Health

A ‘Princess of Conservative Politics’ Writes a Food Diary

Lots of lunch meetings, a date night, and a flooded exercise room—have the stars aligned to derail this 33-year-old’s diet and fitness plan?
This potato-chip-laden ice cream proves less satisfying than our diarist imagined—which is good news for her diet.

The Stats
Gender: Female
Age: 33
Height: 5’4”
Location: Alexandria
Profession: Event planner and, as she puts it, a “princess of conservative politics”
Self-described activity level: “In the last two years I’ve lost about 100 pounds by cutting portions, but, admittedly, with very little exercise. Now that the weight loss is slowing down, this definitely needs to change. I put together a fantastic gym in my basement—elliptical, free weights, a bench (I love pyramid workouts), yoga mat, bouncy balls—but it flooded last weekend. My challenge is fitting in workout time, while also avoiding restaurant fatigue in an area where dating and work is so food-focused.”

Day One
7:50 AM: A few sips of a protein shake are the most I can manage within an hour of waking up.
8:25: More shake before I head out the door.
9:15: Strawberry yogurt and Diet Coke at my desk.
Noon: At a lunch meeting that usually serves Chick-fil-A. Today they have pizza. I don’t eat pizza. Instead, I down a bottle of water. How awful would it be if I ate the small box of Godiva chocolates I was just asked to pass on to a friend? I’ll have to stop for something on way back to Old Town. Oh, maybe I’ll see a good food truck!

1 PM: I saw one food truck on way back the office—the DC Slices pizza truck, of course. I have three regrets in life: One and two know who they are. Number three happened two weeks ago when I saw the Red Hook Lobster truck with only a few people in line and I didn’t stop. I’m obsessed with food trucks, even though I’ve never eaten from one. I wish more of them came to Old Town.
1:45: Twelve Club crackers. They have been my go-to emergency food because we have tons left from an event my organization hosted in February. I wash it down with a Diet Coke.
5 PM: Two Crown-and-ginger ales at Rustico. I skip third round and opt for water. Talked conservative politics with a lobbyist, two journalists, and a wonk. Lots of disagreements, so a good time was had by all.
7:25: Did I mention that I also took some Club crackers home? Immediately have a couple crackers and white cheddar. You know how most people’s favorite food is an actual meal? Like lasagna or steak or whatever their mom used to make on their birthday? Mine are snacks: homemade Chex mix, chips and guacamole, cheese and crackers. It’s like I was born at a bridge game.
8:30: Somehow I went from totally giving up on dinner to making seared scallops and mushrooms. Worth it! I love to cook but don’t do it as often as I should.
10 PM: Text from a guy—we’ll call him FD—asking if he can take me out to dinner this weekend. I like this about him. Guys in DC don’t know how to ask girls out. Forwarding an e-mail about some silly happy hour? That’s not a date. Hanging out in the bar after CPAC? Not a date, either. Surprisingly, I don’t mind the fact that he asked via text. See, I can be a modern girl!
Side note: Friend’s Godiva remains untouched. That’s gotta be worth something in the dietician’s book.

Day Two
7:50 AM: Finish off the protein shake from yesterday. Pack some cheese and crackers for later.
8:30: Ugh, forgot I have to drive into DC today for super-secret, off-the-record political meeting that everyone knows about. Settle for a Diet Coke. I’ve never smoked, but my first sip feels like the first drag after an international flight. Also, I eat a few bites of white cheddar. Sitting on I-395 overrides my no-eating-in-the-car rule.
10 AM: The meeting hasn’t started yet. People are drinking coffee and grabbing bagels. I abstain.
1:30: Lunch at the Light Horse in Old Town. I settle on almond-stuffed dates and potato-leek soup. I eat three dates and half the soup. My assistant gets a burger and asks for a side of bacon mayonnaise. I would smirk at my “healthier” alternative, but the dates are wrapped in bacon.
4 PM: Diet Coke and a piece of Godiva (not my friend’s gift though!)
6 PM: Looks like the contractor has been to my house for post-flood work. Two jet-engine-like fans remain to dry up the water leak that started in my bathroom. Want to quell your appetite? Get into a conversation on exactly what went down the toilet with an insurance agent.
7 PM: Leftover scallops don’t warm up so well. I down a bottle of water.
7:30: A handful of Jelly Bellies. Buttered popcorn and pear are my favorite flavors. I toss out all the licorice and coconut ones. That’s like cutting calories, right?
9 PM: Trader Joe’s cherry-chocolate soy ice cream. Portion control? No problem with an ice-cream cone!
10 PM: Watching Top Chef. I reach for cheese and crackers. My worst food habit is not eating a good dinner and then snacking the rest of the night.

Day Three
8:30 AM: Running late, no time for a protein shake. It’s sprinkling outside, which means DC traffic will be worse. Diet Coke in the car.
9:30: Grabbed a bag of granola on the way out the door, which I’m now eating at my desk. It’s Target brand cashew-apricot granola. Surprisingly, it’s only 260 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 15 grams of sugar for the entire bag. Make a mental note to stock up the next time I’m there.
Noon: Vitamin Water Zero and six Club crackers. Will we ever run out?
12:30: The DC Empanadas truck is in Old Town! I should send an intern to bring me back one. Why even have interns if they can’t get your food?
1:30: Skip the food truck and have lunch at Columbia Firehouse. I split house-made chips and onion dip and order squash soup for myself.
7 PM: Dinner at a friend’s condo, which happens to be a hundred yards from Chick-fil-A. I eat seven nuggets and half a small coleslaw. Kid-size sweet tea for post-meal TV watching. Give myself points for not getting the new banana-pudding milkshake.
8:30: Had a few almond butter cookies from Trader Joe’s. I blame the Sex and the City marathon on E!.
Side note: Godiva was delivered, unopened.

