Monday, 31 January 2011

Sunday Girl

Why, why, WHY are all British male war correspondents charming and adorable – and married?

Thursday night I went rather grudgingly to some journalist drinks hosted, in part, by an acquaintance from The New Yorker, my pipe-dream employer.

I knew I wouldn't know anyone else at the drinks, and I barely know N. I knew I was likely to feel out of place, which would be a binge trigger – especially because I was having a hungry day anyway. But I knew I had to at least stop by. Three new people or an hour is my rule, and I fully expected to have to use it.

It was super awkward at first: N. sort of nodded my way, and I felt – as I'd expected – crazily out of place and seriously low-brow in the clutch of journalists from The New Yorker, NPR, This American Life, and the New York Times. (My mood – and ability to chat – wasn't helped much by my lack of fondness for my job.)

But I soldiered on. When I finally escaped a torturous conversation with a couple of radio producers, I spied a familiar face from London, now a reporter for the New York Times. I hadn't seen him in at least four years. We chatted for a while to his editor, who did nothing to allay my feelings of inadequacy.

Editor: My daughter used to work in [my former employer's] LA office.

My friend the reporter: So she's a reporter then, too?

Editor [rolling his eyes and snorting]: If you call that reporting.

Anyway. Editor did at least laugh at a bunch of my stories before moving on. (I'm glad I didn't know until after I Googled him that night just how important he is at the newspaper.) Which left me and Mr. NYT to chat. Mr. NYT – a nice if far-too-religious-for-my-taste Jew who I considered flirting with for about five minutes four years ago (just couldn't do it) – introduced me to a handful of guys he knew from Baghdad. Among these was a guy we'll call Great Scot. (No points for guessing that he's Scottish.) His first conflict – which he's written a book or maybe two about – was Kosovo, but he's spent time in multiple war zones.

We broke off from the rest of the group and chatted for an hour, easily the best conversation I've had with any guy in months. Le sigh. I know from experience that cute, charming male war correspondents generally are extremely willing to cheat – at least when they're actually in war zones – but I don't go there. Ever.

PS Before you suggest it, Mr. NYT Jew is in a relationship (he's 42 years old and gave me a torturous account of changing his Facebook status, hence the language) with a woman he met on JDate, and wanted my advice on where to go in Venice to propose this spring.


Despite spending the weekend in the middle of a Cold War between my sister and her husband (a tension I haven't felt since my BN2 days) – and waking up at 6 am to feed babies, plus feeling oddly, cranky-inducing hungry both days myself – I haven’t binged for 22 days. Weight on my sister's scale Saturday morning: 163.2 (11 stone 9). While I'm still not delighted by the number, it is at least no longer in the overweight range. And it's 13 pounds (just under a stone) away from 150 – the original weight that a couple of years ago I'd promised my binge eating counsellor I wouldn't go beneath.

Of course, I know perfectly well it could take me all year to lose that stone – and even then, some of my very favourite clothes still won't fit. I'm working on accepting it – and 3 weeks without a binge has done quite a lot for my mood. So has a more focused workout schedule: I've been running again (training for the half marathon I'm doing in March), trying to get to yoga at lunchtime twice a week (I have so far), and trying to do some kind of weight lifting twice a week (gold star for that, too).

Thursday, 27 January 2011

A Lack of Color Here

Today I squeezed myself into my blue jeans for the first time in, well, awhile.

I know the phrase "blue jeans" sounds terribly quaint, but it is also accurate: For weeks I have been hiding out in my black skinny jeans. Which are something of a misnomer, as actually they're my fat jeans – the largest jeans I currently own, and (at least for a few weeks), at least ¼ of my wardrobe that fit.

But anyway. My blue jeans. After 18 days of not bingeing (and not just not bingeing, but actual dieting and renewed vigilance about exercising), I can wear them. I don't think I'd wear them with anything particularly form-fitting on top just yet, but I am cautiously optimistic.

Or really, I'm cautiously optimistic in the moments when I'm not monstrously depressed and disgusted and irritated with myself. And also afraid.

A couple of weeks ago I hopped on a treadmill and it flashed up my weight (only in America, folks). I knew I'd gained, and I know that weight is just a number, but I just didn't want to know. Two friends (after testing the treadmill themselves) claimed the reading was a couple of pounds on the high side. And there was allowing for shoes. And liquid consumed. And the lot. But even with all the caveats, it was undeniably a big gain from just a few months ago.

I know, I know, get to the numbers already, right? The reading was 166 lbs (11 stone 12), up 23 pounds from the 143 (10 stone 3) that was my lowest (I'm not counting the few weeks I briefly dipped below that). It sounds only slightly less horrific when I realize I was hanging out at about 150 (10 stone 10) before I left London – so a gain of about 16 pounds in just over two months.

