad greens!” (I got the extra line.)

I have to write headlines in literally six characters or less, which is – if you’ve ever seen the American game show Wheel of Fortune – making me want to ask if I can buy a vowel. People keep commenting on what a huge project management job my job is, and that is SO not me – I’m a writer. I don’t give a toss whether X recipe has been sent off for nutritional analysis or if we’ve got copy in for the lipstick smackdown or, quite frankly, whether last month’s contributors have been paid. (I know, I know – I’d care if it were my check that was delayed!)

Sigh. Yesterday, my first day, I worked until after 8 pm (had pages to close) and did nearly burst into tears wondering – as I did a lot in the days before I left London – what exactly prompted me to make this decision.

But here I am, and I’m trying to make the best of it (see “not using the word ‘hate’” above). But I just joined a gym today (been using my aunt’s card) and noted in my year’s contract that there was a get-out clause if I move more than 25 miles away from the nearest branch. I’m pretty sure they don’t have any in London…

I haven’t binged, thanks partly to many reminders to myself that eating more will not make things better or easier (or make me less tired). The clean eating is also thanks to the proximity of a Gourmet Garage that sells foods I’ve eaten before (so tired and overwhelmed that it’s easier to just grab the familiar rather than investigate). I’m sure at other times the proximity will be dangerous (they sell all sorts of yummy-looking treats), but one foot in front of the other…

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Stranger in a Strange Land

Maybe it will hit me tomorrow when I'm shown my office. Or sometime in the next couple of days, when I'm alone in my flat-erm-apartment for the first time. Because it still hasn't hit me yet that I'm a Londoner no more.

These last couple of weeks have felt surreal -- maybe because I've been so exhausted and overwhelmed and crazily busy. I knew moving my stuff across an ocean was going to be hard, but I'm almost glad I didn't know quite how hard it was going to be (and it's not over yet). It probably hasn't helped that I've eaten rather strangely -- I literally had a scone with jam and cream for three out of my last four meals in London (and on one of those days, both of my snacks were Montezuma's dark chocolate with sea salt.) But despite the temptation to stuff my face with every last thing I might not eat again anytime soon, I resisted. (I may yet be demanding care packages of mince pies and sticky toffee pudding though...)

When I drove in from the airport, I spotted a pub called Baker Street that looked neither like (a) any pub I've ever seen or (b) anything one might find in the whole of England, let alone on Baker Street itself. Yesterday I spotted a place called Elephant & Castle and mentioned to a friend that that was the name of a tube stop in London. Another friend told me about a bar she likes where lots of Australians hang out, and I said -- half-joking -- that I'd spent more than enough time around Earls Court. Except then I realized no one there would understand the reference, and I didn't bother to correct her when she referred to it as Kings Court.


I do feel a bit like a stranger in a strange land. I fumble for American words sometimes, I alternate between calling the subway the Tube or the Metro (but never managed to call it "subway"), and I'm not quite sure what to say when people seem disappointed that I haven't acquired an English accent. The other day in the bank I asked if there are places besides post offices that sell stamps. And thus far I am incredibly disappointed by the fabled American customer service. I'll spare you the gory details, but I told the electric company that after 8 years wandering in the wilderness of England, I expected better from them and that to be told they couldn't turn on my gas and electricity over the weekend was as disappointing as being told Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy didn't exist. (I also pointed out that surely they'd do something about it if there were a gas or electric "emergency," but I digress.)

Anyway, a quick note to say I'm still here, still chugging along (I did binge 8 days ago, bu have managed to keep up the exercise amid the madness), and hope soon to be posting more regularly.

PS I did end up throwing out the scale. Much as I loved the idea of a scale in the US that gave me my weight in stone (and I may yet ask the next English visitor to import one for me!), it didn't make the final cut for my suitcases and by that point the moving boxes already had gone.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Way Past the Lowlands and the Deserts of Failure and Doubt

Last night at the market I spied bakewell tarts and decided I wanted one. Or really, that I might still want one by snacktime today, which is when I'd first allow myself to eat one. (I'd had dinner last night when I saw them, so was done eating for the day.)

There were eight small tarts (200 calories apiece) in the package. I noted the "two free" but didn't pause. I didn't fear eating the whole package, as I've done so often in the past. Mostly, I wondered if I'd even want one by today, and if leaving the country in less than two weeks would justify the waste of food if I didn't. (As in: My time here is too short to eat things I don't want to eat!)

Today, after a frustrating morning that included some 90 minutes wasted getting to a Pilates class that didn't happen because the instructor didn't turn up, I arrived home starving, grumpy, and resentful, partly because I'd planned my morning around this class, and partly because I knew I'd have no other time to exercise today. (And partly because I love this particular class and the time I have left to do it is – you guessed it – severely limited.)

I was heading to a friend's for lunch for about 2 pm – quite late for me, and I had no idea what she'd be serving, which tends to make me slightly anxious. (Partly because I don't do brilliantly with unknowns, and partly because I still can become quite resentful -- and vulnerable to a binge -- when I waste calories on things I really don't want to eat.) I thought perhaps I should eat a snack that was a bit more filling, aka with a bit more protein and maybe some good fat. But what I wanted – really wanted – was the tart. So I had one. Nothing crazy happened. I was fine. Almost like a normal person or something.

And the lunch? It was lovely, though carb-free. (And before you ask, this friend is as English as they come. She has had an obsession lately with juicing and detoxing and such, so maybe I should just be grateful I wasn't served an entirely liquid meal, and of the non-alcoholic variety, too.) I know from mucho experience and experimentation that I don't feel full without carbs at a meal – I am so going to be a pariah in New York!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Questions to Ponder During Today's Packapalooza

Do I bin the scale or donate it to the charity shop?

How Many Calories Can I Buy For a Pound?

This morning I woke up to find a ¾ eaten package of Fox cream malted milk biscuits in my bathroom sink.

Don't ask. (You probably don't need to.)

I binged. And honestly, I can't remember on what – something that's never happened to me before.

I knew I had £40 in my pocket last night, and a quick accounting suggests I spent about £3 on a binge. You'd think there's only so much damage one could do with £3 (one of my favourite healthy snacks in the world – a Nana's oatmeal cookie, 263 calories of naturally sweetened yumminess -- costs £2.10 a pop, and a mini bar of Montezuma dark chocolate is about £1), but crappy food is cheap. That ¾-eaten packet of biscuits was a mere 89 pence. I could literally consume thousands of (empty) calories for less than a pound.

My mistake last night – and one I have frequently made – is to do a double workout before a big night out. I'll do an hour of weights and then an hour of cardio (I aim to do this once a week, but it doesn't always happen), thinking I've burned off a good bit of the night out before I've even taken my first bite. But as my former-gymnast, rugby-playing gym manager told me tonight: "You've used up all your glycogen, your body is exhausted, and that first drink hits you so hard." (In England apparently this isn't such a bad thing – this being the land of "eating is cheating.")

And in fact that first drink smacked me straight into loopy land. I went with a couple of friends to a pop-up supper club in Camden, and from the first sip of the first cocktail I knew – just knew – that it wasn't going to be pretty. But in the moment, of course, I didn't care. I just wanted to escape the ocean of doubt and fear in which I seem lately to be swimming.

I dragged myself out of bed just before noon (how on earth am I going to work in an office?) and somehow managed to file my daily story in time for my 2 pm deadline. I took a half hour nap, then cranked out the other story I had due today (for US News magazine), ran a couple of errands, and headed to Frame, a Shoreditch gym where I have some credit to use up. Tonight was cardio barre, with the model Ben Grimes DJ'ing a live set. (Her set was fun, the class was less so – I didn't even work up a sweat, and I'm not sure anything got much firming besides my resolve never to take the class again. Not that that would be hard as I'm busy next Friday night and I'll be in the US – eek – the following Friday.)

