Periscope Depth

building up steam with a grain of salt

For two weeks this July, I kept a food log.

I’m not concerned about my weight. If anything, I need to gain about ten pounds of muscle to reach “healthy.” My blood pressure was fine last time it was tested, and my “bad” cholesterol rarely reaches triple digits. I don’t need a change in diet for my health.

(Anecdote: my old man visited the doctor a few years back and was diagnosed with high cholesterol. “What I do in these cases,” the doctor said, “is recommend a diet of low-cholesterol, low-sodium foods. In a few months, if the diet doesn’t work, we can move on to something like Lipitor.”

“Let’s presume the diet doesn’t work,” my dad said)

But I was curious about my diet anyway. When I’m not cursing my body as a nuisance, I view it as a project. Given all the time I spend improving my mind, improving my body should take priority as well. Plus, I’ve known for years that my mood is sensitive to blood sugar and other nutritional variables. Tracking what I eat could help.

And ultimately, if the day ever came when I did need to change my diet for health reasons – cut out sodium, cut out sugar, etc – I’d need a baseline. More data rarely hurts.

So I tracked the calories, protein, fiber and sugar of everything I ate for two weeks. I estimated using close substitutes when exact data wasn’t available and I itemized for anything that had more than one ingredient.

What did I find?

  • My caloric intake averaged 2314 calories per day. Per the Mayo Clinic calorie calculator, this is about 400 short of what I should be getting.

  • However, my calorie intake swung from as low as 1405 to as high as 3217, depending on how much I ate. I don’t have very regular eating habits. I usually wait until I’m hungry, then grab the closest thing that will fill me. Planning meals is still foreign to me.

  • I averaged 75 grams of protein per day, with a low of 29 and a high of 110. This is more than WebMD says I need, but I should be eating more protein if I’m trying to gain muscle. (I should also be stricter about hitting the gym)

  • I averaged 20 grams of fiber per day, with a low of 9 and a high of 36. This is way, way short of American Dietetic Association recommendations.

  • I averaged 117 grams of sugar per day, ranging from 37 on my lowest day to 299 on my highest. For this log, I didn’t distinguish between simple sugars (apples, bananas) and HFCS (Edy Butterfinger Maxx Ice Cream).

  • Biggest source of calories (in terms of contributing to the overall 14-day total): the two slices of whole wheat bread that made up my many sandwiches.

  • Biggest source of protein: those same two slices of bread. Sensing a pattern here!

  • Biggest source of fiber: tie between trail mix and, you guessed it, whole wheat bread. A farmer’s strike in America’s heartland would kill me.

  • Just the act of keeping a food log resulted in me eating less. I was less likely to grab a snack from the office kitchen and go if I knew I had to write down its contents later. This could be both a good thing and a bad thing.

  • Biggest takeaway: eat more fiber, Professor.

Given this blushingly intimate look into my colon, the only thing I could do to make this worse would be to post a link to the food log itself and let legions of Internet commenters have at it. With that in mind, go to town, you harpies. Feel free to judge my snacks.

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