Sunday, 11 September 2011

Breakin' All the Rules

Today I did something wild and crazy: I ordered something off the menu at dinner that sounded good to me.

It wasn't the dish I'd chosen ahead of time. Nor was it the alternate "healthiest choice" dish. And to make things even wilder, it was a stew-type dish with a side of rice – exactly the sort of dish I will usually avoid because I can't begin to guess portions. And it had coconut milk in it, something that would usually set off "too calorific" bells in my head.

But I ate the whole thing, enjoyed it – and didn't feel the need to binge after, a reaction I sometimes have to being "bad." There is part of me that wants to go pay for it with some extra exercise, but mostly, I am OK. This is all especially novel because I ate out for both lunch and dinner today, breaking a years-old diet rule of mine. And neither meal was at a restaurant I chose, or a type of cuisine I'd consider safe.

Ah, living on the edge, Beth-style.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Who's Done Whining Now?

So I landed back in New York City just over a month ago and thought: How did I get here?

How did I end up, 36 years old (ohmygod, I just thought "almost 40," for the first time) and single and alone in this city I'm not sure I even like?

How did this happen?

I had binged my way from France to NYC – a very atypical binge, in that it started first thing in the morning and carried on all day. I hit new lows: Needing more food, and so urgently I bought chocolate from the in-flight duty free and ate it.

The day before I left I was having a freak out in E's kitchen about something food-related.

She knew what it was really about. "You're going to be OK in New York," she said, hugging me.

I could hear her with every bite I ate. And still I ate more. I'd landed on a Thursday night, and this carried on through Friday and Saturday.

I ate and slept and loathed and feared. It occurred to me that I had nowhere to be for days; that there was absolutely nothing to stop me. I couldn't think how I was going to pass all the hours of all the days until... until what? There was nothing.

I couldn't think what to do – couldn't think of anyone I could call for help who could really do anything besides worry about me.

By late Saturday night, I was afraid of myself. I thought I might never stop eating. I thought I might start crying, and I could hear my grandmother's response when I asked her why she never cried: "Because I might never stop." And then I could hear her voice so clearly I did cry.

This is not the life she would have wanted for me.

This is not the life I would have wanted for me.


I woke up Sunday morning and put on a maxi dress – the only one I own – I got for free somewhere. I nearly got rid of it several months ago, because I'm not a maxi dress kind of girl. But it was the only thing I was sure would fit.

I stumbled out into the sunlight. I can't remember if I went to the gym that day; I think I realized it didn't matter – that no amount of gym time and no amount of dieting could erase the amount of weight I'd gained anytime soon. (As you may recall, I binged horrifically in London and Amsterdam – weight that also hadn't come off.)

I promptly bumped into my sister's husband's sister, who lives three blocks away but I have never bumped into in all my time in NYC. She had about 20 minutes before racing off, and as she ticked off all the things she was doing in the next few weeks, the business and bustle of her life made me feel empty.

I knew eating would not fix it, but still I wanted to. I knew I had to start telling people I was back and making plans to see them, but I was fighting my usual tendency to hide and isolate and control until I got some of the weight off. (How could I go out when I didn't have anything to wear? How would I ever have anything to wear if I went out to eat?)

I thought back to Provence, where I'd begun, very carefully and fearfully, to think about just how much weight I was willing to gain – if I was willing to gain – to stop bingeing and stop living by crazy rules I made up years ago that no longer serve me (no two meals out in one day, no two nights in a row of eating out, etc).

Am I willing to accept that I am unlikely ever to be the size I was my last two years in London? I don't know. I'm trying.


I have binged once since that Sunday. After 23 days without a binge, I went on a spectacular rampage that shocked even me with the vast amount of food I could consume in the space of less than an hour. It was the kind of binge that makes my back hurt – I think this is because of just how much I have distended my stomach.

That was 10 days ago. I haven't binged again since.

I am eating more than I used to. I don't go to the gym as often, as long, and I don't work out as hard. I'm not sure I've exercised an entire hour – my old standard workout – since I returned to New York. I haven't lifted weights. I haven't gone to yoga. (The last bit I'd like to do something about, but I just haven't found the willingness yet.)

I don't feel like I want to be out in the world looking and feeling the way I do, but I have forced myself to go anyway. Sometimes this is good; other times it is not. (The binge was after a work-type party, though I think it had more to do with untangling myself from a very, very unhealthy relationship-type-thing I could not quit yet knew I had to. I say "type thing" because it was conducted almost exclusively by copious amounts of email and IM while I travelled and then he did. More of which, later. Maybe.)

I worked every day of this month, including weekends, and almost every night. I procrastinated a lot. Neither of these are good.

Today I finished the last deadline for the last paying assignment I have. (I don't think it will be the last paying work I'll ever have, but as a freelancer, there is always that possibility.)I have two other deadlines now, but they are for things that may or may not lead to paying work – and both require me to think about things I am not sure I can right now. My head is full of things I have put off – most of them unpleasant – to deal with "when I finish the last deadline." It is also full of rage at how impossible it is actually to get paid for work one has done. But that is another story altogether.


Last night I had an assignment to cover Fashion's Night Out, which I'd accepted in a moment of weakness.

I'd expected it would depress me because of the sheer number of tiny, gorgeous, impeccably-maintained New York women all happily shopping in great gaggles.

What I didn't expect was how sad it would make me for the person I was, and for the current life that I have that I don't love, and sometimes don't even like very much.

It was shades of my former life: the celebrities, the parties, the clipboards, the fashion – and the fear that I am too fat, too badly dressed, too conspicuous. I wandered through the events feeling distant, like I wasn't really there.

I didn't want to shop because I've put on weight, and because I can no longer get a high from my little(ish) waist or the size on the tag. Because I don't want to try on clothes and don't really want to think about what fall clothes I have that might fit.

And free cocktails and champagne are nice, but only when out with friends. Ditto for the macarons and other treats.

There were random freebies and limited edition goods that once would have delighted me, but last night made me shrug indifferently. I'll still be the same person, only with a (possibly) cool Alexander McQueen keychain. Big whoop, as my sister and I might have said, aged about 10.

I felt sadder, older and wiser just thinking about all the things I acquired – and went to great lengths to acquire – in the past decade.

I did what I needed to do for work and went home and stayed up until 2 am writing the article. And this morning I got up, planning to try, as best I could, to enjoy the first day I've had without an imminent deadline in months. But I couldn't. I had editors cropping up asking follow up questions, and no message from the only person I wanted to hear from (but knew I should be grateful I have not), and all of those things to do that I have put off "until my last deadline."

But that's life, right? Or at least the current life I've got. The question for tomorrow, and for the days beyond it, is how to have more of the life I want and less of the life I don't.