The honeymoon is long over, yet after a year of married life John and Barbara Bruzas share almost everything - including their nutritional problems.
He's a specialist in the Department of Transportation and is seeking a master's degree in economics. She's a community planner for the same agency.
They drive to work from their Arlington high-rise together, and lunch together at the office. In the midafternoon, they may split a package of peanut butter-cheese cracker sandwiches from a vending machine or snack on soft ice cream from a sidewalk stand. In the evenings he's at class. because of their hectic schedule, dinner is often served well after 8 p.m.
So it's not suprising that they have some of the same deficiencies in nutrition, recorded in a week's food diary they recently completed. Their eating habits are typical of most adult. Americans who consume nutritionally poor foods rich in saturated fats and sugar.
Although neither is significantly overweight, the caloric content of their diet is high compared to its nutritional value. Particularly lacking are vitamins, notably A and C; minerals, especially calcium and iron; and the fiber found in fresh fruits, vegetables, milk products, whole grain bread and cereals.
The couple believes their busy life style leaves them little choice but to fit meals in erratically. John Bruzas, for example, consumes up to 2,460 calories on some days, unlu 1,200 on others. Barbara Bruzas, in a constant effort diet, fluctuates between 1,500 and 1,000 calories a day.
This may seem like modest consumption. However, such wide fluctuations can be a problem for individuals trying to lose weight - or a merely trying to maintain their present weight - because any caloric intake over the amount required for body maintenance (basal metabolism) plus activity is stored as fat: 3,500 calories to the pound.
If a person eats, say, 500 calories more than he or she requires, every other day for a year, it will result in a gain of about 2 1/2 pounds. After five years 12 1/2 pounds would have accumulated, perhaps more if the effects of increasing age and decreasing activity levels took their toll. In short, a couple of hundred calories extra, over time, can make a big difference.
"Keeping this record was like baring my soul," John Bruzas says with a smile. "It was my moment of truth. We would like to eat better than we do, but we find it difficult because of our schedule. Between work, school and everything else, the demands on out time prevent much interest in cooking.
"I'm normally so tired when we get home at night that all I want to do is sit down and eat. I wouldn't call our brand of cooking 'convenience cooking' but we do prefer simple rather than elaborate meals."
It is breakfast in the Bruzas' apartment.
John Bruzas, 30, says he doesn't get hungry for several hours after he wakes up. His meal consists of coffee with cream, the first of many cups throughtout the day. To prevent caffeine overload he uses the decaffinated instant variety.
Since she's dieting, Barbara Bruzas, 26, takes only tea with cream and artificial sweetener. She is concerned about the alleged threat of cancer from saccharin, but believes the risk more acceptable than the additional calories in sugar. "Eating a lot of sugar is not very good for you either," she argues.
To save both calories and dollars, the couple takes their lunch to work three or four times a week. "We try to eat high-protein foods and avoid carbohydrates," she explains. Lunches, therefore, include sliced meats, cheese, eggs or cottage cheese often supplemented by vending machine food or ice cream. Unfortunately, these "high-protein" selections are also rich in calories and saturated fats.
"She is always putting 'us' on a diet," John Bruzas jokes.
"My problem is that my diets never get through the weekends. I always want to lose a few pounds but I'm not fat enough to have to. I keep telling myself that it's not so bad I can't cheat. So I'm always on a diet, but I don't stay with it long enough for it to do any good," she says, sighing deeply.
Having had no breakfast and little lunch, the after-work hours (while Bruzas attends class) are particularly hungry. Invariably, one or both embarks on evening of snacking.
She is partial to malted milk balls or peanut butter. If she's "on a diet," there may be space food sticks. "I call them my diet foods," she says.
He prefers bologna, peanut butter sandwiches, vending machine cookies and ice cream.
Dinner is an excellent time to unwind, and they make every effort to sit down together, no matter how late it gets. Menus include 6 to 8 ounces of broiled or baked meat - lamb, beef or chicken - and a cooked vegetable.
"We don't have a set budget for food, but we usually end up spending around $225 a month on groceries, household items and restaurants," John Bruzas says.
"Inflation has definitely our buying habits recently. We used to buy a lot more beef. Now we only buy if it is in sale, and then, our resistance becomes strong if the price is more than $2 a pound.
Clipping coupons, newspaper advertisements and unit pricing are part of their shopping ritual.
Inflation has also affected their style of dining-out. Over the last 31/2 years they have leisurely sampled many of Washington's more expensive restaurants. Today, even though they have a combined income now, they prefer to seek out lower priced ethnic places ot patronize fast-food restaurants for the sake of convenience.
"We kept these foods diaries during a pretty typical week," says Barbara Bruzas. "What you see here is what we always eat.
"I know we don't get enough of the 'basic four foods'," she says. "So we take vitamins: one E, one C and a multivitamin with iron every day."
"Eating the right foods would be more fattening, more trouble and more expensive. We would have to give up the things we like - like meat - and buy milk." CAPTION: Picture, John and Barbara Bruzas by Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post; Chart, The Bruzas' Diet