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.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Talking Turkey

One minute I was composing (mentally) a jaunty entry about Bootcamp on the Bosphorus (really! I went on Friday morning while Friend Bearing Chocolate and another friend slept!), and the next...

Well, the next I'm sitting here with my head more full of what delights I could stuff myself with for dinner after a couple of hours ago having one of the worst binges I've had in years – and at an airport, something I also haven't done in ages. A binge, I might add, that was 100 percent sober, and a binge that occurred after two days of bingeing in Turkey followed by one day (yesterday) of seriously messy eating.

Why did I binge? I'm not sure. Stress. Also relief, bizarrely enough. And anxiety about events over the next couple of weeks, and the merry-go-round of madness it feels like I'm on. Because it was 2 pm Turkey time but only noon UK time when I landed and I'd already eaten lunch and was still hungry despite extra snacks. Because I Because I have to finish my taxes and have dinner with O. tomorrow, neither of which I want to do (the latter mostly because my stomach is so distended I look like I'm about to give birth, and I don't care what you say, O is one of the infuriating types who will notice). Because I have to chase invoices and do interviews and pitch for more work and answer e-mails and attempt not to be totally self centered and decide which continent I'm going to live on and be OK with the fact that I could be alone for the rest of my life. Also because I have to exercise and watch what I eat (almost) every day for, like, the rest of my bloody life.

I don't want to do any of this.

(Clearly eating doughnuts and cake and chocolate is going to make all of these things go away, hmmm?)

I'll spare you the rant about why I can't overeat like a normal person (at the moment, I just don't seem to be able to without it veering into a binge). I will say that curiously, sometimes being (fairly) regimented about my food and exercise seems a very, very small price to pay for a clear head, clothes I know will fit, and little if any regret about behaviour (see clear head, as before). Other times it seems like a deal with the devil.


Meanwhile, just about the moment Thursday yours truly ended her prohibition on alcohol and got a table of Turkish men at abracadabra to send us drinks and dessert for FBC's birthday, my twin sister was bringing home the remaining 2/3 of her children. (The oldest of the triplets, Alex, left the hospital Monday. Ethan and Jacob – who also happen to be twins – were a little further behind on the development scale so had to stay a bit longer.)

"I'm sure it's chaotic around there but are there times that are better than others to call?" I emailed my sister this afternoon.

Immediate response: "Ugh. I think I cried more than Alex this morning. First triple outing to the pediatrician this afternoon. Maybe try after that?"

Quite literally, I think I'll take the cake.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

My Delirium*

So I'm sitting at a table at the hippest breakfast spot in Istanbul, very occasionally even getting to glance up and see the Bosphorus.

This is why I went freelance, right?

Except for the fact that my choice wasn't totally voluntary.

And that I have barely moved from a table in nearly seven hours and have had to spend a small fortune ordering drinks to "rent" my wireless. This is because I got here last night – plane, complete with eleventeen screaming babies – way delayed, with four stories due today and my friend's cleaner (friend is an expat brat!) had broken her wireless, Skyping while ironing!

I was anxious during a (very late) dinner with her friends, thinking about how much work I had to do and how much I envied them their stable jobs and the ability to have a glass of wine without worrying they wouldn't be able to finish their work. Then I stayed up until 4 am trying to get work done (and feeling like a bad, tetchy, anxious guest, which I guess I sort of was). I was up again at 7.

Tonight I've got her birthday dinner, sure to be a boozy, expensive affair where I suspect I'll be the only one anxious about calories and finances. (I am looking forward to a drink, though I may collapse of exhaustion due to severe sleep-deprivation over the last few days.)

This is after a day where I've barely moved four feet and eaten, well... I'll let you be the judge:

For lunch I ordered what I thought would be small: a wheatberry side dish and a fruit bowl. Except instead of a cold salad the wheatberry thing turned out to be a delicious, cheesy, carby yum bomb. And the fruit bowl was, like, an entire farmers market worth of fruit crammed into half a melon. And to think I didn't order the watermelon with feta I spied across the room just because _it_ was like Mt Watermelon (also because I couldn't find it on the menu...)

I ate half of the cheese/carb hug-on-a-plate and the entire fruit bowl (which, sadly, did not have any watermelon). I ignored the bread and olive oil I was brought, as well as the biscotti perched on the side of my fruit bowl. I guess it could be worse.

