Look Good, Feel Great : Part 15 - How to eat

In Part 5 of Look Good, Feel Great we introduced the simple concept of thinking about all the food and drink you eat as being a series of plates. Hopefully by now you should’ve made some adjustments to your diet in terms of the number of plates you eat, and the amount on those plates

In How To Eat you’re going to concentrate more on what type of food is on those plates as well as making further adjustments to the number of plates you eat. Your next step is to build up to:

• eating meals with a ratio of one third protein, two thirds carbohydrates (vary the type of food you eat)

• Eating more frequently during the day – add at least two snacks a day to what you eat (vary the number of plates you eat)

REMEMBER – no food is banned. But we believe that when you really know more about the main food groups and how you can strip away your fat by making simple, not seismic, changes to the stuff you eat, you’ll end up eating much less of certain foods and much more of others

One Third, Two Thirds

There’s a huge amount of debate about what is the ‘right’ proportion of calories (energy) from protein, carbohydrate and fat in the ‘ideal’ diet. It even has a fancy term – the macronutrient ratio. Many ‘fad’ diets often emphasise two of these over a third, e.g. a low carb or no carb diet, a low fat or no fat diet, or a high protein diet

The less faddy research suggests that the macronutrient ratio should be in the region of:

• 25% of your calories from protein

• 55% of your calories from carbohydrates

• 20% of your calories from fat

But the key question for How To Eat isn’t so much what the right ratio is, it’s HOW DO I GET A BALANCED DIET? And how do I get one that helps me get rid of fat without counting calories, points, weighing food or all the other stuff that takes away your will to live?!

The answer is mind-blowingly simple: Every time you have one of those plates (remember, it’s a plate whenever you eat food), divide that plate into three. Fill up one third of the plate with something from the protein categories in Part 11 and fill up the other two thirds from the carbohydrates in Part 9

There are just a couple of wrinkles to this bold statement. The first is that at least one third of every meal should be a veggie. The second is that the fruit is best confined to breakfasts and snacks


Without even doing any sophisticated number crunching, you’ll always be in the ballpark simply by following the one third, two third guideline. Amazing how close this is to the old ‘meat and two veg’ isn’t it? And you thought eating smarter was difficult!

What about fat, you may ask? Remember that virtually all the foods in the protein and carb groups contain fat, so that you WILL be getting all the fat you need with one third/two thirds. In addition you’ll be using oils in cooking (sparingly!) and to flavour salads etc (also sparingly!)

Can it really be that simple? Try it and see!

Here are some examples of the guideline in action:


Boiled Egg, Porridge, Blueberries (on their own or mixed in with the porridge)


2 egg omelette, 2 slices of whole grain toast, an orange

Lunches and dinners

Grilled salmon, Baked potato, Broccoli, Spinach


Grilled chicken breast, Rice and peas, Green beans


Vegetable soup, Tuna sandwich on whole grain bread, Fruit salad

Eat more frequently

In Part 5 we discovered something called the ‘thermic effect’ of food when talking about the importance of breakfast and the kick start it gives your metabolism after your sleep. In How To Eat you need to build on this by increasing the number of plates you eat during the day

YES THAT’S RIGHT - we actually want you to eat more frequently! But, you may ask, if I’m trying to lose fat, so surely I need to eat less frequently?

WRONG! Missing meals (or leaving long gaps between meals) is absolutely counter productive to your fight against fat because it:

• slows down your metabolism,

• causes muscle loss and

• triggers your body’s starvation responses

Here’s an example - you skip breakfast and you haven’t eaten since 8:00 p.m. the previous night. If you eat lunch at 1.00 pm, you’ve gone 17 hours without any food. By then you’re not only in a muscle wasting state, you’re also sending an unmistakable starvation signal to your body. By lunchtime you’re starving and chow down a large meal (remember a shop bought meal of a couple of rounds of sarnies and a dessert will tend to be very calorie dense). The afternoon rushes by and by the time you get to the station for your train you’re almost fainting with hunger. You know there’s a meal waiting at home so you don’t want to eat too much – maybe a packet of crisps and a couple of biscuits. This takes the edge off for a little while, but by the time you get home you’re more than ready to attack that massive plate of spag bol and come back for seconds plus some dessert. You’re full, but later in the evening you still feel hungry and want something sweet. Some chocolate biscuits and a milky coffee are just the job. Then it’s off to bed

Even if you’ve somehow managed to keep the calories in check, what you’ve actually done is do EVERYTHING possible to encourage your body to store fat: leaving 17 hours between last night’s dinner and today’s lunch causes muscle loss and slows down your metabolism. Because you’ve only eaten one good meal during the day, you’re famished and you pig out at dinner. Now if this is a one off then there’s no need to worry as the amounts of muscle loss, effect of metabolism slowdown and excess calories is very small. BUT, if this is your NORMAL way of eating it’s a sure-fire way to slow down your metabolism, lose muscle and gain body fat

On the other hand, if you S P R E A D O U T your food intake over the day by incorporating the right type of snack between meals you’re giving yourself the best chance to increase your energy, increase energy, accelerate muscle growth, and speed up your metabolism without storing fat

How is this possible? Well there’s actually a scientific basis for this, rooted in two facts:

• it takes about three hours to digest each meal, and

• protein lasts about three hours in the bloodstream.

