Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Cake, The Whole Cake...

Yesterday, I took the cake.

My friend decided she wanted Magnolia, and so off we went. I actually didn't want any – well, didn't actively crave it – and so thought about saying no, but I wondered if it might lead to a binge either later in the day or in a few days' time.

I was unreasonably disappointed to see the cake was not its usual height (meaning my piece might not be as bit) and actually asked why, since the van-van was a good inch lower than the others.  

"It depends on who frosts it," came the reply. "It just means there's less frosting."

I frowned, embarrassed – as I still am, recounting this -- at how much that made me feel like crying. I love frosting. I thought: I didn't really want cake that badly but now I absolutelymusthaveit and what if the frosting isn't enough? What if it's just those few teaspoons less of frosting that make the difference between me feeling like I've had enough and me feeling like I need to eat another two or seven slices?

Unreasonable, moi?

"Do you still want it?" the guy asked. I might have yelled if I trusted myself to speak. I nodded.

"Don't worry, I'll give you a good piece," he said.


Feeling impatient (which I was, waiting to pay for my slice) and anxious pre-cake-eating is never ever a good sign. It is almost a 100 percent successful predictor that I will carry on and binge. I knew this, and yet... well, I didn't do anything about it.

My (jetlagged) friend wanted to go back to her place and eat her slice in air conditioning. I almost couldn't wait for her to go and then I tore into the cake like... well, like someone who would have been mighty embarrassed had anyone she knew seen her.

As soon as I'd finished I panicked. Actually, that's a lie – I panicked through the eating of the entire thing. The urge to binge was so strong I thought a cartoon hand would punch a hole straight through my stomach, reaching out and grabbing anything it could. Well, that's what I think in retrospect: In the moment I felt like I was going to explode from it. There was one moment, rooted on a spot on 12th Street, where I felt paralyzed from the strength of it all.

Then I blinked. I breathed. I headed into Cynthia Rowley, just curious to see if the prices there were the same as dresses of hers I'd seen at a boutique in Brooklyn earlier in the day. (Believe it or not, the dresses were more expensive in Brooklyn.) Then I lingered, trying on shoes. I even tried on a dress on sale.

I don't know whether she just was being diplomatic, but the saleswoman brought over the next size up, saying Rowley's sizes "are tough."

I don't like the size and I still can't judge how I look in clothes at this particular size. But I liked that it was a nice dress; a dress that fits at this size, and not one where the waistband or some other part is too tight but oh-I-can-squeeze-into-it. Yes, it would look better if I lost a few pounds, but these days, wouldn't most things?

I looked in the mirror and thought to myself -- no, willed to myself: You are not going to binge.

I bought the dress. Then I went home, grateful I had plans to meet a friend for dinner.


For the first time in longer than I can remember, I slept through my alarm this morning. Not "woke up and hit snooze seven times" but full-on-have-no-memory-of-hearing-it. I woke up three minutes before spin class started, and in a panic about everything I had to get done today, plus things that didn't necessarily have to get done today but have been cluttering my brain for a while.

I felt exhausted, in a fog, and full of rage all day. And all day I kept picking up the decision of when I might get to the gym and putting it down, which probably didn't help. Just before 8 pm, I was more than halfway to a barre class (I'd grabbed dinner a few blocks away from it), but then stood on the corner, wavering. I always wake up from exercise, and I think I really could use the sleep tonight. Plus I have exercised for at least the past five days, so maybe a day off is in order.

Noted: I was on high alert today, and will remain so. I haven't kept detailed notes of the past year of binges the way I've attempted to document these past three weeks, but from what I can reconstruct based on blog entries, there is a 48-to-72-hour danger zone after each strong urge to binge that I manage to wait out. I can't pull the urge out by the roots, it seems.

I realize in retrospect I also felt all day like I was waiting for something (bad) to happen. A binge? Not today. Not yet.

Day 26.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Day 25

The title tells you I didn't binge. There is, of course, more to the story – and it even involves the Magnolia Bakery! – but it's going to have to wait until after some pressing deadlines, alas. 

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Waiting Game

Over the past 23 days, I have eyed up food – black and white cookies, cupcakes, muffins, pizza – but today was the first day I have really, truly wanted to binge and genuinely feared I might.

I had a late lunch at 2.30 pm with a friend visiting from London: eggs, pancakes and sausage, which I inhaled. For dinner we had burgers (I had mine atop a salad – so no carbs, which usually I require to feel full). Maybe it was that I'd tried on a couple of dresses this morning and was upset to find that even after three weeks of not bingeing they still didn't fit. Maybe it was because I almost hoped she'd suggest Magnolia Bakery cupcakes (which she loves) and was a little disappointed (but slightly relieved) when she didn't -- partly because I didn't trust myself, and partly because I knew if we went I'd be wanting a huge slice of cake, which I'd be too embarrassed to order after the food we'd already eaten. 

I don't know what it was. All I know is that I spent a huge chunk of the movie – we saw the new Woody Allen one – thinking about food and wanting to binge. (Who knows – maybe some of the problem was that the movie just wasn't that engaging!) When we left I thought: Hmmm, I could still make it to Magnolia.

I decided I'd have a McDonalds ice cream cone, which (so far) I have been able to eat without it setting off anything crazy. As I walked down Seventh Avenue I popped in to a newsagent to buy a drink, and there were cupcakes. I thought about them – I did.

I nearly ran out of there.

I bought my cone and ate it, and then went to another newsagent for some diet soda (a writing crutch for me). I allowed myself to really contemplate the muffins – going as far as to think about what they would taste like, which is never, ever a good idea.

And suddenly, after what felt like hours of waiting it out, the urge was gone.

Day 24. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Free Fall

Maybe I would have cried anyway. But tonight at yoga, when we began on our backs, chests (and therefore hearts) elevated by a block, tears ran down my cheeks.

It's been that kind of evening. I'm not really sure why – well, that's a lie. I do but I don't have the energy to unpick it – let alone publicly – right now. It is all the usual stuff, nothing new or dramatic. (Maybe I should be grateful, at least, for that.) It's just that I can crater breathtakingly quickly, and without too much provocation. I was happy and busy until sometime midafternoonish.

It probably didn't help that I spoke briefly to my sister, who always manages to make me feel like a freak. In a conversation that lasted all of 10 minutes, she twice (maybe three times) managed to question my decision to go to Greece, and after I told her it was probably going to be another quiet weekend, said a little too hastily and desperately: "But that's by choice, right?" Like, please do not make me worry about you – I would like to get on with my evening. Frankly, I can't really blame her for that.

It is evenings like this that make me wonder why I even try to give up bingeing, if I'm going to be unhappy anyway. Although just typing that I immediately remember that the misery and self-loathing bingeing produces is an order of magnitude or several greater – and that doing so will not make even one of the things dogging me any easier. In fact, it will make it worse.

