Monday, 24 December 2012

More Than (Thousands of) Words

I wrote all the words in the world these past two weeks -- sorry if anyone else needed any.

Hence my absence from the blogosphere.

But if I had any words left – and I’m still not sure I do – I would tell you that:

1. I lost a pound the week of the binge after dinner with friends, which made me feel like I’d gotten away with something.
2. I binged again on Saturday the 15th (more of which, shortly). I stayed the same that week.
3. This week, so far, has been a struggle. And there is Christmas Eve dinner (not so worried about that one) and now an unexpected Christmas Day invitation (much greater cause for concern). And beyond that I’m headed to France and then, briefly, London in mid-January. I haven’t been to London without bingeing (and the last time, there was no other way to describe it but of the violent kind) since I lived there.

The Saturday binge I could feel coming. I was beyond stressed out with work, very anxious about the publication of a critical story I feared could result in a very public shaming or a lawsuit (or both), and had two afternoon-to-early-evening Christmas parties to attend (one up at 140th street, the other in Brooklyn, which for Londoners is probably the equivalent of one in, say, Pontoon Docks and the other in, I don’t know, Chiswick. Maybe even Heathrow.) I knew very well that if I binged it would be very difficult to work on Sunday, which I knew I’d have to do – I had a huge and very complicated story due on the Monday.

I felt trapped.

The major strategic error of the day was to try to do it all: To run from a meeting to trying a new workout to World’s Fastest Lunch to the Upper East Side to get my hair blown out (Did I really need that? In retrospect, no) to grab some wine and then up to the first party on the Upper West Side. En route I dropped and smashed my iPhone, which is worse than it sounds because I recorded interview with subject of critical story on it – and had not downloaded it to my computer. (Unbelievably for me, I managed not to lose it when this happened. I freaked out for about twenty-five seconds, before realizing there was zero I could do about it at that moment. This, for me, is nothing short of unbelievable.)

The whole day I could feel the binge, like a spot on my face that hurts for hours before a nasty zit appears. I had my lunch and immediately thought: I want more. I need more.

When I arrived at the hair salon, on whose Hershey’s kisses I once started a binge, they had a box of proper good fancy chocolates with scrummy-sounding fillings. The whole time I was there, I wrestled with the idea of having one. I decided it would be a bad idea; that I should eat my usual afternoon snack (a half a peanut butter sandwich), because I didn’t want to arrive at a party hungry and on a sugar high.

And then I got to the party. Within approximately four minutes I had crammed a Christmas cookie in my mouth. And I was off to the races. Macaroni and cheese, sliced ham (bizarrely sweet), cheese, peanut m&ms, red velvet whoopie pies, Tostitos, more Christmas cookies… And white wine. Lots of white wine.

I wanted to cancel the nutritionist appointment (and in fact, told her that if I do cancel she should ask me if I really need to). Honestly, it is so hard for me to walk in there after a binge. I want to go away and not reappear until I get it right.

But that is not how progress is made.

And I think I am making some.

After the party binge I ended up going to a bar with an old colleague (the Christmas party was given by an editor from my former employer, although she invites very few work people to it – mostly family and neighbors). We had sweet potato fries and some revolting drink that bartender mixed up and my (gorgeous blonde) colleague promptly met a guy. I talked to a guy who was (a) Swedish, (b) 23, (c) apparently also into my blonde colleague and seemed disappointed she was busily kissing a fortysomething guy with a pimp (read: big diamond) ring. He was also, I learned, staying at a youth hostel. With his mother.

I left the bar and debated eating more, which is what I usually would do in that situation. I walked into a shop that had an awful lot of binge foods: muffins, cakes, the works. I bought a banana and walked out. I had a small frozen yogurt and checked to see whether I could make it to Magnolia Bakery. I could.

Just go home and be done, I thought. If you don’t eat any more you have some vague chance of waking up not feeling like you want to die tomorrow.

It wasn’t that much of a struggle. I got home. I did not eat peanut butter or nuts or even a square of dark chocolate I have had sitting in my refrigerator for, like, two months. I went to bed.

Day 8.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

If You're Happy and You Know It...Binge?

Why do I binge when I’m happy?

