Sunday, 27 February 2011

Round and Round

All I have wanted to do this weekend is binge. Bizarrely, I don't crave the actual food so much as the sensation of eating as an activity, and the total release that comes from the push-pull of should-I-or-shouldn't-I, the second where I give in, the plotting and acquiring and the glee mixed with disgust and fear, and finally, the exhaustion, when even I – who am never, it seems, full – cannot eat another bite.

It's been nagging at me all weekend. I see foods I tend to eat only in binges and think about what they would taste like. I consider them almost objectively, without the usual panic involved.

It happened on Friday, when I received a package of natural snack bars I may or may not try anytime soon (I'm focusing more on real foods and less on bars, which I tend to reserve only for travel.) The publicist rather cleverly had put a Snickers bar in with the mix, as a comparison for how much these bars satisfy you as opposed to the "packed with peanuts, Snickers really satisfies." I thought about what it would taste like; the gooey bit, and how fast, inevitably, I'd eat it; how bits of it would get stuck between my front teeth and my upper lip.

Yesterday I looked at some cake pops at a birthday party and imagined how one would be too many but not nearly enough – that heavy consistency; the sweet chocolate coating. This morning I finished breakfast and promptly wanted to repeat the experience. Ditto with lunch. The minute I swallowed my last bite of pizza it would have been so easy to pull another out of the freezer, heat it up, and keep on eating. I imagined finishing everything in the (rather full) freezer.

I'm not sure where the feeling is coming from, or why, this time around, there isn't all that much panic associated with it. As for the "where," – I wonder if there isn't anxiety that I seem to be putting on weight this week, despite having followed the diet perfectly. This morning I got on the scale at 6:30 am (not sure why I was up at that hour) to find myself at 151. Then two hours later I was 152. Huh? At no point this week have I been 150, the weight I was last week.

I'd probably care less about the actual number if I weren't feeling so unbelievably – for lack of a better word – fat. Last night, I struggled to leave the house, partly because I'd gotten so insanely fingers-turning-white cold on a run in Brooklyn earlier in the day that I was exhausted, and partly because I didn't want to face figuring out what to wear. This morning I went, half-heartedly, to the gym and kept noticing my stomach pooching out. What is this freakish capability I have not to notice quite how heavy I am on the way up, yet at 150ish pounds – not really grossly overweight (if overweight at all) by anyone's standards except New York's or Hollywood's – I am must-hide-from-the-world fat? I don't get it.

Apologies for the solipsistic whining. I can't help feeling like if I could isolate where the urge is coming from (often I can, but this time I can't) and why I'm feeling so rational about it I would (for once!, I'm sure you're thinking) have some useful information.

Is it related to my fears of what feels like an inevitable binge in London in a couple of weeks – the old let's-binge-now-because-I-might-binge-then? (Don't think so.) Dread of several months of tough choices (when to leave, what to say, what they'll say, and a return to constant fear of what will be in my bank account and whether it will be enough)? Existential where-in-the-world-should-I-be and doing what? Or is it just simple avoidance of life – I don't feel like doing quite a lot of things I need to do (cleaning, getting Time Warner cable to explain why my Internet speed seems slower than the pony express, doing a run-through with our editor-in-chief tomorrow, contracts, blah blah blah?) And if so, why – when everyone else's life is filled with not-fun bits, too – do I seem to think I should be exempt? (Possibly, I guess, because I think on some level that my life is hard enough. Which, in the scheme of lots I could have drawn, I know perfectly well that it is not.)

Right, that's enough. Off to do something more productive – at this point, probably anything I choose to do (besides binge) would qualify!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Bring on the Idle Flattery, Please!

“I hear you’re doing the Challenge diet,” a co-worker says to me in the kitchen (“Challenge” is our in-house nickname for the diet I’m doing). “How’s that going for you?”

Um, isn’t this the point where politeness dictates you tell me how fabulous I look?

“Pretty well,” I say. “I’ve lost six pounds.”

“It’s only five weeks, isn’t it?” she says. “Are you going to keep going after that?”

Um, isn’t this the point where politeness dictates you tell me how fabulous I look (and that of course I don’t need to lose any more weight)?

Honestly, it’s not that I believe the false flattery. It’s just that somehow without it I must confess I feel massive and self-conscious, like everyone is thinking: Wow, she needs to drop a whole lot more than 10 (the official name of the diet is Drop 10, as in pounds.)