With T minus 12 days until I get on a plane for New York, I can't afford another day where I feel as crummy as today (and nor can I afford to keep bingeing). Goal for next week's leaving drinks: Three drinks tops, or maybe I'll not have any at all (the latter I actually find quite easy – easier than any other limits). If I'm emotional when I start drinking I can really be a mess, and I'd prefer not to say goodbye to London in that state.


I spent a lot of time today freaking out about how much weight I've gained (won't get on scale) and whether any of my clothes will fit by the time I get to New York. (The bingeing/weight gain also has made it spectacularly difficult to pack, because I don't want to try things on to decide whether to get rid of them.)

But this evening I realized that there were at least two instances in the past week where I very, very narrowly avoided a binge: One was in New York, and the other was on Tuesday, during and after my last army job. And in the immortal words of Meatloaf, two out of three ain't bad.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sleepless in NYC (and DC)

It's been a crazy couple of weeks.

I've slept literally about 24 hours max over the entire period, finishing articles and flat-hunting and errand-running and baby-feeding (my sister's!) and freaking out. And waking up after two hours' sleep and freaking out some more.

And bingeing, there was plenty of that too. Four days' worth. In a row. And – I know I say this every time I binge lately – in terms of severity, worse than any I remember. It started on Thursday night. I'd just arrived in the US at a conference I needed to attend after staying up all night Wednesday packing – and after having arrived back in London just a few hours before after a nerve-wracking drive across France to the Marseilles airport.

I was about to hit the gym to perk up a bit, then realized I probably ought to attend the conference event since that's (part of) what the magazine paying for my ticket expected me to do. I ignored the canapes, which I usually can do pretty easily, but had a couple of drinks. The next thing I knew I was agreeing to attend a dinner for magazine staffers (I thought I should be social) – eating a gigantic hamburger and fries and corn bread and heaven knows what else, and then bingeing on (get this) the handfuls of Clif bars I'd been given (Clif was one of the conference sponsors) and the chocolate that was in my welcome pack.

I woke up exhausted and bloated and embarrassed (it was a semi-public binge), managed to eat acceptably all day (and even to ignore the dessert buffet at lunch), but then went seriously crazy at night (the party was full of soul food: macaroni and cheese, truffled grits, braised short ribs, bread pudding with sauce, s'mores chocolates...). By Saturday night, the black tie event, I struggled to zip my dress. Ugh. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating not one, not two, but THREE servings of a not-particularly-good dense chocolate hazelnut cake. (I was ping-ponging between three tables – one with magazine staff, one with a cute but very cheap Jewish entrepreneur [more on that later], and one with the subject of a story I wrote years ago when I lived in Washington DC.)

On to (finally) meet my nephews and attend the bris, all of which made me surprisingly – and very – emotional. (Then again, I'm slightly overwrought at the moment anyway.) I cried nearly constantly throughout the bris (despite what was being done to the poor things, only one of the babies did!) And afterwards, I ate. And ate. And ate. Macaroni and cheese, noodle pudding, rugelach, cheese, a bagel, oatmeal cookies...

Then somehow, Sunday night at dinner, I stopped. I'm not sure how, since once I start bingeing when I travel I rarely (if ever) have broken the cycle until I get home. And it can be tough to stop eating after a daytime binge._And_ I was sharing a hotel room with my grandmother and her aide – I don't generally do very well with zero personal space.

My flight back to London is about to board, so I'll skip the list of other challenges for the moment (and how close I came to bingeing again on Thursday night) and just say: I'm freaked out about my job (I was greeted at lunch with my boss with a schedule that dictates what nights I shouldn't make plans because I'll be stuck in the office, closing the magazine), I'm freaked out about the logistics of moving, and I fear I won't get a decent night's sleep until November. I did find an apartment (but because of some dawdling on the part of my dad – long story – and because the owners are religious Jews, I couldn't sign the lease before I left and yet have had to hand over my life savings, a promissory note to my first born child, and, I don't know, eleventeen pints of blood for it anyway. See 'I fear I won't get a decent night's sleep until November,' as before.) Anyway.

Signs you're not in London anymore: When I ordered tea with skim milk at the hotel, I was served a mug of tepid water, a tea bag, and an unopened pint carton of milk.

Also, one of the apartment brokers was laughing at me because I kept asking where the closest Tube was, and referred to the stove as "the cooker." Ah well – my boss says everyone in the office keeps asking when "that British girl you hired" (they mean me!) is starting...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


Nine months ago Sunday, I walked out BN2's door into the terrifying unknown.

For months I wanted to leave, but couldn't. I was afraid – afraid of being totally alone, without even an office to go to for distraction. I could barely afford to travel across London, let alone go out, and I literally feared I'd die of loneliness, misery, cold, or some combination of the three. I was afraid that he was my only chance. But mostly, I was afraid that all the things he accused me of were true – that I was selfish and thoughtless and, as he once memorably put it, incapable of adding anything to anyone else's weekend but more dirty dishes.

I catch my breath sometimes, just thinking about how bad it was.

My eyes can well up crossing a street, the thought or sight of something dislodging memories I can hardly believe happened in my life, not some horrible made-for-TV movie.

I remember the deep unhappiness that comes with feeling there is nothing to look forward to. And yet I did hope. I carried on hoping I could fix it, because that's what I was taught: With enough hard work, you can make anything work. But what was I winning in the end?

I didn't choose my time to leave. It was Saturday afternoon, six days before Christmas. BN2 had to pick something up in Clapham, and I went along, planning to sit in a cafe and have my planned Skype date with one of my best friends in the US. Then we were going to pick up a necklace I'd taken his daughter to make at a painting studio months before, but we hadn't gotten round to fetching.

I knew how to walk to the shop, but I didn't know how to get there by car. BN2 snapped at me that it was selfish and unfair of me to expect him to drive and navigate. I remember getting that familiar rollercoaster feeling in my stomach – that we were about to have a fight that there was no way I could stave off, and that it would get ugly, because every single fight with him got ugly, no matter what tactic I tried. I remember trying to pull up a map on my computer and panicking because it wasn't loading fast enough, and all the while he was shouting at me about how useless I was for not properly knowing directions.

I remember saying something about how I'd have printed out directions if I'd known we were going to drive, and he told me he was tired of my lying and dishonesty. He said that was a blatant lie and in his military interrogator way, began marshalling evidence. As he also did with every other fight, he stoked the flames with references to my every previous misdeed. He'd bought me The Tudors for Christmas the previous year, and I had a vision of myself bound in rope, a traitor hanging above the fire, the flames licking her feet.

"Why are you making such a big deal out of this?" I finally said timidly, on the verge of tears.

"Oh, so because it's not a big deal I'm just supposed let you lie with impunity?" he snapped.

I thought I'd always remember every detail of this fight, but like all the others that came before it, it turned my brain to mashed potatoes. I remember him yelling at me and me at one point daring to yell back.

He pulled the car over to the side of the road and for a fleeting moment I literally feared for my life. He shoved me toward the door. "Get out," he said. "You can make your own way home."

"Are you going to let me in?" I remember saying pathetically. He nodded. (He had taken my keys away after some previous misdeed.)