Hmmm, doesn't really sound much better, does it? Especially not when I realize that the number puts me back where I swore I would never ever be: in the "overweight" category. Just by a couple of pounds, but still. The number, for me, is scarily close to 170. Which is – when I am in binge mode – not that far from 180. Which is the point above which I start to look very overweight.

Ah, you say. But you're not in binge mode. You're doing something about it.

Indeed I am. But for months – even before the Armageddon of November and December – I've been "doing something about it." And yet I slowly began gaining last year. Or rapidly gaining but equally rapidly taking off much of the binge-weight. Except then I started bingeing with such frequency and intensity that it was beyond damage control.

I've said it before, but it's still true: When I'm not bingeing I can't imagine bingeing. But when I am bingeing, I can't imagine how I'm ever going to stop. In the middle of a binge, not even the fear of being 240 again stops me.

I don't feel like myself at the moment. I want to hide, and to control. I feel trapped between the desire to go out and the fear of calories in drinks and dinners and brunches out.

I don't want to be this girl again. And nor do I want to make more empty vows about how and what I'll do about the weight. I just don't want to be this size any more.


You know you're a little bit jaded when even New York seems provincial.

The other day – a day of record-breaking cold in Manhattan – a woman stopped me on the street in midtown to enquire about the provenance of my coat.

She didn't – or couldn't – understand that Afghanistan is not, in fact, the name of some boutique or pop-up shop she hadn't yet heard of.

I flashed back to the conversation I had in the elevator at work with our editorial director.

"You were training British troops going to Afghanistan, and… now you're editing the Love Your Month section," she said, sounding incredulous.

The ludicrous juxtaposition made me want to cry that day. But I knew I couldn't.

I didn't cry on the street on Monday, either, but it was another chink in the armor.
And yesterday, sitting at my desk, I clicked on a PDF of my grandmother's will. I read the pages calmly, feeling as detached as legal language itself.

Then I burst into tears at the sight of her signature at the bottom.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Fat Girl Cliches

It's a fat girl cliché to break one's scales, but what does it mean to break a measuring spoon?

For the record, I broke mine while washing it – not while doing anything waistline unfriendly (let's face it, if I were doing something waistline unfriendly I surely wouldn't be doing it with a teaspoon in hand!)

I've started a couple of posts and not managed to get farther than a few sentences thanks to working until 11 pm every night. So if anyone is still out there... I haven't disappeared over the side of the bingeing cliff. In fact, today marks 15 days without a binge – I'd have to double-check, but that may be the most I've managed in New York.

I'm also doing reasonably well on my efforts to reclaim both my waist and my lunch hour – I made it to yoga twice last week, no mean feat when it's been so cold here. I've been running regularly (five miles this morning). And I even managed to lift weights twice.

This morning I tried on my blue jeans, which I've been avoiding for the past couple of weeks. Think they're a mite too tight to leave the house in, but maybe next week...

Friday, 7 January 2011

Hate Is a Strong Word, and One That's Totally Applicable in This Case

Last night I walked out of the office in tears and thought briefly about what would happen if I never came back. I had it in my head that I would quit in mid-May, but I don't know if I can make it even that long. The trouble is that I'm so exhausted and I work so many hours that I can barely keep it all together, let alone attempt to set anything in place so I can escape.

In an attempt not to burst into tears in the office earlier in the day, I sent my dad an email that said only: I hate this job so much that I don't know how much I can bear. This was a stupid move on my part: My dad is the sort of person who, as I worried about having enough money even to take the Tube in 2009, "sympathized" by saying things had gotten tough at his company, too – "We can no longer fly business class," he told me. Anyway, he wrote that he could commiserate. I'm seeing him on Monday, and – though he usually ignores any instructions I give him about acceptable conversation topics – I told him I didn't want to talk about it. All that happens when I talk about it is that I'm whipped up into a frenzy of hatred and despair – who needs that in the few free hours I have?

Plus I really don't want to hear his opinion about how I need to stick it out for a year. If I want to be a writer no one cares about my CV – it's all my ideas and what I can, erm, write. Yes, maybe the magazine I work for might be a source of freelance work in the future and maybe I'll be cutting myself off from it if I leave, but that's a gamble I'm going to have to take – assuming I can summon the nerve (and figure out the cash) to get the hell out.

The whole job situation makes me feel terribly alone. I get emails from casual friends and contacts that say things like: "So, do you love it?" and I just want to scream. It's tough to go out in the evenings, (a) because I can barely get out of the office, and (b) because, as I've said before, one cannot radiate negativity about the job one moved a continent for to new people, and I'm too exhausted to fake it.