The incident in the kitchen was last week. And today something similar happened: “How’s the challenge going for you?” asked another co-worker. I wanted to respond: Well, if you had to ask… I guess not all that well, hmmm?


That said, I was very nearly late to work on Friday because a bunch of things in my closet started fitting. My favorite black belted cardigan, for one. (Not, admittedly, the sort of thing most people think of as a not-fitting type of item, but it was gapping horribly between the buttons. I told myself it was too cold to wear it, but I knew the truth.) My (blue) jeans! My gray chiffon Burberry Prorsum skirt (sample sale purchase).

Much as I wanted to wear my jeans, I figured there will be plenty of time for that when I return to the freelance life. So I turned up to work in the aforementioned skirt, a wide black belt cinched at the waist, and a pair of Christian Louboutins (sample sale, again). Plus—as a very kind junior staffer in the fashion department is trying to teach me—a pop of color in the form of a turquoise necklace I bought in Venice. I clickety-clacked down the hall feeling (almost) like a proper Conde Nast editor.

Forty-seven days clean.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Parents Just Don't Understand

My dad likes to get credit for everything good he does, no matter how small. When he brought a friend in England some sugar-free jello—and she thanked him for it—he kept on asking about it.

“Did she say anything about the jello?” he asked a few days later.

“No, Dad,” I answered. “I’m sure she’s enjoying it, though.”

A few days after that he asked the same question again.

I got weary of it, the same way I occasionally get weary of his revisionist history. (“I think you’ll remember I was a huge supporter of your studying abroad in England,” he said as we wandered around Budapest several years ago. In fact he hated the idea, thought it was ludicrously expensive, refused to pay for it, and only agreed because my mother put up a huge fight on my behalf.)

“Um, she asked for that jello because she knows she likes it, and she thanked you for it,” I said. “I’m not sure what else there is to say.”

But for some reason on Saturday I felt like being nice and so decided to let him know how much I was appreciating the toaster oven he brought me from his basement.

“I was somewhat doubtful I’d use the oven part of the toaster, but it does a pretty bang-up job on frozen pizza! Thanks!” I texted him.

He responded: “Not the best thing for you to be eating, but OK. You’re welcome.”

This filled me with about four kinds of rage. My father may be a medical doctor, but like many men, he is wholly unaware of basic concepts of calories, fat, etc and his own eating is no healthy paragon. Also, um, I’m 35 years old and he’s telling me what to eat? Never mind that I’ve also lost some 90 pounds successfully and he thinks I need him to tell me what to eat? And let’s add in that I wrote an entire book on food, bingeing, weight loss and generally my own f**ked up relationship with all of it and still he thinks it’s acceptable to make comments?

Also, for the record, it was an individual Amy’s Organic low sodium spinach pizza, with about 12 ingredients, all of them pronounceable. 450 calories for the whole thing.

I stewed about the comment all afternoon. I tried to decide whether to let it slide because he’s Dad, then decided that I was tired of letting everything slide because he’s Dad.

“Dad, I’m sure you didn’t mean for it to hurt me, but I was really upset by your comment about my pizza,” I said. “I have enough problems with food without feeling like you’re judging what I eat, and I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t comment.”
“I think you’re being a little bit sensitive,” he said in this patronizing tone.

“I have an eating disorder,” I said. “That’s the definition of sensitive. I’m just asking that you please not comment on my food.”

“It’s just not the best thing for us to be eating,” he repeated.

“Dad!” I snapped, on the verge of tears. “You don’t know anything about it. It’s a 450-calorie single-serving organic pizza. And I just asked you not to comment.”

The conversation did not improve from there. So this is what I get for (a) trying to be nice, and (b) trying to behave like an adult? Makes my previous ways of coping (copious amounts of cake, preferably with buttercream icing) certainly seem appealing…

Speaking of which, 44 days clean!


I called today to disconnect the phone at my grandmother’s apartment—a number she’s had for more than 30 years. It’s the most familiar number in the world to me. I never used to program it into my mobile because I always enjoyed dialing it.

I choked up cancelling the service.

“Sorry,” I said to the guy on the other end of the line. By way of explanation, I told him it was my grandmother’s number and that she’d died.

He was clearly reading from some script or just flat out didn’t care.

He answered: “If AT&T customer service calls you, tell them you’re ‘very satisfied’ with the service.”


