The Food Diaries

A less-than-stellar physical exam has motivated this basketball fan to clean up his act. But with March Madness on the brain (and TV and computer), is he able to break his bad food-and-fitness habits?

The Stats
Gender: male
Age: 24
Height: Six-foot-one
Location: Glover Park
Profession: legislative assistant
Self-described activity level: “A few weeks ago I went to the doctor and received a lackluster bill of health for the first time in my life. It really shook me. For most of my life, I’ve been extremely active, but working a 9-to-5 zapped a lot of my enthusiasm to work out. I walk everywhere and love sports, especially basketball. Following the visit to the doctor, I’ve significantly stepped up my activity levels and have made it my goal to dunk a basketball for the first time ever in 2011. I figure training to dunk will help me get in great shape and drop the real-world freshman 15 (or, um, 30) I’ve gained.”

Day One
8:15 AM: Working out in the morning is really invigorating, or so I’ve heard. I’m not a morning zombie—I can function before coffee—but working out right after I wake up is way too much right off the bat. I opt for the after-work workout because I can usually guilt myself into it based on the stuff I ate during the day. Before I step out to catch the bus, I pop a daily vitamin and scoop out exactly one cup of flax-seed granola. This stuff looks like birdseed but tastes great. Recently, I’ve been practicing this thing called self-control, and measuring out my portions prevents me from plowing through the entire box in one sitting.

1 PM: Two cups of coffee later and it’s already mealtime. Lunch at noon is for the birds. When I eat lunch at 1, the day seems to go by so much quicker. Today is beautiful, so I decide to take a stroll around where I work to see the sights and rustle up some food. I was going to get a dirty-water hot dog from one of the street vendors until I saw a sketchy-looking market/deli. It’s my experience that these types of run-down, hole-in-the-wall places have the best food. I like to think they focus more on preparing good food than they do on decor. After changing my order a couple of times, I decide on the chicken burrito. Seeing the lady position diced onions, rice, and slices of avocado and tomato puts me at ease as I think I’ve made a healthy decision. That is, until she chops up what looks like chicken for a cheesesteak and plops it on the tortilla. Healthy? This is not. Picture a Chipotle burrito but bigger—and greasier. I inhale the burrito. It won’t be hard to guilt myself into working out tonight.
2:30: I have Girl Scout cookies on my desk. The picture on the back of the box shows some scouts laughing at an owl, but I know they’re really laughing at me. I’ve tried pawning the cookies off on my coworkers, but most of them gave up dessert for Lent. This is my third year in a row of giving up things for Lent. I eat two Do-Si-Dos while watching the final minute of the West Virginia/Clemson game. Sidebar: How awesome is the “boss button”? Golf clap for you, NCAA.
3:30: My boss just handed me a Guinness cupcake. Meh. Guinness is better as a beer than as batter.
5:15: Bad news: I just got the heads-up that I’ll be working late tonight. Good news: My bracket isn’t screwed yet! Extra hours of work fueled by a cup of green tea.
7:30: I blast out an e-mail to see if anyone wants to get a pickup-basketball game going up at the local gym. In return, I get an invitation to a St. Paddy’s Day cookout. I make a game-time decision and opt for the party, picking up some Guinness on the way.
8:20: I never want to eat again. Two Guinness drafts, a hamburger, a hot dog, and a scoop of mac and goat cheese later, and I’m full. The hosts suggest playing a dancing game on the Wii. I get out while the gettin’s good.

Day Two
9 AM: Food hangovers are the worst. I pop a vitamin and power through with a cup of black coffee and two pieces of lightly buttered raisin bread from the kitchen at work.
10 AM: Another cup of coffee. My southeast region of the bracket is in ruins, and I’m still full from last night. Apparently, I need to work on the whole self-control idea.
12:30 PM: The last few pieces of raisin bread are mine! An old skiing trick I know is to pack a lunch and eat it on the lift so you don’t have to waste a minute at the lodge, thus optimizing the amount of downhill shredding. My go-to ski lunch is two crunchy-peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches on toasted raisin bread. I think about how I’d rather be skiing as I eat the same sandwiches and wash them down with a bottle of water.
1 PM: Halftime. I walk for about a mile around the city to clear my head. It’s such a beautiful day, and I’m very envious of my friends who had the foresight to take the day off to watch the games and recover post-St. Patrick’s Day.
3 PM: I read somewhere that caffeine speeds up time. Or rather, caffeine enables your brain to process time more quickly, making it feel like it’s flying by. I hope the green tea I’m about to drink has the same effect.
5 PM: The bus ride home seems interminable, but it gives me time to plan out a new running route.
5:30: I’m so excited to tryout my new run. That is, until I’m greeted on the front porch by my roommate and a friend with a cooler of ice-cold beer and the sounds of summer on the radio. I quickly abandon any thoughts of running as I swig an IPA and settle in on the porch.
8:30: The number of people who have joined us on the porch has increased considerably. Our house has quickly become the neighborhood hangout for the evening. I’ve barely moved off the porch since I came home, other than to refill the cooler, so a few of us hit the street to toss the pigskin while my friend’s girlfriend whips up a batch of shrimp pasta.
9 PM: While my roommate’s girlfriend is no Giada de Laurentiis, her pasta—shrimp with bow-tie pasta in a red sauce from Whole Foods—is just what the doctor ordered. In all, I have about five beers and the plate of pasta before retiring inside to watch Virginia Commonwealth University pummel Georgetown.

