Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


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JANUARY 9, 2013 6:35PM

A rabbit no more

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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.



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Happy New Year to all you "chauds lapins" out there - in both senses of the word! And for all of us, may 2013 be a year of happiness, hope, health, and pleasant surprises. One pleasant surprise is that OS seems to be back and working just like in the good old days! Yay!
Happy New Year to you, Alysa!
I'm so glad the rabbit diet is over. Eat to nourish your body and enjoy what you eat. I feel like I slipped right into Mom Mode reading this, so forgive me. But all the pictures of you I've seen are of a lovely, adorable NOT FAT AT ALL young woman.
Eat healthy, eat slowly, enjoy every bite. xoxox
Try to enjoy being young, in love, and in Paris......and the food. I am shocked that you can't get a decent chocolate chip coolie there. R
Try to enjoy being young, in love, and in Paris......and the food. I am shocked that you can't get a decent chocolate chip cookie there. R
Happy New Year Alysa. Good to see you back. Is that a cookie I see in your hand?
I'm reading (an awesome) bio of Vincent and he'd often go on binges of self-punishment, barely eating, walking under-dressed in the cold, etc, all in the hopes of appeasing some perceived sin. Seeing his extreme behavior makes obvious its futility. If we don't face the shit in our lives it's always going to show somehow.

Bonne chance!
Begin each day avec trois pain au chocolat.
From all I know and see here of you, Alysa, I feel safe in saying the dork who dumped you did you and all of us a favor. He didn't deserve you.
Eat, pray, love! I always recommend the salade nicoise from Le Colibri near the Madeleine church. That should be required eating!
I agree with Matt. Anyone who dumped you didnt deserve you. Not an easy thing to lose weight and I envy the ones that do.
Have that hot chocolate.. just dont add the marshmallows..:)
'The last time I went on a diet, I used the Atkins plan. I lost at least forty pounds. This was liberating-- I felt that I was light enough to start jogging again. But, no matter what I did, I gradually gained it back. I blame my poor eating habits. I am still trying to avoid eating all junk food. The more I read, the more I realize how difficult this is, in the United States. I was going to give up wheat, on advice from the Rodale website. Now, I learn, that artisanal wheat, not just the bread, is being reintroduced. I can now buy bread made with locally grown Red Fife wheat, a variety that is pre Dr. Frankenstein era grain labs, and baked using the levain method. Hurray! Maybe I should be crying instead. I still eat too much.
Yay for OS being back! I already responded to this post on Our salon but want to add my two cents here, since I'm not on Our salon anymore. Anyway...I hope you can find happy balance when it comes to eating for health and pleasure. IBS and the usual neuroses (that most women in First World countries seem to have) make it challenging (I'm dealing with some of my own now after feeling accused by mean mirrors) but not impossible. Be a cat instead of a rabbit. Enjoy your food and purr!
Joan – Happy New Year to you, too, and thanks for the kind and supportive words. I finished the rabbit diet on Thursday – my digestive system just couldn’t take the onslaught of nothing but veggies and fruit, which is kind of sad, but that’s the way it is, I guess. Now I’ve just been working on portion control, and so far that’s going well. I don’t think I’m fat – I don’t know that “fat” is even the right word for it – I’m just not at the weight where I feel comfortable. Hopefully that will change soon. I’ve already lost another pound!

Gerald – You are absolutely right, and I assure you that most of the time I do enjoy those things, I promise! : - ) But your comment makes me realize that lately, with all the stress over the renovation/remodeling of our apartment, plans to go into business for myself, etc, I haven’t been enjoying things as much as I should. Thanks for the reality check. As for the chocolate chip cookies, the French tend to prefer slabs of chocolate on shortbread or other types of cookie, rather than chips integrated into the cookie. There are so many delicious pastries and cookies here – but chocolate chip ones remain either sub-par or really expensive. I don’t allow myself to make my own, because that would be like giving me a meth lab, so I just have to suffer through the shortage. Not that I don’t have plenty of other delicious things to eat…but I do miss my chocolate chip cookies.

trilogy – Happy New Year to you, too! I’ve never been away from OS, I just wasn’t posting as much as I used to, because of all sorts of stuff going on in my real life. I love it here and don’t plan to leave till it’s shut down (and I hope that never happens). It’s great that now it’s much easier to use this site – seeing people slowly come back or just being able to simply visit their blogs without the site crashing – is like seeing buds of flowers at the start of spring, only without my apprehension of allergies. As for the cookie…uh…look over there! *Runs away.* :- )

cheshyre – Merci. Poor Vincent, what a life. I agree, we have to enjoy it. I definitely don’t plan on depriving myself – I’ve already stopped the rabbit diet, thank goodness, and have gone back to eating what I want, but just controlling my portions a little.

Stim – That might be a LITTLE excessive…but then again….

Matt – You are so sweet! Thank you!

nilesite – Right on! I have to be in the mood for salade niçoise, but the next time I am, thanks for the tip!

Linda – Aww, thank you. And I love your indulgent-yet-practical advice about the hot chocolate! Actually, I don’t put marshmallows in it anyway (and don’t indulge in it too much because the milk bothers my stomach), so I guess it’s not such a bad thing to have a mug of hot chocolate after all….

Steven – I feel like so much about weight loss is being motivated. You lost forty pounds before – congratulations! – and one day you might feel motivated and start losing weight like that again. But I feel like forcing yourself not to eat wheat or normal, basic stuff like that, may be too extreme in the long run, unless you’re really, really committed, and your lifestyle makes it possible. As for the junk food, it is extremely hard to avoid, I agree, for so many reasons. Not to mention even stuff that’s not super-bad, like Wheat Thins or Triscuits, but that still have things like trans-fats or preservatives or things in them, or are high in sodium. I feel your pain on this 100%. Good luck to you – but most importantly, as long as you’re healthy, whatever weight you are, be happy and don’t deprive yourself too much. Don’t become a rabbit like I was for a few days – blech.

Eva – I’m glad to see you here, and understand why you left Our Salon, after checking your last post last night just before bed, to see if you’d written me back. I’m very happy you have a home here that is much more supportive. As for saying you feel fat, I meant to comment on that when I read your post here earlier – I can’t imagine you being fat and you say Lady Lucia doesn’t think that but I totally get feeling this way – I think that’s what I mean about having a weight where you feel comfortable and happy, and once you veer from it, you don’t feel right. If this is the case, I hope you’ll be able to get back to the weight where you felt good, soon. But most of all, I hope you just continue loving life and ballroom dancing and all of the other interesting things you get into!