As I mentioned, I’ve very quietly started blogging on my employer’s website -- there will be a splashier launch of it in a few weeks. The blog is called Diet Like Me, and to be honest, I’m not delighted with the editing process for it. But we shall see. Anyway, the link is here—please do check it out and feel free to pass on!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Stranger By the Day

What initially made me pause about agreeing to test this diet my magazine has concocted is the calorie count. (On the blog—which goes live on Thursday, I believe—I'm not allowed to write about all the specifics of the diet yet. I can only whet people's appetite to buy the magazine and read about it for themselves. But obviously here I have no such restrictions!)

The magazine I work for is anti-crash diets and anti-starvation. But the diet—though reasonably generous and permissive by diet standards—is still a lot lower in calories than what I've been eating for the past couple of years. I know from past experience that even the smallest cuts make me absurdly hungry, and this one is a good 500 calories less per day. That's two small Green and Black's chocolate bars. Or almost a whole extra meal (I tried to keep lunches and dinners between 550 and 600). Snacks are 150 calories, whereas mine were 250.

The thought of being constantly hungry for five weeks—the length of this diet—made me want to cry. Much worse, I feared the constant hunger would be a one way ticket back to dangerous bingeing.

Why, exactly, I agreed to do it, I'm not sure. In retrospect, it was a reckless gamble that I guess still could explode in my face.

But so far, I've been pleasantly surprised by how not-hungry I am. (I'm almost afraid to write this, frankly, lest I jinx that.) Really. I'm less hungry now than I was when I was eating at least 500 calories more. And I haven't gotten panicky, freak-out hungry the way I sometimes do. The other night with friends we didn't end up eating dinner until after 9 – something that previously might have driven me nearly round the bend – and I was totally fine.

I wish I could isolate what it is, but I have no idea. I don't think there's fairy dust in this diet, and even if there is, I wouldn't be sprinkled by it, because I'm only following the roughest approximation of it. I don't like at least half the menus they've designed, and at least a quarter more are much fiddlier than I really want to make. So I'm following their principles: 350 calorie breakfast, 450 calorie lunch, 400 calorie dinner. There's a 150-calorie snack, plus 250 floating calories you can use anywhere (I use mine for an extra snack, so I can have one in the morning and one in the afternoon).

I guess I eat a better ratio of protein and fat and carbs than I used to in London. (I could bore you with exactly what I eat, but, um, I won't.) It probably helps that I've discovered a snack I am absolutely and completely obsessed with. (How obsessed am I with it? After eating it every day for three weeks, I rang the founder—God, do I miss being a proper reporter--and interviewed him for an entrepreneurial magazine I used to write for, and sometimes still do.) If you're in the U.S., get thee to the grocery store and buy some Siggi's yogurt pronto. I sound like a walking ad for the stuff, but seriously, it's yummy: super-thick, rich, naturally fat free, and not too sweet. For my money, it kicks the ass of Chobani, Fage, and all the Greek yogurts—and it's the lowest calorie, coming in at about 100-120, depending on the flavor you choose. I have mine with one square of dark chocolate** every day. Holy yum.

OK, infomercial over.

Thirty-seven days clean.

**If you think I have some sort of superhuman will power to have exactly one square of dark chocolate, well... I don't. At least a year ago, on one of my trips to the US, I discovered individually wrapped dark chocolate squares (50 calories a pop). I'd have bought them even if they didn't also benefit endangered species.


The trouble with death is how permanent it is.

I can't talk or work or think or plot my way around it. I'm never going to speak to my grandmother again, and I don't know why I'm having so much trouble accepting it.

This morning I realized she hasn't been gone quite three months. I thought it was longer.

This afternoon, I spied a bright red dress on a rail of clothes in the fashion closet. One of these days I've got to face finding a dress to wear to a wedding next month. It can't be black, and so I imagined how this one (way too small for me, I'm sure) would look with a black jacket my grandmother bought me over it. I imagined telling her about all of it—she'd have loved to hear about the fashion closet ("really? There are girls that do nothing all day but sort clothes on those racks?" I can practically hear her saying), loved to plot with me about what I'd wear to any social occasion, loved to hear that things she bought me or gave me figured heavily in my decisions.

Suddenly I was watery-eyed in the kitchen (you pass the clothing rails en route to the soda machine in the kitchen).

I remember speaking to the rabbi the day before my grandmother's funeral, explaining how she'd buried her husband, her son, and her daughter, my mother.

"You've suffered a lot of loss, too," he said.

It doesn't get easier with practice, does it?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Another Saturday Night

Last night, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I passed up a party.

