A Former Rower and Yoga Enthusiast Keeps a Food Diary

This week’s diarist is active and eats plenty of veggies. But what does she need to do to make her ten-pound weight loss goal a reality?
This week’s food diarist should consider switching from a vanilla to a regular latte to save some calories. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user randomduck

THE STATS

Gender: Female
Age: 27
Height: Five-foot-two
Weight: 120
Location: Cleveland Park
Profession: Special events manager for a florist
Self-described activity level: I’m not in training for an Ironman or anything, but I do work out six days a week; I only take Sundays off. I do a mix of cross-training, running, and Bikram yoga. Twice a week I do a longer run, between seven and ten miles, and I’m in the yoga studio about three times a week. Other days I swim, use the elliptical machine, or bike. I was a coxswain on a Division I rowing team in college, so I’m used to trying to keep my weight down through exercise. I’m not so great at the diet part, however, and would love to shed about five to ten pounds.

—–

DAY ONE

6:45 AM: The alarm goes off to signal it’s time for my pre-work workout. As if on cue, my boyfriend wraps his arms and the warm, fluffy down comforter around me to prohibit me from exiting the bed. Well, so much for that.
8 AM: Time to wake up for real. I jump in the shower and debate eating breakfast at home or waiting until I get to work. My boyfriend makes a bowl of Grape Nuts (ew), so I feel obliged to join him at the table with my own cereal: one cup of plain Cheerios with 2-percent milk. My boyfriend is from Vermont, so any milk that isn’t similar to heavy whipping cream is heresy to him.
11 AM:
I’m craving coffee. I decide to make the epic journey across the street for my daily grande nonfat, no-foam vanilla latte. So high-maintenance. I know I could do better by getting a “skinny” latte, but I hate the taste of artificial sugar. It’s so cold out, which is an awful sign because I love eating when it’s cold out. Bring on the winter pounds.
1 PM: Now I’m craving salt (what’s new?), but I’m not starving enough for lunch. I recently moved back to the Washington area from Boston. Although Boston had its fair share of Dunkin’ Donuts and Cape Cod potato chips, the one snack food I missed so badly was Utz pretzels. There’s something about those pretzels that makes me think they were literally fried in pure butter, which is how I’d prefer to consume all of my food, but can’t. With (only?) 300 calories in each bag, it’s a pretty enjoyable little snack while you’re working. I know the nutritionist is going to “ding” me for eating while not focusing entirely on my food, but I’m too busy today to leave my desk, unfortunately.
4 PM: Where did the day go?! I had been pounding water while at my desk working hard on a project (two Nalgenes full of water already), and then started to notice my hands shaking. It’s very unlike me to go this long without eating (as I’m sure you’ll see the rest of the week), so this low blood sugar issue needs to be rectified immediately. I usually eat dinner around 6 or 7, so I can’t eat anything gigantic right now. I’m also craving something sweet after my salty snack overload. I grab a “Nutz Over Chocolate” Luna Bar and a Horizon organic chocolate milk from the CVS next door. The Halloween candy exhibit is beckoning. I believe holiday candy should be eaten with reckless abandon while recognizing it for what it is—something that only comes around once a year. However, I am able to resist—I have enough chocolate in my basket for now.
6 PM: Once home from work, I decide it’s a little too wet and cold for an outside run. I pop down to my apartment’s gym and do a 6.5-mile run on the treadmill. Nothing crazy, just a comfortable post-work pace. I also drink another Nalgene.
7 PM: The dreaded biweekly grocery store trip. I swear, that’s a workout in itself! I’m able to grab a ton of healthy snacks for when I pack my lunch for work, so that’s a plus.
9 PM: We never eat this late, so needless to say, dinner is a bit of a smorgasbord. We had a few slices of leftover pizza from Sunday’s “lounge day of football” and a bit of fall produce we were interested in chowing on. Therefore, dinner consists of one slice of (cold) mushroom pizza, half an oven-roasted acorn squash with a bit of butter and brown sugar, and a few fingerling potatoes with ketchup. Not exactly the most well-balanced meal, but considering we were totally starving, it could be worse. We also got some ice cream at the grocery store, but decide having full-fat Häagen Dazs at 10:30 PM before bed isn’t the best decision. Go willpower!