I stumbled blindly onto the sidewalk. Everyone who knows me well knows I am hypersensitive to the cold – it sounds princess-and-the-pea, but I have an autoimmune condition that actually makes my hands and feet freeze easily, to the point where I can barely walk – and it can be a half hour after coming indoors before I can type again.

I watched his taillights recede and thought: No one who loved me – or would ever love me – would force me out of the car to walk home in the dark, damp freezing cold.

And still such was my state of mind that I needed help leaving – I needed someone to make it OK; to tell me that I wasn't overreacting. I wondered about going back to my own flat, but didn't think that was the answer. I walked an hour back to his place, each footstep closer bringing fresh doubts and fears. Could I really leave?
He let me in and I went into the front room, got on my computer, and for moral support and guidance Skyped another friend in the US who was not exactly a fan of his. (Though honestly, none of my friends were.)

"Get out," she wrote. "Tell me when you're leaving, give me his address, and if I don't hear from you I'm calling the police."

I asked her a bunch of probably mostly irrelevant questions in what I recognize now was an attempt to keep the conversation going – both wrapping myself in her idea that everything would be better if I left and yet terrified actually to have to walk.

He came in and said: "Are we going to talk about this?"

"I'm just finishing a conversation with a friend," I said.

"Who's more important than me?" he bellowed.

I am, I should have said, but at the time, it would never have occurred to me.

Saturday, 18 September 2010


Yesterday was the sort of autumn day that's so beautiful it almost makes your heart hurt, the sun splashing everyone with a rare golden light that makes people look like they're glowing from within.

I went to the gym, worked on my morning story in the gentlemen's-library-type bar of a private members' club, and then raced off to a historic venue in East London to interview a band I love for Rolling Stone (!).

Then I went to an art gallery closing night and popped to a party.

Why, why, WHY am I leaving London?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

It's A Nice Day for A White Wedding

Nothing was how I would have liked it. Wrong dress, wrong shoes, face broken out, guests I would have wanted all out of the country.

My shotgun wedding to the Queen, as I started referring to my citizenship ceremony, was today. The only thing right about it was that I now have a piece of paper that gives me the right (well, as soon as I get a passport, which is a whole other production), for the rest of my life, to live and work in the UK. (Or as I texted O., "Who needs a British man?")I didn't want to take the job in New York without it, so I had to pay £125 for a private ceremony (yes, the ceremony is required).

I felt strangely emotional during the ceremony – literally on the verge of tears. It was mostly a blur. The woman conducting it – who eavesdropped on my conversation with my two friends and actually commented on what we were talking about -- chastised me for reading my affirmation of allegiance too quickly. Then she read some prepared text that included something about hoping I play in active role in civic life and sit on school boards, and I had a flash of my imaginary young British son in his t-strap shoes, vanishing like something out of the film Back to the Future as I leave the country next month. I thought wistfully about my dad, who would have enjoyed the cultural experience (he actually would have flown over if he'd had enough notice), and one of my best friends, who is abroad and doesn't even know that I've taken the job, let alone that I would have wanted her to be there to watch me preserve my right to leave it and come back here.

Then the woman busted out an ipod and clicked it to play the tune of "God Save the Queen." She stared at me expectantly.

The music played. I waited, thinking maybe there would be a voice or some other cue telling me when to sing, but no.

"I'll start it over," she said, sounding irritated.

I felt like a child who hadn't done the homework caught out by a pop quiz. I don't know the words to "God Save the Queen," – I'm actually not sure I've ever heard it sung. (Why didn't they put it on that damn Life in the UK test I had to take when I applied for my residency a couple of years ago?)

She handed me a black binder with the words and – sounding like she was rather enjoying my discomfort -- said, "I'm not singing. But you have to sing. I'll turn up the music so maybe it will drown you out."

My two friends (one of whom was born British and herself didn't know the words; the other of whom got her citizenship last year) and I looked at each other and tried not to laugh. The woman dutifully turned up the music and my friends and I crowded around the binder.

The music started and so did I. The voice of my friend who sings in a chorus soared above us: "Happy and Glorious,/Long to reign over us;/God save the Queen!"

I was then given a passport cover – apparently Islington (my borough) did a poll to determine that people would prefer that to paperweights or mugs. (Are polls about gifts given to new citizens why we pay so much council tax? I certainly hope not.)

Then not one but two of the places we wanted to go for a tea (not tea as in scones and jam, just a cup of tea) were closed and I proceeded to spend 40 minutes trying to work out how and if I could apply for a passport before I leave the country. (Verdict: I'm still not sure.)

I felt exhausted, but I decided I'd have a more productive evening if I went to Pilates first (I will miss that class so much – I know for a fact there is nothing like it in New York). Then I had a not-exactly-celebratory egg and bacon sandwich and came home to work on my American taxes and freak out about how much I have to do.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The World Spins Madly On

I haven't even landed in New York yet and already it's messing with my head in some of the ways I feared. (I took the job. I start Nov. 1. More on that later.)

Tonight I spied a 60 percent off deal for a week's diet delivery meals and spent a very long time considering it. At 10 pounds above my average weight last year, I feel heavy. I feel too big to walk into that Conde Nast building. I want a buffer for all the eating I'll probably be doing over the next several weeks, and the uncertainty of my schedule in New York.

But the service only delivers Wednesdays and Thursdays and it's too late for this week and then at the end of next week I'm off to France and then the US. And then I'm back in London for only a couple of weeks, and I expect I'll be out a lot.

And I bet a lot of their meals have bell peppers in them, to which I'm allergic.

And their plans are 1200 calories, or about 60 percent of what I currently eat in a day.

I left the windows about the deal open on my computer, which is my way of saying, "I'll make a decision later."

And then I thought: No, no, NO. I know (mostly) what works for myself, and a week of reduced calories is a recipe for disaster. It will send my head spinning – plotting, scheming, thinking about whether and how much I should add – like no one's business. I really might start bingeing and never stop. And I don't need to find out.

To be fair, this reconsideration of diets started a few months ago, though New York has kicked it up a gear. I say reconsideration because years of dieting and bingeing – plus a job that involves writing about health and fitness – has left me with an unhealthy fascination with reading about diets. For me the boxes telling me what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks are like the promise of gospel: 21 meals plus snacks where I can get it exactly right; where someone is telling me exactly what to eat and how much and I don't have to think about it.

Mostly I know better than to follow those diets. Most of them are based on less than I currently eat or things I don't like to eat or outlaw completely things I love – or some combination of the three -- and I fear even a day or two on them could set off a binge cycle I am unable to stop.

Except lately, when – like foods I used to be able to ignore – they tempt me. They glitter with promise, the sparkly red shoes on the yellow brick road to the Emerald City of Fabulousness: You could just do this for a week or two and you'd feel less anxious about how tight your clothes have become, they seem to say. I try to work out whether I can afford a diet delivery for a few days (can it really be more expensive than bingeing, I wonder? Answer: Yes. Well, at least until that deal came along.)

Then I think about how narrow my life was last year, when I weighed between 140 and 145 pounds (and at one point even dipped briefly into the 130s). I was dating BN2, struggling to get work, had no money and felt isolated and depressed. The only thing I felt I could control was my food and my exercise, and for the most part, I did an excellent job at it.

Life had to be ugly and grim for me to get that slim, and yet I'm having a hard time accepting I may never be that size again – and perhaps that I shouldn't even want to be.

Last week I did something that terrified me – something that years of dieting and bingeing cycles has conditioned me to think is beginning of the downward spiral (or really, upward spiral): I pulled out a pair of bigger size jeans. The world didn't come to an end. I didn't eat any more or less than I normally would.

