Well+Being Blog > Dieting & Weight Loss|Healthy Eating
Losing Weight on a Chaotic Schedule: Food Diaries
This IT guy is big on counting his calories, but is it enough for him to lose the pounds to get back to a normal weight?
This diarist’s tendency to eat out frequently could be his downfall. Photograph by Flickr user Mike Saechang.
Profession: IT guy
Self-described activity level: Sub-par. Not quite sedentary, but certainly not active. My problem is a schedule that can best be described as extremely chaotic, and an aversion to the treadmill and the gym. With better weather will come more bike rides, though.
7:45 AM: There’s a thing about the end of the year—there’s more you need to do in each day than there is time to do it. This morning starts early, with a trip across town to meet our wiring contractor by 8 AM, which means a quick breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese from Brooklyn Bagel Bakery.
1 PM: From there, it’s off to Bowie and back before lunch, which is a decadent treat—the bacon burger from Boundary Stone in Bloomingdale. I’ve become a salad guy at lunch, but I splurge a bit today. Their burger is about six ounces, with cheese and bacon jam.
7:30 PM: Dinner is tomato soup from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. It is just about the most delicious thing ever. I adulterate it with a few ounces of heavy cream, though—probably not the best choice. I add a grilled cheese on wheat to complete the winter dinner.
8:30 AM: Coffee counts as breakfast, right? I start the day at Northside Social in Arlington with a vanilla latte from the excellent baristas. I don’t have time to stay for oatmeal or their fruit and yogurt, and I’ve been trying to dial back on their delicious cinnamon rolls, but boy, is it a mistake just to have coffee to start the day.
5:30 PM: At 3 PM, I had to retrieve my car from the mechanic before close of business and then see one more client to wrap things ahead of the weekend. That means it’s 5:30 when I get done, and I’ve had all of 170 calories the whole day.
7 PM: We have a Christmas party in the evening with light fare, but that isn’t going to cut it. Fortunately, I’m able to cool my heels at California Tortilla with a gyro burrito and some chips and queso. Immensely satisfying, yes, but calorically? Well, let’s just call this a binge and move on, shall we?
9 PM: The evening’s light fare was, indeed, light, and as my wife has not had dinner yet, we stop by Lost Dog Café after the event to get her a meal, as well. I have a slice of Greek pizza.
9 AM: At last, the weekend. We have a tradition where we head to Capital City Diner for breakfast on most Saturdays and Sundays. Since my wife and I have both been working on our weight, though, we’ve conﬁned ourselves to a pretty limited part of the menu at the diner, with the help of the awesome staff. I have two eggs over easy, two pieces of wheat toast with butter, and corned beef hash.
11:15 AM: After breakfast, it’s off to a baby-naming reception for our friends. Our hostess is gluten-free and her husband is vegetarian, and they’ve found the most amazing bakery to make them treats for the whole crowd. I have one cream puff.
5:30 PM: We join friends from out of town for a light dinner, where I eat a corned beef sandwich with French fries.
8:30 PM: We head to a cocktail party hosted by Reﬁnery 29’s delightful Brittany Martin. For the most part, I’m good. Their cocktails are quite tempting, and poured by one of the bartenders from DC’s best cocktail bars, the Passenger, but as I’m the driver for the evening, I have just one—bourbon and allspice dram—before switching to water. I also munch on some shelled pecans and dark chocolate cookies.
9:15 AM: The last day in DC before a trip back to my native California for the holidays. (We’ve been ahead of the laundry, but not of the packing.) I have a morning appointment at 10, but I manage to get in a trip to the diner ahead of the rest of a busy day. I have two eggs over easy, two pieces of wheat toast with butter, and three sausage links.
3:30 PM: We’re at the airport searching for lunch, but the trouble with travel is that there are very few good choices. We settle on Chipotle at the airport as the least bad of all our options. Yeah, I pass on the bacon cheeseburger from Five Guys and get a nice steak burrito bowl from Chipotle with sour cream and shredded cheese on top.
6:30 PM: A six-hour flight means lots of water, but also a ginger ale and some mixed nuts, ahead of a very lean ham sandwich at my folks’ place. My parents, who’ve had incredible success with their weight loss, are a great source of easily countable food, and for that I am deeply grateful.
OUR EXPERT’S ADVICE:
Ann Nothwehr, a certified nutrition support clinician with a certificate in weight management at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, says:
“Assuming you would like to have good health going forward, I have to recommend weight loss and increased physical activity. Your BMI is 33.0, which puts you in the Class I obese category. Obese and overweight people start to see health benefits with 5 to 10 percent weight loss. Cutting your daily calories by 500 is a rough strategy for losing a pound weekly, which I would recommend as a safe long-term plan. While you are embracing this new lifestyle, it will be crucial for you to maintain muscle mass by keeping adequate protein in your diet (for you, at least 90 grams daily) and by doing weight or resistance training. I recommend finding exercise routines that you can stick to all year long for the rest of your life. This is vital to weight maintenance.
“Currently, you describe a chaotic schedule. I’m going to suggest some changes to help you avoid obesity-related health crises, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart attack. This means a commitment to some level of restraint in order to improve your physical health.
“Some of your calorie estimates seem low, and I believe your total caloric intake for these days is significantly above the apparent average of 2,200 calories daily. I would recommend 1,800 calories daily for you. Make sure to use a reputable source when counting calories. One excellent small, portable paperback is The CalorieKing Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter. It includes chain restaurants and supermarket foods, and allows you to easily track not only calories but other macronutrients that you should decrease, as well: fat and carbohydrates (you should have no more than 60 grams of fat and no more than 225 grams of carbohydrate daily). Using such a source will help train you to choose healthier meals such as a Chipotle salad (lots of lettuce) with a small amount of rice, beans, and chicken (rather than steak), without cheese and sour cream. Depending on the rest of your day, you could add guacamole, a mostly healthy fat source.
“I see no meals at home until you get to your parents’ in California. Even if cooking is not your thing, I recommend using some basic food items at home for most meals; this will definitely help you cut calories (not to mention spending). One basic item you should consider stocking is a low-calorie, high-protein meal replacement shake. Studies have shown that dieters who take one of these instead of a meal at the time of day when their willpower is lowest tend to have greater success than dieters who don’t use such shakes.
“In addition to the meal replacements, I would suggest another very doable commitment right now: Eat at least one meal per day at home. These can be simple meals: a high-fiber breakfast cereal with skim milk and fruit in the morning (or, for that matter, in the evening); a salad with a meat, fish, or bean topping to keep protein up; and a frozen dinner (check the label for calorie, fat, and sodium content) with an easy vegetable or fruit side. Your current diet is low in the beneficial vegetable, fruit, and dairy food groups. I would suggest checking your vitamin D level, as well, because people with a BMI of more than 30 are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. As you change your diet, also look to improve your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and waist measurement along with weight. I wish you a healthy, happy 2012!
Brave enough to keep a food diary? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us why you’d make a good diarist.