Enough. In my continuing effort to reclaim my lunch hour and my waist, I've hit vinyasa yoga three times this week. I'm going to try to go twice a week, I think. (It's tougher than you'd think only because my time in this job is not my own. It's hard to control when my lunch hour actually will be, let alone actually make a class.) I've also run twice (just 3 miles each time, instead of my standard six) and eaten appropriately. I have a big eating and drinking weekend – a hen 'do, a friend in town, an engagement party – so am hoping not to go too crazy. A friend has suggested the three-bite rule, which I'm debating employing, though I tend to do better with none than some.

As if all of the above weren't enough, I'm feeling rather fragile – and fat – at the moment. This was not helped by a woman at an event I was at tonight running up to me, putting her hands on my arms, squeezing me and saying: "I love your dress. Who makes it?"

Diane von Furstenberg, I told her, inwardly yearning for England, where no one would invade your space like that. Something about her tone made me take an instant dislike to her, and my gut wasn't wrong.

"Is it this season?" she asked.

"No, it's a couple of years old," I told her. I refrained from adding – as I might have had I wanted to carry on talking with her – that I'd bought it at either Harvey Nichols or Harrods (can't remember which) when a friend was visiting for New Year's 2008, and we'd hit the sales.

"Oh," she said, looking scornful. (Her outfit, for the record, was nothing spectacular, and she had on makeup that could have used an update.)

"I loooove Diane von Furstenberg," she said. "Wanna know why?"

Um, no, but I'm sure you're going to tell me.

"Because I can fit into her size 12s, you know?" She winked conspiratorially.

Of course I immediately wondered if this woman thought I were a size 12 (for you UK readers, that's a 16). I don't want to say my night was ruined, but it certainly didn't help my state of mind. Have I really gone from a size 6 to a 12 (or looking like one) in two months? Reason No. 428 I hate my job...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

You Say You Want a Resolution

So I sat at work today, squeezed into a black skirt that was once too big and a jumper I nearly gave away and tried to remind myself that (a) eating will not make work or life any easier, and in fact will make it more difficult (it is hard to get out of bed when you know you're going to struggle with clothing), and (b) even though I feel hugely fat; like a barrel with little arms and legs sticking out, when I weighed 235 pounds I'd have killed to be the weight I am now. (What weight is that, you ask? I have no idea. I think I may well have put on a good stone since I've been here, and that's on top of the 10 pounds or so I'd gained since my lowest weight.) I also must remember that I live in a city – and work in an industry – where women are abnormally teeny tiny. Even at my smallest, I still think I'd be getting derisive looks from the fashion department.

But let's focus on the positive, shall we? I went running today for the first time since I moved to New York. Because of the time of year I moved here and the stress of the job, it's been easier to deal with going to the gym rather than work out a running route. Plus, I hate treadmills. But I'm supposed to be running the NYC half marathon at the end of March, and enough is enough already. I printed out a novice training schedule (yes, I've run a half before, but I want to do the minimum running required since most of it will likely be on the revolving apparatus of doom) and this morning got to it. Plus, according to a Yale University study, people who run for at least four hours a week melt more calories than non-runners – even when they're not running. Hmmm, maybe I need to rethink doing the minimum amount – won't put me at four hours until the last couple of weeks...

--I also hit a vinyasa yoga class at lunchtime. If I'm going to be stuck in the office until all hours, I'm going to attempt to reclaim my lunch hour. I did Pilates and/or yoga twice a week at lunch in the last couple of years of my previous job, and when I reclaimed my life from BN2 last year, I resumed the 2x a week yoga. The length of lunchtime classes (45 minutes) is perfect for my yoga ADD. Yes, the changing clothes is a big mental block, and it can be tough to think about exercise if, as I often am, one already is hungry for lunch. But I'm going to make an effort to go twice a week.

--Somewhat heroically, I managed to resist ice cream and cheesecake and chocolate – and not just any ice cream and cheesecake and chocolate, but ones designed by me to be the perfect iteration. (It was for a story on customizable food.)

Slightly less happily, a woman at yoga complimented me on my necklace: multi-strand jet, coral and gold beads, fastened with an intricately carved coral clasp my grandmother bought in China. I think I remember a tale of her spying it, falling in love with it, and then racing to go back and get it and nearly missing a ship or a bus or something, but now I'll never know for sure. I don't remember ever seeing her wear it, but I know she liked it enough that it was one of the few pieces of jewelry that was off limits when she would insist, as she always did, that I go through her drawers and "take some of this stuff. Look at all this stuff! You girls are going to kill me when I die." It made me sad that I'll never again tell her about compliments I got for things she bought or gave me – and more, that all I have left of her stories is what I can remember of them. I took a few notes once, a couple of years ago, jotting them down with crude sketches of the jewelry, but it seemed so maudlin. I remember I nearly threw them out when I moved, thinking I'd just get her to repeat some of them the next time I saw her. But she died less than a month after I moved.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Another Year Over, a New One Just Begun

I'd like to say it feels like a war is over, as the song goes, but I have a feeling it's just beginning.

