Thursday, 29 April 2010

Short Circuits

Call me a sad, sad girl, but tonight I was all excited to use a guest pass I'd gotten to a superfancy gym in Notting Hill. Not so much for the plush surroundings, but for the classes. For me it's a treat to have a workout I don't have to think about – to just do as I'm told for 50 minutes to an hour and know when I'm done that I've had a good workout, instead of me coaxing myself to run a few more minutes.

Except this was quite possibly the worst class I've been to in a long time. It was a circuits class, and the instructor was (a) annoying, (b) trying to talk to you endlessly (see annoying, as before), and (c) did I mention she was annoying? She also was disorganized, late, and possibly not capable of devising a workout that would challenge even the 88-year-old old dear I interviewed today.


I was too hungry for dinner to even think about doing more exercise. So I walked out of the gym almost smack into Annie Lennox, which did not improve my mood. (She was the worst interview I've ever done in my life.) I grumbled to myself halfway down the street, then had to stop and laugh.

I was cranky and annoyed.

Because I'd had a bad workout.

Oh, how my life has changed!

Frankly, I could have used a good workout. It's been a busy few days in Bethville, and a serious challenge to the sense of humor. Thanks to a job interview (for a job I don't think I want, but never mind about that), a dinner with O., a lot of work, and a lot of housekeeping-type-running-a-small-business-type things, I've been alternately sad, anxious, overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted.

One thing I have not been: Overeating or bingeing.

It's been 19 days since my last binge – the longest I've managed since January, I'm quite sure. Long may the streak continue...

Whittle My Middle:
April 26
Plank: 3:25
Side plank: 1:10 each side
Boat pose: 35 sec
Plank ups: 10 reps
Torso twist: 21 reps
Bicycle crunches: 2 sets of 30
Side twists: 12 reps each side

April 27
Plank: 4 minutes
Side plank: 1:10 each side
Boat pose: 30 sec
Plank ups: 12 reps
Torso twist: 22 reps
Bicycle crunches: 2 sets of 30
Side twists: 12 reps each side

April 29
Plank: 2:45 (feeling quite tired)
Side plank: 1 minute each side
Boat pose: 35 sec
Plank ups: 12 reps
Torso twist: 22 reps
Bicycle crunches: 2 sets of 30
Side twists: 12 reps each side

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Weekend Update

Walking through Broadway Market yesterday on the way to the pub I passed Kate Nash and her Cribs boyfriend, but also a lot of seriously scrummy looking cakes and fudge, and the sweets sent my mind whirring. Almost automatically, I started plotting how I could leave the pub and binge. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that I would, especially once I had a few glasses of Pimms.

The event was birthday drinks for a friend of a friend, and as soon as we arrived I just wanted out. I didn't feel like being chatty and polite – and it didn't help that I was at the very end of the table.

I don't want to be here, I kept thinking. But I didn't want to be at home, either. What I wanted was for the date I'd been on the night before to have been a good one. What I wanted was not to feel like I'd been a bit of a crazy person but that there was no way to remedy it. What I wanted was not to feel rejected, dispirited and – even in the presence of friends -- a bit lonely.

I wasn't getting what I wanted. But nor, I realized, was cake going to fix that. In fact, I knew I'd likely feel sadder if I'd binged. So I didn't. Two weeks clean.


If the above makes you think I'm about to throw myself into the Regents Canal... I'm not. I've actually been having quite a good time running around: one night to a raw food restaurant in Shoreditch with an old friend, last night out with other friends, and this morning to a yoga class at a trendy gym. (I was supposed to hang out with the NJB later, but when I'm already feeling lonely, hanging around the NJB actually makes it worse.)

But dates are hard. Four months after leaving BN2, I don't regret the decision (and in fact, know leaving was one of the best things I've ever done for myself). But occasionally I miss the things he knew about me.

"Don't tell guys you were once over 200 pounds," advised my friend A. "It just makes them imagine you at that size, and that's not what you want. Let them think you're naturally skinny."

I'm not sure why, but I have this crazy need to explain myself – so that whoever can know that there's an actual good reason for my finickiness/crankiness/agitation sometimes when it comes to food.

Take Friday night's date. He wanted to meet at 7:30 pm for a drink. I didn't know if we'd go for dinner, and I didn't want to spend any part of the evening plotting how to get food or getting so far past the point of hungry that he'd see cranky, indecisive me on Date One. So I pushed the date to 8 pm and ate first.

I commented about the quality of the chocolate for sale (it was William Curley, some of London's most amazing) and when he bought the drinks he bought a bar of it. White chocolate with raspberry. I used to love white chocolate but now it's just too sweet – and besides, it's my policy not to eat outside of meals and snacks.

