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 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.
- Eat three sensible meals a day 4 to 6 hours apart.
- 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:
- Aim for eleven hours between your first meal of the day (Breakfast) and your last meal (Dinner).
- 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
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
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:
- Work: Work can dictate when we wake up in the morning, our lunch times, and when we arrive home and take our evening meal.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plan your hunger. Keep a Hungry Diary for one week. Record the times when you:
- Wake up
- Eat each meal
- Feel hungry
- Go to sleep.
- Plan your day. Identify which meal times are fixed because of work, school and family commitments
- Plan your time off. Think about your social, leisure and other commitments affecting your evenings and weekends.
- 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.
- Plan your meals. Planning what you will eat will also reduce your chances of snacking. This is another topic altogether.
- 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…