Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Somehow, Unbelievably

And like a delayed reaction, like stray cancer cells that have taken root, there was a binge.

It was Sunday, more than 48 hours after the ball – and after two days of clean eating. Over the 48 hours I'd had some cravings for various things, including, honestly, a binge. Coming back from a workout in Soho on Saturday morning, I passed a bakery and – not even having seen or smelled any of their goods – had a sudden desire to go in and buy the lot.

I dismissed it as hunger and carried on home for my snack.

Sunday morning, en route to breakfast with a friend, I decided that since normally it takes me 72 hours to detox from a binge, perhaps I might need the same cooling off period from Thursday's messy eating. "If you still want what you want on Monday, you can have it then," I told myself.

Sunday afternoon I thought: "To hell with this. It's the endless delayed gratification that makes me binge in the first place, isn't it?" And so I decided to go to the Magnolia Bakery and buy a slice of cake and have it for my snack. So far, so Normal Person, right?

I should have known this would not go well when I caught myself fibbing slightly about where I needed to turn off from a friend who was heading to the subway. And then quickening my pace. And then getting extremely impatient as the wait seemed interminable. (Thanks to the bizarre hours I tend to hit the place, I've actually never waited in the queue.)

I got my cake. I ate it. It seemed... watered down, somehow. The icing not as thick, the cake insubstantial and tasteless. And yet I kept eating, like if I consumed enough it would stack up into the perfect apex of flavor and texture.

I was supposed hit a spin class at 6.30, two hours away. I had been debating hitting the barre method class just before it. Go, I told myself. Go to class. You can totally do this. One ginormous slice of cake is not a binge, and doesn't have to be.

But already I Could. Not. Stop.

A cannoli cupcake and a cinnamon streusel muffin from another bakery. A few munchkins and the worst blueberry muffin I've ever had in my life (thanks Dunkin Donuts). Cornbread and an apple slice (the baked good, not the fruit) from the Gourmet Garage, where the wry Russian behind the counter watched me grab a cake sample and said; "It's Russian coffee cake. I come all the way from Russia for zis coffee cake we do not have back home." And on it went, seven stops in all.

As embarrassed as I am to admit the seven stops, I am at least as embarrassed to admit that that did not make me full to the brim.

Stop, I kept thinking. Stop now and you can go to spin class.

And at the same time, I was afraid to. I was home, semi-safe, with at least a pause in the bingeing. If I went out again for any reason, I was risking a two-part binge. Already I was thinking about what I would pass on the way home from class.

What if I spent the whole class thinking about what I could eat after?

What if I chased a spin class with, say, a cupcake from the Crumbs bakery across the street?

Just go, I told myself. You'll have to leave the house to get dinner at some point, so you might as well go spin if you possibly can.

And somehow, unbelievably, I did.

I got to spin class and focused on getting through one song at a time.

Somehow, unbelievably, I did.

When it was over I spied a friend and agreed to get dinner with her. We went to a (healthy) place she'd been wanting to try, and when we arrived, that's when the fullness hit me. I felt too sick to eat anything, so I sat while she ate. After a couple of hours, I suddenly decided I wanted to eat, but the kitchen had closed.

When we parted ways, I stood on the street corner, wavering. I wanted rice, among other things. Should I order? Where could I go?

Home, I thought. You can go home and not buy anything you shouldn't.

I went home and had cereal for dinner (something I do more often than I'd like to admit). I debated chasing it with various other things, and then thought, sharply, that is enough. Go to bed.

Somehow, unbelievably, I did.

This morning I had agreed to meet a PR at a new boxing class. (I know I could cancel, but I really do not want to get into the pattern of thinking commitments are elastic when I binge.)

I joked to the boxing instructor that I might not be able to jump rope because I'd taken down an entire cake (little did he know...). He answered: "Oh, don't worry. I took down a chandelier once."

I envied how oblivious he was to what I meant. I wish I were.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Ball of Nerves

A friend posted on Facebook a photo of the ball we attended last night and tagged two friends in it but not me.