I just needed to say that out loud.

Day 23.

PS The Italian psychotherapist texted today – he's back from his (Italian) vacation. I didn't expect to hear from him again after I ignored his text just before I left for London. Presumably he's facing the same slim pickings I am, is my best explanation for it, because I don't think that date was me at my most charming. Even if I went out with him again – something I would rather have another evening like tonight than do – I wouldn't find out.  

Friday, 27 July 2012

A Stomach Never Forgets

I've always prided myself in having a good memory, and sometimes my stomach does an even better job than my brain.

It seems not to forget so much as a stray, fleeting thought about whether hey, maybe I'm not that hungry and will be able to skip my snack and maybe lose some weight. The minute I so much as threaten it with slightly less food, it asserts itself. Oh yeah? It seems to say. You will be convinced you're starving all day today.

That's what happened today. I ate my breakfast and immediately wanted more. (Remember the Operation game, where the object was to lift out the little plastic bone or kidney without touching the sides? Sometimes I feel like my food does that in reverse – it goes down without touching anything, meaning I feel like I could eat the meal again immediately. And maybe another four times after that.)

I waited out the urge to eat my morning snack right after breakfast and – as I left the gym – thought to myself: Wow, I could totally live like this. I'm not hungry. And then immediately I thought: Hmmm, maybe I'm eating too much? Maybe I should cut back a little bit? I sat down to do my 45 minutes of fiction-writing at 11 and realized I actually hadn't eaten my snack yet. Like, had almost forgotten about it.

I told myself to eat it anyway, because I know any kind of restriction can lead to bingeing – and because I am determined to get to 30 days without a binge. And all day – even though I ate the usual meals – I was hungry. How hungry? Tonight, so much so that I had to have my extra snack.

It probably didn't help that today brought another invitation I decided I was better off turning down: To a barbecue and beer tasting on Saturday. I am a disaster when it comes to eating food off trays or in a parade of little bits – for years my tried-and-true strategy was no party-eating standing up, and I have always struggled with tapas and mezze. I don't really like beer – or, for that matter, a lot of barbecue (I am not a fan of spicy sauces, or a lot of any kind of sauce). Not, of course, that either of those dislikes would stop me from consuming vast amounts if I got started. Which I am not even giving myself the option of doing, at least not this Saturday.

It occurred to me tonight that maybe the hunger was for a bigger life, because mine feels awfully small at the moment. But bingeing is all about instant gratification, about fear that there will never ever be enough and that my turn will never come. I have to believe that someday it will – if I can stop bingeing long enough.

Day 22.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Sized Up

Today I realized that sometimes I am just hell-bent on feeling bad about myself.

This afternoon I went to press preview of an exercise clothing line. I rarely attend these kinds of events these days – they are more for stylists who would (the brand hopes) be seeing clothes they want to use for photo shoots, and for editors who want an excuse to get out of the office and (usually) get free stuff – but still feel from time to time I must take up the invitation just to keep my seat warm, so to speak.

In London, I can remember the first time I got sized up by a fashion PR and handed a bag with a size small in it – the thrill and validation I got from it. But at an event I went to a couple of months ago I got handed a top that was a medium and bottoms that were a large – accident? I felt even worse about myself a couple of weeks ago at a preview of a new exercise class that also involved a swimwear fashion show. I don't know what anyone else's bag contained, but mine had a scarf – did that mean they'd deemed me too fat for a bathing suit? Tonight I looked in the bag and fumbled with the tag on the top, my heart (seriously) jackhammering. It was a small.

Instead of feeling happy or relieved or anything positive, I immediately wondered (a) if it were a mistake, or (b) everyone received that size. (If I were crazy, I would Google if that brand does XS – actually, I know they do – and start obsessing about that.)

What am I talking about? I am crazy. But at least I know it – and sometimes, can even laugh about it.

Day 21.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Unkindest Cut

Here's the truth: Haircuts are painful.

I don't enjoy staring at myself in the mirror, but for me what's tougher to handle is the expectation that seems to come with them. Where am I taking my just-stepped-out-of-a-salon self? Every single person who comes in contact with you at the salon will ask you some variation of that question.

And much as I'd like to take advantage of my beautifully blowdried hair, sometimes I don't have anywhere great to go. And other times I planned to but then plans change. And trying to swap appointments to suit, say, dates is impractical – partly because they're so rare, and partly because that level of fuss makes the letdown even worse. Never mind so I shaved my legs for this – I think: I won the appointment lottery (sometimes how it feels in NYC) for this?

The last time I got a haircut I ended up bingeing. I felt so desperate to do something with my shiny, swingy locks – and so lame not to have anything fabulous – that I went to a random party I'd been vaguely invited to full of people where I couldn't find anyone to speak with. (I suppose I might have tried harder to start a conversation – I think I was already set on bingeing at that point.) No one looked at me or acknowledged me, and I stuffed down cheese and sushi and then ate my way home.

Tonight I met a friend for a low-key evening. The people next to us in the restaurant were clearly on a date, and the friend always manages to meet men (and had, the week before, met one at that very restaurant). I didn't wish I'd stayed home, but there were definite flickers of what-should-I-go-gorge-myself-on-when-I-get-out-of-here?

Answer: Nothing.

Day 20.  

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Of Chekhov and Cheese

Sonya and the doctor had a late night snack of cheese in the production of Uncle Vanya I saw tonight. I couldn't even really see the cheese but I couldn't stop thinking about it. I am the world's most suggestible human being.

The production was fantastic, but still my mind drifted during the show, as – embarrassingly – it often does at the theatre. Like poking a bruised area to see if it still hurts, I am constantly scanning to see if I'm hungry. (Tonight, I wasn't.) That's how it always was for me at the theater, as it was in most of my life: Feeling like I'm starving, so passing time until the next meal – or so stuffed and yet passing time until the next binge opportunity (or until I feel less full.)

I listened to Vanya bemoan that he was 47 and thought: Fuck, that's just 10 years away. And then I felt a crushing sadness for all the years and things and people I lost to bingeing. Was I able to concentrate in so much as a single class in college? My cousin is heading to my alma mater for law school, and as we talked about it last week I had memories of bingeing my way down to the Commons (in particular at one old bakery I don't think exists anymore) en route to the newspaper offices (where we'd order late-night pizza or calzones), gorging at the dining halls, and buying pints of Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream at the Delhi deli, our nickname for the (wait for it) Indian-run deli on the corner.

I wrapped my arms around myself and experimentally squeezed my arm muscles with my hands – I took a class today that involved pushups, ok? Then it occurred to me that for what may be the very first time in my life, I am not waiting. Not waiting for the next opportunity to sneak off and binge, not waiting to be thinner, not (at least, not always) waiting for the next meal. It suddenly made life seem a lot simpler – no endless plotting required. It also made life seem wide open and full of possibility. Maybe someday I will have cheese in front of me and be able to linger in front of it without wondering how much more I can have – and maybe, just maybe, my life will be much bigger than all of that.

