Sunday, 30 May 2010


A disclaimer: I am posting easily available pictures (befores oh-so-kindly posted recently by a frenemy on Facebook) before I lose my nerve. Which I may yet do and remove them. But here you go.

The befores (where I was about 230 lbs, or 16 and a half stone) are from my stint as People's St Tropez bureau chief in the summer of 2006, about three months before I started losing weight. (Maybe someday I'll hook up my scanner so I can scan a pic of me at my heaviest, at my sister's wedding in October of 2006.) For the record, the magnum of champagne you see me "drinking" in the second photo was basically the rent I had to pay for a seat in the VIP room of a totally obnoxious club for the evening, and I couldn't really drink it (you can't be running to pee every 45 seconds when you're on the job). The first photo was taken aboard Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Sean Combs's yacht, and in light of her current infamy I must be so obnoxious as to point out that it actually was taken by Sarah, the Duchess of York. Seriously! (I remember her telling me to put down my Blackberry long enough to look up and smile -- can't say I miss those days...)

And after...

(To be fair, these are not me at my absolute slimmest, but they're pretty accurate, I think, given Dorset pounds. The photo with the green top on the rock was taken in August 2009, the other green top photo is from the Windsor Half Marathon in September, and the blue dress photo is from early December. I'm about 10 stone 7, or about 147 lbs, in these photos.)

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Bank Holiday Washout

It's been at least six years since I spent the second May bank holiday weekend in London, and this one certainly is a washout in all sense of the word.

I was always making my way back from Cannes this weekend, and last year I was at the Hay Festival. This year I've got pink eye (conjunctivitis) and I'm sitting around half-blind (can't find my glasses – fear they may be a casualty of the move from BN2's) doing my taxes, awash in memories.

The first and only other time I got pink eye it came on at a ball BN2 and I attended the day after my birthday in 2008. (And a ball, I can't help remembering, he attended without me last year, a long and tortured story, as anything involving him seems to be, related to our breakup on the first May bank holiday weekend.) There were huge problems I already was ignoring in 2008 – which contributed to my bingeing on my birthday and at the ball -- but the morning after the ball, when I could hardly open my eyes, I do remember he drove me to the hospital and waited patiently. A couple of days later I left for Cannes, then came back midway through the bank holiday weekend, just in time to catch a train to Devon to meet his parents for the first time. (I just went back and read my entry about it. If I'd only listened to my gut...)

And yesterday and today I sat with every line of every credit card bill, every Oyster card top-up location (and God, I spent a fortune travelling back and forth across London), every restaurant receipt unleashing a flood of memories of the two years I spent with him. (Don't worry, I don't for one second wish I could be back with him – it's just that I haven't spoken to him for more than two months and it's strange to spend so much time in his company, so to speak.)

It's useless to regret the past but I couldn't help doing a bit of that as I got on the cross trainer next to a super-slim woman I chat with occasionally at the gym. Our conversations are not exactly deep: Usually I admire one of her handbags (she works in the City, and so can afford to own fabulous ones), or we commiserate about how little either one of us feels like working out. But yesterday somehow we ended up chatting about dating in one's 30s – she is in her late 30s, and has been with her boyfriend for a year and a half. She dated him for six months a couple of years ago, when he cheated on her with a "hot blonde" (her words) called Mickey who's now at the Priory. (In a bizarre twist, the guy she dated just after this one also cheated on her with the same woman, though City Girl herself has never met this woman and the two men don't know each other.)

She told me she didn't meet a single man when she was single from age 30 to 35, and that that was part of why she agreed to get back together with a man who cheated on her.

"And all of my friends who were single when I was single are all still single," she told me. "And all the men that were around then are all still single, too – they're still messing around. I had just about given up," she said.


This same woman (maybe I should call her Little Miss Sunshine, hmm?) earlier this week decided to vent to me about how much easier it is to put on weight after age 35, and how much harder it is to lose a couple after one had overindulged. I shook my head in sympathy and mentioned the Dorset pounds, which I'm beginning to fear I will never shake. (I can't be too grumpy with her – at one point she did say, "We're both still slim.")

