The Hungry Diary

In this post I want to show you how keeping a Hungry Diary to plan your meal times will help you to lose weight.

The Hungry Diary

The Three Day Challenge asks you to stick to two simple rules which will kick start your journey towards changing your diet and, ultimately, your life.

  1. Eat three sensible meals a day 4 to 6 hours apart.
  2. No snacks, alcohol or fizzy drinks.

An important element of the first rule is the recommended time of 4 to 6 hours between each meal. Taking this even further, I have found the optimum time between meals to minimise the risk of snacking while building in enough ‘hungry’ time to help with losing weight.

Meal Time Targets:

  1. Aim for eleven hours between your first meal of the day (Breakfast) and your last meal (Dinner).
  2. Aim for five and a half hours between each meal.

Your body digests the contents of of your stomach in about four hours. After four hours you quickly start to feel hungry. If you’re next meal is too far away, for example more than two hours from starting to feel hungry, you risk having a little snackeral of something (to quote Winnie the Pooh). Reducing the time between two meals is also bad for controlling hunger. For example, if Breakfast and Lunch are less than four hours apart then the time between the other two critical periods of the day, Lunch & Dinner and Dinner & Sleep is extended. This increases the likelihood of snacking.

Wherever possible you should plan your meal times to minimise the length of time you will spend feeling hungry. This means having a consistent gap between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner.

Example 1: Adam

06:30 Wake up
07:00 Breakfast
12:00 Lunch
19:00 Dinner
23:30 Sleep

Adam has breakfast half an hour after he wakes up. Lunch is five hours later meaning Adam might be hungry for one hour so he has a biscuit at eleven o’clock. Adam has dinner seven hours later, so he starts feeling hungry three hours before he is due to eat. He has a pasty or a sandwich at four o’clock to keep him going. Bedtime for Adam is four and a half hours after dinner and, because he starts feeling hungry after four hours, he has a bowl of cereal before he goes to bed.

Adam is never hungry for long but he can’t seem to lose weight either.

Example 2: Ruby

06:30 Wake up
07:30 Breakfast
13:00 Lunch
18:30 Dinner
22:30 Sleep

Ruby has breakfast about one hour after she wakes up. Lunch is five and a half hours later, meaning Ruby might be hungry for one and a half hours before she eats lunch. Ruby has dinner another five and a half hours later, making another one and a half hours where she might be hungry. Bedtime is four hours after dinner and, although she usually starts feeling hungry after four hours, once she goes to sleep she won’t be thinking about hunger.

In total Ruby is hungry for three hours each day but this is manageable because the longest period is an hour and a half. Ruby does not snack and is losing weight.

We can see how planning when we eat makes it easier to manage hunger. Ruby knows when she will be hungry and for how long. This knowledge allows Ruby to develop strategies for coping.

Meal Time Obstacles

Planning your meals may not be easy for you. There are several factors affecting our current meal times which may be difficult to work around.

    We tend to fit our meals around the following four areas of our life:

  1. Work: Work can dictate when we wake up in the morning, our lunch times, and when we arrive home and take our evening meal.
  2. Children: Our children play a big part in deciding our meal times. We have to battle with dropping them off and collecting them from school. How long does the school run take? Do they attend a breakfast, or after school club? And then there are evening and weekend activities like football, dancing, scouts, guides and many others.
  3. Family: We are social animals who like to eat with others, especially our partners. We usually fit our meals around their time table as well as our own. This might mean waiting for them to come home from work before sitting down for dinner.
  4. Social Events: There are many types of social event getting in the way of meal times. Shopping trips, family gatherings like parties, traditional meals such as Sunday roasts, regular commitments like curry night or dining out with friends. I’m sure you can think of more.

Understanding these factors will help you to decide when to plan your meal times. Which meals can be moved and which ones are fixed?

Six steps to planning your meals

    Follow these steps to help you to plan your meal times better.