Day 19. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Change of a Dress, the Sequel

Who can I petition to complain that more than two weeks of not bingeing does not erase completely the effects of nearly two weeks of bingeing?

Of course I know this, but today I got to confront proof of it in my bathroom mirror.

Tired of slobbing around in the same maxidress, I put on a dress I bought in about 45 seconds flat in a Next in Oxford on the first day of my trip to England. (My luggage had not arrived, and I was looking for something supercheap and could not – having already binged off and on for a little over three days – face trying anything on, or at least, anything that might suggest what size I really was.)

It's not the kind of dress I normally would buy – a scoop neck, cap sleeves, weird elastic waist (but not, in my humble opinion, of the frumptastic variety). I hated buying it; hated that the first thing I've bought in ages is not anything I really wanted; hated that I would own anything that would remind me, as if I needed any reminding, of bingeing. And most of all, I hated knowing when I bought it that I would not want to go shopping in London, something I usually love. I had not yet binged on the day that I bought the dress, at about 5 pm, but I later did.

When I put on the dress this afternoon, as I was getting ready to meet a friend for dinner, first I focused on my stomach.

In my crazy head, it is a scarily short leap from "ugh, look at my stomach" and "I don't think my waist is ever going to come back"  to "I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life" – the last one being a feeling my body converts directly to "I'm hungry; let's binge."

But I took a deep breath. A friend had texted me this morning that she binged last night and was feeling tortured. "So tired of starting over," she wrote. I know the feeling, and at the moment, I feel lucky that the mere idea of having to is acting as a pretty strong deterrent to destructive eating. 

At the Greek restaurant I ordered something I'd never usually allow myself to order – something I wanted (the souvlaki platter), instead of my usual dish that I know both fills me up and doesn't make me want to binge. I spent part of the meal arguing with myself about leaving some over, because it was pork and oil and feta and a yogurty dressing and rice and more oil in the rice.

As I walked home I had a brief moment of panic. What if I'm hungry later, even after I ate all that? What if this stomach never goes away? What if I'm alone alone alone alone alone...

Deep breath.

Day eighteen. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Not Flaking on the Flakes

"Want anything from London?" I e-mailed my New York Times editor, not really expecting her to take me up on the offer. As you'd expect, our correspondence tends to be businesslike, although – in a recent not-directly-article-related exchange we had, which also happens to be the only such exchange we've ever had -- she had revealed she had once lived in England and loved it.

"I'd love a Flake," she wrote. "And maybe when you come back we can get a coffee for the exchange since we've never actually met."

Invitation to come in and meet a New York Times editor? Yes, please.

That I might have to make an appearance at the New York Times – no less, the Styles section of the Times (home of the glossiest-looking freelancers) – as a writer to whom they pay actual money to write about fitness was in the back of my head almost every time I binged in London. Maybe it was even there every time; all the time.

At some point during the trip I began to wonder if I could even handle getting a couple of Flakes from one continent to another. Never mind if I ate them – what if they kicked off a binge I couldn't stop? (You know, because my history of stopping binges once they've started is so fantastic.) I debated getting someone to mail me a couple, but doubted they'd survive customs – or the NYC heat. If things got desperate, I had once spied some Flakes (familiar yellow wrapper and purple text, though the text happened to be in Urdu) at a newsagent on Greenwich Avenue and 10th Street. For me, it's a "clean" newsagent – meaning one where I have never allowed myself to buy binge food, because it is one I go to almost every day – which means I try not to contemplate the food offerings. So I hadn't looked to see if they'd had any Flakes recently.

As I feared I might, I debated eating the Flakes on the plane ride home, sometime probably around the time I debated buying in-flight duty free chocolate and eating it all. But I didn't. I got home on July 4 and put the Flakes in my refrigerator, where they've sat ever since.

I had a brief debate with myself about how much weight I could lose – should try to lose – before revealing I was back, and therefore possibly having to make an appearance. But for maybe the first time ever, I discarded the idea of doing anything drastic, even extra exercise. Your focus is just not to binge, I told myself.

After nearly two weeks of not bingeing, I felt sufficiently emboldened to say I was back and hadn't flaked on the Flakes (yes, that's what I wrote). She said she was swamped for the next couple of weeks, but did I want to come in on Monday the 30th? The restricter in me, the extreme dieter, immediately was delighted at the thought of extra days with which to torture myself with punishing eating plans and exercise regimens. Except, whoa, hang on, I don't do that anymore, I thought. I have tried for 37 years to control my weight that way and it's stopped working. My job is not to binge.

And while I confess that sometimes I hope and wish I lose weight just by not bingeing, mostly I really do want just want to, well, not binge. Since I got back from England, I have not done crazy workouts. Most are 45 minutes; some aren't even that long. I eat an extra snack – one at night – if I need it, something I never ever would have done before. Yes, I worry sometimes that "if I need it" will turn into something I expect every night, but then I return to the day I am in. Do I need it tonight? If I do, I have it.

On Friday my editor e-mailed asking if I would like to change our meeting to a time when we could also meet with her boss. It didn't seem like an invitation I could turn down.

Because of his vacation schedule and then hers, the meeting is now not until late August. For a brief moment, I was too busy being excited by the prospect of possibly being thinner by then even to care about the delay. Immediately that was replaced with: Your job is not to binge. Today. Just today. I may actually even believe that.

Day 17.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

All Right in the End

The food called to me today. Not particularly loudly, but it was there, more audible than it has been in a couple of weeks.

The other day I looked wistfully at some black and white cookies when I was in the Guy & Gallard, availing myself of their wifi while drinking my diet Dr. Browns cream soda (best-ever diet soda in the world, though Barq's diet vanilla root beer, which I've found only on the soda machine of the future). But today there was some full-on longing: As I walked home from yoga, I wanted everything I smelled (pizza, linguine with clam sauce, Belgian waffles) or saw (cannoli, cake at Amy's Bread, even a stupid Larabar coconut cream pie bar.)

I know it's because I'm a bit low and feeling sorry for myself. This week I've made a couple of decisions I know are the right ones for me, but still I resent that I've had to make them. (Please note I am fully aware both are very first-world problems to have.)

Tonight I opted not to take up an invitation to go on an ethnic food excursion I was told is usually a lot of writers boozing it up in a faraway corner of a distant borough that is nearly impossible to get home from on one's own (and this is coming from a travel writer and longtime New Yorker who has been going to these for years.) I would only know one person – and she would know everyone else well. Given the unpredictable food and copious alcohol – and let's note my tendency to binge with these two factors – and the possibility of being trapped (also a binge trigger) I opted out. At first glance, it seems a very isolating thing to do.* But if I am bingeing, I'm not really there, either. I'm in my head, plotting how much and can I get more and how-unfair that-none-of these-desserts-are-really-what-I-want-but-I'm-eating-them-all-anyway and actually, if I'm going to eat all this could I get home before the Magnolia Bakery closes and oh-f—k-I-can't-so-what-can-I-have-instead. Blah blah blah.