Why do I fear I'll never shake them? I've got less than 2 weeks before I fly to the US for another wedding – 2 weeks that include a champagne tasting, a blind date (literally – I don't even know what this guy looks like), a splashy book launch party, and a dinner with a PR at an Italian restaurant (not delighted about this – usually it means lots of food pushing). Then the wedding weekend: rehearsal dinner and the affair itself, on top of two transatlantic flights. Then I'm back and have a week's work with the British Army, which means crappy, calorific food. Then probably another trip back to the US to escort my grandma up to see the triplets. And so it goes... When I was in New York a Harpers Bazaar editor asked me if maintaining weight loss is hard, and I paused before answering. It's not so much that it's difficult as that it requires constant vigilance. Which, OK, I guess is hard.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

So, that happened.

That trip to the US. You know, the one where I turned 35 and burst into tears in the restaurant bathroom (100 percent sober, for the record). It also happened to be the trip where the day after I turned 35 – very single, and feeling very peripheral in the life of my married, pregnant-with-triplets twin sister -- I very, very not-soberly attended wedding of old friend with whom I have tortured history. I'd tell you more about that delightful experience except literally I can't remember it.

Oh -- except for the email I got from the groom the next morning (he'd sent it at 11 pm on his wedding night) asking me if I'd gotten home OK. There was also a moment at the cocktail hour where he noticed me and blurted out: "You look amazing."

Everything else in between is rather a blur, I'm afraid.

What else happened on that trip, you ask? I lost my blackberry/phone (in the cab on the way back from the wedding, I'm pretty sure), which made life oh-so-very complicated and stressful. I was permanently exhausted, since I needed to get up at 5 am every day to file a story before heading out to appointments. I met with a bunch of scary New York editors (think cocktail party chatter without the cocktails). I wore some beautiful black patent stilettos that got commented upon everywhere. (Straight GQ editor: "Did you butch it out in those shoes like a good Conde Nast editor or did you walk to the subway in another pair of shoes?" Self editor: "You look like a Conde Nast editor already." Inc magazine editor: "I saw your shoes in the elevator and was going to comment but I thought, 'She looks way too fabulous for us. She must be going to Fast Company.'") A Harpers Bazaar editor gave me Chanel nail polish, a Chanel lipstick in a color I'll never wear, and told me I looked like a model. (She must be on more drugs than the models they use.)

I discovered New Yorkers are very generous with their cell phone minutes when asked by random strangers (me). Also, this happened: Across the street from Conde Nast a woman stopped to ask me about my shoes. (She turned out to be – wait for it – another Conde Nast editor.) I promptly asked her to borrow her iPhone, she loaned it, and then handed me her card. "Call me if you ever need to make another phone call," she chirped. Yes, seriously.

I tried four different New York fitness classes I'd read about. (Just call me the exercise tourist.)

And on Saturday I nearly threw up at one of them – an absolutely amazing spin class called SoulCycle -- because I'd binged the night before on naan, gulab jamon, rice pudding and, erm, rice at an all-you-can-eat-Indian buffet. (What was I doing at an all-you-can-eat Indian buffet? A doctor friend invited me to a medical residents' party.) Yes, that happened, too.

BA cancelled my flight back to London and I had to talk my way onto another after two plus hours on hold.

I went back to DC and hauled up boxes of baby stuff from the pregnant sister's basement. I got overly nostalgic and maudlin (privately) about the fact that this is the last time I can ever stay in her house (hello, 3 babies = no space.) I tried not to think too hard about the fact that – unless something goes horribly wrong – the next time I see my sister she'll be the mother of 3.

I saw an old friend who choked up when when we talked about BN2: "I was so worried about you," she said, wiping away tears.

Three separate friends lobbied me to move back. My sister kept asking me if I had a backup plan. "Maybe you should go into PR," she kept saying.