He kept offering it to me.

"You're on a diet?" he guessed.

I shook my head. Why I didn't just say, "I don't like white chocolate, thanks," I don't know. It seemed rude somehow. So somehow this chocolate I didn't want to eat became this huge issue.

What can I say, I'm a freak. Or maybe he is.


On Friday, I wanted to write a post I'd already mentally titled "Don't Get Mad, Get Even" – but I ran out of time.

Last weekend I was stewing about the lack of movement on the scale, wondering why – if my diet and exercise were the same as they always have been – they weren't doing the trick after Dorset.

Then I realized (a) I'm not trying to maintain, as I have been for a while -- I'm trying to lose, and (b) my diet and exercise are not really the same as they always were. For one reason or another I haven't done much weight-lifting for a couple of months – not good news for my anemic slug of a metabolism. And since splitting with BN2, I don't run to Pilates and back – a good 2.5-hour weekly workout that hasn't been replaced with anything else.

My bowl of porridge that I eat every morning? In the past few months it's gone up by somewhere between 150 to 200 calories. The add-ins are healthy – chia seeds and peanut butter or coconut butter – but they're still calories. I'd rather a bigger bowl of porridge and fewer toppings (I'm a volume eater), so I've ditched them until the weight is off.

The calorie content of my snacks also has slowly crept up – nothing huge, but still an extra hundred calories a day that I don't really need. Ditto the 60-calorie square of dark chocolate from Trader Joe's I've taken to eating randomly at some point in the day. And I rarely ever drank alcohol in the last year with BN2, and now I have drinks a couple of nights a week. (I'm not giving up drinks at the moment, but they're not free calories and I need to remember that.)

The renewed vigilance definitely is helping – I know I'm not back to my previous weight but at least the belt on my jeans is back to its old hole.

"You look like yourself again," said a trainer at the gym when she saw me doing arm exercises on Friday. (I had told her about the Dorset weight gain.)

"Yes, I feel like I'm back," I said happily. I caught sight of myself in the mirror and didn't avert my eyes.


Whittle My Middle Challenge, April 22:
Front plank: 3 minutes, 20 sec
Side plank: 60 seconds each side
Torso twists: 21 reps (using Bittman)
Plank ups: 10 reps
Boat pose: 30 seconds
Bicycle crunches: 2 sets of 30
Side plank with twist: 10 reps each side

April 25
Front plank: 3 minutes, 20 sec
Side plank: 60 seconds each side
Torso twists: 21 reps using 7 kg weight
Plank ups: 10 reps (Could I hate these any more? I don't think so!)
Boat pose: 30 seconds
Bicycle crunches: 2 sets of 30
Side plank with twist: 11 reps each side.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The First Hundred Days

In Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first 100 days in office, he got 15 major bills through Congress.

In my first 100 days off diet Coke – reached today -- I'm quite sure I saved the equivalent of at least a couple of weeks of grocery bills. (The liter bottles I'd drink were about £1 a pop, and I easily could drink several in a day. I know, gross, right?)

I didn't go off diet Coke to save money, though – I went off it because drinking as much of something with that many chemicals cannot possibly be good for my health/teeth/skin/etc. I'm someone who doesn't even like to take over-the-counter drugs unless I'm in agony – partly a vestige of then-unknown side effects of drugs coming back to haunt my mother in a big way. And yet every day I was pouring gallons of stuff I couldn't pronounce down my gob.

I've noticed a huge change in my sugar cravings – basically, I don't. I'm highly suggestible so if I see something sweet I still consider eating it, but there isn't that gimme-it-now type craving. (All bets are off for that kind of behaviour mid-binge, for the record. Then it's gimme-everything-now. But binges for me are not set off by sugar cravings). As for the diet Coke itself? I only yearn for it when I'm hungry (I think I did use it a bit as an appetite suppressant, or at least as a way to keep my mouth/stomach busy until it was time to eat again) or when I'm tired and I'm out and about and it would be a good, quick source of caffeine. (I hate coffee and tea is hard to grab on the run. And Red Bull, you ask? Totally is out of the question.)

Of course, the ridiculously long and cold winter we've had – combined with what
seems to be my growing inability to handle cold – has probably helped. I haven't minded and in fact have needed many cups of (decaffeinated, usually herbal) tea just to function. I'll be curious to see if the diet Coke cravings intensify as it gets warmer.