Nor could I face the possibility of waking up tomorrow post-binge and having to spend another weekend detoxing from it and feeling the level of shame I'd feel from a public binge. So I stayed home, went to yoga (that's this week's obligation to it checked off), and cleaned my bathroom. (I wasn't kidding yesterday when I said I led a quiet life.) I also nearly had a fit – and very briefly, I'm talking split-second, contemplated a binge -- when I realized the little container of sauce was missing from my dinner.
The other decision I made was not to go on a beach holiday in August to a Greek island with a good friend from London and a friend of hers from NYC – both people I'd gone to Belize with. I'd thought I would go to London or Provence before or after the trip, but the timing doesn't seem to work, and the idea of long-haul flights plus planes-trains-automobile to get to this island to get to a beach seemed a little crazy. Especially because it is a crazy-hot summer in New York – it's not like I am in need of heat, like I was during the winter (Belize).

And speaking of Belize, I have binged like mad on every single trip I have taken this year: that one, London, even the brief sojourn to Toronto. Worrying about whether I will binge and loathing myself every day for being able to stop and freaking out about whether any of my clothes will fit at the end of the holiday is not a vacation. Nor is it a vacation to return from one more stressed and exhausted than ever (because that's what endless bingeing does), and to first have to start recovering from that. It is not a vacation when all you want is to escape yourself, and feel more trapped than ever.

I have travelled before without bingeing, and I'm hopeful that at some point soon I will again. But right now, I don't think I can. And believe me, I hate that. I think it's unfair. But as my mother used to say when my sister or I would complain that the other had gotten something better: "Life's not always fair."
I'm also thinking about a line I particularly liked from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which I saw with my aunt last night: "It will be all right in the end. And if it's not all right, it's not the end."

Day 16.

 *For the record, I made this decision before I heard about the shootings in Colorado. Tonight does seem like a night to be with friends, but would I feel better or worse with people I don't really know? I guess it doesn't matter.

Friday, 20 July 2012

"How dreary – to be – Somebody"

"I have a VERY important question 4 u..." read the text message from a very old friend I had seen for the first time in about six months last night, and who is not given to hyperbole.

I received the text about a half hour later than he'd sent it. "Been in a movie, sorry. What?!" I responded.

"I'll call u when I get home. I just had a horrible xperience that I know u can help me with."

"OK, really hope you're OK."

"I'm ok, it was just upsetting on a number of levels," he wrote.

I spent the whole 45 minutes until he called panicking. I wracked my brain for what awful thing I could have done, what horrible thing he could have learned about me from some random person in New York. I couldn't think of anything bad I had said about him full stop, never mind to anyone we know in common.

When his name finally flashed up on my phone I answered nervously, waiting for the anger in his voice. There was none. The issue was serious – in an existential crisis type way, not a life-threatening one -- but it wasn't about me. He just wanted my help.

The wave of relief was so huge I had to focus particularly hard not to be so swept up in it that I couldn't help him. (I do blame at least a tiny piece of all on a kind of BN2 post-traumatic stress disorder, because I always did something wrong in his eyes, and 99 percent of the time I was unaware of it until he unleashed his fury.)

Part of the binge eating cycle is the endless drama. Everything is either too much to deal with (too full, too fat, too tired, too something) or not worth dealing with until it becomes impossible to ignore. Forget the elephant in the room – I can avert my eyes, or creep around-- the elephant has to be standing on my toes.

I don't want to say I crave drama, but it certainly seems to be a familiar way of life if you don't deal with anything until it's a crisis. Or if you sometimes say things you know you shouldn't – OK, OK, gossip or lie  – because you can't think of any other way to connect, or because you're afraid of being honest about how you really feel, or if you're so drugged out on sugar that you're not really thinking properly. I'm not proud of it, but I've done all of these.

I lead a pretty quiet life these days compared to the one I used to have. It's even quieter when you remove – as I have been trying to –all the noise in my head that comes from simply telling the truth about what I need and want.

The other day I felt a little sorry for myself, thinking just how quiet my life has been for the past couple of weeks. But today's episode was a useful reminder of how little I miss the anxiety and even terror of being found out. Dare I even admit that the idea crept into my head that sometimes it feels good to be me. Just me.

Day 15. 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Day 14

Long, hot day. And now it's 1.15 am, and I'm going to get to bed before I end up doing anything that would make me have to start the day count over!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Better Days

Yesterday, my sister posted photos on Facebook of a family gathering this past weekend with her husband's side – a huge clan that gathers for all kinds of events. I looked wistfully at the photos, because – thanks to deaths and grudges older than my sister and me -- our side of the family is tiny, and with a history of gathering only for milestone events (weddings, if that).

"I'm sure it had its trying moments," I wrote to my sister. "But I'm glad the munchkins [my nephews] get to have the experience."

Today she posted photos of the boys' birthday party back in June. These I also clicked through wistfully, because although I attended the event, I wasn't there. I had started bingeing the day before, which carried on to the day of the party (and on through my trip to London) – and at the point I'm guessing the photos were taken, I had popped back to her house as a timeout. I had been so full I could hardly stand up straight. Eventually I recovered enough to rejoin the party, which was at a park three blocks away, but the damage was done. I remember spending the last bits of the event loathing myself for bingeing for what was, then, the second day in a row. So even though I was there, I wasn't.

As always, I hope that was the last time I do something like that. But all I can say for anything close to sure is that at least today, I will not do that.


Last night comes back to me in flashes of shame. Not because I did anything terrible, but because I agreed to it in the first place.

I was meeting Mr. Disappointment, and it was, as his moniker would suggest (but I am an appallingly slow learner), a disappointment – even though this was to be meeting as friends.

After a lot of last-minute back and forth over the past few weeks, and nothing quite working out, we finally met up for a movie last night. He was driving back from the country, and said he'd meet me at 8.50 (movie was at 9.30) at a theatre in the East Village.

Ten minutes before the appointed time, he texted me that he was at a restaurant nearby grabbing food, and I agreed to come over there. (I'd already eaten.) I hadn't seen him since the beginning of May, and my first thought upon seeing him was: Ick. He looked sweaty and dirty and I'd forgotten about his weird front teeth. He had on cut-off jean shorts (yes, really) and black socks and black sneakers.

It was a noodle kitchen and he was seated at the counter, where there was no room for me. So I stood there awkwardly in the steam, feeling ridiculous and extraneous. Which is pretty much how I felt for the rest of the night.