Day Four
7:45 AM: A few sips of a protein shake.
9:15: Diet coke and Target granola. This one is chocolate-hazelnut, but it’s still not bad on fat and sugar. Since it’s sort of a joke with my friends, here’s a list of breakfast foods I don’t like: eggs, milk, waffles, oatmeal, pancakes, syrup, English muffins, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, Danishes, French toast, sausage, juice of any kind, and coffee.
11:30: String-cheese stick from Trader Joe’s. I’m already thinking about lunch. I always feel awkward eating snacks at work because my assistant eats like a camel: He’ll skip breakfast and dinner in favor of a huge lunch.
1:30 PM: Lunch: chips and salsa (and a few with queso) and a cup of corn soup at Austin Grill.
3:30: Diet Coke and a mini Kit Kat I found in my purse. Must confess I also bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Late Night Snack ice cream. It has chocolate-covered potato chips and is limited edit
ion!
5 PM: I just realized that since I’m meeting FD for dinner in Old Town it makes sense to hang around the office until then. Longest Friday ever.
7 PM: We go to Geranio, my favorite Italian restaurant in Old Town. I skip wine, and FD remarks that I’m a cheap date. I have one piece of prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella with a balsamic reduction for my appetizer and butternut-squash soup for my entrée. We split the vanilla creme brûlée. We walk a few blocks in Old Town. I’d guess it was enough to burn off one bite of dessert. Plans made for Monday night. Attention, DC guys: This is how you get a good girl (assuming you want one).
11 PM: I have three bites of the Late Night Snack ice cream. The novelty wore off pretty quickly. The only diet book I’ve ever read cover to cover is Bethenny Frankel’s Naturally Thin. One of highlights is the principle of diminishing returns: Stop eating when the food isn’t as satisfying as the first bite. I always have guilt about not finishing a dish at a restaurant. Like it or not, leftovers are never as good at home. This is why I tend to order soups and/or appetizers. Makes for a smaller bill and smaller portions.

Day Five
8 AM: Sunlight wakes me up. Yay, it’s the weekend!
8:30: I have a couple sips of protein shake and a Diet Coke. It’s sunny but cold. Where is spring? The flooding in my townhouse has thrown a wrench in all my exercise plans this week. The basement/workout room is still missing carpet and a ceiling, and everything is piled up in a corner to make it easier for the carpet layers. I think I’ll make a new music playlist to motivate me for a walk around the neighborhood.
11 AM: The playlist starts with Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and ends with Carbon Leaf’s “Let Your Troubles Go By.” I have a few more sips of the protein shake, a handful of pistachios, then I’m on my way.
2 PM: White cheddar, crackers, and Diet Coke for lunch. Restaurant fatigue is setting in. I vow to cook dinner the next day and take a tilapia filet out of the freezer. There’s a chance of snow tomorrow, so I’m thinking tilapia with an avocado-quinoa-and-corn salsa should off-set the weather.
6:30: Girls night in. We have Chick-fil-A . . . again. For me, six nuggets and a banana milkshake. We decide to go on a 20-minute walk after devouring our nuggets.
9:30: Jelly beans and reruns of Boardwalk Empire. Thinking DC politicos may sign me up for the Women’s Temperance Union. You can take my alcohol, but don’t touch my cheese and crackers!

From the Expert
Dr. Scott Kahan, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program, says: “Wow, there’s so much you’re doing well: limiting portions, drinking lots of water, cooking healthy meals, passing on the food trucks, navigating work lunches. Oh, and did I mention that you lost 100 pounds? Maybe you should be giving all of us advice!

What you’ve done over the last two years is incredibly impressive, especially given our food-laden environment. But I have a few suggestions. First, I notice you don’t eat many vegetables, fruits, or salads. Any chance of getting some of these into your diet? Perhaps a lunch salad at a place like Chop’t or Freshii, where they make it to your liking right in front of you? Or maybe you could make a weekly trip to the grocery store to pick up some fruit to eat during your morning commute to work.

You clearly have lots of willpower—I’m not sure I could just down a bottle of water while everyone else is eating pizza, Chick-fil-A, or bagels. But I’m concerned that willpower can only go so far. During future gatherings with unhealthy food, I suggest that instead of abstaining, you try to have some healthy options around so that you can eat something healthy while others are eating their food. Perhaps a protein shake. Or a salad. Or a sandwich. There are lots of options. Given your busy day, let’s aim for something that’s easy and healthy and tastes good.

Regarding the leftover Club crackers from the event: Just throw ’em out! I know what you mean about the inherent guilt about wasting food or not finishing everything on our plates, but it’s sort of an anachronism, don’t you think? Way back, when food was so limited and hunger was the norm, it was a shame to waste even a morsel of food. But with today’s overabundance of foods and calories, especially unhealthy ones, and the tendency toward weight gain and diet-related diseases, I try to remember that I’m not doing anyone a favor by finishing every last bite on my plate (not even all the starving kids in China).

We could nitpick on other things, but I don’t want to take away from all the things that you’re doing so well. You also have some great strategies in place for those areas you’re trying to work on, like setting up the gym in your basement (don’t worry, the waters shall soon recede), preparing a new playlist to motivate you to take some walks (I prefer a good new audiobook, but that’s just me!), and taking the tilapia out of the freezer to prompt you to cook. Very nice!”

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

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