  1. Plan your hunger. Keep a Hungry Diary for one week. Record the times when you:
    • Wake up
    • Eat each meal
    • Snack
    • Feel hungry
    • Go to sleep.
  2. Plan your day. Identify which meal times are fixed because of work, school and family commitments
  3. Plan your time off. Think about your social, leisure and other commitments affecting your evenings and weekends.
  4. Plan your meal times. Move your flexible meal times to fit as close as you can to the Wake up, lose weight meat time targets.
  5. Plan your meals. Planning what you will eat will also reduce your chances of snacking. This is another topic altogether.
  6. Plan your hunger again. Use the Hungry Diary to plan ahead. Record when you will
    • Wake up
    • Eat each meal
    • Feel hungry
    • Go to sleep.

In other words: Stop getting caught hungry

I hope you noticed that snacking was left out of step 6! This aligns with the the second rule of the three day challenge: No snacks, alcohol or fizzy drinks.

The five (or six) P’s

Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance

You can insert your own sixth P! We have all heard the saying: If you fail to prepare, you must prepare to fail. Planning your meal times by keeping a Hungry Diary is an easy way of preparing to tackle each week, each day, each meal and, most importantly each hungry period.

Once you have planned your Hungry Diary for the week ahead you must stick to it as closely as you can. Moving meal times without understanding how these will affect the rest of your day will put you at risk of the dreaded snack!

The five Don’t's

Avoid the following five Don’t's to reduce your snacking.

  • Don’t have an early breakfast and leave too long to go before lunch.
  • Don’t have lunch early if this will leave you desperate for dinner two hours before you planned it.
  • Don’t have an early dinner if this will cause you to be hungry two hours before bedtime.
  • Don’t skip breakfast as this will increase your risk of snacking before lunch.
  • Don’t get caught hungry

Question: Have you recorded your Hungry Diary? What changes can you make to better prepare for your hungry periods? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

P.S. Adam was me before I lost weight and… Ruby is me now…

Are you lucky?

Do you think of yourself as lucky or does good luck always happen to someone else?

Consider the following two stories and then decide who was lucky.

tennis ball

First Story

opening speech markA man found a tennis ball while walking.

Second Story

opening speech markA Dad takes his son to Beavers once a week. Every week, right before they go, the boy asks his father if they can go a bit early so he can play in the park for a few minutes before Beavers starts. They always go a bit early.

Last week, the boy and his Dad were playing in the park when Dad noticed a crisp, white carrier bag pressed against the railings. He picked up the bag and used it to hold all the litter that he picked up from inside the park. He noticed more litter outside of the park so he picked that up too. He found a tennis ball in the grass while picking up litter.

These two tales are different versions of the same event.

There were several other parents waiting for Beavers to open. Some parents were sitting in their cars while their children sat in the back seat. Other parents were chatting together while their children played. Most turned up right on time to usher their kids straight into the hall. Were they unlucky not to find the ball?

Most people will not notice you doing the right thing. Some of the ones that do notice will think you are nuts. Some of them will recognise your actions and say to themselves, “There is some good left in the world.”

Most do not pick up the litter. Some would never consider it. Some want to know what the reward will be before they will consider it.

Few will do it because it is the right thing to do.

Most of the time, when you do something because it’s the right thing to do, without wanting or expecting a reward, you will not be rewarded. You will not find a ball.

One day when you are doing something because it’s the right thing to do, not because of the reward, you might find that you are also a lucky person. You might find a tennis ball or something much greater. But that will not matter to you. You are doing it because its the right thing to do.

Do something today because it is the right thing to do.

P.S. The ball made their pet dog happy too.

Question: Are you a lucky person? Share a story about a time when you were doing something because it was the right thing to do, and tell us how you became a lucky person. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Can you be hungry for 3 hours a day?

Losing weight is possible. Millions have proved it over the years. They proved it by losing weight. Do you know how millions of people just like you and me have lost weight? Let me tell you.