We saw Savages. I am a somewhat violent movie watcher – which is to say, I react somewhat violently when there is violence, and in this film there is a lot – and at one point he looked over and said: "Are you OK?" When the film was over he said: "I'm going this way," pointing east. I said, "I'm going that way," pointing west.

He kissed me on both cheeks and I walked off without looking back. Rare for me, I didn't turn on my iPod and daydream. Instead I reviewed the evening, such as it was, and thought: You know what, if I want to see a movie I can go and see one myself, because that's pretty much what happened here. And then I thought something novel, at least for me: I deserve better.

Day thirteen.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Dream a Little Dream

I had a dream last night that I started bingeing. All I remember about it is that it involved two ice cream sandwiches, or maybe – quite probably -- it was my inability to decide between the two kinds that kicked off the binge. One looked like a homemade ice cream sandwich with flat all-chocolate biscuits (not my favorite) and ice cream flecked with something, possibly even mint (not a fan) and the other was the kind you can buy anywhere – I think vanilla between chocolate chip cookies. I don't remember anything else except the frustration, the exhaustion, the crushing disappointment of having to start all over again, too full.

And then I woke up.

This morning I caught sight of myself in the mirror and thought: I'm starting to feel more like myself. And then I thought: What does myself feel like? When you feel like yourself, what does that feel like?

Forgive me – it's 1 am and I'm tired and I had a disappointing not-quite date with Mr. Disappointment, who I have not seen since we first went out at the beginning of May. It's left me... well... a bit mixed up. Disappointed. Embarrassed. Sad. Maybe I'll pick it further apart tomorrow. Maybe I won't. Is this really who's left in the pool? Don't even tell me I just have to hang on a few more years for the refugees from divorces. Sigh.

Also today (or really, yesterday), I ran a mile today. My first since April and this bout with plantar fasciitis. I ran it slowly (10:26), not-too-painfully, continually scanning for any pain in my foot – and wondering how on earth I used to run multiples of these like it was no big deal.

Day 12.

Monday, 16 July 2012


Still suffering from an attack of the so-what-does-it-all-matter-anyways, which has spread to all aspects of my life.

Last week, for what might have been the first time ever, I spent 45 minutes a day working on a (silly chick-lit) novel I started years ago. Friday and yesterday I started thinking about (seemingly) insurmountable problems in the novel (or should I say chapter, because that's really all it is at this point). I thought about how many problems there are to solve in it, and what a waste of time all that problem-solving will be if I can't figure out what happens after the first couple of chapters. And anyway, even if I finish it will probably be a shitty chicklit novel that no one will publish, and even if someone does publish it probably it will have about 10 readers, maybe nine, since my grandmother is no longer around to buy one. And it won't be a big enough deal to review but if someone did...

I've very nearly talked myself out of bothering. And writing a novel has been something I have been talking about doing all my life.

And I know at least as well as anybody that writing does not happen until you put words down on paper. One after another. It is something I rue on evenings when I expect to be up all night writing articles – that unlike so many other jobs mine is not one that can be over when the clock strikes a certain time. And the half-doing my job only results in having to do it again and again until an editor says I've got it right.

Sometimes – usually – I write a whole lot of (crummy) stuff that (somewhat mournfully) I delete after I figure out what the hell it is I'm really trying to say. (The mourning, in my case, is not for the stunning prose but rather for how many hours went down the drain with each sentence I highlight and then apply the left-pointing arrow to.)

But I have no choice but to put one word down and then another and hopefully another. Minute by minute. Sentence by sentence. Step by step.

Meal by meal.

Day 11.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Still Fighting It

Today, in what I both suspect and fear will be a recurring theme, I had moments of despair, feeling that everything I'm doing is pointless.

So I'd like to get to 30 days without bingeing. But what happens after Day 30? Day 31.

It never ends. It will never end.

And frankly, today hasn't even been that much of a struggle.

I am very well aware of the benefits – both physical and psychological -- of not bingeing, of course. But sometimes, the times when I want to do it, I just don't care. And sometimes, like today, I actually mourn that I cannot do it. It's like thinking wistfully about a bad relationship (for the record, something I actually do not do in the case of BN2.)


I went back to yoga today, though not the studio with the horrendiferous class. My sweatworking date for the crap class runs a yoga newsletter, and she agreed with me that my neighborhood might be the only one in NYC that is not overflowing with studios. But she told me about a new one that recently opened, and when I Googled it, I discovered two teachers from my old yoga studio in midtown (the one where I'd do lunchtime yoga; now sadly closed anyway) now teach there. Half the battle with me and yoga these days has been that I can't work myself up to going when I'm not sure what I'm going to be getting into.

Today's class was 75 minutes of very gentle vinyasa flow that was both too gentle and slightly too long (I have yoga ADD; those 45 minutes lunchtime classes used to be ideal). But it felt good to get back on the mat, and I bought a new student special of unlimited classes for 30 days. If I go to just four classes it's already a good deal. I'm aiming for two a week.

Day 10.

Saturday, 14 July 2012


Noted: I have been crazy tired lately – struggling to get out of bed, and wanting a nap in the late afternoon (which I do not dare do because then I won't sleep later). Is this still detox, or heat, or a combination of both, or something else entirely? I'm not sleeping any less than I used to.

And breaking news: I must remember that when I eat lunch too late – and get too hungry – it never fills me up, even if it is a lunch that does the job reasonably well on other days. (Except at the very end of a binge, I can always, always eat more.) It makes for an uncomfortable afternoon, feeling like I'm just waiting for the hunger to pass, and reminds me of my days of starving – which makes me panic slightly. But that is future-tripping -- What if the hunger never passes? What if I'm hungry all day? – not living in the present.

It didn't help my hunger much that, buoyed by the fitting of one dress, I decided to try on a very fitted skirt that I could zip just before I left for London. It wasn't even on the same planet as fitting, sigh. I immediately felt hungry and wanted to eat. Noted.

Day nine. (Sorry, Lesley!)

Friday, 13 July 2012

Change of a Dress

What a difference a dress makes.

All week I've been hiding out/slobbing around in my workout clothes or a maxidress, the latter of which, I was pretty sure, was the only dress I own that fits.

But yesterday I tried on a dress I wore a couple of weeks ago – including at the beginning of my time in London – and it fit. It is almost as forgiving as the maxidress, so I'm not 100 percent sure it didn't fit last week. All I know is that the last time I wore it it was a struggle to zip it, and when I binged that night, I thought I would bust the fitted waistline.

There is something to me that seems symbolic about fitting back into a dress, even if it's just one. I know I have written before about fearing I will never be able to stop eating, but I had not done anything like what I did in London since before late November 2006, when I began the journey that would bring me to lose nearly 100 pounds. I did binge my way through the TomKat wedding and then Thanksgiving in Italy, but really, the ceaseless London bingeing reminded me of the two weeks I spent at the Venice film festival in August/September 2005, when I put on nearly two sizes and didn't stop eating until I regained all the weight I'd lost sometime in 2004-early 2005.