I met a friend for lunch Sunday – one of the few with whom I will discuss food and weight (besides, um, the Internet). I'd binged the night before, then cried the whole way home – for the record, not because of the binge but because of something that may have contributed to the binge: Sadness about leaving London, and tidal waves of nostalgia. My route – one I haven't taken in years -- took me the way I used to go home from work on Tuesday night late nights, in the days when I loved my job and my boss and our offices in Covent Garden.

"I know you don't feel it, and it doesn't help for me to say it, but you don't look any different," my friend said gently. "You look great."

I'm trying to believe her.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Hanging in Midair

I have started so many posts – about my obsession with fat (both my own and the consumption of – I'm attempting to eat good fats at every meal), about what happens when I read about diets, about discovering that way more people than I thought thought I got too slim (!) last winter, about trying to make peace with the fact that I may never be that slim again.

But it's hard to write when you haven't slept properly in days, when you spent time you used to spend blogging (and time you used to spend working and exercising and doing all sorts of other things) on the phone with New York editors and New York HR people and your family, hoping desperately someone will say or do something that tips you one way or the other.

The job offer is on the table. According to a former executive editor I contacted, it is a compliment to me – both the salary and the fact that someone would pluck me from London for the job. But the job is not my dream job.

I love to write. And at least as much as I love to write I love to report – I love asking people questions; learning (as I have often put it, not very poetically) things about things. A new friend said recently that she hoped to one day get as much joy out of her job as I seem to get out of mine. An old friend pointed out that even when I am not delighted by the subject matter of what I'm writing about – "driving the typewriter"-type-pieces, as an old mentor of mine used to put it – I still light up when describing some factette I've learned or person I've met in the process.

But this job does not involve writing – or at least not in the way that I know it. It's only a slight oversimplification to say that I'll be coming up with (hopefully fun) little stories about fitness, diet, fashion, nail polish, and probably the occasional home decor or travel or... well, anything I can make relevant. I'll be paying other people to write them, and then – if the edit test I did is any indication – I'll then spend a very large chunk of time rewriting them, plus coming up with headlines and captions and meeting with the art department and, I don't know, doing all the things that editors do.

Some of it will be fun, I'm sure. Some of it will seriously suck. I won't have to worry about getting in enough work to pay the rent, but my time won't be my own (and I'll have, thanks to the American way, very little vacation).

I'll have to leave London, but I'll be closer to my family (which 8 years ago wouldn't have been such a great thing but now seems more appealing).

I think about doing it for a year (the longest I can bear to think about right now) and go back and forth between "no way" and "hell, yeah." I'm about to get my citizenship, so I could come back to London if I hate the job. What is a year, right? People go on six-month secondments all the time, don't they? (I considered going on one myself – to Los Angeles – several years ago.) At the very least after a year in New York I'd likely have better contacts to freelance than I do now. (After I had a stable job, though, would I have the nerve to quit? I can be terribly conservative sometimes...)

What do I really want? I want to be happy. Sometimes I'm happy in London; sometimes I'm not. (London in August at age 35 and single is a horrific time to assess one's happiness in a place – everyone is away, there's not much going on, and the weekend could be pretty empty. Weeknights are super easy to fill, should one want to.) Would the ratio of happy to unhappy change at all in New York? I just don't know.

I always thought (or really, dreamed) I'd meet someone here – someone who called me darling, loved books and lazy Sunday lunches and the country (and me, of course, me!), and maybe even wore those hideous pinkish-red trousers that only men in this country seem to wear. Maybe we'd have kids who said "Mummy" – maybe they'd be little boys who wore those girly little T-strap shoes no little boy in the US ever wears. Honestly, I never really got to the kid part – it's sort of an embellishment.

I've always been a daydreamer. It's hard to stop. Hard to think about going back to my country, where I'm just the same as everyone else. (Except not the same, of course, because I'm me – yes, I know that.) But maybe it's time to stop letting daydreams get in the way of real life.

Everyone I know has thoughts about what I should and shouldn't do, sometimes well-meaning and sometimes not. I'm easily swayed by (almost) all of it.

It's (possibly) interesting to watch someone you know grapple with a decision like this (at least good for the "what would I do in her place?" game, if you're prone), but when the popcorn is gone and everyone goes home it is just me who has to live with the consequences of whatever I choose.

I have to call the HR woman in 15 minutes to discuss details.

Someone – I'm too tired to try to figure out who said it first – said there are no mistakes in life, only lessons.

I know I'm lucky to have this choice to make, but still I want someone else to make it for me. Or to make me OK with whatever I choose.

I've been craving food and drink and anything that might possibly take the edge off. But I know that I need to make this decision whole; not colored by the post-binge haze of gray. Ten days clean.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Beth, Row the Boat Ashore

Let's see, how can I put this delicately? I am the world's worst rower.

Put me on an erg in the gym and I get the best time of the beginner class (all 128 of us!), but put me on the water and I freeze. OK, so it is only week six – and I have missed two (crucial) weeks – but the other week I thought our cox would shove me into the water out of frustration. I couldn't remember which way my oar was supposed to go. I couldn't remember what was a backstop and a frontstop. I couldn't remember if I was stern side or bow side, stern pair or bow pair. It all kinda sorta matters when one move can capsize the boat.

Last night our cox at least was a little nicer to me, though puzzled as to why I seem to struggle so much. There are a couple of problems, I think: The first is that I missed week two, when everyone else seems to have nailed down the terminology (and some of the motions), and now I'm just hopelessly behind. The second is that I am at heart a daydreamer. You cannot daydream in team sports. Not for one second. And it matters to other people just how bad you are. This is why, I think, I prefer exercise like running and Pilates and yoga – I might not be very good at them, but at least it doesn't affect anyone else's workout (or whether they land in a disgusting river!)

I absolutely hate to quit, but I'm seriously debating not finishing out the last four weeks. While I think it's character-building to do things one is bad at, generally I like to at least enjoy the things I'm crap at (like dancing). I'm thinking my life is stressful enough without spending two hours on a Wednesday night – two hours that are supposed to be fun – completely anxious and very nearly in tears. It is a definite flashback to the fat-girl-never-picked-in-PE-class days in that I feel seriously eye-rolling and sighing from the other women who are unlucky enough to be in whatever boat I happen to be in.

And before you ask: No, it is actually not very good exercise because I am just that bad at it!

On top of all that, one of the coaches watched me on the erg and told me it was hard to judge part of my form because I had "weird-shaped elbows." Huh? Talk about a body part I never thought to worry about.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Running Against the Wind

I couldn't tell you exactly when it happened, but sometime in the past couple of months I stopped weighing myself completely.

Bear with me – this is, unfortunately, not going to be one of those posts where I tell you I've freed myself from scale tyranny.

My breakup with the scale started slowly: First I was just going to have a few days' alone time. I'd been weighing myself every day – too much – and I got more than a little disgusted after it crept up after a weekend when I ran 2 10ks in a 16-hour period (and had no extra food). I decided I was eating and exercising well, and sod it, I didn't need any scale to confirm it. (Ha.)

Then there was a binge or maybe two. Maybe it was denial. Maybe it was choosing not to beat myself up with a number. Maybe it was just that I put the scale somewhere very inconvenient and couldn't be bothered.

My jeans have been awfully tight and last week I put on a pencil skirt that was a squeeze.

This morning I hopped on the scale: I'm up about 10 pounds from the top of my happy range.

I am not happy about that.

