Until not all that long ago, I was still one of those obnoxious guys who could eat whatever he wanted without having to worry about gaining weight. I wrote about this in a column in 2011, just a little after I had to start obsessing about calories. I also introduced my revolutionary new LA/XC Diet¢: driving across the country and back with your dog, basically stopping for only one meal a day. I do this "cleansing" every September -- but since the trip lasts for only four weeks, I had to figure out a system to handle my no-longer-miracle waistline for the other 11 months.
For whatever reason, I was dead-set against any diet named for a doctor, a fruit, or an affluent Westchester suburb. Or some guy named Jared. My trainer at the gym agreed I could get along fine without going that route. Eat foods high in protein, Tim told me, stay away from carbs, and watch portion size. That'll do the trick.
So these days, I have a hard-boiled egg for breakfast during the week, a Clif Builder (protein) Bar for lunch, and a Muscle Milk (protein shake) at the cocktail hour. I've never been a big breakfast or lunch guy, so this works just fine for me -- especially since anything goes for dinner, as long as it's high in protein. And as long as I "behave" during the week, Tim and I agreed I don't have to watch what I eat or drink over the weekend, as long as I don't go crazy.
In addition to all this, Tim told me I'd need to keep a diary of exactly what I was consuming each day. He said he'd want to have a look at it from time to time so he could make further suggestions for me.
Now, Tim knows me pretty well, and he's aware that I'm a congenital truth-teller. It's a problem I have. I couldn't tell a lie if I wanted to. I'm not the guy you want to share a deep, dark secret with. Or to have in on your arrangements for a surprise birthday party you're throwing for your wife.
And think about it: If you're compelled to write only the truth in your diet diary, and if you know that eventually someone -- someone who knows his nutrition -- is going to be reading it, then you're not really going to want to make a habit of having manicotti with garlic bread for dinner, washing it down with two or three Buds, and topping it off with Ben & Jerry's Rocky Road swimming in Hershey's chocolate syrup.
Slowly, The Wisdom of Tim dawned on me: My diet diary was less for letting him know what I was eating, and more because by the very fact of my keeping a diary, I'd be eating better.
Here, for example, is a random "good day" entry, verbatim:
Wednesday March 19: Breakfast: Hard-boiled egg; Lunch: Protein shake; Late-afternoon snack: 2 Nectarines; Dinner: Grapefruit, chef salad, one glass white wine; Evening snack: Apple. Bravo!!! Way to go Hank! You're killing it! (Smiley face)
And here, a "not-so-good day":
Friday, March 14: Breakfast: Bacon and eggs, toast, and coffee. (Come on, it's breakfast time in America! What's more American than bacon???); Lunch: Lasagna and a Long Trail Ale (Gotta start getting ready for the weekend, smiley face); Dinner: Hamburgers, sausages, red wine, pie and ice cream (Will be doing a lot of downhill and cross-country skiing this weekend, for crying out loud!); Evening snack: Couple of handfuls of peanuts (My hands are pretty small, smiley face) Oh, and a Dove bar (sad face)
Tim, I think, was looking for "just the facts." The back-patting when I'm good, the whiney excuses when I'm bad, the smiley faces and the sad faces -- these are probably more than he bargained for. But I guess that's what happens when you assign a diet diary to a writer.
I'm working on this column having just downed some rubber chicken, some cellophane-wrapped cheddar, and two Saltine crackers. Yup, airplane food. My wife and I are on our way back from Ireland -- a short, spur-of-the-moment holiday with my sister and my niece. Truth be told, I've been on the Guinness Diet¢ these past four days. Very rich in barley, hops, and yeast. Their classic advertising claims that "Guinness makes you strong." And who am I to dispute it? Needless to say, this little interlude won't be chronicled in my diet diary. What happens in Dublin stays in Dublin.
Hank Herman is a Westport writer, and "The Home Team" appears every other Friday. Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, can be followed on his blog "Beagle Man" on the Westport News website -- http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. Hank can be followed on Twitter @BeagleManHank and reached by email at DoubleH50@gmail.com.