I don't remember what I was doing in those days – presumably I would wake up after each binge hoping to diet, whereas these days, I am just trying not to binge. Nor can I remember if I ever scraped a day or two of healthy eating together – and at what point I gave in and grudgingly bought larger-sized clothes, just looking for anything that I was pretty sure would fit and get me out of the shop in minimal time. (And if it didn't fit in the size I'd decided I was, I definitely would not buy the next size up.) I hated the clothes and I hated myself for having to buy them and wear them.

I like this extra dress that fits me now. And luckily, it's a dress that can go anywhere, as my grandmother would say – I can wear it to a meeting or out at night. So I don't need to hide, which means lying about why I can't do things... which makes me feel crummy, and which may well make me binge.

Once upon a time I never wore that dress – I bought it in Venice in 2009, I believe, where half of it was supposed to be a birthday present from BN2. (He never paid me.) I brought it to my grandmother's apartment – I think I thought it needed tailoring – and promptly left it there. I didn't rediscover it until this past December, when my sister and I went to my grandmother's to start cleaning the place out.

I started wearing it this summer, hoping for happy memories bright enough to blot out the dress's sad origins in the wreckage of a disastrous relationship that never should have been rekindled, as it was, to some extent, in Venice. Yes, I wore the dress in June the night I met the Italian psychotherapist (did I blog about him?) who rode the wrong train home from a party to get my number. (Alas, that is now the best I have to say about him.) But now the dress will be, I hope, a talisman – and a very fitting reminder that bingeing doesn't have to be forever.

Day eight.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

There's Only This

This morning in spin class, I was struck by a revelation: This second, this class, this feeling, this day, this week... this, too, shall pass.

Like pretty much every other sentient being on the planet, I have heard this about a bajillion times. But today, for the first time, I felt like I understood it – and I walked around like someone who had just gotten new glasses with a tweaked prescription. Everything seemed slightly sharper and clearer.

The past few days I had woken up unbelievably lethargic. This morning I didn't. Spin class seemed almost unbearable my first day back; today it was hard but the day when I get back to my previous level of fitness didn't seem so far off. Similarly, there are things – things that happened last week, last month, last year – that caused me such pain and discomfort I thought I'd never forget them. Sure, there are a few things from years ago that still stab me – for which the pain, hurt, or shame still seems as fresh as the day it happened – but mostly, not so much. And I say this as someone with an excellent memory.

When I received an e-mail from an editor saying I had until 2.30 pm (at the time, less than 45 minutes away) to make any final changes on a story, I got a little stressed, but nowhere near previous levels. This afternoon, while waiting for the story to be posted (I always panic a bit, especially when the subject matter, as this one was, is controversial). Plus, um, it's the freakin' New York Times. Lots of times when I write something I can pretend no one will ever see it. I don't think that's the case here.


Later on today, around 4.30 pm, when I knew the story would be posted within hours, I tried not to sit around – as I usually would – wasting time because I couldn’t focus. This will all be over soon, I told myself. I wasted some time, sure, but I also did a little cleaning. Progress.

I headed out to a press event at 6 pm: caponyasa (a fusion of the Brazilian martial art capoeira and vinyasa yoga) on a rooftop poolside, with stunning views of the river. I felt fat, shy and uncomfortable among a crowd of women's magazine editors (both fitness ones and possibly worse, fashion ones, because there was a runway show scheduled for after the caponyasa). My palms hurt. My left foot hurt. I was the biggest person there and in the most un-chic (and mismatching) workout clothes. Every minute it was something else. But I took a deep breath and tried to enjoy the experience as best I could.

I made a snap and possibly unwise decision to stay for the dinner: a vegan sushi buffet. I am a disaster at buffets, and sushi (like tapas) I find particularly difficult to guess what's a portion. And vegan sushi? I mean, just because it's vegan doesn't mean it's low in calories. (Consider, for example, raw foods – I found out that a particular raw dish I used to buy is 800 calories. "We don't publicize that," the company owner told me. Gee, I can't imagine why not.)

I think I ate about 15 pieces, panicking slightly because I was still hungry. I'm going to be hungry all night, I thought, and it's only 7.45. I bet I'm going to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. The last time I woke up hungry in the middle of the night I ended up bingeing. I regretted the decision to stay for the food. I thought about what else I could eat. Then I brought my attention back to the conversation. It worked, briefly.

When I left I thought again about what I could eat, and whether I should eat. The night stretched out ahead of me, and I thought briefly about the amount of damage I could do in the three-ish hours until bedtime. (Hell, I can do a crazy amount of damage in about 10 minutes.) I walked up Hudson Street and bought a pear. It wasn't ripe enough and as I ate it I felt slightly resentful.

This, too, shall pass.

Day seven.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Chasing Rainbows

Sometime in the past week, I realized I've been chasing an impossible dream: the perfect binge.

As I sat on the airplane and wondered until what time the Magnolia Bakery was open and if I could make it there in time, I briefly considered what else I could and should eat before I started Day 1 of not bingeing. But I was landing at 10 pm on July 4, and I doubted much would be open by the time I got to New York. (I could still binge, of course, but everything I wanted might not be available.) I thought about how hard it would be to write the story I had to write if I woke up still full from a binge, and about how frustrated I'd be to feel that way and still not have had the perfect binge.

I thought about not bingeing, and it is here that I have another resentment to add to the pile: That what I am hoping was my last binge ever (the one the morning of July 4 in London) was not the perfect one, and that possibly the very last truly crappy unnecessary thing I may ever eat was an overly sugary piece of chocolate that was part of an airplane meal.

It was then that I realized the perfect binge is a fiction that just keeps me bingeing. What is the perfect binge, and why haven't I discovered it by now? And why, why, why – when nothing else in the world stops me – do I think I will suddenly stop bingeing if only I could achieve it?


I'd like to say there's nothing worse than a really bad yoga class, except obviously there are plenty of things much worse than that.

But a truly awful yoga class just sucks.

I took one today. It was unfortunate, because I haven't done yoga in ages, and this wasn't the reintroduction I had in mind.

It was a "vinyasa boot camp," and there was neither vinyasa nor boot camp. It was just lame. And if I'd wanted naptime yoga, which this sort of was (but not the good, I-also-feel-stretched-out kind), I wouldn't have chosen this particular teacher, who seemed to think she was some sort of comedienne.

I was particularly annoyed because she arrived nearly 20 minutes late, without so much as an apology. And I didn't have time to go and do a(nother) workout.

I muddled through today. Day six.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Day Five

As a child The Wizard of Oz could give me nightmares – that Wicked Witch of the West! And last night I couldn't sleep because I managed to freak myself out reading, of all things, a Nancy Drew mystery I couldn't resist buying on the sale table of a book shop. I am officially the wimpiest person of all time.