God, I'm tired. One more article to go. I fear it may be written in a language tantalizingly close to English. (Yes, I am grateful for the work, though.) The subject seemed so small and manageable when I pitched it, and has morphed into one of those Seymour-feed-me type horrors that cannot be tamed and feel, to me, like a referendum on my entire career.

But maybe that's just me, and me-on-sleep-deprivation is a seriously pessimistic thing to behold.


After fighting for weeks with the extremely idiotic PR woman for an extremely successful company (can't be due to her efforts), I finally landed the interview I needed. (Well, maybe I shouldn't speak too soon – it's next week.) So I was very, very amused this morning when I was accidentally sent an e-mail chain from the PR department showing in very poorly spelled and punctuated yet very plain English (a) how much they lie, (b) how aware they are of how much they lie, (c) how afraid they all are of making any decision at all lest it be the wrong one, and (d) just how dumb they are.

Lucky for them I am not as careless as they are I could, um, accidentally forward it to the CEO.

(No, I'm not quite mean enough to do that, and I wouldn't wish a life of uncertainty on anyone. But it was tempting to think about for a second or two...)

*Also the title of a very excellent workout song by Ladyhawke, a Kiwi singer who's the shyest artist I've ever encountered

Monday, 12 July 2010

The Numbers Game

Number of 10K races I ran in a single 16-hour period this weekend: Two. (Don't ask.)

Average temperature outside during said runs: 31 degrees C.

Appeal, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being "get that the heck away from me", of the glass of champagne I was offered after Saturday night's race: o.

Average finish time of each race: Less than an hour.

Number of pounds I gained this weekend, despite the above and no extra food: Three. (WTF? Obviously cannot be accurate but is still bloody annoying.)

Number of days, as of tonight, I have gone with anything alcoholic to drink: 30.

Number of days, as of tonight, I have gone without a binge: 30.

Number of articles I have to finish by Wednesday morning at 10 am: 4 (eeek!)

Percentage finished these articles are: Um, well... one of them is about 10 percent done. (eeek!)


There has been mega family drama going on (mostly about pageantry surrounding the arrival of the Three Kings, as I've been calling my nephews). The bottom line is: There are a lot of things that seem very nice about married life, but boy, my sister's mother-in-law is not one of them.

But my dad is great.

And my grandmother is my favourite person on the planet. Even before the situation got (mostly) resolved – in an almost comic fashion – The Grandma had spoken. And what do you know? She was right.

I won't procrastinate further except to leave you with this insight into the sad, sad life that is that of your faithful correspondent: When I went this afternoon to respond to the Afghanistan-book-reviewing-lawyer (with whom I've exchanged a couple of emails), I noticed we have a friend of a friend in common on Facebook (or Facecrap, as the singer-songwriter I interviewed last week called it). In her profile she is wearing a pair of Georgina Goodman heels I actually also own.

Is it a sign?


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Sod's Law

En route to the Tube – en route to the gym – yesterday I bumped into A, a friend of a friend of O's I had a mini crush on three or four years ago. He lives about two minutes' walk from me but I haven't seen him in at least a year and a half.

I had on leggings and a fleece, no makeup, un-groomed (make that "hairy beast") eyebrows, and my hair in a ponytail, complete with unattractive, not-remotely-face-framing wisps. I may or may not have showered since the day before.

He looked me up and down derisively.

"You look, um," – I could almost see him weighing words, looking for one that wasn't too insulting -- "sportier each time I see you," he said. (Huh? The last time I saw him was at a Christmas party in December '08, where I was wearing a rather ugly sequinned vintage dress as part of a costume leftover from the first party of the evening.)

He said he was headed to see Jools Holland for his sister's birthday, and wondered if that were a good idea.

"I guess it depends on how much you like Jools Holland," I said. He looked like he couldn't wait to escape, and I let him.

Clearly I have become repulsive to all men. Or maybe it's just that I should shower and wear makeup.

This morning I recounted the conversation to O, who has returned from flying all the way to Singapore to cheat on a woman he's called the love of his life – and for whom he moved to Paris. (Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yes, O's life is probably a lot more interesting to read about than mine, but I can't imagine him ever blogging.)

"I think he's just very shy and awkward," O said. "But I heard he's got a new girlfriend. Did you meet her?"

