The Hunger Scale: Intuitive Eating… Most of the Time
Sometimes we get caught up in the hustle bustle of our everyday life and when we get home we head straight for the kitchen. We dive into chips, cookies, and ice cream without even pausing, even when we aren’t hungry. We eat because we are bored, or stressed. Eating to eat is one of the biggest hurdles to losing weight and keeping it off. However, if you can differentiate between feeding the physical body and feeding the emotions, you can avoid overeating.
To do this, it’s really helpful to use The Good Decisions Hunger Scale. This 10-point scale helps you tune into hunger with curiosity and ask yourself, “Where am I at on The Hunger Scale right now? Am I even truly hungry?” The Hunger Scale can help you shift from mindless eating and struggle, to intuitive eating and a life of ease and satisfaction.
Here are some helpful tips to start you off on the right foot:
• First off, learn how to properly tune in to your body’s signals with The Hunger Check.
• For one week keep a hunger journal and ask the question constantly, “Am I hungry?” and “Where am I at on The Hunger Scale?” If the answer is no, I am not hungry, yet you feel compelled to eat anyways, journal about your experience. If you are eating and have reached your satiation point, yet still feel compelled to keep eating, journal about that too. Eventually you will have a clear picture of what you are trying to feed, soothe or avoid in an emotional sense. You may see begin to see what it is you are really hungry for.
• It’s also helpful to experience all levels of the hunger scale on purpose so that each number represents a genuine felt sense that you’ve had before. I’ll bet you never thought a nutritional therapist would tell you to eat to the point of being painfully full! Once you’ve experienced the felt differences between the levels, try hanging out between levels 3 and 5.
The Hunger Scale
Here are the levels you will experience:
0 — YOU ARE FAMISHED. Blood sugar levels have dropped. You need food and you need it now. Mental clarity is almost completely lost. You feel light headed, may have a headache, and are irritable. Friends avoid interacting with you because they’re afraid you will rip their head off and eat it!
If you eat, portion control is not an option here, because you’re in a frenzied state to just find food. There is no way you can hear your satiation signal.
1 — YOU ARE VERY HUNGRY. Blood sugar levels are still low; mental clarity is still lost. The queasiness you felt a half hour earlier has turned to nausea and your stomach grumbling can be heard across the office. You may get angry, or as some people say “hangry”. That box of donuts in the break room that you would normally never touch, suddenly becomes your savior.
If you eat those donuts, you will eat so fast you won’t even chew your food, let alone hear your satiation signal.
2 — YOU ARE MODERATELY HUNGRY. Blood sugar levels are just starting to drop and mental clarity is at half mast. Your stomach has been growling for a while and you intuitively know you’ve waited too long to eat. You may feel a bit queasy as your co-workers guard their lunch knowing that you might sneak a bite or two when they’re not looking.
If you eat at this level the chance of hearing your satiation signal is possible if you really rally your presence; but it is still unlikely.
*When you’re this hungry, at 0’s, 1’s, and 2’s, it’s difficult to make healthy choices and use portion control because as our blood sugar levels drop, we lose mental clarity. We need to find food, and we need to find it now.
3 — YOU ARE SLIGHTLY HUNGRY. Your stomach is growling as your digestive juices prepare for your next meal. Your body is clearly telling you it needs food but your blood sugar levels have not dropped and you can still think clearly.
If you eat at this level, digestion is optimal because you can think clearly you can hear your satiation signal. This is where food tastes delicious and is most enjoyable. As you eat, you may approach level 4.
4 – YOU ARE HUNGRY FOR MORE. Food still tastes a good as it did when you first started and your satiation signal has not yet told you to stop, so you keep eating.
5 — YOU ARE SATISFIED. Your body has sent the satiation signal and is neither hungry nor full. You ate just the right amount of food, enjoyed it, and feel satisfied. This is a beautiful place to be. There is peace and contentment at this middle point which is fabulous.
If you eat at this level but ignore your satiation signal and keep eating, you will move on to level 6.
6 — YOU HAVE ROOM FOR MORE. However, food has lost its flavor. You pretend you have not heard your satiation signal and a little devil pops onto your shoulder and tries to convince you to take one more bite because you deserve it.
If you eat at this level but continue to ignore your body you will move up to level 7.
7 — YOU ARE SLIGHTLY FULL. The little devil has set up shop on your shoulder and is trying to convince you that life is not worth living unless you keep going. After all you’re only slightly full, and you really don’t want to waste food do you? The little angel on your other shoulder is working overtime to convince you to stop while you’re still ahead!
If you eat at this level and continue to ignore her and keep eating, you move up to level 8.
8 — YOU ARE MODERATELY FULL. You know you ate too much and didn’t even taste the last few bites. You are thinking to yourself, I should have listened to that little angel, but you decide to keep eating anyway because there’s really not that much left on your plate.
If you eat at this level you move on to level 9.
9 — YOU ARE FULL AND UNCOMFORTABLE. The little angel is lying on the ground battered and bruised and the little devil stands triumphantly over her. You feel bloated and nauseous and feel the need to lie down and take a nap while your body tries to deal with the large meal you’ve just ingested.
If you eat at this level, you may hit the true tipping point. If your ever loving spouse brings you the last piece of chocolate cake and tells you to eat it, otherwise it will go bad, and you step up to the challenge, you will end up at level 10.
10 — YOU ARE PAINFULLY FULL. This is typically how we feel on thanksgiving, when your stomach hurts and you feel sick and bloated. All you want is to lie down and make the pain go away. You forget how wonderful the meal actually tasted because all you can feel is regret.
How many of these levels feel familiar to you? Most people have experienced all levels, but without a lot of conscious awareness. Levels 3, 4, and 5 are where the most pleasure from food can be found; where you are slightly hungry, hungry for more, and then satisfied and content. This is the sweet spot. When you tune in and listen to your body, it will keep you in this range… but only if you listen! Many people eat past these levels into the “room for more” and “slightly full” stages before stopping. Many of us tend to think that feeling full is the satiation signal. That’s ok. In fact, if you usually eat until you are uncomfortably full but start trying to stop at slightly full or moderately full, that’s a big deal.
Take a moment to consider, which level do you hang out in the most?