Day Three
11:30 AM: Ah, Saturday. I haven’t slept in this long since college. Two things are on my mind as I get ready for the day: basketball and lunch. I decide to wander around the ’hood to people-watch until I know what I want to eat. I walk around for about 20 minutes before deciding that a bean burrito from Surfside is what I really want. Red beans and rice, avocado, roasted tomatoes, light sour cream, and pico de gallo round it out on a flour tortilla. It’s fresh and delicious.
2 PM: My roommates and I take a break from the March Madness marathon of basketball games to play some urban football in the street. If the lockout extends into the regular season, I think the Skins should seriously consider signing me as a replacement quarterback. They could do worse, just sayin’.
3:30: Basketball, basketball, basketball. Chips and salsa have officially made their appearance. I move seats so I can be farther away from them after eating about eight.
5 PM: My friends and I debate if vodka or bourbon has more calories. Google confirms I was right—bourbon has fewer. I pour a victory bourbon-and-water on the rocks as dinner plans are discussed.
6:30: My fr
iend and I walk to the grocery store with our minds on grilling. We agree on 98-percent-lean burgers, baked fries, and organic mac and cheese, which I find out, after consulting the nutrition facts, is surprisingly not so terrible for you.
7:30: I sip another bourbon-and-water as I tend to the grill, and my friend takes care of the sides. Life is good.
7:45: Bobby Flay who? The burger is very tasty, but it does weigh on my mind that I ate one just 48 hours ago.

Day Four
9:30 AM: Another beautiful day to cap what has been a great weekend. I saunter out the door with my roommate to meet our friend for coffee. I get a large coffee with skim milk and two packets of the pink fake stuff.
9:45: After we get home, I make oatmeal and top it with a sliced banana and a pinch of cinnamon.
1 PM: Watching The Fab Five documentary on ESPN with my other roommate has motivated us to run some basketball games at the outside courts about a mile away.
1:30: We walk down to the court to find that no one is there, which is lame, but it gives us a chance to work on alley oops, trick shots, and getting stuffed by the rim attempting to dunk. We both tire of this and really decide to work on our game, taking about 30 to 40 jump shots each from both elbows as a warmup to some one-on-one games. We play for about an hour before walking back to the house.
3:30: My roommate’s mom is in town, and she invites us all out to lunch at Bourbon. I get a turkey club with a roasted-red-pepper mayonnaise on wheat with smoked Gouda, bacon, lettuce, and tomato. It comes with a ramekin of baked beans that I devour in two bites. I also order a Diet Coke, which is my first soda of the week. If I haven’t mentioned what I’ve been drinking the past few days, it’s because I drink a lot of water. I mean a lot of water—definitely more than the recommended eight cups—and besides coffee or tea, it’s all I drink. Hydrate or die. The sandwich is very good, but I can eat only half of it, so I box up the rest and take it home.
6:30: I’ve slowly watched my bracket crumble to pieces throughout the day. I’ve gone from first to last in a matter of hours. Only one thing can comfort me in my time of grief: pizza! My roommate’s mom has conveniently left two huge pepperoni pizzas from Safeway in the freezer. The roommates and I heat up both. I crush three slices.
7 PM: Richmond is the basketball capital of the world! Having grown up there, I send out a number of obnoxious tweets to let everyone know that “VCU is gonna Shaka the world.” I also eat a victory slice of pizza.

Day Five
9 AM: On my way into work I stop to grab a vanilla Greek yogurt from the store. Every time I open one of these things, I’m thoroughly disgusted by the liquid stuff on the top. I can barely look at it while I stir. I eat it with a big glass of water and coffee.
10 AM: Coffee number two. And look, someone brought in a bunch of bananas! I eat one at my desk.
1 PM: A coworker asks if I want to go to Quiznos. Because I forgot to pack my lunch and there’s no more raisin bread in the kitchen, I take her up on it. The shop is about a half-mile walk away, and I get a long, skinny sub called the Bullet with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and bacon plus a light drizzle of mayo. I eat half. My boss also hooked me up with a big M&M cookie. I try not to eat it, but I can’t resist.
4:30: Green tea is the best afternoon pick-me-up. It doesn’t give you the jitters like coffee, and I find I can keep a more sustained energy level, which helps when exercising after work (when I actually manage to do it).
6:15: Three of my buddies and I head down to the basketball courts. This time there are four guys waiting there. We play five games and go 4-1, which takes us about an hour and a half. If my football career doesn’t pan out with the Skins, maybe I can fall back on basketball (in my dreams, maybe).
8 PM: I’m so beat from basketball that the last thing I want to do is cook dinner. I remember that I still have the half sandwich from lunch yesterday and pop it into the toaster oven to warm it up. The red-pepper mayo is a little stronger a day later, but it definitely hits the spot. After dinner, I sit on the porch and enjoy a beer on what is just an amazing night for March.

From the Expert
Arlington-based dietician Lise Gloede says: “March Madness is certainly here! A boss bringing in Guinness cupcakes and cookies? Madness! Eating a victory slice of pizza because your team won, not because you’re hungry? Madness! Nutritionally, this guy is on a losing streak. March is also National Nutrition Month, so when watching those basketball games, how about getting a veggie-and-dip tray? Or doing a happy dance when your team wins instead of sabotaging your health goals by drinking more beer and eating pizza? The diarist actually made a good choice with the green tea (I hope it’s not full of sugar!) and lots of water. But he’d do well to cut his burritos in half to control portions—one of his goals—and to include more fruits and veggies in his diet. How about ordering salads with the pizza or bringing some fruit to work or to munch on? Here’s hoping portion control and fruits and veggies will be part of his winning brackets this year!”

Are you brave enough to keep a food diary? We dare you. Send an e-mail to with your contact information and why you think you’d make a good diarist.

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