Is it because of some core feeling that I don’t deserve whatever is happening – or some (self-destructive) need to mess things up?

I genuinely don’t know.

All I know is that on Wednesday I received a (very unexpected) offer to write a monthly column for a newspaper I both like and respect. (Even though this is a private blog, I still feel uncomfortable writing its name – but it is the one for which I sometimes currently write.) This was less than 48 hours after an editor had called up wanting to buy a story I pitched to her six months ago, when she was at another magazine entirely. I was flattered that she’d even remember it.

And in the middle of all this, I saw an old friend/mentor who talked about wanting to set me up with her cousin. Who I met briefly last year, and who seemed to be among the nicest, smartest, and frankly, hilarious, people on this planet. Nothing might ever come of it, but after months of nothing going on in that area of my life (partly by choice), even the prospect was exciting, if terrifying. I was already dreading any post-date dissection of me by the two of them.

Thursday I went to the nutritionist. I’d lost another three pounds, for a total of 14. 

That night I went out to dinner with friends/professional contacts. We always have cocktails. The last time I went out with them, as I recall, I also ended up bingeing – thought it was also the day I’d been to lunch at the newspaper and I was happy and all had gone well.

I had dinner (sushi/sashimi). I ordered a side of brown rice because I just wanted more more more. And then I had too much (possibly embarrassingly so) of the dessert.

And then we left and I started bingeing. A black and white cookie at some bakery around the corner from the restaurant. A biscuit from Whole Foods. Two mini crumb cakes (packaged a la Hostess cupcakes). A ginormous oatmeal raisin cookie and a Linzer tart.

And then I debated going to Magnolia for icebox pie. Instead I walked into the CVS and bought a crummy chocolate chip cookie and vanilla ice cream sandwich (380 calories, said the package – I remember looking, though at that point, who even cares?)

I got home and thought about the giant jar of peanut butter, but something stopped me. I knew I couldn’t start bingeing on it or I wouldn’t be able to keep it in my diet, and it is one of my favorite things. Instead I ate a 2 oz. container of hummus (a sample I’d been given earlier in the day), 2 Babybel lights in my refrigerator, a serving-size package of cashews from Trader Joe’s, and a banana.

I’m particularly irritated about the stuff I ate at home: By this point I should know that I only ever eat samples when I’m bingeing. And the Babybels and the cashews I’d thought about getting rid of, just because they’re not on my food plan at the moment and every time over the past month I’ve looked at either of them I’ve thought: I bet I’ll only eat that if I binge.


Day 2. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

A Step in the Right Direction

Today I took a baby step by not taking any extra steps at all.

I have lots of rules for myself, and one of them is that I walk as much as possible – often distances that other people would not. And I never change trains: I either walk to or from Union Square if I need to go somewhere on the east side. (When I lived in London I also refused ever to take the Tube and then a bus.)

But I was nearly 4 pm and I was tired and hungry, not a good combination. I was on the east side (I live on the west side) and so I took the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square. And then I waited for the local train, which drops me a block and half from my apartment, instead of the express, which would leave me with about an 8 to 10-minute walk. (Time is dependent on energy and heel height, not that the latter is much of an issue these days.)

It felt like a big deal: To decide I was tired and to let myself off the hook.

I don’t do that. And I think sometimes I binge because of it.

I binge because I force myself to walk a few extra blocks when I’m tired (and sometimes hungry?), you ask, shaking your head.

But the binge is not necessarily on that walk, or after that walk, or even on that day at all. It is this inflexibility; this pushing past the point of tired; this refusal to let myself slip even a little bit.

I have written before that being trapped is a huge binge trigger. Sometimes, I think, I do a pretty bang-up job of trapping myself.

Exhausted and cornered. And so I binge.


Another step that felt big: Thanksgiving.

In the past few years I have exercised for hours in preparation for the feast. I get to the table exhausted and starving. And usually it’s an epic fail. I eat so much I can hardly sit up. Literally.

This year I was going to take an hour-long spin class on the Upper West Side. I realized the night before that (a) I might have to deal with Thanksgiving Day parade traffic, (b) I’d have to get up ludicrously early to ensure I’d make it, and thus risk being tired all day, (c) the timing of the class was such that it would be hugely, hugely stressful to catch my train to Connecticut, and also (d) I have not been exercising more than 45 minutes a day, and maybe Thanksgiving was not the day to see how hungry it would make me.