If you sleep around seven hours a night, it leaves you 17 waking hours. Assuming you eat breakfast an hour after you get up and dinner a couple of hours before you go to bed, you could still have 9 hours between meals. BUT, if you add in at least two snacks a day you reduce this to around 3 hours between breakfast and dinner like this:

Breakfast - 7am

Snack 1 - 10am

Lunch - 1am

Snack 2 - 4 am

Dinner - 7am

So, just as the food from your previous meal has been digested and the protein your body needs is used up, you treat it to some more good stuff! You can also add another bedtime snack at around 10pm if you like. Now there are a couple of points to make here. Remember that, whatever you eat, your energy intake must be less than your energy output in order to lose fat. So if you’re currently taking in, for example

3000 calories of energy spread over three meals and expending 3200 a day for gradual, sensible fat loss, adding two snacks of 500 calories each to take your total energy intake to 4000 calories won’t be much use to you. So obviously you need to spread the 3000 calories over the new regime of 3 meals and 2 snacks.

Secondly, by snacks we DON’T mean high fat, high sugar, processed rubbish, or cakes, sweets, pastries, biscuits etc. We DO mean mini-meals which follow the one third, two third principle as closely as possible. So while an apple or a banana is good as a snack, an apple or banana along with a handful of mixed nuts is much, much better. Here are some examples of other great snacks:

• Rye or multi-grain bread spread with low fat cottage cheese

• Pitta bread dipped in hummus or taramasalata

• Oat cakes topped with lean ham

• Fat free yoghurt with summer fruits mixed in

Once you have mastered the art of eating smaller, more frequent meals you’ll get these benefits:

Your metabolism speeds up due to the thermic effect of food; Every time you eat, the thermic effect of food boosts your metabolism. 5 - 10% of your daily energy output is used in digesting your food. The more often you eat the more calories you burn. A few studies have been carried out on this subject and they’ve found that on average someone who eats twice a day only burns around 140 calories digesting food but increased that number to 300 calories in 24 hours just by eating 5 - 6 mini meals every 3 hours. And it didn’t stop there – after six months of eating more frequently the number of calories burned digesting food increased to almost 400.

Just think about that for a minute. By eating the same AMOUNT of food, but by SPREADING that amount over 5 or 6 meals you can burn an extra 260 calories a day. That’s a pound of fat every 13 days or 27 pounds a year WITHOUT EATING ANY LESS!!!!!!

You’ll store less fat; If you overeat at any one meal, any excess calories will always be converted into body fat. When you eat, your food is digested and directed into any cells requiring immediate energy. Once the cells have received all the energy they need, the body can store the excess fuel in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver. However, there’s only so much glycogen your body can store. Any excess calories beyond this limit will be stored as body fat. Eating smaller, more frequent meals helps prevent you from over-consuming calories through simple portion control

You’re less likely to binge eat and more likely to control cravings. A bit of a no brainer, this one – if you’re eating something every three hours or so, you’ll always feel very satisfied and you’ll rarely feel hungry because food comes around so often

You’ll have more energy; Because you’re eating more frequently, and because you’re eating food that’s slow to digest and slow to convert into sugar, you get a slow, steady release of energy, rather than a short surges followed by long troughs. No more ups and downs, no more mid morning energy crashes, no more late afternoon drowsy spells, just solid, steady, high energy all day long. You may even be able to stay awake in those tricky mid afternoon meetings!

Muscle breakdown is prevented; As we’ve seen you should do everything you can to prevent loss of muscle. When you skip meals, your body’s need for amino acids doesn’t stop. When you cut off the continual inflow of amino acids from protein foods, your body simply goes to a different source – your own muscle. Your body doesn’t have the ability to store protein and amino acids only remain in your bloodstream for about three hours after each meal. After that, you start burning up your own muscle protein. Eating large amounts of protein in two or three large meals doesn’t help – it must be spread out over the day

Your muscle growth is helped; By eating some protein every 3 hours or so, you get a steady flow of amino acids into your bloodstream, just as the previous supply’s about to run out. This steady flow of protein into your system is absolutely critical for muscle growth and maintenance

This post’s  been pretty ‘heavy’ on facts about food and we hope you’ve ‘digested’ it thoroughly (ouch!).  Just remember these ’10 commandments’ - you’ll never have to ‘diet’ again

1. Every time you eat, and particularly at main meals, aim for one third lean protein and two thirds carbohydrates. For main meals, the more the two thirds consists of veggies, the faster you’ll fight fat

2. Load up on foods rich in fibre

3. There’s a big difference between packaged food and processed food. Food can be packaged, but not processed, so that it’s as good as, and often better than, ‘fresh’ food (which has travelled thousands of miles to get on the shelves!). Good examples of packaged foods that you can enjoy are frozen fruit and vegetables and many canned products

4. Processed foods, junk food, fast food, whatever you want to call it is NOT inherently bad. A single serving will not harm you. These types of foods, however, tend to be very calorie DENSE, because of added sugar, fat etc, so will definitely harm your fight against fat

5. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. Whilst it may be impossible (and, in my mind, not advisable) to cut out the booze altogether, you could and should be able to figure a way to reduce it

6. You’re the boss when in restaurants. Don’t be shy about ordering food that’s a variation of what’s on the menu. Cut back on food swimming in sauces or gravy. Ask for salad with the dressing ‘on the side’

7. When cooking, ease back on frying, batter, creamy sauces etc and start steaming, baking and stir frying instead

8. Don’t forget BREAKFAST, the most important meal of the day

9. Don’t pig out – stop when your feeling satisfied, not when you’re bloated

10. Remember you DO NOT HAVE TO GIVE UP ANY FOOD. Everything in moderation and you’re allowed (encouraged!) to CHEAT now and again – treat yourself!

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April 06, 2012

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