This is volume 2 in the series Changing Lifestyle. You can read the first episode here, where we visited the effect my move to New York had on me.
Stripped naked, we’re always beautiful. And our man will love us just the same. And our friends couldn’t care less. And we really can be just as happy. I mean, really, nothing really changes when we get a little plumper.
Okay, that’s almost true.
There’s that moment when you see a photo of yourself and you suddenly feel like you’re about to pass out.
Or there’s the jeans that don’t quite button and you pretend to forget them in some dark corner of your closet.
And there’s that quiet discomfort. It’s hard to explain, but those few extra pounds… You wear them.
I really tried to stay cool, and the people around me have always tried hard enough to say the famous, “but you look great!” to my face, but really, inside, I wasn’t feeling that cool. I was just so profoundly annoyed with it all. I knew I had to do something about it but I had no idea where to start.
The thing is that I’m just as bad at dieting as I am with exercise. I have the will of an oyster and I plus I love going out to eat and having a glass of wine, and never once do I actually give a second thought about what kind of food (Japanese? Mexican? Mexicaaaaaaan!!!) I chose to eat. And plus I’m constantly traveling. It’s hard to find a balance. Add to all that the fact that past your thirties, pounds stick to you like never before.
Something weird happened. I started thinking about that constantly.
What I had eaten and what I shouldn’t eat, what I was going to eat in the next hour compared with what I had eaten the hour before, and what I should be eating, this instead of that, or that instead of this. All the time.
What a interesting use of my brain, don’t you think ?!!! Totally self-centered – at an intellectual level close to zero.
And the more and more I thought about it, the more I just put whatever in my mouth.
Like if I weren’t hungry at all, still, I’d pack away a box of Oreos all while thinking how terrible it was and how I really shouldn’t finish them. And then… the guilt sets in.
And I developed this most terrible thing that the Americans have given a perfect name to because it’s just so true: self-loathing. It’s when guilt, through some vicious cycle, transforms itself into an utter hatred of the self. You spend all day telling yourself how bad you are.
It’s horrible!!! Because when you’re caught up in this craziness, it effects everything. You spend all day putting yourself down and not only is it useless and completely egotistical, but on top of that, believe me, you’re not a happy person.
And you know I hate taking myself too seriously… I didn’t recognize myself at all.
Then one day, finally – about two months into my little free fall into delirium – I had a moment of clarity. A voice inside me said :
“So, tell me, is this little game with yourself gonna last a while?”
You know, it’s like when we decide to quit the job that is killing us, to cut ties from that toxic relationship we’re in or move out of the apartment we hate. I finally had enough perspective to see that this just wasn’t working. I was obsessed.
I still remember that very moment. It was late and I was alone in some hotel room in Australia. I called Scott and cried and cried for an hour. And then I called my shrink in Paris who wasn’t there. I called a friend. We talked, we laughed – what was happening to me was so weird it gave us a lot of room for laughter – and then there I was, alone again.
The next morning, I went to Dymock’s, a bookstore in Sydney. Went straight to the nutrition section. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but I know that usually the book we need just makes itself known. And sure enough, it did.
I ended up with three books. One was a book by Portia De Rossi who talked about her anorexia. The other, similar actually, was written by Crystal Renn. Finally, Feeding The Hungry Heart, a book by a woman named Geneen Roth. I’ll tell you about that one in just a sec.
I devored these three books. The two first ones, who talked about the the downward spiral into anorexia, made me realize just how much my little problems with food were actually quite tiny. But at the same time, the thinking spiral was a little bit the same, a progressive isolation through negative thought around food, exercise, and self-image.
And that constant repetition of the thoughts which end up taking over all other aspects of your life.
The third one cracks me up today when I see it. You know, it’s the kind of book that you never would display on your bookshelf. It’s what I call a feel good book. It’s the kind of book that you read when you need help but don’t know how to ask for it. When you feel a little alone – I was far away in Sydney – and needed someone to tell me that it’ll all be ok.
Geneen Roth was fat, then skinny, then fat, then skinny, then… obsessed with nothing but grub. Anorexia, bulimia, you name it, she tested every diet on earth and spent most of her life thinking only about food. One day, she understood that if she continued on with that war, it would make her increasingly more depressed and suicidal ideation would enter the picture.
She decided to stop all her dietary obsessions. And in a few months, she realized that her weight regulated itself all on it’s own – and she could smile again. She started to write anti-diet books, full of good advice and even better humor, and yeah, a lot of clichés but I’ll forgive her because her book helped me at a moment when I really needed it.
And anyway, I was already better. I had decided to totally stop intellectualizing everything that passed through my lips and let myself go without thinking so much.
I also started to do some yoga in Australia all by myself with some videos. It definitely helped quieting my mind.
I stopped speaking to myself negatively. We live in a world that encourages us to loath ourselves. It’s as troubling as an era where narcissism is king. But what we show of us is only the bright side, isn’t it, Facebook ?
And about gaining weight, I stopped beating myself up about it. I told myself that if it’s my destiny to become round, well, then why the hell not? I know tons of amazing people who happen to be round as well. And it wouldn’t hurt to have that influence in the fashion world.
After a long trip in the Australian summer, I came back to Paris where Scott was waiting for me.
It was snowing and it was Christmas…
Oh man it would be all to easy if my lifestyle changes stopped there… More about it next time around !
Translation : Tim Sullivan