I agonized a little bit (OK, a lot) and then cancelled. I went to my own gym, about seven blocks away. It felt… normal. (Or at least, as normal as I ever feel.)


So Thanksgiving. I survived. I ate one plate of food (and it was a huge plate that I seriously piled), but I did not binge. I was very full, but I did not eat to the point that I could not sit up. I did not feel like I wanted to die, and nor was I out of commission the entire next day.

It’s a separate post – one I started a few days ago but didn’t manage to finish -- that this dinner will go down in the list of issues I deal with in therapy. Nothing super crazy – just the usual family insanity.


I went back to the nutritionist today. I’ve lost two pounds.

Considering it’s been two weeks since I saw her last, those two weeks also included Thanksgiving and The Day After (which actually I find harder than the day itself – maybe because you have a plan for the main event but not after), and I’m supposed to be “normalizing” my eating, not necessarily losing weight… I’ll take it.

“This is good,” she said. “It means your body wants to get rid of the weight.”

I hope so.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Cake Made Me Do It

Last night I left a party as if the cake were chasing me.

I’d eaten dinner and was doing fine ignoring the nibbles passed on trays – something I am reasonably good at. But then came the cake, three layers, with icing in between.

I stared at the slices, bargaining with myself. It’s just a piece of cake, I thought.

Before I could think it through, there was a waiter, offering me a piece. I shook my head no thank you, deciding that I’d go find another piece if I concluded I had to have it.

A woman I was chatting with was eating a piece and saying how good it was, and that I had to try it. I’ve walked by this bakery a lot and never had one of their cakes.

I began thinking about finding a piece, or whether I could swipe a bit of frosting from somewhere. And that’s when I knew.

I don’t expect never to eat cake again. But last night I knew it was not going to stop with the one slice of cake. It was going to be all of downtown Manhattan.

And I just couldn’t do it. The thought of getting and then eating all that food made me want to lay down on the floor and cry. As did the thought of starting over yet again.

I tried to bring my mind back to the party, but all I could think about was the cake. I thought about what I would be missing by leaving – the potential conversations I wouldn’t have; the people I met I might never see again because I hadn’t said goodbye and swapped numbers.

I thought about how shitty and rude it was to leave a party without thanking the hosts.

And then I left – quickly, quietly – anyway. Because as bad and ridiculous and embarrassed as I feel for having to leave in that manner, and having to leave because of cake, I would feel a whole lot worse if I’d started a binge there. And you could argue that if I’d started a binge there I would essentially have left the party anyway, even if my body physically still was present.

The party was maybe a half a mile from my apartment – a distance I usually would have walked. But I took a cab, because I didn’t trust myself not to eat my way home.

I got home and thought briefly about the peanut butter in my cabinets.

I putzed around on the Internet until finally it occurred to me that if the goal was to get to bed without bingeing I would do better with it if I got to bed sooner.

This morning I woke up more than halfway through a binge. But that one, I’m relieved to say, was only a dream. 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Week One

“How do you think you did this week?” the nutritionist asked me.

She’d weighed me standing backwards, so I had no idea. And the object was not to lose weight.

I shrugged. I’d already told her that the weighing and measuring had brought out my tendency to restrict – a tendency I hadn’t realized was so close to the surface. (Longtime readers may remember my account of the Summer of a Thousand Peaches: When I was 21, and in an effort to get done losing weight as quickly as possible, I kept trimming from my diet until I was down to, literally, three peaches a day plus buckets of diet Coke.)

I’d already told her that despite that, I ate everything on the plan*, which was the truth. And that I felt like I was starving on the first three days -- fairly typical for me in the 72 hours following a binge – but that on no day did I ever feel full after lunch, even though it’s my largest meal of the day.

“Well, I didn’t binge,” I said. “But there was the olive oil and the sweet potato thing and…”

The olive oil was my realizing on about Day Six that I was supposed to be using one to two teaspoons of olive oil at lunch and dinner, not one to two tablespoons. (I’d thought it looked like a lot.) And the sweet potato was my following instructions and choosing what looked like a miniscule sweet potato – only to discover on an exchange list that “small” was four ounces. When I checked my receipt from the store, I discovered the one I’d bought (and eaten) was eight.

