Six and a half years ago, after a horrendous break-up and several obligatory months back in the US (for unrelated reasons), I returned to Paris. Although I’d had time to think, it wasn’t enough. I kept wondering what had happened to cause the end of that passionate relationship. I had many theories, including the real one – that our lifestyles and goals just weren’t compatible – but I often came back to something else: Sure, I’d say to myself, the incompatible lifestyles thing was a problem, but I could have made him stay. Another girl – prettier, sexier, more cunning and sophisticated, could have made him stay.
I guess I was still reasonable enough to realize it would be well nigh impossible for me to become the latter two without extensive years of finishing school or something, but the former two, well…. Most Parisian women who are considered pretty or sexy, are also thin. What if, I asked myself, I’d been a size 2, instead of a size 12 when he and I were together? Maybe it would have been a powerful enough enticement for him to stay with me.
Since the age of about seven, I’d been what the French would call ronde – “chubby” when I was a little girl, then “curvy” or “voluptuous”. For the most part, I was okay with that, and owned it, until this break-up. I’d already begun to lose weight over the past year or so, due to my life in Paris and all of things that went with it: more walking, less prepackaged food with added fat, limited access to good chocolate chip cookies. I also had a theory that every time I flew, I lost a few pounds, because of stress and the resultant not eating, as well as something about the weirdness of being on one continent, and then a few hours later, on another. So when I returned to Paris, I told myself I’d use this weight loss as a boost and keep going. For the next few weeks, I consumed nothing but water, vinegar-sprinkled lettuce, apples, and the occasional piece of chocolate or bite of bread (let’s not get crazy here).
It didn’t seem like a sacrifice at the time. I guess it was sort of a physical manifestation of my misery, anger, and self-loathing.
I remember that, when, about a month after this had begun, my current boyfriend and I started dating, it was hard for me to think of eating even one small slice of thin-crust pizza. But then I came into this new life, where I was loved and in love and comfortable and soon eating became a pleasure again.
My thinness (well, relatively speaking – I never did make it to a size 2) lasted for a year or so, even though I ate normal meals and of course plenty of chocolate. Then, I gradually began to put on weight. I don’t much miss the skinny version of myself. I had no boobs and yet my enormous calves had stayed the same size they’d been for years. I think I looked silly. When I’d put on about 8 pounds, I found my sweet spot, that perfect weight I think all of us have, where we feel just right. I’ve tried to maintain that weight since then, and most of the time it’s been do-able, as long as I do a little exercise, keep hydrated, and don’t go into a pastry-eating frenzy too often.
But these past few weeks, things have gotten out of hand. Some people get thin when they’re stressed out. Other people, like me, go the other way. I eat to relieve stress over the all the plans and projects we’re juggling, over bad news we’ve had these past months. I eat to fight the exhaustion, or to reward myself. Plus, it was the holidays and that meant extra-special chocolates, and luxurious, fatty meals and snacks. I’m not a fan of scales, but I do weigh myself once a week, just to make sure things are all right. This week, I couldn’t deny it anymore: Since the end of November, when we moved into our rental apartment, I’ve gained about six pounds.
It wouldn’t really matter; weight is relative, I’ve learned, having been many different ones over the years. But I’ve veered too far from the weight that feels right to me. And so, two days ago, I went into lockdown mode. With IBS, it’s hard to eat a diet that has little or no starches or carbohydrates; those are far easier to digest than fruits and vegetables. But I didn’t have any students on Wednesday or Thursday, so I figured I’d do a sort of mini-detox that would hopefully give me a little weight loss boost. (From there, I plan to eat normally again, but with a little more portion control and more rigorous appointments with the treadmill.) I thought about my salad days – or, more appropriately in a literal and figurative sense, my vinegar-and-salad-days – and I figured I could do it. Two days of eating like a rabbit? That should be easy.
I’m proud to say that after a day and a half (I officially started Tuesday evening after I got home from work), I’ve lost a pound – probably water weight. But I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep this up much longer. Not only is my system not doing well with the vinegar (which I’ve cut down on and mostly replaced with nothing, powdered garlic, or a small sprinkle of olive oil), and the excessive amounts of fruit and vegetables (just the thought of carrots, which I generally like, makes me want to vomit) -- I just find it so hard to stay motivated. All I want is some gnocchi and a fresh baguette to sop up the tomato sauce. Or cookies. Oh cookies….
There’s an expression in French, chaud comme un lapin – “hot like a rabbit”. It’s used to describe someone who’s horny. But today as I munched on a carrot, I started seeing it in another way. Maybe it’s the fruit fermenting in my insides, but you could use the term “hot” to maybe just mean “motivated”, or “passionate”. And if that’s the case, what a chaud lapin I was those years ago, and now, I just don’t want to eat like a rabbit anymore. I marvel at the variety of God’s creations: pigeons and my cat Ali and I like to consume many different things. But just sticking to fruits and veggies (or, for domesticated rabbits, pellets), and being content – I can’t imagine. The fact that I was able to do this for so long those years ago, shows the extent to which my heart was broken. By my own definition, I was chaude comme un lapin – but now, all I can think of is how nice it would be to take the winter chill off with some chocolat chaud.