Tuesday, 31 January 2012


I woke up Sunday at 6 am with thoughts of cinnamon buns dancing in my head. I was half awake, and full-on plotting a binge.

I tried to just carry on with my day. I got up, I ate breakfast, I went to see friends. One foot in front of the other. It doesn't matter why you want to binge, I told myself. It will go away. You mustn't think, you must accept. A thought is not an action.

By late afternoon, as I was leaving a friend's apartment, I realized the desire to binge had evaporated. I felt smug.

I went for a crazy two-hour spin session – two hour-long spin classes (spin classes are usually 45 minutes, so an hour already is a long one) back to back, something a friend had been encouraging me to try. I killed it, as they seem to say in NYC -- I finished in the top 3 for both classes.

I came home, ate my dinner, and wrote a story due that night. I was exhausted, and starting to think about food again.

Someone had once told me that if the goal is to get to bed without having binged, sometimes it's best just to get to bed. It was just before 11 pm. I climbed into bed and fell asleep with a smile on face.

It was not to be.

About 2.30 am I woke up and could not go back to sleep.

Maybe my body needs more food? I thought. I had a half an apple. Then I had another whole apple. Then I had a banana.

I have never in my life started a binge based on fruit, but Reader, that is exactly what happened.

Granola. Leftover artisanal peanut butter. Kind bars. Mini Larabars. Regular-sized Larabars. A package of "breakfast on the run" granola I'd been give at a New York Road Runners race. An Evol wrap I'd had sitting in my freezer for months. A dark chocolate spread I've had a jar of sitting around since we featured it in the magazine I haven't worked for since June. Yes, it may all have been "healthy" food, but still it was thousands of calories.

I have always known I could binge on anything, but now I guess I know for sure.

I threw out all the (rest of) the Larabars – there's no reason to eat them when there's real food to be enjoyed. I threw out the rest of the chocolate spread, because honestly, I'd never choose to eat it – it's really something I'd only reach for in a binge. And I vowed not to keep free food in my house – every single thing I binged on was something I'd been given to try or picked up for free (Kind bars were from the gym; I binged on them in Belize, actually), but never appealed enough actually to do so. (Of course, now that I'm no longer on staff anywhere, my opportunities for edible swag are fairly rare.)

I tried to carry on with my day as usual, meeting a friend of a friend from London for lunch at one of my favorite brunch spots. She commented on how good the cakes looked as we left; I thought about binging on the way home.

I didn't, partly because I was scheduled to attend a preview of a workout and I'd already cancelled the last time because I was sick (post-binge sick, not actual sick). I went to the workout, plotting what I wanted to eat when I was finished. I hoped maybe the desire to do so would evaporate with the workout, which occasionally happens.

It didn't.

I thought I had stopped just before the point where I feel like I want to throw up or die or both, but apparently not. At about 10.30 pm – a good three hours or so after the binge – I spoke to my sister and after about a half hour, I had to get off the phone. I felt so ill I couldn't concentrate, which made me feel worse, since my sister, aka the mother of three 19-month-olds, very rarely has time to speak on the phone.

So on to today. One foot in front of the other. I realized this morning that although I genuinely believe my life would not be better if I were thinner, nor do I want suddenly to be much fatter.

But as the song goes, you can't always get what you want – but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

I'm afraid to find out what that's going to be.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Skinny Up the Girl

A strange weekend.

On Saturday, I mentioned to an acquaintance who happens to be a Vogue editor that I was feeling slightly guilty for having ditched the half marathon I was supposed to run that morning – it was snowing, and I decided (for once) not to punish myself.

She said: "How can you even think about running in this? You're so skinny."

That makes no sense on a number of levels, yes?

Fashion note: Apparently Vogue editors swear by Uniqlo for cold-weather gear. Who knew?


The scene: A cocktail reception for Christies' old master paintings sale, Rockefeller Center

Guy: "You did a great job tonight."

Me: "Sorry, I think you must have the wrong person. I'm just a guest."

Guy: "No, I know. I just wanted to talk to you and needed an opening line."

I would possibly have swooned -- this sort of thing never happens to me -- were this guy not the age of my father, possibly older. And shorter than... well, he was short.


I left the reception and headed – in a reversal of binge trends -- directly to the Magnolia Bakery, which was, rather conveniently, just across the street.

Is it possible my palate has changed? It tasted impossibly sweet, not that that stopped me from eating. And eating. And eating.

I felt crazy ill that night – to the point of silent deals with whoever may or may not be up there that please please please if I could stop feeling so sick I would never eat Magnolia again. I actually slept almost all day Monday, except for a couple of hours spent filing stories and an hour attending an online class on business journalism. And I went to bed at 8.30 pm, and still proceeded to struggle to get up this morning.

At 11.35 am, still feeling lethargic, I made the snap decision to attend a barre method class – sometimes the only way to combat lethargy is to move, and quickly.

