My Diet

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m trying to make up for my lack of posting by posting some longer entries. Well, not really, but this one and my last one were long, so we’ll call it even after this. Back to daily posting with shorter entries! In my last post, I answered a comment left by an anonymous reader:

I am currently a senior college athlete- about to start the real world with a 9-5 and I’m wondering how you got into running and find the time! Also- I see you allot yourself calories for alcohol- how many total cals do you shoot for a day?? Thanks so much :)

I talked about how I got into running and how I keep up my fitness routine while on the road. However, to lose weight, it’s about exercise and diet. Unfortunately, that’s where I’m struggling.

I started “dieting” in earnest in November. I use DailyPlate to track my calories and my weight, and I’m proud to say that I managed to lose weight all through the holiday season, which is typically a time when most people gain weight and most dieters just maintain. Unfortunately, as soon as I started traveling, I stopped losing, and started maintaining/gaining. Looking at the helpful charts that DailyPlate provides to track your calories and your weight, I’ve seen that my eating is a lot more sporadic now than it used to be. I aim to eat about 1400 calories/day, and when I was working in town and cooking for myself, my fluctuations were small – I’d have a day at 1500, then a day at 1300, but rarely was I more than 200 calories off. Today, I’m exactly the opposite. I have 2500 calorie days followed by 1000 calorie days. However, you’ll notice that the average of those is 1700 calories – which is just not enough for me to keep losing. Back in December, I was dropping about 1/2 pound a week, which is a deficit of 250 calories/day (there are 3500 calories in a pound). From that, I can infer that I need about 1650 calories/day in order to maintain. So averaging 1700 is making the scale creep slowly up. And unfortunately, there are many times where I’m not even averaging 1700 – I sometimes have a couple bad days in a row, and can average way over that.

I try to look at only what I actually eat, and not take into account the calories I burn off exercising. Counting the calories I burn is never too reliable (at least until I spring for a BodyBugg or something similar, which I am considering), so it’s hard to figure out the net. Plus, subtracting the calories I burn gives me an excuse to eat more and plan to make up for it later by working out (which may or may not happen).

I’ve discovered recently that it is possible, but very difficult to eat healthfully while eating out. Let’s take my business lunch on Friday as an example:

Drink: Water
Bread: None
Appetizer: Steamed clams
Entree: Grilled salmon with mango chutney, steamed broccoli, and 1/4 cup of jasmine rice (though there were 2 cups of it on my plate)
Dessert: None
Total calories: ~820

I made fantastic choices, but there isn’t a lot you can do about what’s on the menu or the preparation options. In a business setting, especially as the junior person on the team, it’s hard to ask for healthy customizations without getting looked down on by everyone else. When I skipped the bread/butter on Friday, I still got asked several times by my colleagues if I wanted any, and had to repeatedly say that I just wasn’t hungry (can’t say that I’m trying to eat healthy or it makes everyone else feel bad). If I have a salad, I’ll ask for my dressing on the side, but other than that, it’s frowned upon to ask for the customizations that most guides to eating healthy while dining out recommend.

One of the standard tricks to help people like me, who have a hard time not eating what’s on their plate, is to ask for half the food to be wrapped immediately. However, we never take food home, and even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have anywhere to put it (there is no fridge in my room and no microwave or oven to heat it up). And because we often go to fancy restaurants (like the MasterCard commercial where the couple splurges on fancy dinner but then hit up the grocery after because they got only two bites of food), I’m afraid to ask for a half-portion in case the portion is tiny to begin with.

Now, 800 calories is pretty good for a meal out, but if I have to eat out even twice a day, I’m already over my 1400 calorie goal. So I understand why I’m gaining weight instead of losing, but I really want to change that. My problem is my willpower – I especially need to learn to leave food on my plate rather than enjoying every last bite (we go to some pretty nice restaurants with yummy food that I just want to keep eating!). I also want to try to break away from eating when it’s time to eat instead of eating when I’m actually hungry – I’ve realized that there are a lot of times when I eat because the clock says I should rather than because I’m actually hungry.

Because I’m a consultant, I’m kind of an Excel nut, so I came up with an Excel to track the progress I make to accomplish these things and reward my progress. I call it Temptation.xls, and I set up challenges like taking a cookie when offered and leaving it on my desk so I can test my willpower at resisting eating it. Every time I’m able to resist temptation, I log it in the spreadsheet that I keep on my desktop, with the circumstances surrounding the temptation, how I avoided it (tricks like drinking water to fill me up, jumping in on the conversation so my mouth is busy talking, etc), and the calories I saved. For every calorie I’m able to resist in these temptations, I’m adding a nickel to my virtual account, with the ultimate goal of saving up for this gorgeous set of luggage. It’s black and perfectly acceptable for business travel, but has enough pink to keep me happy :) After starting this challenge last week, I have about 5700 calories left to resist before I can buy the set. That’s a little under 2 pounds, which I would be thrilled to lose (or at least, not gain). Hopefully this will provide the motivation I need!