They all took one action: They ate less.

They all felt the same: They felt hungry.

The important question is: How can I manage my hunger so that I too will lose weight?

In The Three Day Challenge I explained how breaking the cycle of topping up your sugar levels through snacking is crucial to losing weight.

    The three day challenge asks you to follow these rules for the next three days:

  1. Eat three sensible meals a day 4 to 6 hours apart.
  2. No snacks, alcohol or fizzy drinks.

By eating three meals that are separated by 4 to 6 hours you can limit the time that you are hungry to a maximum of three times a day for no more than 1 to 2 hours each time. Let me give you an example.

The chart below shows a typical day for a fictitious person. She wakes up at six thirty and has breakfast between seven thirty and eight o’clock. She is not hungry between waking and eating breakfast because her body has been fasting during sleep. She eats lunch between twelve thirty and one o’clock and is typically hungry from 11am. Dinner is usually between six and six thirty. She feels hungry from about five o’clock. Lights out is around ten o’clock or ten thirty. She might feel a bit peckish just before she goes to bed.

In total our subject will be hungry for three hours per day. The longest hunger period is one and a half hours, if she does not snack. This could be three hours per day that her body is using up energy (fat) reserves.

Now let me ask you another question: Can YOU be hungry for 3 hours a day?

The following transcript is from a conversation I had with this fictitious person.

Hunger chart

F: What is the three day challenge?
A: You can eat three meals a day for three days but you are not allowed any snacks between meals. It will be hard at first but by the fourth day you will find it has become easier and you won’t want to go back to your old habits.
F: I have to eat a piece of fruit at 11 o’clock.
A: What time do you eat breakfast?
F: Seven thirty.
A: What time do you eat lunch?
F: Between twelve thirty and One o’clock.
A: What time do you eat Dinner?
F: About six O’clock.
A: So the longest you go between meals, except when asleep, is five and a half hours.
F: Yes.
A: Why do you need to eat a piece of fruit at 11 o’clock?
F: Because I feel like I could eat a table leg.
A: You only need to go for another hour and a half before you can have lunch.
F: I can’t go that long.
A: Well you won’t lose weight then.
F: But it’s only an apple.
A: It’s an apple that is 80 calories and lots of sugar.
F: I can’t go hungry.
A: You usually start feeling hungry after four hours, the longest you will feel hungry is one and a half hours.
F: But I already told you I can’t go that long.
A: Hungry won’t harm you.
F: I can’t concentrate when I am hungry.
A: That’s because you are addicted to sugar. That feeling is your brain telling you put more sugar in your veins.
F: Then I need to eat an apple.
A: You need to break your addiction to sugar.
F: How do I do that?
A: Take the three day challenge.

Action Plan

    Write down your daily schedule and identify your hungry periods.

  • How can you alter your meal times to minimise the length of time you are hungry between each meal.
  • What can you do to keep busy during these risky periods?

Identifying your ‘at risk’ periods will help you to better plan your meal times. You can move them if you need to. You should also look for ways to occupy yourself during your ‘at risk’ periods as this will reduce the risk of snacking.

Question: Can you be hungry for 3 hours a day? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The Three Day Challenge

I firmly believe anyone can lose weight. That includes you. You have to be ready to make the commitment. You need to be motivated to start. You also need a little push to get you on your way.

You may be able to give yourself that little push or, like most people, you might be looking for the right type of push. If you are still searching for a way to get started with changing your diet, read on.

winnie the pooh

I had a sweet tooth. I had a weakness for all things sugary. My favourite foods were cakes, biscuits and breakfast cereals. For as long as I can remember I had a bowl of cereal before I went to bed. Some nights I would go to bed and, after a couple of hours, go to the kitchen for cereal.