—–

DAY TWO

7:45 AM: Purposely slept in until it was time to get ready for work. My boyfriend and I have a trail run planned after work. While in Boston we used to have to wake up for work at 5 AM every single day, seven days a week (we worked in a hotel). Now we get so much more sleep and love exploring our new neighborhood and the trails in Rock Creek after work.
10 AM: After sipping flavored seltzer water (32 ounces) at my desk for the past hour, I’m getting hungry and decide to pop across the street for my Starbucks latte. When I don’t eat breakfast at home, I sometimes grab a wheat bagel with my latte. Today is one of those days. I don’t use cream cheese because I love butter (see above). I know having a yogurt or an egg-white omelet would be better, but we all have our vices, right?
12:38 PM: One of the snacks I got yesterday at the grocery store was a bag of raw, skinless almonds covered in sea salt and olive oil. I loooove Marcona almonds and these little treats from Planter’s are a great substitute for them. I eat ten exactly. Almonds are the type of food you don’t realize you’re eating too many of until it’s too late. I don’t want to spoil my lunch, and since I pair the nuts with a full Nalgene of water, I feel satiated.
2 PM: Lunch time! I have a serious love of soup, and today I have my all-time favorite in my lunch bag: V8 butternut squash soup. I heat up the entire box in the microwave, and I’m good to go. The soup strongly resembles baby food, but that does not deter me. My love of soup is rivaled only by my love of fall vegetables, so this soup is the tops.
4 PM: We are planning on heading out on our run around 6, so I decide to grab a snack so I’m not starving like last night. I have a delicious fat-free black cherry Chobani Greek yogurt and another ten almonds.
6 PM: Trail run time! We decide to follow the marker that says “4.6 miles to Maryland.” The idea of crossing into another state on foot cracks us up for some reason. The path is very challenging, with tons of hills and uneven footing. We don’t go all the way to Maryland, but we run a good hour in the woods and feel awesome after. I love, love, love this fall weather.

See Also:

Keeping the Weight Off Without Dieting

Q&A: How to Sweat It Out Safely With Hot Yoga

8 PM: My boyfriend cooks a dinner of steak and Brussels sprouts. Don’t be fooled: This is not as healthy as it sounds. The steak is a pretty lean cut, with a few mushrooms on the side for added taste. The hidden fat trap is the Brussels sprouts, which are cooked in olive oil and then sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. They are seriously like popcorn, and I eat my fair share of them. Tonight I can’t resist the ice cream, and I have a pretty delicious helping of Häagen Dazs mint chip for dessert. I don’t believe in eating those fake ice cream desserts like Skinny Cow and the like—I end up feeling unsatisfied. Bring on the real stuff!

