Losing the Weight Before Turning 40: Food Diaries

This consultant is exercising a lot and eating healthy to shed pounds before she hits the big 4-0, but is it enough?


Gender: Female
Age: 38
Height: Five-foot-three
Weight: 196
Location: Southwest DC
Profession: Legal/technology consultant
Self-described activity level: Moderately active. I work out with a trainer once a week and repeat her workout twice a week, with cardio on alternating days. I ride my bike as much as possible. My downfall tends to be my unpredictable travel schedule for work. Once I’m out of town, I’m thrown off track easily by long days and eating out. When I am home, I try to eat seasonally and locally.

Squash, tofu, and spinach dinner.


9:45 AM: I am taking the day off and finally get out of bed because the cats insist. Feed the cats, eat a banana, and drink a glass of water with my medication. I have been on daily medication most of the past 22 years to prevent migraines. I make tea, then get on my bike and go to the gym.
11 AM: Get to the gym and do my workout for the week. It takes me 40 minutes, and I drink a bottle of water during it. Stretch, then bike back home.
NOON: Get home and eat breakfast—eight ounces of Greek “YoLite” yogurt from a local dairy with half a pear and a dollop of blueberry catsup I canned this summer. I eat yogurt five days a week and never tire of it.
2:20 PM: I feel like snacking, but am not lunch hungry. I have three Wasa crackers with a tablespoon of my homemade bergamot marmalade. It is deliciously bitter and not for the faint of heart. Plus tea and water.
3:25 PM: I always get hungry around this time no matter when, how much, or what I eat before. I have an apple and water.
4:15 PM: I probably just should have had a small lunch before and end up thinking about chicken wings. I have some pistachios and more water.
6 PM: Cook one of my favorite dinners: squash, tofu, and spinach. It’s colorful, filling, tasty, simple, and comforting. I oven roast the tofu until crisp. I eat mine with low-sodium soy sauce. I have red wine with dinner (eight ounces). I remember to take a multivitamin and vitamin D.
9 PM: I feel like crunching, so I have two more Wasa crackers with a sprinkle of cheddar popcorn topping (my boyfriend’s snack habit that I picked up).

Lamb with Brussels sprouts and wild rice.


7:43 AM: Not only did I sleep through my alarm again, my boyfriend got distracted and didn’t wake me up. I eat a banana, drink water, take medication, and set out in the rain.
8:30 AM: Arrive at the gym dripping wet. Hop on the elliptical for 40 minutes and watch an episode of Doctor Who.
10:25 AM: Get to the office. Coffee! For breakfast, the same as yesterday: yogurt, half a pear, blueberry catsup.
1 PM: For lunch I have a spinach and cherry tomato salad with chickpeas. I used some of the Newman’s Own light honey mustard dressing, which I keep at work, on the salad.
3:35 PM: My stomach is growling, so I make a cup of tea and look longingly at the peanut butter cookies in the office snack basket as I head back to my office and open my snack drawer. I grab a lemon Luna mini and an Asian pear.
6:30 PM: Home. I trim and slice some Brussels sprouts, toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw them in the oven. Pull a center-cut lamb leg steak from the fridge, trim the fat, and grill it. Toss the sprouts with lemon juice and a dried herb mix when they are done. I eat a lot of sprouts, some rice, and a five-ounce piece of lamb with red wine. Take vitamin D and multivitamin.

Stir fry with beef, carrots, greens, and brown rice.


7:33 AM: Feed cats, eat banana, drink water, take medication, make tea, all while grumbling about running.
8:04 AM: Arrive at the gym late and work out with my trainer. Well, I work; she watches and tells me to work harder. I drink a bottle of water during the workout.
10 AM: Coffee and yogurt, today topped with half a pear and a couple of chopped prunes.
12:45 PM: Lunch! On the menu today is leftover soup, a small sandwich, and pickled carrots. The soup is made with turkey broth and meat I canned from a roasted turkey dinner, plus carrots, kale, mushrooms, and some chickpeas I cooked this weekend. The sandwich is an Arnold multigrain sandwich thin with an ounce of sliced smoked turkey breast and a smear of salad dressing.
5:15 PM: Munch on a Kashi bar from my drawer and go run errands.
7 PM: Home. Have water instead of a beer because we are going out later. Make a stir fry with thinly sliced beef, onions, garlic, ginger, carrots, and a “stir-fry” greens mix (kale, spinach, chard, and whatever other winter greens I find at the store). Pop a container of brown rice from the freezer into the microwave, which actually turns out to be quinoa. My boyfriend and I go back to the kitchen for seconds, and there is still a container left for lunch. Take vitamin D, multivitamin.
MIDNIGHT: Home! I had one 20-ounce beer while out and a lot of water. I have six pistachios and head to bed.

Our expert’s opinion:

Lindsey Proctor, a clinical dietitian at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital with experience in adult and childhood weight management, says:

You are doing a great job already in taking steps to improve your health and lose weight! However, this doesn’t mean improvements cannot be made.

To get the logistics out of the way, your ideal body weight for your height ranges from 104 to 127 pounds. Right now, your BMI of 34.7 places you in the obese category. BMI does not account for factors such as gender, activity level, and muscle mass, but it does give an idea of the direction you need to be moving. I suggest getting your vitamin D level checked and cut an average of 500 calories a day over a week’s time to lose one pound per week.

In your situation, it seems like your dietary pattern is fairly healthy considering you include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, but I question whether you’re eating enough calories for your activity level. Based on your exercise schedule, I would say you need about 1,500 calories a day to provide adequate energy for your workouts while allowing a deficit to reach your weight loss goals.

From your food record, I do not feel you are meeting these numbers. In addition, the American Heart Association recommends limiting red meat intake to no more than two to three times a week, as it is fairly high in saturated fat content and has been linked with many chronic diseases. You consumed this type of food twice in three days. (I am not aware of what you ate the other days, but fish would be a better option.)

Don’t despair—there are many ways you can work in a few extra healthy calories. It seems you have a craving for snacks mid-afternoon, as do many people. Since you currently have a snack drawer at work, try keeping different snacks to increase your variety. Good snacks can be almost anything—hummus and vegetable sticks, a banana with peanut butter, a small portion of trail mix . . . the ideas are endless! I recommend including a form of protein or healthy fat with your snack to decrease hunger levels longer.

Also be mindful of calories contributed by alcohol. For example, eight ounces of wine (as you reported drinking) likely contains around 200 calories, and 20 ounces of beer, depending on the type, can be as much 250 calories.

Finally, for your potentially unpredictable travel for work, carry over the same concepts you use in your normal routine: Bring snacks with you and research the area you will be in before you arrive to try to find healthier places to eat. You can also talk to your trainer about exercises to do in the hotel room, find out if the hotel has a gym, and walk whenever possible.