Anyone else in a work-long-hours-and-travel-constantly kind of job? Or any stories to share about how you coped with the college-to-work transition from a dietary point of view? I’m wondering if my goals are realistic or if I just need to accept that I’m going to be heavier.


  1. I think those are good goals to have. Everyone is slightly different and needs to figure out what works for them.

    Something else to consider is trying to drink water when you feel slight hungry because a lot of times people are really a bit dehydrated and take that signal as hunger if they are too busy or not in tune with their body.

    I also find that eating out is definitely a tough one to handle. Pay attention to any sauces and such that could be “hidden” calories. The “clean your plate” syndrome is hard to handle. If I’m traveling I will ask to have it wrapped once I’m full and take it back to my hotel room. Yes, it’ll only be good for a short period but if I really really want to I can finish it (usually that doesn’t happen.) Asking for it to be cleared before you are tempted to pick up the fork again can also help.

    Great incentive with the luggage, it IS gorgeous!

  2. Hi!

    I randomly came across your blog a bit ago and wanted to say how impressed I was at your dedication. I work a slow 9-5 and often find it hard to find time to hit the gym, though I’m thinking about making running a new goal. I’m 25 and had gastric banding done about 10 months ago and have lost over 100 pounds, but it’s still just as hard to keep exercising and eating right as it is for anyone – so thanks for your inspiration! And for your recipe ideas – I cook all the time, and most times for myself and the boy (who could use a few pounds, and keeps telling me I should start a catering company), which is rough since he can eat and eat and eat!

    Anyway, I’m to the point where I can do an hour on an elliptical, or walk a good deal on the treadmill, but running still feels impossible… suggestions for that initial goal of “starting running”?? Between the stitch and aching ankles and knees… it’s hard to believe I’ll ever get into running, but I really want to!


  3. Run for life, water is my savior! I drink it all day long, and it’s especially good for drinking when I’m out to dinner and trying to fill myself up so I don’t gorge on dessert. I wish I could get stuff wrapped like you do, or have it taken away early, but unfortunately my team etiquette just won’t permit that. My weight is just skyrocketing lately though, so it may soon be worth breaching that if I can’t teach myself to be good.

    Saila18, I am so inspired by your story! Losing 100 pounds is absolutely incredible (especially when you consider that I can’t even manage to lose 10). I’m going to do a post on the main blog about getting started in running… look for it later today.

  4. I’m very lucky in that I telecommute full time. I can’t fathom how hard it is to have no control over what you’re eating and still try to lose weight.

    One tip: Snack on raw, toasted (unsalted) almonds throughout the day. They are packed with calories, so don’t eat too many (I usually have about 10-15 once or twice a day). The fat, fibre and protein can keep you quite full.

    Also, drink a lot of water before a meal so you start out full.

    Good luck on scoring that luggage set. Rewards are important for making progress.

  5. Agreed, eating out is enjoyable and yet hard because it’s difficult to leave food. Recently I have found that if I seriously slow way down in eating, by putting down the fork, engage in conversation I get full much faster and then I want to stop..mostly. I definitely leave food that way!

    1400 cals seems to low for all the running that you do…I aim for about 2000 a day and I think we are same size/activity.

  6. That’s good you drink a lot of water.

    Ah yeah that’s rough when others are around. Maybe try to pay more attention to the conversation that’s going on between team members when you’re full.

    If you’re noticing yourself becoming more toned it is quite possible that you have gained muscle and not all unwanted weight.

    I know it’s frustrating but you are aware of your situation which is good so just keep working toward that luggage!

  7. I’d find it difficult to eat healthfully all the time too. You have to eat out so much, that it’s just hard.

    My problem with loosing weight is also willpower. I can work out and burn those calories but when it’s time to eat, I struggle with eating the right things, because I like and enjoy all the bad foods. I’m trying to loose about 30 lbs total too… so I have GOT to get it in my head.

    I also enjoy drinking a lot of water! It’s probably the one right thing I do.

  8. TDP is good for recording food I agree but it sucks that they have “Gold” membeship so I use a site called where everyone is equal.

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