“Beth,” she said. “I have been doing this for a long time and I have never seen this.”

It turns out I lost nearly 10 pounds. And even taking into account that I was weighed about eight hours after a binge (which happened), and that I got my period a couple of days later (which also happened), it is a lot.

I felt like I was being scolded. It was about the only time in my life I’ve ever felt bad about losing weight. Because – as she reminded me – the point at the moment is to “normalize” my eating. It is not, much as I might like it to be, to lose weight.

I’d be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t happy about the weight loss. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t both happy and a little bit worried at the thought of a little bit more food at lunch, which I have been given. Happy for obvious reasons; worried because, well, because what if this week’s weight loss was a total fluke and I end up gaining from this? I’m barely OK with the idea of staying the same – I do not want to gain.

I must also confess that – thanks to my journalist ability to read upside-down – I caught sight of my weight on the paper. I’m going to hope this is last week’s weight (meaning the starting weight), and not this week’s, but it was 194. Which horrified me no end. But onward and – hopefully eventually – downward…

Not including today (because it's not over yet), eight days without a binge.

*For those of you who are curious about what the food plan I’ve been allotted is (and I know I would be), I’ll post it below. It is restrictive in terms of foods but not calories.

Breakfast: 1 cup of oatmeal with a single serving size container of 2 percent Fage and 6 oz. applesauce.
Mid-morning snack: 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1 apple
Lunch: 4 oz. protein, 1 cup of brown rice, vegetables, 1 to 2 tsp olive oil or other fat [this is being bumped up to 6 oz. protein this week]
Snack: 2 tbsp peanut butter on 1 slice of bread
Dinner: 4 oz. protein, ½ cup brown rice (or 1 small sweet potato or 1 cup squash), vegetables, 1 to 2 tsp olive oil or other fat
Snack: Banana 

Friday, 9 November 2012

Desperate Measures

For years I have written articles about food and weight loss. I’ve read hundreds of articles and studies. And I’ve successfully lost a ton of weight – or more accurately, certainly hundred of pounds, when you add it all up.

And yet I have no idea what to eat myself.

After years of starving and bingeing and dieting and overexercising and “eating  one plate” and only allowing myself 45 minutes a day of exercise and some combination of all of the above, I am I-don’t-even-know-how-many-pounds-heavier than I was for five years. Most of that weight has been put on since the beginning of July.

It’s fucking scary.

So Wednesday I went to see a nutritionist who specialized in eating disorders.

She listened to a brief recap of my history – and I tried not to cry when I told it -- and said something to the effect of: You have a very deeply entrenched problem with a lot of layers.

And I actually felt relieved: There is a reason why I can’t fix this problem myself.  And I felt slightly better just being in her office. Like I had taken the first step.

I have the world’s most restrictive diet at the moment. (I did feel slightly smug when I was allowed to “keep” the breakfast I eat every morning, though.) When I say “restrictive,” I mean in terms of foods I can eat, not in terms of calories. The idea is to get me to stop bingeing, not for me to lose weight (yet), unfortunately. I am not delighted, but at this point, I’m willing to do almost anything. I’d thought being slim would be enough to keep me that way – and after more than five years that way, I’d hoped maybe I had this whole issue kicked. But no.  

One thing I already have learned: I am way, way more sensitive to sugar than I thought. This morning I had some almond butter with my apple, and I reacted to it much more strongly than I did the peanut butter I’d had Wednesday afternoon. Which is to say immediately I wanted to eat another five servings. I checked the packet: It had evaporated cane juice as an ingredient.

Today is the first whole day I’ve eaten according to the food plan she gave me (I saw her at 1 pm yesterday). It feels a lot like a diet in that – to learn what portions look like -- I have to do a lot of weighing and measuring. I hate that. It reminds me of every crazy diet I’ve ever done. But it’s just a week. And desperate times call for desperate measures, even if they involve constantly buying more measuring spoons because I forgot to bring mine out.

(Yes, seriously.)