—–

DAY THREE

5:30 AM: Yoga time! I took last week off yoga—the first time in three years—so I’m pretty excited to get back in the hot room. I am a true believer in Bikram yoga and all the benefits the 90-minute class brings. Oh, and it feels amazing afterward!
9 AM: Grab a banana right when I get into work. I’m already on Nalgene number two of the day.
11 AM: Ready for my latte and bagel; they really hit the spot this morning.
1:35 PM: It’s my coworker’s birthday today. My company works closely with the catering company next door, and they bring over a plum crumb cake and homemade ice cream to celebrate. Everyone gets huge portions, and I initially decline—I haven’t even eaten lunch yet! Peer pressure gets the best of me (I’m the new girl in the office, so I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer), and I have three bites. It’s delicious, and full of fresh plums. Another coworker sees I’ve had my fill and happily eats the rest of the plate for me. Win-win!
3:30 PM: I’m not hungry enough for a full lunch, but I definitely need a pick-me-up. I have dinner plans at 7, so this is a good time for a snack. I have two mini Babybel light cheese wheels, 20 almonds, and a fat-free honey Chobani Greek yogurt. Is that a full lunch? I probably spoke too soon. It’s a good mix of salty, sweet, and crunchy. I should be able to hold over until dinner.
7 PM: My boyfriend and I meet his dad for dinner at an Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. We’re celebrating September birthdays: mine and my boyfriend’s dad’s. Although we’re eating at a fine-dining Italian place, this restaurant is actually famous for its cheeseburgers. They come with truffle cheese, so obviously that’s what I get. To start with, I have a very small Caesar salad and a piece of bread with butter. The burger doesn’t come with any sides, so I don’t gorge on French fries, which is great. I do have two glasses of white wine, however, and have no problem stopping to get fro-yo after dinner. I get the original flavor and choose Reese’s Pieces for the topping. I am definitely full after our night out but don’t feel like I need to be taken home on a stretcher or anything. It was a beautiful fall night with great company, and I enjoyed every morsel!

—–

DAY FOUR

7:45 AM: I wake up for work. I’m a little sore after yesterday’s yoga class. I plan on working out after work in my apartment’s gym.
9 AM: I get to the office and immediately want to eat everything in sight. I don’t know why I’m such a hungry hippo this morning. I take the cup serving of Goldfish crackers out of my lunch and snack on those. I also drink a Nalgene’s worth of water. These are definitely a weird food to eat at 9 AM, but they taste awesome.
11 AM: I’m still hungry, so I pilfer my lunch bag once more. This time I eat a low-fat string cheese and a fat-free raspberry Chobani.
2:30 PM: I feel like I’m coming down with a cold, and I’ve had no appetite since my last snack. I have an off-site appointment at 3, so I need to get something in my system. I go get my latte, sans bagel. It tastes delicious and is the perfect pick-me-up.
4:45 PM: I go straight home after my appointment and grab a snack before I work out: the rest of the leftover fingerling potatoes, about half a cup’s worth. I go down to my apartment’s gym and do a rousing 60-minute elliptical workout. Peace out, cold symptoms!
7 PM: My boyfriend decides to make my all-time favorite dish, which we call “corn pasta.” He invented this delicious recipe, which consists of as many vegetables as we have around the house mixed with pasta and cooked with whatever cheese in on hand. It sounds simple, but the way he cooks it and the seasonings he uses are to die for. It’s so fun to see how each “batch” comes out. Tonight our veggie selection consists of green and yellow summer squash and mushrooms (“corn pasta” does not always involve corn, FYI). We mix these with some vermicelli, and we’re in business! I have a glass of white wine with dinner, as well.
9 PM: The Häagen Dazs mint chip ice cream is beckoning from the freezer. I wait a bit to see if I really want dessert, but once my boyfriend takes out his rocky road ice cream, I cave.

—–

DAY FIVE

5:30 AM: It’s Friday (!!!) and time for Bikram yoga. I always practice the morning class on Fridays so I can make sure to get my workout in. I have been sucked into Friday-night happy hours or last-minute get-togethers many times, always at the expense of my planned evening workout. Even though waking up at 5:15 is hard on a Friday, it’s so worth it!
9 AM: I have already done a 90-minute yoga class, dropped off the dry cleaning, reorganized the car, and gotten a full custom car wash. Yes! I have a ton of work to do today, so I can’t wait until 11 to run out and get a snack. Therefore, it’s latte and bagel time. I also refill my third Nalgene of the day.
11:30 PM: I eat 20 almonds as a snack. I’m right in the middle of a project, and I’m going to have lunch soon; I just need something to tide me over until I’m done.
1 PM: V8 butternut squash soup is on the menu again.
3:30 PM: One of my coworkers brings in some fresh doughnuts from the caterer next door. The idea of something sweet appeals to me, but the awful post-doughnut hangover does not. I run to CVS and get a “Nutz Over Chocolate” Luna Bar and a Horizon organic chocolate milk—my go-to sweet snack.
6 PM: Fridaaaaaay! We have early plans tomorrow, so we’re not doing anything crazy tonight. Dinner is chicken-and-apple sausages with a side of baked beans and a salad—a perfect Indian summer meal. I am drinking a glass of the white wine I opened last night and relaxing. It was a busy week, and I can’t wait for a fun and active weekend!