(Lest it seem like I'm hiding something: If you need number porn, btw, I'm nearly 11 stone, whereas pre-Dorset I was around 10 stone 3, and despite my best efforts afterward, I couldn't get below 10 stone 6.)

Where has this weight come from? A series of binges that (mostly) have been documented here. They've occurred lately with disturbing frequency and, worse, very alarming intensity. (The most recent binge, on Tuesday, actually made me so ill I spent nearly all of Wednesday in bed – and I have been known to work through anything.) My clothes are tight and that makes me panic and I eat more and that makes me panic and I might get fat again and that makes me panic and people saw me eat like a crazy person (huge fistfuls of Twiglets and crisps) and that makes me panic and I might have to choose whether to move to New York and that makes me panic and I might be alone for the rest of my life and that makes me panic and oh, hell, I need a break from all of it and some food will do nicely.

I know you know this. I know this, too. But somehow knowing it does not translate to not doing it. Not yet, anyway.

So the goal, again, is to get to 30 days without a binge. I'd like to do something drastic and lose a couple of pounds quickly – tight waistbands to me are like a daylong distress signal, and at least as distracting – but I know that that will do me no favors. If my goal is just not to binge I'm not guaranteed to lose any weight that way, but I can be reasonably sure of not putting more on. For now, that will have to do.

Six days clean.


Sunday – after three nights of horrible sleep (generalized job and life anxiety? Too much caffeine? Really, I have no idea) -- I did something crazy.

I have been dialling it in at the gym – turning up, yes, and for an hour five times a week, but for the past couple of months mostly without the usual energy and mix-ins (sprints, boxing, burpees, whatever...) I do a lot on the crosstrainer and not much else. I haven't run since my army assignment finished at the end of July, and haven't run more than six miles.

So what, exactly, I was doing running a half marathon Sunday is anybody's guess. The course wasn't far (away), I'd signed up for it months ago, and I figured I might as well go and at least get an hour's run in and I could always quit.

It was torture. London has some beautiful parks, but this particular one was not one of them. The course was six loops of the same circuit – my least favourite kind of run (I prefer out and back because it's hard to turn around otherwise). Less than a mile in I couldn't even imagine finishing one circuit.

I made a deal with myself: I would try to get through 4 loops – which would constitute an extra-long workout -- and then I could walk the rest. I focused on just getting to the next water station (about a mile apart), and on making a point of saying thank you to every race volunteer I made eye contact with, especially the ones picking up plastic cups the runners all drop on the ground after grabbing a few sips.

I felt like I had lead legs in cement shoes. I felt literally weighed down by my own extra weight.

Then somehow, sometime around mile 8 (somewhere in loop 4 – there were no mile markers) I picked up speed. Everything snapped into place. I stopped feeling like I was fighting for each step and felt more like I was flying.

It was glorious. (For at least a mile, anyway.)

In the fifth loop a guy bumped into me. "Sorry," he said. We exchanged the isn't-this-grim smile. "Just one and a bit more to go," he said.

"Even if we walked it we'd still finish," I said.

"But we're not going to, are we?" he said. No, I thought. We are not. I picked up speed again.

This race did not have chip timing, but I finished just under 2 hours 3 minutes – faster than last year's half marathon time.

Unbelievable. It's almost enough to make me want to enter another one... and oh yeah, maybe actually train for it.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Points of Light

The fog crept in on little cat feet – and now it's moving on.

Acknowledging it was the first step. Then I talked to one of my best friends in the US, one of the wisest, funniest people I know. (I would say she's the only big-city law firm partner you'll ever meet who also does improv comedy, but she left her big-city law firm job to go into... career counselling, among other things.) Anyway, she said something that lodged itself in my brain: "Everything changes. It will get worse or it will get better, but it will change."

And I thought: I don't want it to get worse.

And just like that, it isn't.

I did some workouts I didn't feel like doing (but felt better after every single one of them). I thought of loads of things I'd like to eat, but then ate safe food, not as a punishment, but because I knew the last thing I needed was to start getting in the habit of cheering myself up with food. If hunger is not the problem, food is not the solution.

I did a lot of thinking about what is making me unhappy, and why, and what control I have over any of it. Then I sang "Heads Carolina, Tails California" (a cheesy country song that makes me laugh) at the top of my lungs while writing an article about startups' contribution to job creation. (Clearly I live a wild and crazy life.) And I felt better.

I arranged to get a drink with a woman I only ever see at the gym. I made tentative plans to try a new yoga class with another friend. I also did something completely random and answered a personal ad. The guy wrote back to say that we went out three years ago and it didn't work out then. He lives around the corner. (And before you suggest that maybe it's fate, let me just say that I had zero trouble understanding why he was single then.) Instead of bemoaning the lack of single men and feeling sorry for myself – which I think would have been easy enough to do -- I just laughed.

And on Friday, although it was raining and grim and there were insane delays on the Tube, I dragged myself to Hammersmith to see a friend's boyfriend's shouty cover band play. Although my jeans felt too tight, I managed to forget about them for entire chunks of the evening, dancing and singing and jumping around like a mad thing. (And that was without the help of very much alcohol – I was very careful about drinking water.) I chatted and laughed and didn't for a second feel like bingeing.

It felt good.


So remember Mr. Afghanistan, the posh guy reading the book on the exercise bicycle I met more than two months ago?

We exchanged a couple of emails on Facebook, and he disappeared. I never bumped into him again and I'd given up hope.

On Friday -- so broken-out I looked like I was allergic to myself, and wearing a seriously grubby black race t-shirt -- I looked up from my triceps routine at the gym to find him standing in the doorway in his suit, watching me. (Note to self: Please, please PLEASE unearth your inner New Yorker – you were born there, for heaven's sake – and ditch the unflattering workout gear and maybe put on some tinted moisturizer. Hint: Groomed eyebrows would be a start. Love, me xxx)

I nearly had to be picked up the floor. Frankly, I should be writing "OMG he was sooooo gorgeous in his suit," because that would more appropriately reflect the mental age I was in his presence. As my gym friend, who was also there, later said, choking back hysterical laughter: "I have never ever in my life seen you so completely lose it." I should say for the record that this does not happen to me – even doing interviews for the Sexiest Man Alive (some of whom also are the flirtiest men alive) I never once fumbled.

I tried to recover, making a joke about having written so many thousand words in the past few days (not a lie) that I practically forgot my own name. He raised an eyebrow. "Beth," he offered helpfully.

He let it be known he had indeed Googled me (and found me lacking? I'm not sure). We talked books and Afghanistan and finding something interesting in even the most boring person (something we both believe is fun). At one point he teasingly called me "my dear." He said he'd been travelling and that he'd meant to answer my last email – that he'd enjoyed the correspondence – but that he was dealing with emails going back to January. (That to me screams: He's just not that into you.) He said he'd pick up the correspondence.

He's off to Spain for two and a half weeks' holiday. I'm not holding my breath, but oh, it was fun.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Diamonds on the Soles of His Shoes

And now, for something completely different. (Or, just when you thought I was all binge all the time...)

So Monday night I had to meet a flaky friend for a drink at the Mandarin Oriental, a hotel I will forever associate with Britney Spears (it used to be where she stayed in London and could still be – luckily I'm no longer up to date on such things) and hours spent at the bar waiting for the little pop tart, trying to pick out who at the bar was a hooker. Good times, I tell you.

Anyway. Flaky friend is predictably late, and so I sit at the bar, reading a book on the wives of Henry VIII and generally minding my own business. Yes, the bar is look-at-me gorgeous (beige-silk lined walls and handmade cocktail glasses) and the clientele usually eye-catching, but frankly, I can't actually see. I have an eye infection, cannot wear my contacts, and can't find my glasses.