I threw on clothes and made it to a noon class just as it was starting. I can't say it was one of my more stellar workouts in terms of what I could do, but I focused on just getting through each song, and suddenly the workout was done. Fog lifted.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Turning the Page

Yesterday I caught sight of some old diet and fitness magazines I have and realized I have zero interest in reading them anymore.

I'd bought a bunch of them en route to Belize and noted that they stayed at the bottom of my beach bag, but I didn't think too much about it. I couldn't remember the last time I'd read one, but I have deadlines twice a day and have worked nearly every day (weekends included) of the past six months. So there are a lot of things I used to do that I don't do.

But for right now, I don't see myself going back to reading them. Not only don't I want magic diets or exercises, I don't need them. I know what works and doesn't work – for me, anyway.

I don't find the magazines inspiring. I couldn't muster any enthusiasm to read them -- and I can (and do) read everything.

Um, who am I?

I've been reading these magazines since I was about 12, when I'd sneak my mother's (she didn't like to share, and anyway, I felt slightly embarrassed to be reading 'mom' magazines) and read about how to walk off the pounds. For years these magazines have been my inspiration, my treat, my escape. I could read them and daydream about how perfect my life would be when I'd mastered whatever it was they suggested.

Because of course, I'd be thin, and thin is perfect.


I honestly cannot tell you how much I weigh or what size I am – let alone where I am on the thin scale (or am even on it). I know I'm heavier than I was in the last years in London, because today I tried on a pair of jeans I used to wear all the time there, and couldn't get them over my thighs. (Then again, I've known all year that I'm heavier than I was in London, so I'm not sure what good or productive I thought would come from trying them on.)

But I can say honestly that for the first time in as long as I can remember, I don't think my life would be better if I were thinner – and I have little desire to try to find out.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

You Better Belize It

First the eating was messy. Then it was bingeing. Then it was messy again. And just when I was thinking to myself: Maybe 2012 will be the year I don't binge, it happened.

On the morning of January 3 – a day that involved three airports and various car rides – I started eating in the morning and Could. Not. Stop. It was like someone else had taken over my body. The ¾ leftover candy bar in our refrigerator. Some homemade hot flour tortillas. Another round of homemade hot flour tortillas. And another. A handful of American chocolate bars. And I don't even like American chocolate any more. And this was just before we got on the first plane.

I had spent much of the week in Belize fearing whether my jeans would fit at the end of the holiday. I managed to get them on that very last morning, but then seemed to be on a one-woman mission to bust myself out of them, blowing up like Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka. At the tail end of the plane ride from Miami to JFK, I had to undo them covertly, I was so uncomfortable.

And when I got home at 10.45 pm, having been travelling since 7 am, there would have been just enough time to get to Magnolia Bakery, what I really wanted, but again I was too full. (Also too cold.)

I did crazy things on this trip. Two times I got a slice of cake then went back to the shop about four minutes later and bought another, claiming I had dropped it. (The only place I had "dropped it" was down my gob.) The person serving it to me would the second time place the container in a plastic bag, which (a) was embarrassing and (b) only made it take more time until I could eat it.

I could speculate about why I binged: The lack of exercise options (the streets were unpaved, potholed, and it was pouring rain). The feeling of not-quite belonging to our group of four, even though (obviously) I had been invited. The fact that one of the women in the group was sticking to the most rigid diet ever, which somehow seemed to kick me into new levels of defiance (why why why? Nobody was telling me I had to eat that way; maybe I felt like I should be, or wished I could have that discipline?) The feeling of shame that I can find going on vacation – something I know I am very lucky to be able to afford – so unbelievably difficult, and wish I were back home. The feeling of frustration that I cannot just overeat like a normal person (though I did have a few days of overeating that weren't bingeing, and those felt like the most incredible of victories). And more frustration that weeks and weeks of exercise and clean eating literally could be undone in seven days (there were clothes that fit at the beginning of the trip that did not fit midway through, let alone at the end). The feeling of shame that at meals I was eating quickly and cleaning my plate, which no one else was doing. The feeling of shame that I was getting cranky waiting an hour for food (standard island behavior -- and they don't offer you drinks or anything in the meantime.) Blah blah blah.

The truth is it doesn't matter. As I have been realizing over the past few weeks, knowing why I do it does not stop the urge.

I feel strangely not angry with myself, though. Or at least, not as angry with myself as I once might have been. I haven't given up.

This week I did things I don't normally do post-binge: I went out to dinner three nights out of seven. I accepted a spontaneous lunch invitation. Less control; more life. More Magnolia, maybe (though when a friend suggested it the day after I returned I have to say I did turn it down; I was too worried it would spike an 'I'll start tomorrow' binge, which could last weeks.)

Nor have I exercised as much as usual.

At the moment, I feel like a barrel with little arms and legs sticking out. (Or, if you have seen my arms, not-so-little arms.) But I have had seven days without a binge. I don't feel any slimmer, but I do feel unbelievably grateful. When you think you might never ever be able to stop – and really, that binge on the January 3 may well have been the worst one of my entire life – even one day feels unbelizeable.