As regular readers know (actually, are there any left?), it's been a season of heavy artillery fire in Beth-land, and if you could insulate yourself by eating, I'd certainly be bulletproof by now.

I'd be a little less upset if my eating were of the seasonal variety – delicious things that come around once a year, and the sort of general holiday overeating in which everyone indulges.

Alas, mine were not. I ate with crazy, indiscriminate abandon. How indiscriminate and crazy? Well, let's just say I discovered in the course of the same pathetic afternoon that neither Trader Joe's lemon bites nor Trader Joe's brown sugar bars actually need to be defrosted (much less microwaved) to eat them. That was also the day I discovered I am wholly capable of eating an entire bag of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered pretzels, and that – despite thinking I'd ninja-kicked this habit years ago – I easily can be converted to eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.

A very lovely friend wrote that the combination of the anniversary of my mother's death, the recent death of my grandmother, and my intense hatred of my job (at which I work lawyer hours) would be more than enough to make the most stable, non-addictive person act out. Add in the Christmas season, Friend Bearing Chocolate as a houseguest, and it's a seriously explosive mix.

I know this, yet it doesn't make it any easier that I have put on enough weight that I'm wondering whether yoga pants and a huge sweater are an acceptable outfit for work. (Short answer: No. Not even if it were all Chanel.) Today's outfit, for the record, is a fairly shapeless black dress I nearly got rid of pre-move because BN2 liked it so much. I wore it to my grandmother's funeral, partly because she bought it for me but mostly because I didn't want to wear anything I loved lest I be reminded of the funeral every time I wore it. (So much for that plan, since I freakin' live in this dress these days.) I'm not quite I can scare up enough outfits for the week, and I certainly don't have enough time to buy anything.

Sigh. Yesterday and today have been clean-eating days, though, and this morning I even made a Jillian Michaels-approved breakfast (two multi-grain waffles with 2 tsp of almond butter, 2 tsp of raw honey and half a banana – not bad.) Onward and downward, I hope. Though it's shaping up to be one heck of a crazy month.


It hasn't been all doom and gloom chez Beth. I will warn you that this part of the post contains, erm, adult content. If you can't handle (or disapprove of) premarital (heck, pre-relationship) activity, do not read further.

Ha. You're all still with me, right?

I've died and woken up in a bad Sex and the City episode. Either that, or the circus.

Years ago, when I first moved to London, I dated a guy so slim I'm sure I couldn't have fit even my arm into the leg of his jeans. So it was a bit of a surprise when I discovered he was extremely well-endowed.

Fast forward to just before Christmas, when I meet a nice six-foot-three blond Jew from the Midwest. He's a former financial reporter who lived in Russia for a while, lost his job at the height of the recession, and decided to go to grad school, which is what he's currently doing. We proceed to spend an evening at the bar round the corner, drinking coffee (him) and tea (me) and playing Ms Pac-man (no, that's not a euphemism for anything – the bar actually had the vintage arcade game, which I adore but haven't seen in years.) I see him again on Christmas Eve, where we proceed to spend another evening being incredibly civilized (he doesn't drink).

I woke up on Christmas morning at 8 am and went to SoulCycle with bands – a crazy spin class with resistance bands hanging from the ceiling, so you're doing cardio and toning at the same time. I felt pretty damn smug about the whole thing until I was told that the members of this particular cult take multiple classes in a row.


I walked back through Tribeca, enjoying the empty city and the prospect of seeing my nephews, if not the five-hour drive to DC to see them. I saw The Fighter with my aunt while waiting for my cousin, who was at the Knicks game. (He was going to our DC chauffeur.) Then we heard about the impending Snowmageddon and the trip was cancelled. At midafternoon on Christmas, there I was with no plans.

What's a nice Jewish girl to do?

I texted an old friend I knew was stuck in town (and had told me to text if I fancied Chinese food, a movie, and sugar cookies). No answer. The farm boy (actually, not really – he's from Detroit) had told me to let him know if my plans changed over the weekend, and they had. So... he ended up inviting himself round. For tea. Which actually was consumed.

Somewhere north of midnight, he busts a move, as my friend from Arkansas loves to say. At a certain point it becomes clear (at least to me) that moving things along any further is a physical impossibility. Seriously. I was bursting with curiosity about exactly how often this sort of thing happens to him, but I managed to contain myself. I also refrained from asking him if he'd seen the Sex and the City episode where, when Samantha is faced with a man of frightening size, she smokes pot.

If I thought he were the love of my life, I'd find the whole situation a lot less funny. But because it's pretty clear that he's a bit of a play-ah with a penchant for half-truths (or at least, not whole truths), I am just amused. Leave it to me to pull someone I can't have a one-night stand with even if I wanted to.