I discovered Newman's Own dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Holy yum. I also instinctively hoarded free food I don't need from the flight this morning (do I really need to have mini Twix bars and mini Walkers shortbread sitting around my flat? I mean, WTF? I didn't even dare buy the MaraNatha dark chocolate almond butter and I'm picking up free shortbread?)

Anyway. More on some of the above later, but I literally just got back hours ago and boring admin awaits...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Yoga and Other Adventures

Sometimes, yoga can get you into some strange positions.

Which is how I ended up in a minicab in Camden at 5:25 am on Saturday morning with a man in a trilby hat I'd met about five minutes beforehand.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

For a newspaper article I'm writing, I needed to go to a yoga class that starts at 5:30 am Saturdays in Camden. Yes, you're reading right – 5:30 am. I'd missed it the week before thanks to a little too much vino at wine bingo, and I couldn't miss it this week because my article deadline is Friday.

So last Friday, I met some friends to audition birthday cocktails (friend's birthday, not mine – thanks to a variety of circumstances mine is shaping up to be the lamest, saddest one on record). Despite best of intentions to go to sleep early, I ended up awake well past midnight, trying to sort out some urgent details about my US trip (another mess I'll skip the whinge about for now).

Thanks to crappy transport links between northeast and northwest London, I figured I'd have to wake up about as early – 4 am -- whether I took a couple of buses or walked. So of course I chose to walk. Except both and Google tend to forget things like that one cannot (and even if one could, one wouldn't want to) walk through Her Majesty's Prisons, in this case Pentonville. Cue much shuffling with the A to Z, which luckily I'd thought to bring.

Except I'd estimated the walk would take about 50 minutes and had left an hour for it. At about 5:20 am I was getting anxious.

The only person on the street was a man in geek glasses and a trilby – a fashion type if ever I've seen one, not an axe murderer.

"About how far am I from Chalk Farm Road?" I asked.

"About 15 minutes' walk," he answered. "I'm going that way – I'll show you."

He started to walk quite slowly. He'd just left a shop where – in contravention of every liquor law I know – he'd managed to buy a bottle of Captain Morgan's spiced rum. I tried to work out how drunk he was.

"Sorry, I'm kind of late so I think I might just have to run there. Is it this way?" I asked, pointing.

"I'm feeling kind of lazy – I might just get a cab. I'll take you there," he said.

I hesitated. Getting into a minicab with a perfect stranger breaks about every rule in the book, but after five years running around Europe, the Middle East and Africa for work, I think I've got a pretty decent danger-o-meter. Plus, I have certainly done worse (cue bribing Sri Lankan villagers to let me onto their roofs in an attempt to pick up a satellite, bartering of tampons with a certain celebrity publicist who happened to be wearing white trousers, etc etc) in my desperation to get the story.

Jasper, as I learned his name was, was an actor/photographer/self-described "local celebrity." (The last bit is how he's allowed to buy alcohol at 5:15 am, he explained.) He'd been having a party to celebrate his birthday and ducked out for a bit of peace and quiet – and to buy more booze. He directed the cab driver to his flat, hopped out, paid the £6 that would cover his fare and mine, and told me to ring him sometime.

I struggled to find the yoga centre – it was one of those infuriating addresses without a number, only a street name. Finally I found it, in Camden Stables, and raced up the stairs, taking a couple of wrong turns.

Outside the room where I guessed the yoga was (the front desk was unmanned), there was a woman dressed all in white, her hair covered with a white cap. I remembered vaguely reading something about how students were invited to wear white, something I'd promptly forgotten about until right about that minute. (Not that it would have mattered – I don't own white gym kit.)

She handed me a mat and took one for herself.

"Well done for getting here. I think I can make a space next to me – it's absolutely rammed in there."

Rammed? At 5:30 am? For an hour of yoga and an hour of chanting? Who knew London was so full of nutters?

Turns out the space next to her was right next to the teacher. And I was the only person in the room not all in white, with my hair covered. At another time in my life, I might have freaked out. Instead I just tried not to laugh. I wanted a story, I was getting a story. End of story.