Speaking of hunger pangs, today I went to a lunchtime yoga class. I used to be a regular at a once-a-week lunchtime yoga class when I worked in an office, but the last one I attended I think was sometime in October 2008. I nearly didn't go today because (I know this is lame) the class was at 12:30 and I was already hungry at 11:30. But once I was halfway through the class I remembered something I used to love about yoga: It requires enough focus that even someone like me – someone who never, ever forgets to eat – forgets about her stomach. At least for a little while. It was nice.

In less Zen news, the scale went up another 2 pounds this morning – despite all the clean eating and exercising. WTF? I am committing right here that I will not weigh-in again until Monday morning.

Sorry for a rather lacklustre post. I'm exhausted from a bit of work drama that has been dragging on for the past six hours but – fingers crossed -- is going to work out all right. I don't think I'll know until tomorrow morning.

Whittle My Middle Challenge:
Front plank: 3 minutes, 15 sec
Side plank: 60 seconds each side
Torso twists: 21 reps (using 7 kg weight)
Plank ups: 10 reps
Boat pose: 30 seconds
Bicycle crunches: 2 sets of 30
Side plank with twist: 10 reps each side

Monday, 19 April 2010

Whatever Gets You Through

In a world of uncertainty and volcanic ash, I can at least make my bathtub sparkle.

And also put on "Telephone" and dance around like a lunatic while waiting for the kettle to boil.

No, I still haven't done my taxes, either US or UK. (Thanks to the two-month expat extension, my US taxes actually aren't late. Yet.)

I have, however, done the following:
• Front plank: 3 minutes
• Side plank: 60 seconds each side
• Torso twists: 21 reps (holding 6 kg weight as was in gym)
• Plank ups: 10 reps
• Boat pose: 30 seconds
• Bicycle: 2 sets of 30 reps
• Side plank w/twists: 10 reps each side

(I am feeling monstrously fat, hungry, and a wee bit grumpy, and I'm trying to hide it. Nine days without a binge.)

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Ab-solutely Flabulous

Why on earth I woke up at 5:30 am this morning, I don't know. Why on earth I then decided spontaneously to trek to East London to run a 10K, I also don't know. I'm crazy like that.

(Yes, I did the 10K. In 54:56. Not bad for sleep-deprived last-minute run, especially because I am – and seriously feel – heavier than I've been in a year.)

Then I met Peridot and her bf – aka my magnanimous rescuers from magma-induced misery -- for lunch and walk along the Thames. I never ever get tired of walking in London, particularly the bridges, and on glorious days I (like today) I have to pinch myself that I live in this city, and in this country. If I could cartwheel, that's what I'd have been doing down the river path. Seriously.

Yes, I'm feeling much better. A week of clean eating will do that. As of this morning's weigh in, I've rid myself of 10 of the 21 pounds I stacked on in Dorset. Unfortunately, I think the last 11 pounds are not going to budge easily – it took me a year to lose them in the first place. Not great timing with (a) summer (such as it is in this country) coming, and (b) wedding of one-of-my-best-friends-from-college-who-I-also-once-dated. A wedding, I might add, that I'll be attending by myself, knowing few if any of the other guests, the day after my 35th birthday. Do I know how to have a good time or what? (The tortured history actually is worse than I'm letting on, too.)

I'm not sure how much I can do about the weight in the 3.5 weeks before the wedding, but I'll be giving it my best shot. I'm also attempting Angela's Whittle My Middle Challenge. (She did it in January, but hey, better late than never, right?) I'm already spewing lava at the miserable plank-ups so I'm going to be posting here for accountability's sake!

April 17
• Front plank: 105 sec.
• Side plank: 45 sec each side
• Torso twists: 20 reps (holding Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian out of lack of anything better to use. Hmmm. Must sort.)
• Plank ups: 10 reps
• Boat pose: 30 seconds
• Bicycle: 2 sets of 30 reps
• Side plank w/ twists: 10 reps each side

April 18
• Front plank: 3 minutes
• Side plank: 60 seconds each side
• Torso twists: 21 reps
• Plank ups: 10 reps
• Boat pose: 30 seconds
• Bicycle: 2 sets of 30 reps
• Side plank w/twists: 10 reps each side

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Don't Build Your World Around Volcanoes Melt You Down

I'm writing this as I sit on hold with American Airlines – so far it's been 3 hours and 11 minutes.

A volcano erupting? Honestly, it's so ludicrous that if it were fiction no one would believe it.

I burst into tears at around the 1 hour 45 minute mark, I think it was. Nothing like a volcanic eruption to make one feel trapped and very, very, very far from home. In my old job

[They picked up! 3 hours, 14 minutes and 42 seconds! Unfortunately, they can't get me to DC in time for my sister's baby shower even if the damn Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH'-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) volcano stops erupting. Have had good cry and now have returned my attention to learning to say Eyjafjallajokull six times very fast. Bet that will impress all the boys more than my Charleston. But I'm getting ahead of myself.]

