Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Ode to a Mediocre Burger

Last Saturday started fairly normally for me.  I woke up around 8 (yes, a.m.  Weird, huh?), grabbed breakfast at the local coffee shop, went to the beach for a breakfast picnic, and then headed down to my weekly hour of pain, punishment, and torture, all in the name of exercise.  I came home, grabbed a reasonable lunch (omelet, salad, apple) and then headed out to the local park to enjoy some very gorgeous weather. 

Later that night, I went out to dinner at a restaurant I'd never been to before.  There was a perfectly reasonable chicken dish that was fairly safe, calorie-wise, and I could have had it.  But there was also a burger, and as soon as I saw the menu entry I knew that it would fix everything that was wrong with me.  I was desperate for lots of protein, a few carbs, and no messing about with calories.  I got the burger (with veggies instead of fries, because I really didn't want fries) and a glass of wine. 

The burger arrived.  It was huge.  It sat on my plate like a smug challenge, daring me to break my diet.  I could see the future.  It involved me spending dinner in an all-out war of mastication against my food, in which I was doomed to a) wreck my diet for the day and b) end up feeling more stuffed than a sausage. 

But who am I to turn down a challenge?  I dove in head first and demolished that hamburger.  There was nothing left when I was done.  My victory was sweet and total.  And I didn't feel overly stuffed.  I felt full, but not overfull.  I was shocked.  I felt great.  Warm, fuzzy, and content.  Most importantly, I didn't feel guilty.  I didn't regret what I'd done.  I knew it had been exactly the right thing.  And then I went next door to the movie theater, had another glass of wine, and saw Alice In Wonderland.

I'm not one to look for life lessons in a piece of food, but I got one anyway.  That burger was big, but in my non-calorie counting days I would have eaten it without a second thought.  The burger was good, but nothing special.  But it was exactly what I needed, and when I was finished I felt like I'd done something really special for myself.  When I tried to pin down what that was all about, I eventually realized it was because of the choices I'd made.  I consciously chose something that was outside the boundaries of my normal eating patterns, knowing full well why I wouldn't normally eat it and how much it would push me over my daily limit.  I did it anyway.  It wasn't an "I'm sick of this diet" decision, it was a "I know this isn't what I should do every day, but I also know how many miles I'll have to run to burn it off, and I'm willing to do that" decision.

I used to have to consciously decide to eat healthy.  If I was out at a restaurant I would have to remind myself that maybe cream sauce wasn't necessary, or maybe I didn't need an appetizer.  But that was only if I remembered to think about it.  By contrast, now I automatically evaluate what I'm eating and make healthy choices without really putting much thought into it.  That decision to eat a burger was a conscious decision, and one I didn't take lightly.  And when I made that decision, I felt more in control of my life than I have in the past year. 

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