(How was the yoga, you ask? It wasn't too bad. It was Kundalini, which I've never tried before – apparently there are hundreds of sequences but this particular one didn't have a down dog in sight. Instead there were about a bajillion double leg lifts where the teacher would say things like "Activate your magnetic centre." I don't know about my magnetic centre, but my abs definitely were firing.)


So Monday I hit 30 days with no bingeing.

In the interest of honesty I should admit I struggled with whether to call Saturday night a binge and reset the counter. After dinner and far too much cava sangria, I decided to eat a very small Rococo chocolate bar (100 calories), 2 small Rococo chocolates, and 3 chocolate covered espresso beans. In the scheme of my binges this is practically celery sticks and carrots, but what bothered me was the "sneaking" behaviour – I didn't eat them publicly.

Still, considering that I had a lot of other food in my bag (I was staying at a friend's and going to Pilates early, plus I'm trying to use up the snacks I have in my flat instead of buying more) and didn't just tear through it all, I think it's sort of a draw. Anyway, Peridot deemed it greedy but not a PacMan-like binge, and I allowed myself to be convinced!

Unfortunately, 30 days of clean eating (and it really was very clean, except for Saturday night) has not done much to budge the Dorset pounds. I still have somewhere between six and eight to go, depending on how (un)friendly the scale is being. And I fear those extra pounds may find themselves a few extra friends after what's shaping up to be a stressful, all-over-the-place, serious-lack-of-personal-space-and-time trip to the US...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Mad Men

Worst. Date. Ever.

Apparently my standards are way, way, WAY too high. What was I thinking hoping for a man who wouldn't (a) spend the entire date checking for Facebook updates via iphone, (b) inform me of last train times repeatedly from the moment I arrived, plus include status updates, (c) translate things (like football) from English into American for me, despite the fact that I've lived here for seven years and (d) all but bully me into buying chocolate so he wouldn't have to eat his alone, then leave me to pay because he only had a couple of £50 notes (which he insisted on showing me)?

Ugh. Did I mention when I turned up Saturday – in my favourite pink, black and white coat the guys in my office used to call my "Holly Golightly coat" – he frowned at me and said: "Um. You look very checkered."

You look very much like a tosser, dude. And in fact, you're going straight into the bin, along with all of your text messages.


Earlier Saturday I met up with friends for a quick drink in Angel. (I was feeling a bit rough from wine bingo the night before, so I stuck to sparkling water.) They'd ordered some food to tide them over until dinner, but as I know I've said before, I try not to eat outside of planned meals and snacks.

One of the guys – a friend of a friend I'd never met before, and one who actually managed to irritate me from "Hello" – offered me some calamari. I shook my head.

"What, you don't like calamari?"

"Actually I do," I said. "I'm just not hungry." (Liar, liar, liar!)

"It's not about being hungry," he said, in the sort of slow, patient tones you use on someone with either limited intelligence or an inability to understand English. "It's about being social."

Cost of my favourite Pilates class: Somewhere between £12 and £16, depending on how many you can afford to buy at once.

Having instructor check my abs and (jokingly) prescribe the eating of more cheese fries and ice cream: Priceless.

(Another priceless feeling: That of not having binged for 22 days.)


Whittle My Middle April 30
Front plank: 4 minutes (while on hold with Expedia!)
side plank: 1:15 each side
boat pose: 40 sec
plank ups: 12 reps
torso twists: 22 reps (with Bittman)
bicycle: 2 sets of 30
side twists: 12 each side

May 2
plank: 4 minutes
side plank: 1:15 each side
boat pose: 40 sec
plank ups: 14 reps
torso twists: 22 reps (with Bittman)
bicycle: 2 sets of 30
side twists: 14 each side

May 3
plank: 4:20
side plank: 1:15 each side
boat pose: 45 sec
plank ups: 14 reps
torso twists: 22 reps
bicycle: 2 sets of 30 + 1 set of 15
side twists: 14 each side