Returning to our regularly scheduled programming: In my old job, I learned that perseverance, a bit of charm, and a refusal to accept defeat can go very, very far when one wants to move mountains. (I spent one New Year's Eve using a mixture of pantomime and pidgin Sinhala to convince a busload of Sri Lankan monks to tow my car through some flash flooding so I could get to the northeast coast of the country for a tsunami story I was reporting.) I threw everything I had at this particular problem, and have taken some tiny comfort that all of the above – even when combined with the very deep pockets of one of the world's most successful magazines (also useful in tough situations) -- wouldn't move this volcano. Airports in Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt are closed, so getting on the Eurostar won't help. Nor will a ferry – Dublin is also closed. It wasn't meant to be, was it?

Suggestions of how to tell my dad – in the nicest possible way – that I will throw my computer across the room if he sends me one of his super-super-chirpy reports (Dad can make even the peppiest of cheerleaders seem lethargic) on the party?

Besides the occasional, erm, eruptions of tears, I'm actually doing OK -- certainly much better than I was six days ago. Yes, it's been six days without a binge, which seems like a minor miracle, especially given last night.

I went to a Roaring Twenties party feeling quite self conscious in my flapper dress – and also not at all in a party mood, thanks to all of the airport problems. I felt sad and sorry for myself and also grumpy (couldn't find other silver T-bar shoe, tired of racing around, among other things) and fat. Not exactly a winning party formula, is it?

Arrived at party to find text messages from two friends I'd raced to meet that both were stuck at work. Not good. Normally I can handle a party on my own (it used to be my job), but last night was a struggle. Finally the friends arrived and I cheered up slightly. At one point started chatting to a guy – all fine for about 15 minutes. Then he cut me off literally in mid-sentence to walk across the room to his friend.
Yikes. I should have laughed at what a total tosser he was, but instead I felt rejected. All I wanted to do was eat – and then go home (and probably eat some more). Instead I stayed at the party for another hour or so, by which point it was 1:30 am and I just wanted to go home -- and eat. And eat way more than the apple and/or dark chocolate square I had promised myself was all I'd eat when, inevitably, I arrived home after the party hungry.

I split a cab with a friend who lives around the corner and the cab dropped us off at Highbury Corner – three open newsagents to pass to get home. Danger. Danger. Danger.

I confess I almost gave in. There was a little voice saying: Oh, just have one chocolate bar. Or one muffin. Oh, what's the big deal if you binge? You can just start again tomorrow.

I drowned out the voice literally by repeating to myself: Just get home. Just get home. Food will not help. One foot in front of the other.

Not exactly a mantra, but it helped.

I got home, ate an apple and a leftover quarter of a cookie (can I get a holla, as a friend says, for my restraint in actually leaving over a quarter of a cookie in the first place?!) and spent an hour on the phone with American Airlines, rebooking myself on a flight that obviously was cancelled today, prompting the three hour on hold saga. Then I went to bed.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

I Wanna Eat Spaghetti Bolognese/ And Not Feel Bad About It for Days and Days and Days*

This is the way the holiday ends – not with a bang, but with a whimper.

That whimpering would be from me, standing on the scale Sunday morning – after nine days of rich food, puddings, wine and chocolate. I put on a stone and a half (Americans, that's 21 pounds.) Yes, you're reading right.

I haven't eaten the way I did in Dorset in years. I didn't binge every day, but I'd say I did on at least half of them. And if I wasn't bingeing, I was overeating.

When I got back to London I started writing a post about how I'd jumped off the bingeing cliff in a way I haven't for at least three and a half years, except I didn't jump off the cliff. Every morning I would get up and eat my usual London breakfast (porridge) and have my usual morning snack. Lunch was nothing outrageous (soup-apple-ginger-cake/soup-apple-graham-crackers/soup-grapefruit-two-finger-KitKat) and the afternoon snack wasn't, either. After we got back from a walk usually I'd go for a 40 minute run. Only once or twice when dinner was really late (and hey, I turned down fish and chips once) did I have an extra snack.

But then I'd start eating – and drinking – at dinner, and I wouldn't stop, especially because it was all so delicious. (Seriously, if I had to rank the dinners I would be unable to. Yum, yum, yum. None of the titular spaghetti bolognese but Peridot's boyfriend makes the best spaghetti carbonara I've ever had, homemade by gorgeous Italian guy in Turin included.) If we had pudding (which we did every night, and which I'd also be unable to rank in order of yumminess) I'd also have chocolate afterward. Lots of it. And sometimes I'd sneak into some extra snack food I'd brought. Which is ridiculous, because I'm sure neither Peridot nor her boyfriend would particularly have cared what I decided to eat (well, at a certain point P would probably have asked me if I were OK, since I'm usually quite measured about what I eat). But there it was, that vestigial sneaking behaviour, born of years of having to hide eating from my mother.