Someone sends me a drink but of course I can't see him even when the bartender points him out. I raise my glass in his direction in the universal language of cheers and thanks, and return to my book. He comes over and sits next to me. Sigh. Queen Katherine Parr will have to wait.

Up close he's definitely at least in his 60s. Russian. A bit sweaty. I wonder if he thinks I'm a hooker, since Russian men tend to assume any woman alone at a bar is. I try to decide if being thought of as a hooker can in any way be construed as a compliment, and then remember some of the hookers I saw in Russia. Um, no way. Plus I don't have dyed blonde hair with appalling dark roots and dirty white stiletto boots.

We have a perfectly nice if awfully dull conversation, English spiked with Russian. I tell him about the random dialogues I had to memorize in Russian class ("What gender is the word 'studientka' – masculine, feminine, or neuter?" – I kid you not, I still remember them all) and about singing Rent on the Moscow metro with a friend, laughing hysterically, while all the commuters stared at us. He seems to think I am the most hilarious person he's ever met, and then tells me more than I ever wanted to know about all the expensive places he likes to eat in London, dripping the names like diamonds. I nod thoughtfully, sipping a glass of the £300-per-bottle vintage rose champagne he's insisted on buying me.

After an hour and a half, flaky friend texts to say she suddenly can't make it after all, and I'm becoming too uncomfortable and uneasy in the presence of the oligarch, who with each drink (rare for me, I don't try to keep pace) is becoming less Russian grandpa and more Russian bear. Or Russian sweaty old dude who suggests ever more expensive champagnes and retiring elsewhere to drink them. So I say I have gotten my bars mixed up and that I actually was supposed to meet my friend elsewhere and that she's waiting.

He says he'll be in London for a month and can he call me? He offers me his car and driver, which I decline, but it seems rude to refuse to give him my number. I figure I can always decline to meet up with him again should it come to that. I grab my book, dash out of the bar, and figure that's the end.

Yesterday afternoon my phone rings. It's a private number: A courier, saying he has a delivery for me but can I confirm my address? A shiver runs down my spine – too much time in war zones, I guess -- and I ask for a number I can call to verify that he is, indeed, a courier.

Said courier arrives with – by my best fashionista guess – luxury goods valued at more than £5,000. In the Russian style it is all Versace and Dior, logo-tastic and seriously ugly. Handbags and scarves and belts so bright and blingy I need sunglasses. (Luckily there is a pair, also Swarovski crystal-encrusted.)

With it is a note saying he wasn't sure what I'd like, but that he'd like to see me again.

I spend last night wondering how, exactly, one returns this sort of thing, because obviously I can't accept it. (I also think, somewhat ungratefully, about why there couldn't be, say, a nice tasteful and understated Hermes belt? Or perhaps a nice Smythson bag?) I'd have to ransom at scarf to pay for the return courier (the haul is way too much to carry, especially in its rather grand boxes), and there is the problem of what to say.

This morning I wake up to a text message from him saying he's had to go away unexpectedly on business but will be back in the springtime, and perhaps we can meet up then?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

I'd Invite You In, But My Life's a Mess

So this is my life: Sitting at a wedding in Somerset with a handful of single women in their very late 30s and early 40s, listening to them and their carefully cultivated aren't-I-a-character stories. You could practically see them convincing themselves as much as the rest of us that they were having a grand old time.

I guess it could have been worse.

As for me, I didn't say a word. Because I couldn't have what I really wanted – the person, or a person, who literally makes my face light up as much as the bride's did whenever her intended would ring her – I proceeded to stuff my face with massive amounts of things I could have: (crummy) food. Bad hamburgers on (buttered) buns. Bad trifle. Some weird fig tart. Bad wedding cake with icing flowers of a bizarre consistency. And so when all of the single ladies were outdoing themselves with tales of their general fabulousness, I was sitting there just willing the minutes to pass until I felt a little less full. (Also a little less cold, but never mind about that.)

I was told upon arrival that there were no single men at the entire wedding (I've never met a guy at a wedding anyway, but you never know), but I did manage to find one. Turns out the backup guitar player for a friend of the bride's who performed a couple of songs was single. He was also Tom Thumb-sized. I literally could have rested my drink on his head. When he's not busking in various European countries, he sells chestnuts at the Manchester Christmas market. He travels everywhere with a tent so he doesn't have to pay for hotels. He doesn't like cake.


I'm not so much tired of being alone as I'm tired of being tired of being alone.

Last night after I spoke to the New York editor I thought about who to call first and burst into tears: The only person I wanted to speak to was my mother.

The last time I wanted to speak to my mother so badly was in the winter of 2004, a few months after she died, when I was offered a permanent job in London. I cried holding the offer letter, a good long cry for all the things that would happen in my life that I would never get to share with her. Then I folded up the idea of talking to her and stuck it in a drawer that hasn't been opened since.

Until last night. I thought about calling my dad, but he projects his dreams onto me. He doesn't hear about the weeks of only peanut butter and porridge and the chasing of cheques; he only hears the glamour of living abroad, something he himself wants but may never do. My grandmother and my sister both want me to come home at any cost. Of the entire family, only my mother ever was capable of just listening, instead of projecting her own wants and dreams onto me. (She had just one want, which was for me to be happy. I remember making the dean's list in college, and my mother saying that was great, but that she hoped I also was having a good time.)

So I tried to figure out what to do with myself and eventually wrote an email to one of my best friends in the US, trying to sort out how I felt about the job. I found myself typing: This is the first I'm writing it – really admitting it, I guess – that I haven't been very happy in London lately.

I could pin it on lingering isolation from BN2, the financial straitjacket that's mostly kept me from going out, the lack of single female friends… But one thing is clear: I don't have control over whether and how and when I meet someone, if I ever do, but I think I'd care less about that if I were happier with the rest of my life, which is something I do have control over. I need to figure out whether the things that are making me unhappy will be fixed at all if I move, or if I'll just take them with me.

Deeply unhappy people are like drowning people. They can pull you under with them. I'm not deeply unhappy but I don't want to get so much as a step closer to it. I imagine it's like bingeing: It's never too late to stop going down that road. I don't want to waste any more time being less happy than I could be, feeling like there has to be more than this.

The question is: What is it?

Friday, 6 August 2010

Keep It Messy If You Can't Keep It Clean

So my chat with the New York editor got postponed until Monday. My dad asked about whether the delay carried any "negative implications," as he put it, and I realized – quite honestly – that I don't care. One thing I've realized in considering this job, or the possibility of it, is that no matter what happens I will be fine. These 18 months of freelancing have been absolutely gruelling, but I'm very cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind me. I'll be perfectly fine without a work blackberry, access to all the free magazines my heart desires, and a Conde Nast expense account. And if I take the job in NYC and I hate it? Well, I know now that I can freelance, and after a year in New York (which is all my little brain can handle thinking about) I'll probably have better contacts.

But I reserve the right to come completely unglued next week when faced with actual details and an actual timetable for decision-making, moving, the works...


Last night I managed to prevent overeating from turning into a binge – a major, major victory in my book. In a lot of ways, I find stopping overeating harder than not starting in the first place.

I did a massive gym session (about once a week I do an hour of arms and abs, and then about 50 minutes of cardio), then raced to meet a couple of friends for drinks. Tired and dehydrated, the first drink hit me hard, but of course I didn't quit while I was ahead. We had a couple more drinks waiting for our third friend to show up. She was nearly 45 minutes late – which, at 8.30ish, post-massive-gym-session and drinks, was becoming a fairly dangerous hour for me to first be contemplating food.

