Sunday, 22 January 2017

Peanut Butter Dreams

One thing I looked forward to so much this morning I practically dreamed about it: peanut butter on crumpets.

It’s what I’ve eaten for breakfast almost every day for the past seven and a half months, except for a couple of days in Paris in September – and the past three days, where I had room service at a five-star London hotel. (I did not complain that the smoked salmon and eggs were, as I can hear my grandmother saying, “ice cold,” but I was tempted to.)

I spent most of the past three days with a (British) guy who lives in Germany. I met him a couple of months ago, and have spent more of the intervening time than I care to admit whatsapping him. Things are not going according to the script in my head – when do they ever? – or really, in any way that could be termed a forward direction. He’ll be here at least another three days and I’m not at all sure I’ll see him again, which is not a great feeling.

I’m trying to remember that whatever happens, it was a mostly fun three days, and – more to the point of this blog – it was nice to just be able to eat and drink whatever without too much stress. (One of the nights, for example, we went for pie and mash, because it’s something he misses that he can’t get in Germany.) I also skipped the gym without fearing I would never go back again.

It also occurred to me this morning that for the first time in maybe as long as I can remember, I didn’t (and haven’t) automatically assumed that the problem is my weight – that things would be different if I were thinner. In a strange way, this is harder to deal with – to sit with – than just assuming weight or my body is the problem. I don’t know what the problem is, and so I can’t even try to fix it, even if I wanted to. (Leaving aside the issue that the problem may not even be me.) My brain runs through everything I said and did and wants to find fault with it – to find fault with myself. This, I know, is what’s at the bottom of my eating disorder – that food, as they say, is the symptom, not the disease. Eating more (or less, or exercising more) won’t change this feeling. I hope eventually I figure out what will.

Thursday, 12 January 2017


It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve – when someone else mentioned her resolutions -- that I realized it hadn’t occurred to me to make any.

A chunk of my resolutions usually relate to diet or exercise or weight. I don’t want to mess with the first two, and so I can’t do anything about the last one.

Seven months it’s been without bingeing, overexercising, or restricting. Seven months in which I’ve eaten a lot more lasagna and – oddly, because I can eat anything – a lot less cake than I ever could have predicted. Until last Saturday, when a friend and I learned Britney Spears dance routines (my Christmas present to her – it was, as she said repeatedly, her “dream”), I tried exactly zero new workouts.

Some days have been easy; others have been ridiculously difficult. For the past few days I’ve been going through a hard patch, where – despite lasagna and peanut butter and spaghetti Bolognese in the same day -- I feel like I’m starving (something I’ve only felt very, very occasionally since the first month, when I felt it constantly). I’m trying to remind myself it isn’t always like this, though when I’m in the middle of it it’s hard to envision that it will shift. I’m not asking for suggestions about what to do about it – I know I can eat more, and sometimes I do.

And that, some days, makes things even harder. I know to dismiss the voice that suggests bingeing is the answer, but I have to entertain – or at least consider -- the voice that suggests more. I’ve started plenty of binges in the past having just a little bit more of something, and then being unable to stop.

There is an app I use on my phone to log days without a binge, and it makes a satisfying ping when you check in, which on hard days I do repeatedly. The ping is like the gong in yoga, or the chimes at the end of a massage I once had at an Indian spa. It brings me back to the present, back from spiraling out of control from the fear that things will always be this hard and that I cannot do this any more. And eventually – sometimes only with repeated check-ins within hours – it passes.

Seven months without a binge is longer than I ever thought it possible to go but not long enough to forget what it was like being unable to get through a day. And to be honest, I don’t want to forget. And so I will remember this: I would sit in meetings listening to people talk who had done what I simply could not, which is to put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time, and just not do the thing they really, really wanted to do. Jealousy would well up. Also anger: Why could I not do this thing? Why did one day seem so unbelievably long? (Frankly, when you want to binge, the 10 seconds it can take a cashier to fumble with your change can seem like a year too long.)

I would vow to do it, maybe after just one more binge. And I couldn’t.

I don’t know why I can do it now or even really how. But I’m grateful.