For the past eleven years I have regularly worked away from home. With no access to cereal, I would buy biscuits and cream cakes to eat in my hotel room. The cakes I preferred always came in packs of two and, well, cream doesn’t last very long. I always ate them both.

My main problem was, even though I had eaten dinner, I was afraid of spending a night without access to food. What if I was hungry late at night? I could hardly get dressed and go out to find a McDonalds or supermarket after 11 o’clock. It wasn’t unknown though.

When I decided to lose weight I knew stopping these bad eating habits would be the key to success. First of all I had to identify the reasons why I had bad eating habits. What was stopping from me from losing weight?

    I identified the following five reasons:

  1. Addiction to sugar
  2. Fear of being hungry
  3. Habit
  4. Temptation
  5. Working away and eating in hotels

I realised that four of these reasons were just excuses. The real problem was the sugar. If I could break the addiction to sugar I would solve the problem.

Sugar is found in many of the foods that we turn to when we need a snack. It’s even in white bread, pasta, ketchup and other sauces. Fast food contains lots of sugar too. Have you ever wondered why they give away chilli sauce, tomato sauce and barbecue sauce by the bucket? It’s addictive. It brings you back for more.

The Three Day Challenge

    Follow these rules for the next three days:

  1. Eat three sensible meals a day 4 to 6 hours apart.
  2. No snacks, alcohol or fizzy drinks.

It is that simple. There is no need to complicate this with lots of do’s and don’ts. Simply stick to these two rules for three days to break your body’s dependence on sugar. After that you will not be as hungry and the weight will take care of itself.

I won’t make any promises about losing pounds in days. Neither will I ask you to commit to weeks of dieting, hunger or misery.

    If you can succeed with the three day challenge then by day four you will be ready to change your life, because you will:

  • recognise that the first three days were the hardest
  • realise that you can survive without snacking
  • notice that you stopped automatically reaching for snacks
  • want to continue because this method is simple
  • have broken your sugar dependency

I followed this method when I decided to lose weight and it took three days to get over my sugar craving. It wasn’t painful, however it was hard at times. For the first three days I found myself opening the biscuit tin without knowing I was doing it. I had to remind myself that I was breaking my affair with sugary foods. I was hungry for an hour or so before meals. I even felt weak and a bit shaky but this soon passed. The great thing was that the fourth day was so much easier than the first three days. In fact, by day 4 the cravings had eased to the point where the biscuit tin was safe. Being hungry did not do me any harm. It was just my body demanding more sugar.

I haven’t looked back since. That’s really all it took. Just three days without snacking. Three days of relying on three meals a day and I was free to make better choices about meals.

Give the Three Day Challenge a try yourself and let me know how you get on. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

78 reasons for not starting a diet

I was curious to find out why people delay losing weight and put off dieting.

Here are the raw, unedited answers that I jotted down when I asked four female colleagues to finish the sentence:

    I can’t start my diet because…

  1. I am stressed at home
  2. there is a family illness
  3. there are family arguments
  4. it will soon be Christmas
  5. I am going on holiday
  6. my daughters wedding is not for 18 months so I don’t want to start my diet too soon
  7. I sleep better with alcohol
  8. work is stressful
  9. of apathy
  10. it’s the wrong day of week
  11. I have the wrong food in the cupboard
  12. we are having visitors
  13. of an upcoming family party
  14. I am going out socialising
  15. of work deadlines
  16. I Can’t be bothered
  17. dieting is boring
  18. my friends / family have a negative attitude
  19. I fail to plan so I plan to fail
  20. I have no support
  21. of other people encouraging me to eat
  22. I am not in right frame of mind
  23. hypochrisy from others who criticise me then encourage me to eat
  24. I am bored
  25. the social norm is to join in
  26. I habitually eat at same times during the day
  27. I love food
  28. I get emotional gratification from eating
  29. I am depressed
  30. I eat when I might be dehydrated
  31. drinking alcohol causes me to snack
  32. the pressure to lose weight causes me to over eat
  33. food tastes nice
  34. I got unwanted attention from men when I was slim
  35. I don’t feel like me if I am not overweight
  36. I set unrealistic targets
  37. my boobs will shrink
  38. my spouse will leave me if I lose weight
  39. I am addicted to sugar
  40. I don’t like diet food
  41. I can’t diet alone
  42. of my metabolism
  43. I have an under active thyroid
  44. I have a medical condition that makes dieting difficult
  45. as a diabetic I am frightened of being hungry
  46. of peer pressure
  47. I just can’t say no
  48. people keep bringing biscuits to work
  49. I can’t resist the temptations
  50. of my age
  51. I think why should I bother at my age
  52. I work shifts
  53. I have seasonally affected disorder
  54. I live next door to chip shop
  55. healthy food is too expensive
  56. I don’t understanding portion control
  57. I was made to eat all of my dinner as a child
  58. we use serving dishes
  59. we cook too much
  60. I have cravings
  61. food is made attractive
  62. I buy more when I shop when hungry
  63. I go out shopping at meal times
  64. of artificial sweeteners
  65. of diet drinks
  66. I have poor self image
  67. I work away and eat in hotels
  68. of loneliness
  69. I want to spend my daily allowance
  70. of previous failures
  71. of bad diet plans
  72. it is time consuming to prepare healthy food
  73. I don’t want to have to prepare food after long day at work
  74. I can’t cook
  75. I don’t know any better
  76. I am misguided over what is good for you
  77. of my upbringing
  78. of my culture

This list of 78 reasons for not starting a diet was compiled in less than an hour amid a flurry of excited chatter. The energy around the table as the four women threw in their excuses, agreed with each others ideas and encouraged more suggestions would have powered the City of Coventry for a month.

Quite frankly, after listening to these excuses for an hour, I am astonished that anyone has ever lost weight. Arguments for remaining overweight certainly appear to out weigh (no pun intended) those for losing weight.

While we are in the mood for honesty lets get it all of our excuses out in the open now. Leave a comment below and shed your inhibitions.

Question: Which of these reasons are preventing you starting a diet? Or do have a different reason? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

The two goals I set when I decided to lose weight

In the last post I talked about How to set SMART goals to help you lose weight. Today I would like to tell you about the two goals I set when I decided to lose weight and the four I have added since then.

Path to success

My decision to lose weight was made on 3rd May 2013 after a session at my local swimming pool. A four year old boy, trying to hide from his Mum, grabbed me around my waist and shouted, “You’ve got a big fat belly!”

That evening I vowed to lose weight.

I decided to set two separate goals to help me lose weight. The first goal was for the weight I wanted to lose. The second goal was to improve my fitness.

My Weight Loss Goal

My first weight loss goal

Looking back at this goal I can see that it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.
On 31st December 2012 I weighed 13 stone 2 pounds, a weight recorded on the Nintendo Wii Fit program. My target equated to being one stone lighter from one Christmas to the next. On 3rd May 2013 I weighed in at 13 stone 1 pound so I had thirteen pounds to go.

As I had never really lost weight in my life I felt this was quite a challenging target.

My Fitness Goal

My first exercise goal

Looking back at this goal I can see that it is measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. There is no mention of distances or length of each run so it could be more specific. How far would I run or for how long?

Setting specific distances when I had not done any serious exercise for 25 years would be hard to do. I had no idea how far I was capable of running.

If I had set a distance that was too far, for example 5 miles, I would have been setting myself up to fail. That would not be an achievable goal.

If I had set a distance that was too short, for example, half a mile, it might not have pushed me hard enough.
For these reasons I chose to run as far as I could, at a pace that was manageable. I would extend distances as my fitness improved.

Amending Goals

Another feature of sustained success is to amend your goals and set new ones when your current goals have been reached.

When I passed my target of 12 stone 2 pounds on 16 June I immediately revised my weight loss goal.