Thankfully, no.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Damsel in Distress (Over a Dress)

Some people campaign for plain English. Or nuclear disarmament. Or human rights. I'm afraid my own campaign is considerably less lofty:

Ladies, do not ever, under any circumstances, attempt to guess another woman's dress size. There is no need for it. It is just as bad as guessing weight, and please tell me you don't do that.

Sunday I attended a party where the guest of honor looked lovely in a dress style I'd seen her in before. The dress is stocked in very few shops, none near me, so – with some birthday money from my dad -- I've been debating an online order. Which still involves multiple trips to the post office, so I want to be as sure as possible before going ahead.

"Are they true to size?" I asked her.

I don't know why she didn't just answer the question based on her own size, but instead she said: "What are you, a 12? A 14?" (Why ask such a thing, I ask you? For the record, I am a UK 8/10. And for five minutes last year I think I fitted into a 6, but never mind about that.)

Then she answered my question: "I think they come up a bit small."

This exchange has been doing my head in ever since. Around and around it goes: Do I look like a 12 or a 14? (Not that I really know what a 12 or a 14 looks like, frankly.) Is that because of the lingering Dorset pounds? And yikes, if ever I had to guess someone's size I'd definitely underestimate out of politeness, so do I really look like a 16 or an 18? Hmmm, I really could use a snack. But if I have a snack...

You can see where this is going: Do not stop, do not pass go, go directly to NOWHERE GOOD.


I'm trying to confine my scale-hopping to once a week, and today was the day: 10 stone 6, or about 3-4 pounds of Dorset weight left. Post army, I'm quite pleased with this. Twenty-three days binge-free.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Fighting Fit

Just finished my 15th – and final – army meal of the week: a packed lunch that included chicken and coleslaw on a buttered white baguette, an orange, and a Golden Delicious apple (for the record, more and better fruit than I've seen all week). The pack also included: an Elevenses oatmeal raisin cookie-bar hybrid, a Mars bar, a bag of garlic-flavoured crisps, and (bizarrely) a pack of Extra sugar-free peppermint gum.

I do like butter, but not on my sandwiches. Nor am I a coleslaw fan. And frankly, I find it hard not to be resentful when I'm forced to (over)spend my calorie budget on crap I wouldn't choose to eat – and that really isn't worth it.

But as I have all week, I ate as best I could and tried to let it go, beef pie, egg mayonnaise with butter, white bread, (white) potato (overload), pre-sweetened gruel-like porridge, canned fruit and all. I tried to be grateful for the occasional bright spots: the boiled vegetables that (occasionally) were served before they were doused in sauce, the honey-roasted parsnips and carrots (and were those actual flecks of fresh rosemary?) I looted from bottom of the mystery meat tray, the one day they didn't fry the fish. I never ate pudding. I got up before 6 am to run four of the five mornings, and managed between 45 and 50 minutes each time. I went down to the officers' mess for drinks three of the nights, but mine were non-alcoholic.

This morning as I was buttoning my trousers – which thanks to leftover Dorset pounds are about one big meal away from not fitting -- I felt a wave of relief and gratitude and yes, pride, that I didn't have to worry about whether I'd be able to squeeze into them. This assignment could have gone very differently, with mass overeating and exhaustion (of the too-full kind) and irritability (a side effect of bingeing), and the general inability to concentrate on anything but either getting more food or how horrible and sick I feel. It was nice not to feel embarrassed about whether someone had caught me sneaking extra food, and not to spend half of dinner thinking about how much pudding I could get away with.

This morning some of the other civilians I was working with bemoaned the end of a week of cooked breakfasts and puddings twice a day. I'm sure it won't surprise you that I don't feel the same way.


A couple of days ago, as I was deciding whether to write a news brief or nothing at all about a "routine" hour-long heavy exchange of gunfire that wounded two British soldiers, I stopped for a moment and nearly burst into tears.

Routine to be shot at for an hour? Obviously I know what soldiers do, but who puts themselves through this and why and how do they survive it? I asked this lovely Scottish guy I could barely understand (well, the regiment I was attached to was all Scottish, and I could barely understand any of them) what people are like when they get back to (relative) safety after battle.

"Some of them are fine and ready to go out again immediately," he said. "And some of them..." He shrugged and shook his head. I kept waiting for an answer, and he looked about to give me one. Then insurgents in vehicles to the north and east suddenly opened fire and we got back to the routine business of war, shootings, maimings, killings, and all.