First Tuesday of every month is designated as junk food Tuesday at my office, which means a couple of the staff will make the pilgrimage to In-n-Out to fetch lunch for everyone present. Since I am typically not in the office on Tuesdays, or if I am it is not until well after lunch, I usually miss this festive occasion. But I was there today and had my first In-n-Out cheeseburger this this year. It was delicious.

One of the girls asked me if I was cheating on my diet, to which I replied that I am not dieting, and she gave me a disbelieving look. I tried to explain that eating more protein and working with RD on my food choices is not the same as dieting. She still looked skeptical, remarking on the slimmer silhouette I am sporting and the amount of time I spend at the gym. Does dieting not accompany such efforts?

In the midst of enjoying my first cheeseburger in a couple of months, I explained that in my mind “dieting” means deprivation and denial, and I am working hard at changing my mindset about food to eliminate deprivation and denial of any food that I like and enjoy. I tend to be reasonably strict about raw sugar, because having tasted freedom from insulin and diabetes drugs, I really would like to continue on this side of that particular line of medical treatment. The rest of it – real food, eating less processed foods, eating more protein and lots more fruits and vegetables, my experiments with plant-based carbs and protein powders – is all partly common sense and partly just an adventure in healthier choices.

I doubt she gets it. Another woman in the office is working the whole 30 diet (which I honestly still do not completely understand) and the receptionist is on weight watchers. Whatever works for each of us is the food path we should pursue. I completely enjoyed my cheeseburger without guilt or regret, and while french fries are in my personal Pandora’s Pantry, In-n-Out fries have a history of causing me severe stomach distress. Easy, no brainer to pass on those.

There was talk about how much additional exercise was going to be required to burn off junk food Tuesday, and I briefly thought about J’s mini band dead treadmill and how 10 minutes at that might not be so terrible … then pushed the thought out of my mind. I was at the gym this morning, and the 3 minutes I endured of that was enough for one day. I will be at the gym tomorrow, and if I still feel that burger digesting in my stomach or weighing on my hips I may feel differently and change my mind. But that’s tomorrow’s problem.

Now that I am more conscious of it, I notice how much people talk about food as if it is our enemy and exercise is something to be suffered and endured. No judgment here, because it has not been long enough for me to not vividly recall my own avoidance of exercise and the grin-and-bear-it attitude that was my best effort at getting through the first generation of Lists each week. Food is still a complicated topic if I allow it, but I am learning to just keep it simple with my protein, fruits, vegetable choices. I eat a lot of the same meals over and over and over again, but food is becoming less and less an experience to be savored than something I do because everyone needs fuel.

Education, learning, and just trying to follow the direction I receive is making me feel more as if I am the one making positive choices about eating and exercise versus just having to accept that prescription medication is the only thing that impacts diabetes.

While going through the new routine this morning, I was thinking about the other folks in the gym going along through their series of exercises and pursuit of their own goals. I wonder if it is just because this is all so relatively new for me that I am thinking about it, writing out it almost daily, something that will fade as time passes and it becomes more ho-hum routine. I was also wondering if audio books would work for me during exercise, decided not. Counting reps and focusing on muscle-y goings on does not lend itself well to actually listening to audiobooks.

A couple of my coworkers are fascinated by the fact that M and I both get up around 4 a.m. to pursue our individual exercise habits – M off for his long run in the dark and me for the gym. I used to think that I could never get up that early on a daily basis for any reason, until I found a compelling reason do so. It is rapidly approaching 6 months of nearly daily workouts and the idea of skipping falls into the realm of planned days off or I am sick. While my sinuses were sweating sympathetically with me this morning, I feel perfectly fine these days. In fact, since I seem to have gotten over my phobia about being late for appointments, I have been enjoying deep and dreamless sleep for several nights.

Even M remarks that it is easier for him to get up before dawn daily since I was already in the habit before he started following my example. It puts him into a good position for a summer of early morning runs before the heat of the day settles upon us.

Once the deck is completed (hopefully Thursday, when our contractor returns with the railing that should be in tomorrow), summer can truly begin for us. M is already jonesing to be firing up the Traeger to smoke some beef, and I am contemplating the taste of roasted vegetables along with my summer haunt of the farmer’s markets. Maybe we will use the pool more this year as well, since we will again have stairs to the backyard and not be forced to come in and out through the garage.

What I am not doing is worrying about a single cheeseburger on junk food Tuesday. I am not really one to feel guilty about food so much as worried about consequences and ashamed of my lack of self-control, and for the record, negative girl is locked up in her box and now NOT allowed to weigh in on this topic. Because of that, I feel none of that sort of negative emotion this afternoon, and I believe that to be solid forward progress on my part. After all, the camaraderie of my coworkers is worth a lot to me, far more than the drama of getting anxious and stressed about calories and fat. While I could have still enjoyed their company while eating the broccoli and chicken I brought for lunch, a cheeseburger sounded really, really good and tasted even better than I imagined. No harm done, no cheeseburger addiction backslide happening here.

And nope, not going back to the gym tonight to punish myself with 10 minutes of mini band dead treadmilling. I have to return yet another too big dress (go me!) and check out summer sandals at Nordstrom tonight.

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