Thursday, 29 November 2012

A Step in the Right Direction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exhausted and cornered. And so I binge.


Another step that felt big: Thanksgiving.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

I hope so.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Cake Made Me Do It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Week One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 9 November 2012

Desperate Measures

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

And yet I have no idea what to eat myself.

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

It’s fucking scary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Yes, seriously.)  

Thursday, 1 November 2012

After the Storm

I told myself I was walking uptown because I wanted the exercise and because cabs were nearly impossible to find, but the truth is, I didn’t want to stop bingeing.

I knew that when I arrived at my friend’s in Harlem, I’d have to stop eating. And I didn’t want to. And yet I wanted to badly enough to choose the option of staying with her over others.

I have no power in my apartment thanks to Sandy, and there is a part of me that easily could have stayed there, endlessly eating nonperishable food (hello, Hostess apple pies!) and telling myself I’d get my act together when the power went on. There is another part of me that yearned to take up another invitation on East 83rd Street, where I’m sure there would be something of a party atmosphere: lots of wine and carbs.

And yet here I am in Harlem, having gone nearly 36 hours without a binge.

It feels especially significant, not just because I feared I would never be able to stop, but because I can so easily see where I would have done it differently; the point where I would have looked back and said: That is where I gave up.

When the power went out Monday night, I already was well on my way to a binge. I’d been bingeing on and off since Saturday, and I just couldn’t seem to stop.

I drank for the first time in months: A drink bought for me by a random (cute) trader I found standing in my doorway when I went out just before the height of the hurricane. Then champagne with my neighbor, and OPP (other people’s pinot) by candlelight with other friends. I ended with chips and melted ice cream, after a package of Hostess apple pies and something else I can’t quite remember from one of the three bodegas at which I never buy binge food. (What can I say? It was the only one open.)

I woke up the next morning hung over and anxious. My phone and computer had died, and I had a story closing for which the hurricane would not be an excuse. I had breakfast, then trekked 30 blocks uptown until I found a Verizon store allowing people (and there was a huge queue) to charge devices. By then it was 2 pm, and I just wanted to eat. And keep eating.

I was already in the 30s, and my friend lives at 123rd Street. I didn’t think I’d walk all the way there, but I kept thinking: I’ll walk until I find a doughnut shop. OK, I’ll walk to Magnolia Bakery in midtown. But few things were open. I kept thinking grumpily: If this is going to be my last binge ever, it surely is a crummy one. I walked to Levain Bakery on 74th Street, whose cookies are legendary. I’ve never had one; it wasn’t open. That’s when I decided to jump in a cab.

I got to Harlem and had the cab stop 2 blocks away and I ran into the only shop open for one last hurrah. There wasn’t much. I looked around frantically, then – half desperately, half reluctantly – ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. It was a poor excuse for one, and I ate almost mournfully.

One day without a binge.