Eating on the Night Shift: The Food Diaries

This week’s diarist, a night-shift editor on a Weight Watchers diet, has a weakness for diet soda. And doughnuts. And Chick-fil-A. Read on for what our expert has to say. (Spoiler alert: Her advice involves sacks of flour.)

Mmm, yes please. Our diarist, who loves Chick-fil-A, says the nuggets “won’t kill you”—at least, according to her Weight Watchers points.

The Stats
Gender: Female
Age: 26
Height: Five-foot-five
Location: Fairfax
Profession: Editor
Self-described activity level: “I lost 30 pounds last year on Weight Watchers. Then I started working nights (which explains the odd hours you’re about to see)—it totally sapped my energy. I’m still struggling to develop a routine. Pretty much, I eat all day. I typically walk the dog around 1 to 2 miles a day, wearing my super-sexy Sketchers Shape-ups, of course. And I recently joined a gym with the intention of getting back into spinning (hasn’t happened yet…). To be fair, at the last spin class I attended, the ridiculously fit, 40-year-old instructor ended up being a boyfriend’s ex-wife. So I can claim traumatic avoidance?”

Day One
11 PM: After seeing The King’s Speech with friends, I hit a 24-hour Dunkin’ for a chocolate glazed doughnut, which I have been craving since a tragedy earlier in the week.
2 AM: Home and wide awake. Would have a glass of wine but can’t find bottle opener. Walk dog, read in bed.
7 AM: Wide awake after falling asleep around 4. Transitioning to ‘normal’ life on weekends is proving impossible. Hopped in the car for my traditional Sunday grocery/gasoline errand. Showering, optional. I manage to mostly stick to my list of standard, health-conscious fare . . . but cave for a box of Cap’n Crunch. 

9 AM: Home to read the Sunday paper and grab a bowl of Crunch Berries (with skim milk) and a bottle of water before running to the hospital to visit a friend and her newborn twins. Opt to bring flowers rather than doughnuts, congratulate willpower.
2 PM: Home from hospital, hungry, and getting grumpy about work, which begins at 11 PM. I tidy up the place and inventory the fridge, which has party food leftover from a gathering two nights ago. I reheat the mini Trader Joe’s crab cakes, which taste OK, and top them off with a sugar-free Jello Pudding cup. Then I prep fruit and veggies in Tupperware cups. I’m on a roll. It will be a good week.
3 PM: Read until I fall asleep. Dreaming of Crunch Berries. Did I mention I live within ½ mile of Dunkin’ Donuts and Chick-fil-A? And Weight Watchers.

Day Two
10 PM: Alarm wakes me out of sound sleep. Feed and walk the dog, who, early on at this job, was fed multiple times a day due to my complete lack of cognizance.
10:30: Guzzle a 17-ounce bottle of water while driving to the office. In my first few weeks on the job, I averaged five 12-ounce diet sodas per nine-hour shift. I give myself a pep talk about my newly implemented soda-water-soda rotation policy, with a limit of three sodas per shift. I drank diet soda all day during my previous (day) job, so this is not a new vice.
11 PM: Drop by the well-stocked break room for my first diet soda on the way to my desk. My Sunday night is the equivalent of your Monday morning, if you had pulled some sort of Charlie Sheen weekend and just want to be in bed, where normal people are. I grab a second soda.
Midnight: Idle chitchat with coworkers. My job contains hardly any of this, a major perk if you’re me. Plus, free diet soda. I’ve downed 24 ounces in my first hour.
1:30: Hungry and a little behind schedule (already). I locate a Lean Pocket in the freezer. My go-to flavors are pizza supreme and chicken queso. I will take my chances.
1:35: I don’t know why Hot Pockets get so much crap. Crisping sleeve + infinite shelf life = ideal office food, at any hour. In this case, pizza supreme-flavored office food. Third diet soda of the shift.
3 AM: Examine (extensive) collection of Crystal Light + Propel packets and chastise self for choosing fourth diet pop instead. But, it’s Sunday. I have to leave room for improvement.
4 AM: Balance poor beverage choice with Tupperware of fresh fruit: green grapes and strawberries, sliced perfectly in half.
5 AM: Getting near my crunch time, which is around 7. I grab a 100-calorie Quaker bar (chocolate-chip flavor) and a bottle of water.
6:30: I have a blueberry Special K fruit crisp. I call them ‘Pop Tarts for fatties.’ They are delicious.
8 AM: Success! I survived another Sunday night on the job. Grab my third bottle of water and two clementines for the drive home. Another perk of this vampire-like schedule: traffic’s not (as) bad. Staying positive.
9 AM: Home, walk dog, examine post-it note on which I scribbled the time frame of food consumption so far in this diary and decide the nutritionist is going to judge me harshly. Opt for Fit Oat instant oatmeal—just two Weight Watchers points! —with ½ a banana, finely chopped. Dog gets other half.
10 AM: I watch an hour of cable news and actually read the Sunday paper. Think about what I will eat next.
11 AM: On the phone with Weight Watchers, who managed to mess up my online tools, which I used loyally until they switched everything to a new points system. I don’t handle change well.
Noon: Heat one cup of spicy turkey chili, made in the crock pot last week, which I’m pretty sure is award-winning quality. Top with Annie’s cheddar rabbits, purchased in the spirit of Easter. Pop a bottle of diet root beer.
1 PM: Clean part of my disastrous guest bedroom and reward myself with Trader Joe’s pirate’s booty, portioned into a two-cup Tupperware.
3 PM: Sleep.