I immediately wondered: Did I look embarrassingly awful? (I work at home alone most days, which means I am no longer practiced in getting dressed properly. I sent the above photo to two friends before I got enough courage to leave the house.) Did I do something awful? Did she know?

I have a history of both drinking and eating far too much at these types of events. Last night I don't think I ever reached the point of even being tipsy, and while I definitely ate too much, I did not reach the point of feeling sick. That said I did engage in my old tried-and-true: Excuses to go sneak off alone and eat. Not good.

Earlier, in the cab en route to the festivities, I found myself noting places that might be open for apr├Ęs-ball bingeing. (I know; I'm crazy.) I'm proud to say that at least I did not do that, and not because I was too drunk or full. Instead, I came home and had a pear and a couple of spoonfuls of almond butter (but not, I must note, the bar of dark chocolate in my gift bag – something I'm sure I would have attacked in the taxi at one point). Did I need that food? No. But was it better than going from shop to shop, or even just tearing through any random food in my apartment? Yes.

The last bunch of times I've attended this type of event – not that I've been to anything fancy for nearly a year -- I have been so full and sick I can't sleep. Not so last night. Still I woke up sluggish. I probably would have felt better if I'd gotten up and worked out, but I had actually planned my day around the fact that I might binge – which is to say, I had not scheduled any classes (which you pay for whether you attend or not) because I just didn't know in what shape I'd be.

I still had pregnant-stomach-from-eating-too-much this morning, but I'm counting last night as progress.

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Two-Hour Tour of NYC

NYC, on a scale of 1 to 10, you're a 13.1.

Yes, I ran the NYC half marathon today – a Central Park loop, then all the way south to Water Street -- not having logged so much as a single mile since the first week in January.

I was curious whether cross-training – which I have been doing – and muscle memory would be enough to carry me through the equivalent of two 10ks plus another half mile, and it was.

(Was it my best idea? Probably not. But as part of being kinder to myself I try not to do exercise that feels like punishment, so that means not running outside in extreme cold – thanks to my Reynaud's, my fingers and toes freeze no matter how good the insulation. Running on a treadmill also feels like torture, so I do not do it. Yes, one could argue running 13.1 miles sans proper training also is torture, but I started out figuring I'd just do a 10k and then see what happened. After all, I'd already paid the crazy huge non-refundable race entry fee.)

My time, for the record: 2:05:18, or 9:34 minute miles. To be honest, it was less of a challenge to my cardiovascular system than it was to my knees/legs. Crazy, but true.

Song that got me through mile 8: "Call Me Maybe." If you have the musical tastes of a 16-year-old (I do, sometimes, when I exercise), listen to this and laugh. It is ridiculous, and yet...


I survived the beauty spin, by the way... not something I want to do on a regular basis (not least of which is that I don't like exercising in the evening). But I've been there, done that and have the (small) t-shirt (and the Sisley lipstick, courtesy of a beauty PR) to prove it. Ridiculous.

I am Sweaty McSweaterson in a normal workout, to the point where I sometimes feel I am performing some kind of public service – officially being the most drenched person so that no one else has to be embarrassed. Spinning turns the room into a sweatbox, so my hair look like a crazy person's (not for me, that NYC de-rigueur perfect bun on top of my head that does not move) and my clothes look like I've thrown them in the washing machine and put them on without drying them.

Beauty girls do not sweat; they glow. I eyed them and glowered.

Actually, not really – maybe it's sign of age, but I felt self conscious for about 20 seconds before shrugging it off. I'm not a "beauty girl," and thank goodness for that.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Freaky Friday

So I have been invited to the super-exclusive beautyspin -- beauty editors (Vogue! Marie Claire! Elle!) plus beauty publicists for the luxe brands have their own weekly spin class in Union Square. (Yes, only in New York.)

They have t-shirts and they only come in size small. And I have been instructed to "rock a fun lip."

I feel like I should be spending all day prepping, in manner of prom / first date / wedding, except I have all the words in the world to write today and no time even to fix my grotty fingernail polish.