I never miss parties. I don't always feel like going to them, but in the end I'm almost always glad I've made the effort. Factor in that I'm single and new to a city and you can see that skipping one is a huge waste of an opportunity.

I met a friend visiting from France for dinner, and we sat around chatting until about 10.30 pm. My contacts were bothering me, I knew I'd need to change clothes, it was cold, and I was exhausted. Plus I had to be up at 8 this morning.

I left the restaurant, bought some drain unclogger and some diet root beer, and headed home. I debated taking a picture to show you a wild night in Bethville, debating removing my eye makeup (neither of which I did), and then climbed into bed, thinking the noise from the bar beneath my flat was even louder than usual. I felt vaguely sorry for myself.

Despite the early(ish) night, when I left the office this afternoon (yes, on a Sunday), I was so tired I thought I might cry. There are times in my life I've gotten a whole lot less sleep than I'm getting now, but there is something so unbelievably exhausting about the combination of the current job (and its gazillion little moving pieces) and the constant effort I feel like every part of my life requires (still in transition as it is) – and how soul-destroying it feels to think, whether true or not, that I am letting far too many things slide, and that they are the wrong things. Crossing 42nd Street en route to the subway to meet a friend for tea, I wanted to sit down in the middle of the road. Not because I wanted to be hit by anything, but just because I literally couldn't decide what I needed, and what to do next. I thought briefly about cancelling, but knew I'd feel better once I saw a friend (and I did).

I find it almost unbelievable that in the middle of this carnage, I'm sitting on 36 days without a binge. At tea today I paused to marvel at just how much more impossible handling my life would be if I were bingeing. It's something worth remembering.


This week I lost four pounds.

Well, I think I did. It's hard to tell with my scales. (Funny, the American version of that – scale – sounds wrong to me!)

Anyway, I've definitely lost weight. I don't fear my jeans splitting with each sudden movement, and I could zip a dress that was too tight.

How did I lose four pounds?, you may wonder. Last week I started testing a "Drop 10" diet that will be published in my magazine's April issue. (Well, I'm following the principles of it – a good 75 percent of the food they suggest I don't like or am too lazy to make.)

I'm going to be blogging about it on my employer's web site for the next five weeks, and I hope you'll check it out. (Link to come later this week, when it goes live.) I'll probably be posting here rather less often during the time period, though as this is a private blog with a much longer history, there are things I'm sure I'll want to say here and not there. Please feel free to comment on the public blog (I hope you do!) and even pass it along if you think it's worth reading, but – and I'm sure this goes without saying – please keep the two blogs separate.

Thanks, as always, for sticking with me. It means a lot.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Thirty Days

Thirty days clean. Actually, thirty-one.

I'm too exhausted to write a proper post – I worked until 11.30 pm last night and 11 pm tonight – but I'm a pessimist and feel I must note the victory before the streak is broken.

I feel so much better from so many clean days I'd cartwheel if I could. I still fear bingeing, and it wouldn't take much to set me off. But at the moment, I'm free of worrying about it every minute, which I was doing in the days when I couldn't go a more than a few without a binge.

Monday, 7 February 2011

I Want to Break Free

This morning I pulled out my winter running kit and went for my first outdoor run since moving to New York.

It was a four-mile race in Central Park – just about perfect, since my little half-marathon training schedule called for a 5K race (3.1 miles). Running on the treadmill is easier than running outside, and I feared I'd struggle. I also feared I'd break something on the black ice that was still on the course, despite the New York Road Runners' best efforts.

I ran more slowly than I wanted (see "black ice"). Finish time: 35:02, or 8:45 minute miles. I'll take it.

It rained all day yesterday, but today was crisp, clear and sunny. When I finished the race I ignored the bagels, grabbed an apple and walked 12 blocks to the subway, watching the sun glint off the skyscrapers. I live here, I thought.

I'd have felt perfectly at peace, except for the fact that I have to go to work tomorrow morning – the first day of a gruelling two-week production cycle, where I'll work associate-at-a-law-firm hours in service of diet book haiku. I'm slightly exaggerating the diet book haiku part, but the rest of the sentence is all true.


Slowly, slowly I'm piecing together what a life after this job might look like. I was asked to apply for a job at a magazine I had a contract with last year. Tempting as financial security is, and as much as I like the people at that magazine, the job is not right for me. I'd hate to pollute my relationship with them by taking a job I don't really want, and if I've learned anything from this New York experiment, it's that I need to trust my gut.

