Matilda

Trying to find peace with food and my body image is a long journey. I know I have to be patient. I know there will be setbacks. In some ways, traveling felt like the enemy to progress. I went into this trip telling myself that it’s OK to gain a few pounds. You’re going to be eating a lot of amazing food, you’re going to be drinking literally every day, and you’re not going to be working out. There’s really just no way around it. And who doesn’t want to enjoy themselves on vacation? I did tell myself – and Steve – that I just want to be cognizant of not over-ordering and being able to stop when I’m full. 

So, as the trip went on, I felt myself gaining weight, I felt myself feeling bad and self-conscious. Thankfully, I can share all this with Steve. He is so understanding, and it helps that we’re so similar. We both want to be healthy and feel good, but we also love good wine, good food, and enjoying ourselves. Talking about it always makes it better. Always makes it seem like less of a big deal. When we get back from our trip, we will get back in shape. It’s that simple. It’s OK. Steve keeps talking about “diet” which is a trigger word for me. I wish I could say that I’m able to go on a diet to lose some weight, but because I still don’t have the best relationship with food and my body, I know that attempting a diet can put me down a path of obsessive control, something I know is not good for me. And especially not good for my progress.

Right after I broke up with Mike, my boyfriend of eight years, I packed an overnight bag and went to Rich and Tara’s for the weekend. I told Tara that I’d have to go back, obviously, and I would just sleep on the couch. She looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Lindsay, you’re not going back there. You can’t ever go back.” Her words scared the shit out of me and I probably started hysterically crying for the 800th time that week, but at the same time, I knew instantly that she was right and I knew that I could not and would not be able to go back to that apartment. Just like I can’t ever go back to dieting.

But there is something about giving yourself permission to “splurge” or “go crazy” now if you know that you’re going to reel it in later. It makes us feel better to say, “Sure, I’m going to eat and drink everything in sight right now, but when I get back, I’m going on a strict diet.”

Lots of people do this. It’s natural. Or at least it’s natural for what I’ve always known. But on the last day of vacation, I take it too far.

We didn’t mean for it to happen this way, but some restaurants we wanted to go to, we couldn’t get reservations earlier in the week. So Wednesday night we have an 8:30 reservation at Le Chateaubriand. It’s a 10-course meal. Each course is very small – it’s a tasting menu – but at the end, it’s still a very big meal. And everyone eats so late in Paris. It doesn’t even get dark until like, 10pm.

We wake up Thursday morning, still full. But we have lunch reservations at Chez Michel. Our only lunch reservation the whole week, but this place is supposed to be amazing, and it’s the only day we could go. Unfortunately, I’m not even hungry when we walk into the restaurant at noon. And we are not prepared for this meal. It’s pre-fixe, so you have to order one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert. Could we just share one appetizer, one entree, and one dessert? Sure we could! But have you seen this menu? It’s insane. Everything looks so good. We want to try all of it.

It’s the best meal of our entire trip. As I’m eating it, I know I’m full. I know I should stop, but we’re at CHEZ MICHEL. And it’s our last day in Paris. Just enjoy it, Lynn! We go home tomorrow and then you can start eating healthy again.

Steve and I roll out of Chez Michel. We lethargically walk back to the hotel and agree that this is the most full we’ve been in our entire lives.

We feel awful. And hot. And tired. We need to lay down. We rest in the wonderfully air-conditioned room and take a nap. When we wake up, we agree that it’s probably a good idea to take the hour walk to Le Grand Epicurie, rather than take the metro. It’s a beautiful day, we have time, and we really should try and walk off this meal.

It’s a long, hot walk, and I am feeling so uncomfortable. This isn’t helping in the way that I hoped it might. We stroll around the enormous, fancy supermarket for not too long, buy our parents some cheese, and take the metro back to the hotel. We don’t have dinner reservations until 9pm. I just hope I’m hungry by then.

I’m not. Neither is Steve, really, but at least we can now stand the sight of food. The idea of eating. Tonight, our last night, we’re at Robert et Louise. Steve says earlier in the day that we’ll just share a steak – their specialty – and one other thing. I don’t argue, but I know Steve. I know both of us. We’ll see something else that looks good on the menu and order that, too. And we do. We HAVE to order the rillete. It’s become my favorite food in Paris. And the fish mackerel starter looks good, too, and we should probably get a side of sautéed mushrooms with our steak, right? Our final meal in Paris. Our last hoorah. It’s Okay, Lynn. It’s totally fine. Eat and enjoy on the last night of your trip. Please, will you? We even get the creme brûlée for dessert. I can feel my stomach bursting through my dress. I’m full with a capital F. We cap the meal with Grand Marnier, and finally head back to the hotel.