It meant I woke up tired today, and everything – flaky friends, emails from PRs, text messages, the mess in my apartment -- seemed just a little too much to deal with. I did not want to decide anything so much as a time or place to meet, or figure out any logistics. I just wanted everyone to leave me the hell alone.

I worked on my fiction for 45 minutes this morning, something I'm going to aim to do for a month and see how it goes. Then I went to a spin class, and it was one of those days where I was very grateful to have signed up for one, because it might have taken me all day to get to a workout otherwise (and I probably wouldn't have worked as hard). Sometimes everything lifts a bit after class, but not this time: I was still annoyed with everything and everyone. I took a deep breath. I thought about ignoring irritating emails and texts, except ignoring them meant they'd still be floating out there in the ether, destroying any chance at inner peace.

I didn't struggle with the food too badly today except briefly at dinner. I was meeting an old friend in town from North Carolina at a burger place. I ordered one atop a salad, and felt an unreasonable rush of disappointment – and fear – when the salad was not the massive bowl of greens I was expecting. There's a huge hamburger and crumbled bleu cheese (both calorie-dense items) in this bowl and I am still going to feel hungry when I'm done? How am I going to get through until tomorrow morning without eating again? How am I ever going to lose this binge weight if I eat this sort of thing? I am going to be fat forever. I might as well just eat. I am so tired of the struggle.

I waited. The feelings passed. And it's nearly 11.30 pm and I'm not hungry.

Day Five.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Present Imperfect

I loathe text messaging, think I am a better person when I spend less time on social media, love ink-on-paper letters, and bemoan that few people get dressed up to go places such as the theatre or the ballet. I often joke that I was born in the wrong century. Is that why I find it so unbelievably tough to be in the present?

I am awash in regrets and resentments (living in the past) – and I am the world's biggest daydreamer (living in the future). And if I am not plotting a binge or bingeing to escape the present, my mind, I realized, is very busy doing anything but being here and now. I am making to-do lists, or I am coming up with elaborate plans to reinvent myself: how I will get the binge weight off, how I will do the 100 pushups plan, how I will read more novels, how I will write fiction every morning, how I won't ever binge again. I think about how much weight I could lose or what I will wear or what someone will think when he sees me. I am so busy thinking about what I might or could or should become that I very rarely just am. It is me worrying about getting a picture of the moment for posterity – recording that I. Wuz. Here, as we used to write on the cubbies in summer camp -- instead of just being in it.

What does this have to do with bingeing, you ask? Bingeing is an escape from the present – usually when I feel trapped. But if the rest of these things also are an escape, does that mean I feel trapped in my own life? I guess I feel trapped in this cycle that there is not enough and I am not enough – this constant need to either fix myself or find someone (preferably a boyfriend) to do it for me. And when those don't work, as of course they don't, I eat.


Today was another tough day.

I woke up at 6 am, resentful (that word again!) that I might end up eating breakfast early. It's hot and I'm too fat again and I am waiting for all these things and Sundays are tough at the best of times and now I'm also going to have to deal with being hungry all day, I wanted to whine. (Oh, and yet again I get to feel that I have left London at the wrong time. Yes, I know Murray lost, but I cannot help feeling sad about all the British events I've missed in the past year, like an inside joke I can't get in on after the fact.)

I decided to try to hold off breakfast until 7, and so read my book – and fell asleep at 6.45 until about 8. Still I was full of pettiness all morning: I snapped at the guy at the gym who wanted photo ID to confirm I was on the guest list (problems with my membership that can't be resolved until tomorrow; who would pretend to be someone else to get into a gym, for heaven's sake?). At a meeting later in the morning, I deliberately avoided eye contact with a new-ish not-sure-she's-a-friend who was back in town from her graduate school program – I'd been feeling resentful about a few weird, rude, possibly selfish and definitely un-friend-like things she did just before she left, and that she hadn't answered any of my e-mails or texts. But she texted me during the meeting, and – I cringe admitting this -- like something out of junior high, I debated whether to leave off the exclamation point on my "welcome back" (I ended up including it).

There were other disappointments, small and, well, slightly larger. There was anger and sadness and frustration. But somehow today passed. I had lunch with friends, I read my book, but not much of the Sunday paper (or any of the three Nancy Drew mysteries I couldn't resist on a sale table I walked by). I cleaned some malware off my computer, something I've needed to do for ages. I saw a crummy movie and had dinner with the not-sure-she's-a-friend, who I'm now fairly sure is not.

And now it's nearly midnight, and I have not binged. That's day four.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The Waiting Game

Today is one of those days where everything is just a little bit too much. Nothing is really wrong, and yet everything is. I am tired and lethargic, and when I tried to read my paper at the Starbucks (I don't have air conditioning; they do), I first couldn't concentrate because of the loud conversation next to me, and when I moved, the woman next to me seemed to be rattling the sleeve with her pastry unbelievably loudly for, like, ever. Then she decided to spray herself with sunscreen. And so on.

If I recall correctly, being irritated at the slightest provocation – and being alternately on the verge of tears and so uncomfortable in my own skin I'd like to rip it off, and sometimes all of these at once -- is a fairly standard feature of detoxing off binges, and usually happens somewhere between days four and seven, though I guess it's arrived early (today's day three). It's also when I can't decide what I need or what I want – when I think of a million things I could or should be doing, and then tell myself I need to keep it simple. And then when I do, feel resentful that I am just getting through the day instead of embracing it. (I also find myself feeling slightly guilty, thanks to the number of moms in my circle these days. Presumably if I ever have a child – not looking likely, because I don't think I want one badly enough to go on the forced march of meeting someone and hurrying it all along to get one -- I will both look back longingly at these days when I did just about nothing and rue that I didn't live it up while I could have.)

It doesn't help that I feel like I'm waiting, waiting, waiting – not something at which I ever have excelled at doing patiently. Nor am I good at giving my full attention to anything else while doing so. And I am waiting for the New York Times to run not one but two stories (both of which were turned in ages ago – makes me fear what's wrong with them), waiting to hear from editor on miserable story I turned in yesterday (is this the point where an editor will say, as I have been expecting all year, "You have failed upward until this point, and here's where it stops"), waiting to hear about a series of pitches. I am waiting to feel and look like myself again, and waiting to hear from a couple of people about plans that were not quite jelled enough to be prompting a "are we still on?" (basically, they're in the stage that is the online shopping equivalent of having it in your cart but not proceeding to payment.) And of course, as always, I am waiting for the next time I get to eat.

Up All Night

Maybe because I've been away for two weeks, maybe because I pulled a proper all-nighter (just one hour's catnap at about 11 am), maybe because everything shimmers a little in the heat, but New York tonight seemed like a movie set. Improbably bright streets full of people silhouetted against the darkness, and around every corner a glimpse of a tall, lit-up building in the distance.