I ordered the first thing I knew would be OK: a sweet potato, mackerel and beet salad. My friends ordered the same thing. Too late, I realized it probably wouldn't be quite big enough and there was no bread or anything of the sort on the table. Not good.

I scarfed my dinner in record time and immediately started thinking about what shops were in the area and what I could get to eat. I wanted bread and cake and something with heft. I looked at the pudding menu: No cake. Definitely not good – I could see myself ordering something I didn't really want, then going and bingeing out of frustration.

Frankly, I already was frustrated. I ordered the same pavlova my friends ordered. Then I went to the bathroom to eat the chocolate bar and plot my binge. Then I stopped, thought about how less than 2 weeks ago I feared I'd never be able to stop eating, and thought about the wedding celebration I'm attending this weekend that is also a binge trigger. I won't know anyone there – do I really want to arrive feeling fat, exhausted, and crummy about myself post-binge? (It doesn't exactly make one the life of the party.)

So last night I told myself I could still binge but that I had to text a friend first. And I did. I went and ate my pavlova (a very, very poor substitute for Peridot's, it must be said), still thinking about bingeing. I was maybe an inch from the ledge.

Friend responds saying it is never too late not to keep going down "that road," and that her new motto is to keep it messy if she can't keep it clean – that anything is better than bingeing. "I'll try if you will," she writes. "And no judgements either way."

Still I think about what I can eat on the way home. Instead I order a tea, which I know will come with biscuits, and it does. I eat my two (so do the friends) and somehow feel calmer.

I still want cake and about 10 other things – want them so badly I can taste them, and can picture exactly where I'll go and what I'll do. But more than I want anything else to eat, I realize, I want to wake up the next morning not having binged.

And amazingly, that is what happens.

Honestly, I could have cartwheeled. I could have hugged strangers on the street. I did none of those things, but despite a day filled with little slights and big stresses, I walked around with a huge, stupid grin.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

You Set Up Your Place in My Thoughts / Moved In and Made My Thinking Crowded

This morning I counted I have at least a dozen kinds of chocolate in my flat, ranging from Noir Quinoa (haven't tried it yet – think it may be the grown up, French version of a Nestle's Crunch) and Montezuma to a leftover Snickers bar from my army exercises and M&S milk chocolate Easter eggs I was never particularly interested in eating (guess I should throw them out.)

I also have two kinds of biscuits, and when I opened one box yesterday I was amused to note how pleased I was that inside, the 16 biscuits were divided into 2 sealed bags. "Oh, that's good," I thought. "I won't have to eat them for every snack for the next couple of days to keep them from going off."

Me! The person who – if there's a calorie count on an item in the shop -- still can't help calculating how much damage I'd do if I ate the whole box/bag/etc.

It all feels especially sweet when I remember that barely 10 days ago, I feared I would never ever be able to stop bingeing again. Lest I give myself too much credit, I should point out that I very rarely if ever binge at home, though there was certainly a point when I'm not sure any of those items would have made it intact from the shop to my flat in the first place (or if they did, lasted more than a day).


So, a magazine in New York I really like came a-callin' with a job last week. It's the same magazine that approached me about a job last summer, and this job actually sounds like a better one than that one. (And last year's sounded pretty good, frankly.)

I don't know all the details about it yet – only that even though the job is better than last year's, it is not the job of my dreams. This is because it is primarily an editing job, not a writing job. It would require moving to New York, the editor wrote, adding: "I am ever hopeful you can be tempted." (Ah, flattery!)

I won't know more until tomorrow, but the uncertainty and the fear and the nostalgia for a city I have not (and may not) leave is overwhelming. Ah, it would be so much easier to eat to blot it all out, but so far I haven't.

It's been awfully tough to live my life in the present over the past few days, and to make even the smallest decision. Should I buy that box of cereal? Well, if I'm moving I should use up what's in my flat. My dad was here yesterday and – in a fit of London checking-off-the-list -- I dragged him to St Pauls Cathedral, whose audio tour has been on my list of things to do since a friend said it was the best one she's ever heard. Inside, I remembered going to hear Handel's Messiah there my first Christmas in London in 2002 (and sneaking out to binge and bumping into the man who would later become my boss, but never mind about that). And last night, my path took me through some particularly lovely north London neighborhoods I've barely explored, and now wonder if I will. I thought of all the people I'd quite literally never see again if I moved -- all the people who are not good enough friends to stay in touch with, but are part of the fabric of my life here, and the handful of people I wonder about but would lose the chance even of bumping into.

Six months ago I might well have leaped at any job that came my way, but lately I've been cautiously optimistic about Beth Inc., aka freelancing. July was a record month for me, although (a) that's not very hard when you consider just how poorly I was doing, and (b) I still have to collect the money, which I've discovered is no mean feat. I am slowly, slowly feeling possibility again -- something that has been mostly absent in my life thanks to the crushing weight of financial distress -- and now, suddenly, there is this particular possibility.

It's been making me think a lot about what I'm doing in London and why I live here. Some of the reasons are long-held romantic dreams that are out of my control to make come true. Just as when you procrastinate, sometimes it is a relief to just decide not to do something at all, I wonder if it would be a relief to give up some dreams. The question is: Can I?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Ready, Willing and Able

When we last saw our heroine, she was attempting to claw her way out of a vat of buttercream icing spiked with despair. Did she make it?

Honestly, I shouldn't joke about it.

I know I have written before about feeling like – and being genuinely terrified – I will never be able to stop eating. Much as I feel like the boy crying wolf every time, every single time I can see the pointed teeth poised to snap my head off. Seriously. And the fear does not seem to be easing with time or experience, because bingeing seems to be like the whack-a-mole game at the fairground: I manage to learn to handle one type of situation, only to have a problem pop up somewhere (often unexpected). Plus, my history of weight loss followed by bingeing my way up (or up past) my start weight casts a very long shadow. It is true that this time around I have (a) lost more weight than I've ever lost before and (b) kept (most of) it off for (years) longer than I ever have before. But the recent severity of the problem so mirrors the way I eventually put on all the weight (and stopped even trying to help myself) that it's hard not to be fearful. Nor is the reason I've fingered for the resurgence of the problem offering much hope I'll be able to stop the behavior soon. (For the record, the reason is what I'll loosely call general internal rot, possibly to be described in a separate post.)

So I arrived at the Warminster train station Sunday night, full, bloated, and with face broken out. (It was sod's law, then, that there was a very cute posh boy who's an adviser to Afghanistan's Provincial Reconstruction Team meeting someone arriving for the diplomatic part of the exercise.) I then proceeded to faff around at headquarters not accomplishing very much, but not eating anything else, either.

Monday morning I set my alarm for daybreak, planning to squeeze in a run, but I woke up feeling exhausted and bloated. Usually I push through that and go anyway, but I had no will to do so.

As is typical for me post-binge, I felt hungry all day – not good when there is plentiful junk food. But I made the best choices I could, told myself even if I were eating more (and fattier) food than I would be at home it was still better than a binge, and – crucially – managed not to panic about what I was eating, in what portions, and the fact that I'd be unlikely to get any binge weight off this week. (Irrational or no, I always feel like the longer binge weight hangs around, the greater chance it has of sticking around permanently.)

I tried to go for a run Monday night, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, my body just wouldn't do it. I can't remember ever getting myself out for a workout and having to give up after five minutes, but that's exactly what happened.