My Second Weight Loss Goal

My second weight loss goal

At this point I knew that I could lose weight. I had already lost 13 pounds. I also knew that my ideal weight, based on the Body Mass Index, is 11 stone. Reaching one goal was highly motivating for me. Setting a new goal closer to eleven stone helped me to use this motivation to continue losing weight.

I was more worried about losing the motivation to exercise or, specifically, to keep up my running. For this reason I set a new goal before reaching my original target. On 14th June, the evening before my 25th run, I decided to search for a 10K run.

    The event had to:

  • be within reasonably travelling distance from home
  • take place before the end of August
  • be held on a flat course

My First Running Goal

My first running goal

Full details of the 2013 Sherwood Pines Trail Race, including the results, are available at
Running has been very enjoyable but, having started in early May, I have been blessed with light mornings and good weather so far. I want to keep running through the autumn and winter months so I have added another two long term goals to help keep me motivated.

Long Term Running Goals

My long term running goals

I will keep you posted on my progress over the coming months and years.

Question: What are the weight loss and fitness goals that you have set and how SMART are they? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How to set SMART goals to help you lose weight

Having goals can be the difference between hoping to lose weight and actually losing weight.
If you are not aware of the power of setting goals then read what the successful entrepreneur Richard Branson has to say:

opening speech markI believe in goals. It’s never a bad thing to have a dream. If something is really what you want to do, just do it. Whatever your goal. – Richard Branson

There are, however, good goals and bad goals. Good goals have certain characteristics that should be included. You can apply these characteristics to all of the goals that you set in life, not just when losing weight.


Your goals need to set out exactly what you want achieve as specifically as possible. A specific goal will define exactly what you want to achieve.

I want to lose weight.


You need to be able to measure your goals. Progress against a measurable goal can be tracked. You will know how you are progressing and when the goal has been reached. In regard to losing weight the ideal measurement is weight.

How much weight do you want to lose?
How much do you want to weigh?


Your goals should be set at a realistic and achievable level, whilst also being challenging enough for success to be worthwhile. You should resist the temptation to set a goal that is too demanding. If you can see progress towards your goals you are more likely to remain committed for longer. When you achieve your goal you can then set a new goal that may be closer to a longer term target.

I want to lose 14 pounds in weight.


A relevant goal is a goal that means something to you. Many millions of people set themselves a goal of losing weight every year. Many millions fail to achieve their goals. Most don’t even get started with weight loss. There are a few questions you should answer before you know if losing weight is a relevant goal for you.

Do you need to lose weight? You may not be overweight. Not everyone who diets needs to lose weight. Check your BMI to find out if you really are overweight.

Are you ready to lose weight? The triggers that have motivated you to lose weight must be strong enough to make you highly motivated to succeed. If you start in a half-hearted way you will not succeed. If you repeatedly fail there is a danger that you will be convinced that you cannot lose weight.

Are you able to focus on losing weight? You should be free to concentrate on your goal without other big distractions. You may be wise to wait if you are in the middle of changing jobs, moving house or if you have a medical issue that needs attention.

Time bound

A goal without a time frame is not really a goal, it’s a pipe dream. Your goal must have a time frame that will tell you exactly when you need to achieve the target.

    A time limit helps you to be:

  • focused on the target
  • committed to taking the steps required to succeed
  • alert to the dangers of slacking off.

Bad goals

Look at the following goals and decide what is missing from each one:

I want to fit into last year’s summer clothes by June.
I want to lose two stone.
I want to feel happy with my weight.
I want to run a marathon next month.
I want to lose a bit of weight.

Good goals

The following goals are SMART:

I want to weigh nine and a half stone by Christmas.
I want to lose 20 pounds in the twelve weeks before my birthday.
I want to run the Sherwood Pines 10K Trail Race on 27th July.

Question: What goals have you set for yourself? You can leave a comment by clicking here.