I wrote a polite but honest note to my editor, explaining my decision. With it I pitched an idea for a regular column, which he liked. It's far from a done deal and it probably won't even pay my rent – but the prospect of it may just be the extra shove I need.

Twenty-nine days clean.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

A Yoga Mat in Every Port

Currently I own three yoga mats. As recently as last week it was four, except I threw out a high-tech new antibacterial mat I had because the surface was uncomfortable (holding downward dog should not feel like I'm getting acupuncture on my palms) and the mat slid everywhere, no matter what I did.

I have one at home, one at the office, and one I'll probably store at some yoga place or another, just as soon as I commit to one. (In the interest of full disclosure, I fell out of the habit of doing five Sun salutations every morning once I moved to New York, so the home mat isn't used much. But I still keep hoping there will be a morning soon where I don't wake up late and starving...)

For a girl who once couldn't stand yoga – and who still is unlikely to choose it over, say, running – I find it amusing I now have more mats than I have legs.

Tonight I tried a new yoga class and left making a mental list of all the classes (not necessarily yoga) that I want to try. I felt a rush of something – joy, I daresay. Both because I love trying new things, and because the fact that I'm doing it again (though not as often as I'd like) means I'm feeling more like myself again.

Hello, self. It's been a while.

Last night I gave in and bought a scale. It's fairly fancy one from a well-known brand.

This morning I got on it and it gave me a seriously friendly reading: 158. (I say "friendly" because that's a good four pounds lower than what I weighed at my sister's at the weekend). Just to test it, I hopped on it post-workout, but wearing jeans. It gave me an even lower reading: about a pound lower. I got on it three times in a row and it gave me the same reading.

Grrr. I mean, I'd like to just enjoy the number, but constitutionally, I can't. Honestly, I'd trust it more if it were a proper Scale of Doom...

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Shame, Couldn't Step By You

"Someone's got a sweet tooth tonight," said the guy behind me at the corner store.

Rage and shame bubbled up inside of me. After a good 10 minutes of reading nutrition labels, I was buying two diet cream sodas and two snacks I want to try sometime in the next couple of days: a fat-free pumpkin spice cookies (which probably will be disgusting), and a cranberry flax oatmeal square. Probably he was just being friendly, but I don't take kindly to casual judgmental comments about what I'm eating. It reminds me of the woman at United Airlines who, in December 2003, refused to serve me until I smiled. The only reason I was taking that particular trip was because my mother was dying.

I gritted my teeth and smiled at the airline agent, because I just wanted to end my interaction with her as quickly as possible – or at least, end it before I burst into tears, which surely would have prolonged it. Tonight I didn't know what to say, except: "Mind your own business, asshole." Probably I should have said nothing. Instead I sputtered something about how it wasn’t all for this evening (in fact, only the cream sodas were. And btw, if you think, as I do, that a glass bottle is going to mean a good soda, it doesn't in the case of Stewart's. I'll be sticking to Dr. Brown's diet cream, thankyouverymuch.)

What a freak show I can be about food is uppermost in my mind after a weekend at my sister's. I had given her a heads up that I was struggling and might be a little crazy about food, to which her response was a not-very-kind: "You're always crazy about food." True, but not very nice. At another point she commented that what I'd eaten so far during the weekend wasn't very balanced. (Um, WTF?!) And then, when we were discussing why she's struggling with the baby weight, we talked a bit about how much thought and effort losing weight and keeping it off requires. "I wouldn't want to live in your head either," she said. There's a gentle way to have said that sentence, but that's not how she said it.

My name is Beth and I am a pain in the a—about food; I guess I should just embrace it. Except – same as I don't want to be the fat girl – I don't want to be the crazy girl either. I don't want to spend my life running from calories, happiest when I can control exactly what I eat. What is it going to take for me to find some peace about this?


It was a strange evening. I went to try a Pilates class and the instructor – a plastic-looking redhead wearing a Swarovski-crystal encrusted t-shirt and socks with little bows – kept referring to everything as "little."

"Now take your little feet out of the straps," she'd say. Or: "Move your little hips to the left." Truly bizarre.

At one point she watched me put my feet in something approximating ballet first position and asked me – seriously – if I'd ever been a dancer. I nearly snorted, but didn't explain.

She'd complimented me a couple of times on my core strength, and at one point she put her hand on my stomach to check my form. "You have very flat abs," she announced.

Reader, I'm afraid I spluttered audibly.