Day Three
9:30 PM: Not a very satisfying sleep. Wonder if I should go back on sleeping pills. I walk the puggle two miles to wake up. Then I inventory the fridge and eat two baby gherkins, sweetened with Splenda. Prepare a sandwich for work, my standard: Arnold’s Thinwich bread with lean turkey, low-sodium cheddar, and one little dollop of olive-oil-based mayo.
10 PM: Not feeling so hot. Grab a Sprite Zero for the road, and a few crackers.
11:45: Made it ‘til now for first diet soda of the night. Sprite doesn’t count, y’all—no caffeine! Scarf the Thinwich and carrot sticks.
1 AM: Second diet soda of night, and a generic, Target-brand 100-calorie pack of something Cheez-It based. It’s somewhat cardboardy.
3 AM: Severe chocolate craving. Specifically, a Boston kreme from Dunkin’ Donuts. Settle for a sugar-free vanilla Jello pudding cup, which I dunk my strawberry halves into. Genius. (I aim for one donut per month, for the record.)
4 AM: Congratulate self for finishing a 17-ounce bottle of water with fruit punch Crystal Light. Weight Watchers e-mails that they have corre
cted my online tools, allowing me to further obsess over what I put in my mouth.
6 AM: Fit Oat again, but it’s some weird maple flavor so I add a packet of Splenda. Boss tells me there’s a staff dinner Thursday. Oh dear. Also, I will get less sleep.
8 AM: Home now, so I walk and feed dog, and, upon attempting log-in, bemoan my Weight Watchers app, which is still not working. As though that would solve all my problems. Calculate points value of Cap’n Crunch and still measure out a full 1½ cups.
9 AM: Assorted errands, including a Target run, where I’m lured into a box o’ wine—sangria. It’s practically a serving of fruit, which now has Weight Watchers points value of zero, right? Plus, it’s economical since one box is the equivalent of four bottles. And, no bottle opener needed!
1 PM: Home, grab hummus left from party with cucumber spears and pepper strips. Decide to eat an actual meal in an effort to get on some sort of schedule. I bake a Trader Joe’s veggie corn dog, leftover from my vegetarian BFF’s visit; with enough ketchup, it’s very good. I also bake four sweet potatoes, which I will reheat throughout the week (if I remember).
3 PM: Sleep, aided by a healthy portion of sangria, which has little bits of clementine floating in it. See? Fruit.
4 PM: Woken by Fed Ex man, who is delivering one of three bridesmaid dresses I will wear this year. I hang it on bedroom door for inspiration.

See Also:

Smoothie Recipes to Keep You Full and Satisfied

Top Health Apps

What an Intern Eats

Day Four
9 PM: Alarm startles me awake. Sit down to watch TLC’s coupon show. Am I the only person who is oddly jealous of these weirdos? After three commercials for Burger King’s new chicken tenders, which look exactly like McDonald’s chicken nuggets, I decide I need Chick-fil-A nuggets. I haven’t had Chick-fil-A in four days, and the nuggets, according to Weight Watchers, will not kill you. It’s those devilish waffle fries . . .
9:55: I’m the last car through the drive-through, but they know me. My order of eight nuggets actually has 10—and I proudly only eat the planned eight. A 32-ounce diet soda starts the night off right.
11 PM: Arrive at work. I grab my baby carrots and this awesome Safeway-brand yogurt-based ranch dressing. I could bathe in it.
Midnight: Pour diet soda into my Chick-fil-A cup. Ice makes diet soda even lovelier, if such a thing were possible.
2 AM: I’m pleasingly full from all the “real” food I’ve been eating, I surmise.
3 AM: I have one of the best Weight Watchers packaged foods, the Just 2 Points! bar, which is literally two bites. I have the dark-chocolate turtle flavor, which is satisfying. Still, my brain is telling me I need one of those magic Starbucks cake pops, which I’ve been dreaming about ever since having one two weeks ago.
4 AM: Someone has taken the last Diet Dr. Pepper out of the break room’s fridge. In my 11 weeks here, this has never happened. I panic before grabbing a Diet Coke and reminding myself to e-mail my boss about the emergency.
5 AM: Fresh fruit from home: grapes, strawberry halves, and fresh pineapple, which is my absolute favorite and a gift from one of my favorite friends whose father sends him the Harry & David Fruit of the Month. Think about a blind date I had with a fellow Weight Watchers enthusiast who spent at least 20 minutes contemplating the fact that fruits have zero points value. This makes me think of my most recent boyfriend, who was an excellent cook. I can’t remember why we broke up (again).
5:15: I need to self-medicate with chocolate right now, but I can’t find any. Sigh. Grab a vanilla sugar-free Jello pudding cup instead.
8 AM: Home. Further self-medicate with 1½ cups of Cap’n Crunch. Stash bridesmaid dress in guest room. Walk dog, call BFF for inspiration.
11 AM: Off to Subway for oven-roasted chicken breast, my go-to Subway order. Subway is across the street from Chick-fil-A.
Noon: Start transcribing the Post-It note scribbles of this blessed food diary to my computer and am shocked to learn that I seem to eat every 15 minutes. Consider deleting every other entry. Resist the temptation. Pour a glass of wine. It’s noon, people. Plus, this is technically my evening, OK?
2 PM: Eat one of those little seven-ounce individual ice cream cups, Safeway’s brand low-cal Rocky Road. Upon reading nutritional panel, they deem the damn thing to be two servings, which means I just ate seven points. Frick.
3 PM: Sleep. Can’t sleep. Story of my life. Can’t sleep, but I sure can eat!
8 PM: Awake, prepare to leave for work and the dinner.
8:30 PM: Driving to work. Decide to attend Weight Watchers meeting tomorrow, weigh in, and get back on track. Oh, and cancel my gym membership.

From the Expert
Cynthia Held, a nutritionist in Hagerstown, says:

“Kudos on shedding 30 pounds last year! What’s the goal for 2011? To help give you a jump start, how about continuing your success with a visual reminder? All that’s required is a trip to your neighborhood grocers: Purchase six, five-pound bags of flour (gotta choose whole wheat) and stack five of them in your pantry or closet. These represent the 30 pounds you already lost. When you lose the next 5 pounds, pile on another bag. Continue purchasing more bags of flour as you achieve your next incremental milestone. My patients who do this feel so empowered—I hope you will, too.

“Next, you need to get your act together. You are sleep deprived, eat like a classic ‘carbivore,’ lack focus, and feel totally out of control. I must admit I have sympathy for you having to work nights, but you will adapt. Here’s the game plan to bring back some sense of normalcy to your life: Walk the doggie two to three miles each day in lieu of feeling guilty about not being a gym rat. Your Sketchers Shape-ups really do reshape the body—try the flip-flop version, which is even more comfy for casual walking this time of year.

“Reserve seven to eight hours of your hectic schedule for sleeping. I rely on melatonin or Benedryl, and lavender-scented night blinders to guarantee a good night’s sleep when necessary. Sleepytime tea, a great book, or just relaxing in a bubble bath may be effective to treat your insomnia, too. Also, cereal and milk can act as a sedative before snoozing. (Try any variety of Barbara’s Bakery whole grain cereals and help save the puffins, too!)

“I beg you to drink less diet soda. Instead, choose skim milk, V8 juice, True Lemon (lime and orange available also) packets with water, or just plain H20 to get healthfully hydrated. Beer and wine have their merits, if you consume them in moderation (limit to one serving a day). Beer actually contains a significant amount of antioxidants (disease-fighting chemicals) and some varieties may even satisfy your sweet craving.

“Your carb cravings need to be redirected toward combinations that include protein. Protein sources such as peanut butter, Sunbutter (sunflower-seed butter is absolutely delicious), eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk, tuna, lean meats, lentils, and beans pair perfectly with whole-grain carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread products and whole-grain cereals and crackers. My all time favorite whole grain snack is a tortilla chip from the manufacturer Food Should Taste Good. There are so many flavors to try and they are great with hummus, too. As you mentioned, with Weight Watchers’ new plan, fruits and vegetables count as zero points. I think they deserve a standing ovation for this update. Try and remember to have three food groups at a meal and two at snack time. Balance in diet is crucial to balance in life.

“Your energy restoration plan is in place. Act on it. And please—don’t be so hard on yourself.”

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. 

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Follow Well+Being on Twitter

More >> Health | Top Doctors | Well+Being Blog