Just call me the #beautyspin (yes, it has a Twitter hashtag) girl in need of a makeover... I don't think this is going to be pretty.

Sunday, 4 March 2012


Suddenly, I am tagging every sentence with the word "yet."

I have never started a binge on cottage cheese (yet).

Or on raisins (yet).

Or on broccoli (yet).

But I could. Because only as recently as two months ago, I had never started a binge on fruit. Or Cliff bars. Or mini Luna bars that had been sitting around my apartment for at least 8 months, including through a very hot and sticky New York summer. I had not binged more than twice in a single day.

I don't cling to "well, at least I don't do X" – because I am becoming aware that it could be a matter of time.

It could be, I recognize, but it doesn't have to be. I am still in the game.


One Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago I was at the gym in Toronto, happily noting that my arms had a bit more definition than I'd seen in a while. Hours later I could not stop eating.

The bingeing – multiple times a day – continued all through the three-day weekend. It was so bad I could not button my coat that Monday night. I managed to get ahold of myself for three days, then plunged headlong into another round on the Friday, which carried on all that weekend.

I mostly avoided mirrors this week. I don't need to get on a scale to know I'm heavier than I've been in several years. Let's just say I was grateful that I work for myself, and didn't have to attempt to put my jeans on last Monday morning. I can say fairly confidently that they would not have fit, because today – after six days without a binge – they are uncomfortably tight.

But they are not going to get any tighter, because, you know, I am still in the game.


I went to Toronto to see Friend Bearing Chocolate – and to meet the Spanish-Mexican fellow Toronto expat she's been dating for a year, and that she will almost certainly marry. I was delighted for her; I was. But he publicly calls her – my reserved, Scottish friend – "Kissy," and the two of them make my friends in France look like the ice prince and princess. Let me remind you that the friends in France pass time waiting for the light to change by kissing (and often punctuate sentences that way.)

He (the soon-to-be-fiance) talks to her in a baby voice, and sings "Please Don't Go" when she heads out. Being in the same room with the two of them is to feel like you are sitting on the edge of their bed, watching.

I did not enjoy it.

On Saturday night, we went to party thrown by a 40-year-old single woman. Which I predicted would have loads of couples, a handful of random single woman the birthday girl had met at some time-filling activity or another (book club, wine club, etc), and zero single men. And I was exactly right, down to the random single women who were about 93 percent normal and only friends because they were all about the same age and single.

It was fascinating, actually, and I was so amused with watching the interactions and trying to be a good guest by running around meeting people (and also being amused having to make the distinction that I'd lived in London, England, not London,Ontario) that I was surprised at the very end of the night when this guy walked up to me.

He was 49 years old, thrice divorced, and the father of 3. Also the head janitor at a school an hour outside Toronto. He said: "Hey, I'm single" -- those exact words -- in about the first 45 seconds. All I could muster in response was: "How's that going for you?"

Oh dear.


I should say it's taken me this long to write a post not so much because I am as bored as you must be with the binge, lather, rinse, repeat cycle, but because I have been working a lot. Most of it is really good -- publications I love and am proud to appear in. Some days I am so busy and, yes, happy -- and grateful that I can make a living doing what I love -- that I race around feeling like a New Yorker. Whatever that is, anyway. Which makes the bingeing all the more puzzling.

And then there are other days -- like Wednesday, when I went to a reading for an oral history of London. It made me so nostalgic for London I actually could hardly bear it. The other day I walked down Bleecker Street and there was a woman carrying a bag from the Gill Wing shop, on Upper Street, which I used to pass every day. I had to pause for a moment to think where I was. There are days when I catch sight of the
Empire State building all lit up and think: "How is it that I live here? How the heck did this happen?" (Except obviously I don't say "heck.")

I did not, for the record, binge on Wednesday. Nor did I consider it. Was that because I was working on day three without bingeing and was just desperate enough not to? I don't know. I really don't. Sometimes I know that no amount of food will fill certain holes. But other times, I know and yet truly do not care.