More terrifying than the reappearance of the sneaking behaviour was the reappearance of the other thoughts and feelings that go with repeated bingeing and overeating. (A couple of the days I went out for my run and thought: Hmmm, I could just run to the petrol station and binge and nobody would ever have to know. I'm proud to say I never did that – that would really have been jumping off the cliff – but it's the sort of thought I would have laughed at in recent years and used as an example of how far I've come, but instead this past week I seriously considered it.) I thought I'd never forget how awful the binge thoughts and feelings can be, but clearly in the past few years I did. (In recent years, I have binged a day here and a day there, but have always picked myself up the next day and actually been happy to get back to healthy eating.) I forgot about the lethargy and despair that comes with feeling like one will never be able to break the cycle.

The only day I truly jumped off the cliff? Saturday, the only day I ate what felt like all day – what a dietitian I once consulted referred to as "last-chance" eating. I woke up and couldn't face squeezing into my jeans – I remembered they'd been tight the night before. I looked at them and wondered if I'd ever fit into them again. Then I buried the fear and shame by eating graham crackers (I'd brought them from the US to make S'mores, which we did one night) and my last 3 Neuhaus mini eggs before breakfast. Then breakfast (a bacon and brie sandwich at a farm shop). Then chocolate. Then cream tea. Then a lemon muffin. Then some muffins at the train station. I gave in and pretty much ate the entire train trip back to London and then more when I hit Victoria. (I so did not need to discover that Starbucks sells apple fritters – I loooove apple fritters.) I actually set a time (9 pm) at which all eating had to cease. Somehow I stuck to it.

The next morning I got up and saw a number on the scale I haven't seen since 2008 (when I was a whole lot more delighted to see it because it was part of a downward trend.) I couldn't get my jeans on. And yesterday evening – after four clean days of eating and exercise – I could barely squeeze into them. Not fun. Nor have I enjoyed the panic and fear – maybe even terror – that kept seizing me for the first couple of days I was back in London. I could barely breathe because my winter coat was so tight, and each time I breathed I'd think: I have put on 1 and a half stone and will therefore put on the other 5 and a half stone I lost, maybe more. After all, although I've never lost 90 pounds before, I've lost 40 or 50 several times, and then piled back on all the weight, plus more.

Sorry to be Debbie Downer, but frankly, had I written this post Sunday or Monday or even Tuesday, it would have been an even more depressing post. Tonight I've finished five days of clean eating, and I do feel better. (Probably helped by the fact that I scale-hopped this morning and I'm down half a stone – so just a stone, aka 14 pounds, to go.) I feel determined, absolutely determined, that I will get through this. The lovely Peridot sent a text saying that I needed to remember that I was still slim in the eyes of the world, and although I don't feel it (or necessarily believe her), I've saved it on my phone. I wrote one back saying: What I need to remember is that even if I don't lose a single pound of what I put on, it does not mean I have to put on another five and a half stone. It just doesn't have to be that way.

And it doesn't, I know it doesn't. I know it's a story many of us are all too familiar with in the blogosphere: Someone loses a stack of weight and starts putting it back on, kicking and screaming the whole way upward that she (it usually is a she) won't go there, that she's doing something today, that already she feels stronger. And then suddenly she disappears, and you the reader know, just know, that it is because she's put on so much weight she can't even bear thinking or writing about it anymore.

I am not going to be that woman. Maybe I'll never weigh 10 stone again but nor will I ever again weigh 17 stone.


I'd forgotten how putting on a stack of weight just makes me want to hide. I can picture myself in my apartment in DC, despairing the arrival of spring because I just wanted to hide in my winter clothes (and feared – usually with good reason – that none of my spring clothes would fit).

I am resisting the urge, though. I did keep fairly quiet this week, but tomorrow I've got to attend a fancy dress party (yes, the old fear of not finding anything that fits has reappeared), and on Saturday I have to fly to the US for my sister's baby shower. Oh joy. The shower is her day, I know, but no one in my family has ever been tactful when it comes to comments about weight.

You think I'm exaggerating? Get this gem from my grandmother to my sister the other night: "So how's my fat granddaughter?" (For once in my entire life, Grandma meant my poor pregnant-with-triplets sister, not me.)

*Lily Allen, "Everything's Just Wonderful"