Monday, 26 December 2011

A Christmas Miracle

Last night, after a seriously depressing party, I binged. I also binged on Wednesday.

And I binged less than two weeks before that.

This afternoon, all I could think about was bingeing again. I thought: Oh, what the heck? I'll start again tomorrow.

Except I felt horrible today, and I don't want to feel horrible tomorrow. And again there is that problem of deciding what to eat when I just want everything.

Truth be told, I was almost afraid of myself. Afraid to leave the house to get soda (and thus probably buy food to binge on); afraid to stay in lest I binge on what I had on hand.

Lately I have come to the crushingly obvious yet – to me – still shocking realization that just because I can (sometimes) understand why I binge does not stop the feeling. (I don't know why I've carried on for 36 years thinking it would.)

I'm not sure why I yearned so badly to eat my way through today, except that this holiday season has been very tough and painful. (I've started, but not finished, several posts, partly because I have not wanted to be this bath bomb of Christmas Grinch sentiments fizzing through the blogosphere.) Lots of memories and sad anniversaries, and a trip to my grandmother's earlier this month to do some cleaning. But why the endless urges to binge now, exactly?

I went round to visit my neighbour, as agreed, earlier today, and she wanted me to come back later to watch Love Actually, her favorite Christmas movie. (I remember having to interview Martine McCutcheon as one of my first assignments for People, but I haven't seen the film since. I also remember I wore Dolce & Gabbana's Light Blue perfume for ages because she was wearing it, and I loved the smell. Anyway.)

About 6.45 I got a text message from her telling me to come over. I wanted first to go out and get some ginger ale (I've been ill this week, though not the kind that stops you from wanting to eat). I kept thinking: I could just start eating now and deal with everything tomorrow. Isn't that what normal people do?

Except I'm not normal, and this wouldn't be "normal" Christmas eating, anyway. I wanted to buy one of everything in the shop, but I didn't.

It was a lovely crisp day, and the streets were mostly empty. I knew Magnolia Bakery wasn't open, but I thought about taking a walk around the corner to see if a place I like called Angelique – which sells these amazing cheesecake cupcakes – was open. You can just have one, I told myself, knowing full well that that would not be the case.

From the end of the block, I could see the lights on. My heart quickened. And then. And then. And then I arrived to see they had closed just minutes before.

I gave a silent prayer of thanks, but still flirted briefly with the idea of a binge.

I got to my neighbor's, where she had prosecco and food from the trendiest restaurant in NYC. I passed up the prosecco, knowing full well that it would only make me likely to overeat. I tried a few dumplings from RedFarm, which tasted unbelievably salty. She talked about ordering some more food – this from the restaurant downstairs – and I thought about the truffled mac and cheese my friend ate there last New Year's Eve.

I could binge, I thought again. I could just face the music tomorrow.

I thought about sitting there trying to watch a movie when all I'd want to be doing is be out getting more food. I thought about the dresses we'd been looking at online, and how none of them – and nothing – would fit if I kept on bingeing. I thought about what a struggle it would be to have to get ready to go on holiday tomorrow (I leave Tuesday) post-binge. I thought about how bingeing makes a mockery of my attempts to exercise and eat well – that it wipes away in hours what I have spent weeks and weeks achieving.

And still I thought about eating.

But I didn’t do it.

Hope it's been a very happy and miraculous Christmas (season) for you all, and here's to 2012.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Tuesdays with Frito-Lay

Last night at a party -- the first one I have been to in ages – I learned that all Frito Lay products (so potato chips, Doritos, Cheetos, etc) go bad on a Tuesday.

I also learned the proper methods for shelving them (most popular products on very top and very bottom rows, because people will hunt for those; at eye level are the worst sellers and, in Mexican neighborhoods, anything with the word 'limon' or 'hot and spicy' in it.)

This I learned from some flannel-shirt-wearing 23-year-old visiting from Oregon who also told me he turned up to a wedding and gave the couple an oil portrait of himself out of spite because the wedding was two hours away. (I guess he was annoyed that they didn't, say, hold it in his house so he didn't have to make any effort at all.)

And then after 45 minutes I find out even this dude has a girlfriend.


Here is something I am learning, reluctantly, about bingeing: That even knowing why I want to do it does not stop the urge.

I don't know why I thought that being able to isolate the cause would allow me to rip the urge out at the roots; to cut it out like a cancer; but it does not. Presumably this is because I cannot do much about the underlying feelings that make me want to binge besides wait them out. How totally bloody obvious, of course, but I have only just made the connection. Which is this: You mustn't think, you must accept.

I binged last night, the first one in almost 100 days (98, to be exact). I'm here to report that it was totally unsatisfying, as I knew it would be, and that I was too full even to eat what I really wanted, which I also knew I would be.

That said, it was a most bizarre binge, at least by Beth standards.

I could feel it coming on for days, like the onset of a cold. I was thinking about food constantly; I was eyeing it up in shops. I kept thinking that I could not binge because the decision of what to eat in what order would just be too much. That is the truth.

Just a couple of days ago I looked at some cookies in a shop and thought: Yes, but if you ate those you would have to decide what else to eat and you would go crazy from wanting it all. That, too, is the truth.

As is this: Yesterday I knew I was going to binge. I had two events to go to, both of which would involve drinks, and I had been working absolutely nonstop. I'd stayed up until 3 am finishing a story, then got up six hours later and promptly filed two more. I've been quite sad lately about a couple of friends who are no longer in my life, something I can ascribe almost directly to the way bingeing makes me behave. And in a couple of days I have to fly to Miami to do some sorting of my grandmother's apartment with my sister, something I expect to be ugly.

I'd spent nearly a week thinking about both of these events I had to attend; how I really didn't want to binge at them but I sort of did.

But no, I really didn't. At least enough to call someone and spend 20 minutes talking about why bingeing would be a bad idea.

And then I went off to the first event without a plan for dinner.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

I had a glass of wine. Dumb.

Another glass of wine. Dumber.

I eyed the blondies on the cake stand in the restaurant. I thought about what I would eat – really, binge on – when I left. I pushed the thoughts out of my head.

Then I had a breadstick with some hummus, which was very, very dumb. Because I do not graze. And grazing in my head usually is the prelude to, well, nothing very good. It says to me: You are eating in a way that is way out of the ordinary.

And then I left the restaurant and bought a cupcake. Not even a good one.

I thought to myself: You could call it quits now. A cupcake is not a binge.

But I did not. I passed Hill Country Chicken and spied biscuits. I bought two. I still was absent that frantic need I usually feel when I binge, but still, there I was doing it.

And then I had three cookies from the Subway, and two whoopie pies from somewhere else. The second one made me feel almost sick.

I walked into the second event and started eating cheese, caramel popcorn, nuts, dried apricots, some not-very-good cookies and blondies – even some gum drops.

I left the party and walked into a 7-Eleven where I perused the options quite calmly – again atypical – and selected a jelly doughnut. I had a piece of pizza. And then my taxi passed the Magnolia Bakery on the way home.

Of course I got out. Though I could barely finish ¼ of a slice of "van van," as the shop calls it – vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. And it tasted ridiculously sweet. (Is it possible I've lost my taste for it?) I threw it out on the way home, which was lucky.

All day today I thought about that ¾ slice of cake I left over, wishing it were in a trash bin from which I could rescue it.

And that also is the truth.