It seemed unreal, which is how my life feels right now. I remember feeling this way when I landed back in New York last August after nearly six weeks abroad, except then I think it was colored by depression and despair: What am I doing here, and why? I still wonder that, but it is more that I muse about it than I chafe about it. On good days, anyway.

Today passed in a blur. One minute it was 9 pm yesterday and I was dreading the writing of the story I had due today. The more excited I am about the piece, the harder I find it to write it. I think this is because my work always falls short of what I wish it would be, but none fall farther than the ones you want to be perfect. Anyway, I wrote straight through the night, and at 10 am decided it needed massive reconstructive surgery. I'm even less happy with what I turned in than usual, but at least it's done.

I pulled the all-nighter without eating, and I muddled my way through today. I know that being tired makes me both want to eat and be less able to resist, but knowing that exhaustion is to blame doesn't stop the feeling.

Two days without a binge.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Back from the Bingeing Wars

It's 9 am here in New York, and today is technically Day 1. But when you factor in time change it's been at least 24 hours since I've binged, and considering that involved a transatlantic trip (travelling is usually a huge binge trigger for me) and that over the previous two weeks I binged nearly every day, I'll take it.

Frankly, even if it didn't include a transatlantic plane trip, I'll take it.

It is here that I will confess that on the plane trip I debated buying in-flight duty free chocolate and bingeing on it. I also debated eating at least one and maybe both of the Cadbury Flakes I'd bought for my editor, reasoning that I was going to try to avoid going in to the office to meet her for couple of weeks, and that I have a friend coming over from England then anyway who could "import" them. And I don't even particularly like Cadbury Flakes (unless one is stuck in my ice cream cone), but that is, as always, besides the point.

On my last night in London, I stayed at the Savoy, and each time I walked down the Strand it was like swerving to avoid ghosts, only to bump into other ones. I used to work just off the Strand, in a big white wedding cake of a building on Waterloo Bridge, and nearly every step and every shop stirred up floods of memories, and with them, sadness and regret for opportunities wasted. I could have done such a better job living my life if only I could have some of those opportunities now. Sigh.

There's the Next where I somewhat frantically yet gleefully had to buy a top before work because I'd come in from (unexpectedly) spending the night in Oxford nearly nine years ago. (The filmmaker; a very short-lived relationship.) Villiers Street, with Gordon's Wine Bar, the little sushi place where often I'd pick up lunch, and a random pub where I once had a very strange date with an American. The Pizza Express I remember having a dinner with a friend on one of my first nights in London – the night I learned that Embankment and Charing Cross are barely a two-minute walk (and, for some reason, I remember bingeing on the way home). The Virgin Active, which used to be a Holmes Place, which was my gym for years – and from which I'd walk to my office, even when we moved south of the river. I also remember nearly falling asleep in a midday yoga class the day after a date with the Fig. The Coal Hole, where I once had a date with a guy who I later found out was engaged. Adam Street, home of the private members club to which my boss belonged, and where, very early in our relationship, BN2 and I went to an event where (a) I later learned he picked up another woman, (b) he was late because of what would be the first of many skirmishes in his custody battle, and (c) I sneaked out to binge (at the Leon on the corner, I believe). The Topshop where I remember getting a call from the man who eventually became my boss while standing in the dressing room. An Italian restaurant where we had an office Christmas lunch. The Superdrug where an intern used to buy her lunch: always the pick-a-mix. The Tesco that used to be a newsagent. The Caffe Nero on Waterloo Bridge where I met a Wallpaper* travel editor on one of my first days in London, and – after I got my job – I could see from my office window every day... Even the Savoy itself, where I went for drinks just before I left London with a friend who no longer is. And on and on it goes...

I left New York on Thursday the 21st for Washington DC, and headed to London that Sunday. I got back late last night. I binged nearly every day, violent binges, sometimes more than one in a day. Some days I'd make it through until 10 pm without bingeing and then start. (I counted up I managed just three days without bingeing, four if you count the whole Sunday at the airport – long story – plus plane trip out, where I overate but didn't binge.) Before I left on this trip I remembered looking around my apartment in New York and wondering if anything would fit when I returned, and it has come true. I caught sight of myself in the mirrored arrivals hall at Newark Airport last night and thought: Who is that fat girl?

And it is me.

I want to go away and hide for at least a month. I've had moments like this before: One particular trip when I returned from about two weeks at the Venice film festival having binged every day, and put on nearly two sizes. Or a month-long work trip to Africa, where I did the same – and ended up gaining back all the weight I'd lost in 2004. Wednesday night at the ballet I was so crashing from sugar I could hardly keep my eyes open – and I had that old familiar feeling, not felt for so long, of being dressed inappropriately because it was the only thing that fit, and feeling passed over for conversation because I was overweight. At the reception – a friend of a friend is a patron – one woman turned away from me mid-conversation, and another guy turned abruptly and disappeared. It could have been a coincidence, yes, but it didn't feel like one.

I've thought about going to see a nutritionist, but I already know what she would say, and anyway, I don't need a diet. In fact, too much restriction could be disastrous. I have thought about giving up sugar, since over the past week and a half it really did seem to unleash my demons. I would think to myself: I'm just going to get a Ben's Cookie, or a macaron, or a cupcake, or whatever it was I thought I wanted – you know, like a normal person -- and I would have one and just not be able to stop.

I have a huge story due tomorrow that I'm terrified about, so for right now I am just trying to keep it simple and not binge. I'm also going to try to post daily, for accountability's sake.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Present Tense

One side effect of having a job that constantly required me to recognize people is that I often think I do – and often I am wrong.

This time I wasn’t.

I was sitting in a Caffe Nero on the Fulham Road, and I looked up from an article I was working on. I caught a glimpse of a familiar posture at a faraway table, although the frame looked a little to heavy to be the guy I was thinking of, who was freakishly thin.

He got up, went to the bathroom, and when he came back I saw his face. It was him – the guy I dated right when I moved to London. I met him on the third day I was here.

“I haven’t seen you for ages,” he said.

“I moved to New York,” I said.

We talked about his half-brother, who I’d read had died of a drug overdose while on a gap year in India a couple of years ago. And about his dad, who was dying of Alzheimers. He told me he and the Russian not-wife (not being catty; just that they’re both north of 40 and seems funny to call her a girlfriend) are having a baby in a couple of days. It’s a boy they’re calling Michael, F’s father’s middle name.

“Are you in a relationship?” he asked.

I didn’t answer this one as coolly as I would have liked. I stammered something out, somewhat surprised that he asked – and that we seemed to be having a more personal conversation than any we had when we were dating.

He recommended a book I should read. I realized I have no idea what his taste in books is, and if it is at all similar to mine.

Sweet mystery of life.