—–

OUR EXPERT’S ADVICE

Tanya Johnson, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Washington Adventist Hospital, says:

“Our reader is active, working out six days a week with a mixture of cardio, flexibility and strength training. She drinks plenty of water, shows restraint when tempted with sweets, and has some wonderfully nutritious snacks. What a great start. Increasing activity to keep weight off is a very doable way of approaching weight loss or preventing weight gain.

“We could add some tweaks to the reader’s daily eating habits that will help shed those unwanted five to ten pounds.

“Good job with eating breakfast first thing. It is really important to get in the first meal of the day within two hours of waking up. This helps jump-start your metabolism and keep blood sugar levels steady, which keeps energy levels up and helps you resist temptation. But an all-carb or mostly carb breakfast is burned off quickly, leaving you feeling hungry and ready for a snack. I would actually add something to breakfast: protein. Protein helps sustain you and may ward off caffeine cravings. Examples are an egg, egg whites scrambled with spinach, a slice of lean ham, peanut butter, a handful of nuts or sunflower seeds, or even something nontraditional like chicken left over from the night before. Watch out for cheese, as it packs a wallop of calories and artery-clogging animal fat, along with a lot of water-retaining sodium.

“Consider downsizing the latte. If you are drinking a Starbuck’s grande nonfat vanilla latte (16 ounces) and switch to a short (8 ounces), you save 100 calories. Alternatively, drink the grande coffee latte (no added vanilla syrup or sweetener), and you save 70 calories. If you are willing to go short with no sweetener, you can save a total of 130 calories.

“As you may know, to lose one pound of fat, we have to either burn or cut 3,500 calories. If the reader can cut 250 calories a day, she will lose two pounds by the end of the month. This doesn’t sound like much, but after five months, she’s lost her ten pounds. By just changing her coffee, the reader could be halfway there.

“We often crave salt when what our bodies are really asking for is savory food. Read: real food, not sweets and not snack food. It is often a sign that it’s time for the next meal. Pay attention to your liquids. Two hundred calories in the form of 16 ounces of liquid can leave you feeling full but potentially robbed of needed nutrients.

“Beware of what I call the ‘I don’t feel very hungry, so I will eat a snack’ syndrome. What ends up happening is that a quick snack replaces a nourishing meal, setting you up to feel tired or to overeat later in the day.

“Keep your vegetable intake up; it seems obvious, especially since you love them. Aim for three to six servings a day, which translates to one and a half to three cups of cooked vegetables or three to six cups of raw vegetables. This will provide chewing and nutrition satisfaction at a low calorie cost (provided they aren’t drowned in oil). The soup is also a great way to get your vegetables in.

“Since both desserts and alcohol (wine, beer, or mixed drinks) have empty calories, meaning lots of calories and little nutrition, one trick to try when dining out is to choose whether you want wine or dessert. Choose one, enjoy it, and leave the other for another time.

“Eating sufficient carbs at dinner will help stop the late-night sugar cravings. Eat the real stuff, ice cream and such, just watch portion sizes. Half a cup of Häagen Dazs has 270 to 320 calories, depending on the flavor.

“Keep up the good work!”

Are you brave enough to keep a food diary? We dare you. E-mail wellbeing@washingtonian.com with your contact information and a paragraph or two about why you’d make a good diarist.

Get Our Weekend Newsletter

The best DC news, delivered straight to your inbox.
Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.