The Day I Ate a Cheeseburger And Enjoyed It

You know those weeks where you feel like there will just never be enough time to work, rest, and play? Well I’m in the middle of one of those right now.  The last week or two at work has been so busy and draining that as is true with most people, when I get home at night I just can’t seem to find enough time to rest and play (wish that I could say that I couldn’t find enough time to work!).

Probably also like many of you, I’m tough on myself.  I strive to get it all perfectly, the exact right amount of productivity at work and rest/sleep at home with ample enough play time.  Shouldn’t I walk the walk and talk the talk, especially if I’m going to be blogging about recipes or meditation?  Doesn’t my encouragement of others to take better care of themselves (whatever that looks like for you) mean that I’m the poster girl for fruits and veggies, not to mention yoga and quiet time?  I wish.

The truth is, if I look at things in a broad stroke picture of my day-to-day and all of the places where I can “miss the mark,” I wouldn’t want to look at the canvas at all.  But if I look for the rays where I am shifting things for the (my) greater good, the light is bountiful, because it’s about perception.

I ate a cheeseburger last weekend.  Oh, and onion rings too (I wasn’t going to tell you about that, but if I’m going to share my story, then it should at least be the real story, right?!).  And you know what?  The best part of eating that cheeseburger (and onion rings) is that I didn’t feel guilty afterwards.  It may sound silly to say that a burger actually made me feel healthy, but in a lot of ways—at least mentally and emotionally—it did.  I realize that as somebody living with cancer I could actually make myself sick hemming and hawing over every little thing that I eat or drink (as my Dana-Farber nutritionist said to me once—“I’m not concerned about what you’re currently eating or drinking.  I’m concerned about just how much stress you’re putting upon yourself wondering what to eat and drink.”).  And I know this because I’ve done it to myself for the past year and a half.  You may see me eat something when we’re together, but what you don’t see is the negative self talk that can occur on the way home.  (Even if it’s not something that others would deem unhealthy, I now think of myself as “different” because I am living with cancer, and that feels like a lot of pressure).  It’s only been recently that I’ve been able to slowly let some of that guilt and anxiety (read: fear) go.

I’ve never been in all-or-nothing person.  I love that people now are touting moderation as the key to good health.  Sign me up!  If you told me that I could never have another slice of pizza (never mind the fact that I at least try and pile the veggies on now) or piece of chocolate again, I wouldn’t be happy! But if you told me to try and eat clean and healthy 80-90% of the time, I feel that I can strive for that (it still sounds like a lot, I know.  If this speaks to you then my recommendation is to go at your own pace. Forget about what books and magazines and websites are telling you about “clean” eating.  Start slowly if you’re not used to it.  I started by cutting more meat out of my diet, which is ironic since I’m blogging about that cheeseburger, I know!).

I hadn’t had a burger in months and onion rings to me symbolize the fact that I feel good, which I know makes no sense, but let me explain.  When I was sick after cancer treatment I couldn’t eat much.   If I even tried to derail off of the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast), my body was so unhappy with me.  I remember at one point thinking, “If I could only have some onion rings right now!”  It kind of became like a joke with my friend A and I; as soon as I started to feel better she was encouraging me to go out and find the best darn onion rings in the Boston area!

With cancer, we just want to feel like something is in our control, so it seems pretty normal that we’d try and revamp our diets.  Not only does what we put into our bodies feed that sense of control (excuse the pun), but research has shown that not just cancer patients but everybody of course can benefit from a healthier way of living.  The trick is, for me, to be more mindful about my choices; to think about how my body feels while I’m drinking a juice (and afterwards) and how my body feels after I indulge too much (ahem, my birthday this year).  And to know that I’m never really deprived, because if I decide that today isn’t the right day to have that burger, another day will be.  Another trick?  Not to get stuck if you do feel that you overindulged.  It took me a few weeks to bounce back from my birthday, not just because my body didn’t feel great, but because my mind was constantly picking out all of the things that I felt I shouldn’t have eaten.  I finally woke up one day and said “ENOUGH!” and let it go.

I used to think that since I don’t get it perfectly (at all) I had no business writing about it, sharing my experiences, or even talking about it.  Unless I’m juicing 3 x day and completely vegan, I’m really doing a total disservice to my body and I’m a complete sham on this blog, right?

Not right.  Why?  First of all, I tell myself, there are plenty of good things that I’m doing for my body.  And I need to actually stop and consciously remind myself of that, not just sweep all of the better choices under the rug (this goes for working on better boundaries and even forgiving others.  It’s certainly not just all about our diets).  And the truth is, if we have something to share that’s authentic and could serve others, then we don’t need to wait until we get it perfectly (because we’ll be waiting a long, long time).  Let’s break it down like this: Think about something in your life that you’ve wanted to shift (remember how much more I love that word than change?).  Then think about any small steps at all that you’ve made towards your goals, or intentions. Can you recognize that those small steps are, how shall I say it, AWESOME?!  If you want to save money, do you expect to wake up the next morning and be a millionaire?  Of course not.  But if you put any amount of money from your last paycheck into your savings account or decided not to buy that new pair of shoes, you are taking a step towards your higher goal.  I want to be healthier, so I invest in myself as much as possible.  Does this mean that I wake up tomorrow and never have another potato chip again in my life?  For some, all-or-nothing may really be the answer.  But for the rest of us, moderation and a deeper love for ourselves than for how we look (i.e. it’s more important how you actually feel) is the ticket to greater overall health and happiness.  If I focus on how great my body feels after eating well or exercising, that propels me towards greater overall health than looking in the mirror does. Does this resonate with any of you?  It sure does with me.

I’m going to be writing a lot on the negative effects that believing we have to be perfect put upon us.  Because in the end, we’re actually reversing what we’re trying to do, which is to take better care of ourselves (mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually).  And I can tell you that true self-care doesn’t stem from perfection. Whether it comes from your body, mind, or soul, do me a favor, will you?  Love yourself.  Love yourself with all of your imperfections and love yourself for trying and love yourself for messing up and love yourself because in your own way, of this I’m certain, you’re worth it. xoxo.

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