We get to bed a little after midnight, and I wake up the next morning feeling so full and so awful. Our flight’s not until 1pm, thank God. I can’t even stand in the shower. I feel so sick. How am I going to travel today? I ask Steve if I should make myself throw up. As I ask it, I know I have to do it and the idea of it fills me with dread because there’s nothing I hate more than throwing up.

Steve goes down to the lobby to check out. I remain behind, crouched over the toilet, and pull the trigger.

I feel better. Slightly. In hind sight, I should have thrown up even more, but I felt like it had been enough. It had been a lot. And I did not want to stick my finger down my throat again. But I should have. I’m nauseous for the rest of the day. Very, very nauseous, which is absolutely miserable when traveling. I manage to swallow down a croissant and a small orange juice at the airport. It makes me feel better for a moment, and then I’m nauseous all over again. I barely eat anything on the 8-hour flight, which is a real shame because it’s only on these magical international flights that they insist on feeding you full meals. All I want is Sprite and Gingerale.

Some kind of miracle occurs and even though we have a full flight, we have an extra seat in our row. I spend the entire flight laying my head on Steve’s lap, holding my stomach and trying not to moan. When we land at JFK, it’s not over. We have to take the AirTran and then the train to his parents’ house in Long Island. It’s hot, and we have a lot of stuff to carry. I squint as if it’s sunny but really it’s just a physical reaction to my nausea. When we finally make it to his parents, I’m relieved. How can I still feel this bad?? It’s been a whole day!

Frank greets us with a happy, “Bonjour!” as we walk through the front door. I try to smile and talk about the trip with Steve’s parents, but eventually I excuse myself to lay down. It’s technically not even 5pm, but we’re still on Paris time, so it feels like 11pm. I finally am able to pass out for about 30 minutes before Steve wakes me up for dinner. I’ve barely eaten since the morning, so maybe this is a good idea.

I eat a full serving of pasta and salad and I feel OK, until I don’t. My stomach is just not ready for much else right now. I just want to go to sleep.

I wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep and feel – still bad. This is so annoying. My parents will be here tonight – they’re finally meeting Steve’s parents. Steve and I have been looking forward to this dinner for months. I need to snap out of this. I spend most of the day laying in bed. I skip breakfast – no appetite – but eat a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. Then lay in bed feeling nauseous, again.

I’d like to say that I rally by the time Mom and Dad arrive. I do, sort of. I’m able to eat and drink and socialize, but I’m so tired. My body is just so exhausted. It’s unforgiving right now. Punishing me for all the crap I put into it.

The next day is a surprise party for Aunt Jackie/Stetson Family Reunion. I feel nauseous for most of the car ride, and again find myself laying my head on Steve’s lap for comfort. I am so excited to see this side of my family. It’s been way too long. I just hate how I still feel. I can’t believe I still feel so bad.

Steve and I fly back to Charlotte in the evening. All we want is to sleep in our own bed. It was a long trip, and I’ve felt pretty awful for these last three days.

So. Was that last day of eating in Paris worth it? No. Absolutely not.

I’m not going to say that I regret our last day in Paris. I can’t be regretful when I learned so much from it. I learned a big lesson. It doesn’t matter how great it tastes or how special an occasion it is. It is never worth it to eat until you’re sick. To keep going past full when you’re already full. It’s just not. I’m glad I learned this. Especially in a beautiful, romantic city like Paris. I still struggle with the idea of not eating everything on my plate, still struggle with knowing that there will always be more food and I can always have more. Of whatever I want. It’s a hard concept.

But now, whenever I’m really full – not always if I’m regular full but if I’m really full – and I feel like I should finish, or I’m lucky to be having such a treat, I’m going to remember puking the next day, I’m going to remember a long, nauseous flight. I’m going to remember that I wasn’t myself for the parent meeting and for my family reunion. And when I think of all these things combined, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to put my fork down. And I’m grateful for that.

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