Again I panicked. I went for the world's slowest walk, thinking all the while about how little I felt like getting up the next day and running. I thought about how little I wanted to get up and run the rest of the week – or hell, ever again. I wondered if I'd ever run again. I worked myself up into a frenzy, thinking about the puddings that would no doubt be served the next day and what would happen if I binged all week and did no exercise. I thought about how tired I was of fighting; how much I just wanted to lay down on the ground and just give up.

I freaked out and freaked out and freaked out, and then came a great moment of calm: I realized that even if I never lose another pound that doesn't mean I need to gain another.

I realized that even if I don't exercise all week or all month that that doesn't mean I never will again.

And I realized that when it doesn't feel like I can do anything right or good for myself, all I can do is do the best I can.

The next morning, Tuesday morning, I popped out of bed at 5 am ready and willing to run. And I feel both lucky and grateful that I was able.

Postscript: I managed to run both Wednesday and this morning. Food has been a struggle, since the recent binges have left me a higher-than-usual craving for junk food and sugar, and everyone around me is eating tons of pudding. But – as I did Monday – I've made the best choices I could, and stuck to fruit for dessert. Three days clean.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Here's An Evening Dark With Shame / Throw It on the Fire

Warning: Do not read the following if you are as tired of reading of bingeing as I am of writing about it (in other words: soveryfuckingtired)

Leaf by leaf, page by page
Throw this book away
All the sadness, all the rage
Throw this book away...

I wake up at friends' in the country Sunday exhausted and feeling – there's only one way to describe it -- unwilling. I do not want to make healthy choices. I do not want to think about how terrified I am that my clothes won't fit. I do not want to think about alternatives to eating.

I do not want to do anything but eat and eat and eat -- basically, a more extreme version of what I've been doing all weekend. Which, I might add, I did on top of having not been my usual (fairly) restrained self during the week, doing minimal exercise, and having binged multiple times in Turkey the week before.

I have breakfast: porridge, but then I pick at leftover blueberries afterward, which may not be high calorie but for me is a slippery slope. I'm incapable of picking like a normal person). Then I stand in the bathroom, vaguely unsettled, wondering: What is wrong with me? Usually when I binge, particularly multiple times, I am keen to get back on the straight and narrow. What terrifies me on Sunday is that I just don't care. I know that if I binge I'll be starting a week's army work on a binge – and I have trouble recovering from binges until I get back to a place where I can control my food (in other words, home). Which could mean another week's worth of bingeing...

I put on my gym kit for the car ride home, planning to hit the gym between arrival in London and my train to the army job, since I'd have not quite enough time to go home anyway. (To be honest, I am also happy to be wearing trousers with an elastic waist – my jeans already were frightfully tight on the ride up Friday, and I'd certainly done nothing to ease that over the weekend.)

I eat an apple and doze (and drool) in the car. Then I have some granola. There may well be another snack in there. Getting messier by the minute. By shortly after 2 pm, when we arrived in London, I am hungry enough to be grumpy and tired enough that everything seemed like too much effort.

I'd originally planned to get one of my go-to M&S meals, but I immediately spy an Itsu when walking into Canary Wharf and grab a sushi box and a sushi roll that may or may not have had mayonnaise in it. Both had calorie counts next to them that I ignore, something I haven't done (binge or no binge) in at least three years.

I unwrap the sushi as I'm waiting for my credit card transaction to clear.

"Are you hungry, ma'am?" says the guy at the counter in heavily accented English.
Maybe Indian – to be honest, I am not paying attention.

I hate being called ma'am. I also hate it when people ask me obvious questions. No, dumbass, I'm eating this right here, right now, because actually the thought of food makes me sick but I thought you might like to see someone actually consume your products.

He tries again. "Have you been working today?"

I stare at him, hopefully blankly, wondering if I don't answer if he'll perhaps assume I don't understand him or maybe don't speak English. No such luck.

"Have you had that one before?" he asks, indicating the pack of sushi.

Oh dear God, leave me alone and let me eat in peace.

I eat all the sushi in about 45 seconds flat. I look at my phone and see my friend S has texted to say she's in New York and has gone running all the way down the pier and now is on the Staten Island Ferry for the first time. She knows I have binged in Turkey and wonders how I am. I know I should write her back – that maybe it will break the binge cycle -- but I don't want to. I don't want to help myself.

Instead I proceed to eat 2 cupcakes with buttercream icing, 3 pieces of cake (1 Pret carrot and 2 from elsewhere), and 2 doughnuts. The scary thing is that I could still eat more.

Canary Wharf seems like a labyrinth and I am exhausted. I've now eaten too much to go to the gym, and anyway, the long interchange at Bank I'd have to do with luggage, bloated and in the heat, just seems like way too much effort.

It is nearing 3 pm. I have to catch a train from Waterloo at 6:15 pm. It occurs to me that I could easily see myself eating all afternoon, but that I cannot. At a certain point even I will be too full to move, and that there will have to be some other activity. With the sort of practicality that usually does not go with bingeing, I realize I need to somehow get to Waterloo before the too-full-point happens. I wonder if I can wait until I get to Waterloo to eat anything else.

I stumble out into the sunshine, look across the Thames, and want to cry. I can see people in restaurants casually lingering over plates of food, something I cannot imagine ever doing. I wonder which restaurant I should hit next. My life flashes before my eyes. I picture myself a couple of weeks or a month from now, looking back at today as the turning point – the day when I jumped off the bingeing cliff and couldn't find a parachute. Should I cry or sit myself down at a restaurant? Possibly I could or should do both.

Instead I tell myself that I can still go eat afterwards but that I must text S. first.

Where do all the secrets live
They travel in the air
You can smell them when they burn
They travel in the air

I write back to S., saying I am in mid-binge and can't get a grip. My phone rings. It's her. I debate not answering it.

"I didn't know if you'd pick up," she says when she hears my voice. "Sometimes I do that."

I feel this great rush of gratitude. We chat for 20 minutes. The afternoon still stretches out before me. What am I going to do?

"Even if you went to the gym for 15 minutes and walked on the treadmill you might feel better," she says.

I don't want to move. The interchange at Bank. The heat. I don't wanna, I want to whine. We chat a bit more. I'm already in my gym clothes and I'm going to have to change into work clothes at some point (and in some place – would I really want to do that on the train?) I realize if I get a move on I can maybe squeeze in a half hour at the gym. It will barely work off a doughnut, but it will both fill time and prevent me from eating further.

It's hot and I feel resentful schlepping my bag up various subway stairs. I get to the gym and I feel slightly ill. I trudge slowly on the treadmill for literally about five minutes, then coax myself onto the cross-trainer, where I knock out a half hour. Not my whole workout, but not bad.

I can barely squeeze into my dress and I try not to think about what's in my suitcase that probably won't fit. I think that the dress does still fit, and that I have the power: That I can decide it will never again be tighter than it is that moment, or I can carry on eating and never wear it again. The choice is mine.

I decide I can have a snack and dinner as I usually would, and I grab appropriate ones in Waterloo and eat them on the train. S. has pointed out that every minute I hang on takes me farther away from the binge. It is 7 pm when I eat my dinner, not because I'm hungry but because I want to eat. I see the train snacks and briefly debate. Then I look at the time: Barely 4 hours post-binge, but if I stop eating, I have a decent chance of functioning at half-capacity or better tomorrow, as opposed to completely food-addled and useless.

I can see the binge receding, like a runner in the distance. Maybe tomorrow I can run away from it, but for the moment, walking or even trudging away is enough.