If you’re coming off a long history of diets, it can be difficult to tell when you’re truly physically hungry. There’s an easy tool that’s called the hunger fullness scale. It’s helpful to determine your current level of hunger or fullness. The hunger fullness scale is one of my favourite tools to use with clients to help them eat more intuitively and mindfully.
The Hunger Fullness Scale
You were born knowing exactly how much to eat. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that you need fuel for your body to function optimally. Kids are great at knowing how to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. Watch them at a birthday party as they easily leave cake, fruit, lollies and sandwiches on their plate without any worries.
As adults, we lose touch with our appetite cues because we make food choices based on external tools. Such as dieting, calorie counting, meal plans, food rules, etc. This disconnects us from our bodies natural in built system of hunger and fullness.
It’s not unusual to look up from years of dieting and numbing or ignoring your hunger, to realise it’s difficult for you to tell when you’re truly hungry. Furthermore, if you have a history of an eating disorder or disordered eating, it’s highly likely you’re disconnected from your hunger signals or lost the ability to sense hunger accurately.
The good news is, this doesn’t have to be permanent. We can fix this.
By reconnecting with your natural signals, you can manage your eating naturally and mindfully, without restrictive dieting and obsessing over every bite of food you put in your mouth.
When I work with clients on intuitive eating, one of the first things we do is work on the hunger fullness scale to get you back in touch with your bodies internal cues for when and how much to eat.
The Hunger Fullness Scale and Intuitive Eating
Because two of the key principles of intuitive eating have to do with hunger and fullness, this is where the hunger fullness scale comes in particularly handy. It’s often called the hunger fullness scale because it’s an easy, visual way to assign a number or value to your current level of hunger or fullness.
The hunger fullness scale helps you get back in touch with your subtle (or not so subtle) signs of hunger and fullness. If you eat when you’re just getting hungry, and stop when you’re satisfied, but not uncomfortable, you’ll eat just the right amount of food for your body.
It’s important to note, however, the amount of food needed will change from day to day based on multiple factors. Things like your age, sex, physical activity, amount of quality sleep, stress levels, how long in between eating or that time of the month.
How to use the Hunger Fullness Scale
- When you’re ready to eat a meal or snack, ask yourself, “How hungry am I on the fullness scale?” Ideally, you’ll be between a 3 and a 4.
- Halfway through your meal, pause for 10 seconds or so and check in with your body. Ask again “Where am I on the scale now?”
- Eat until you get to a 6 or 7, then stop
If you do this exercise and find that you don’t have normal hunger and fullness cues, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I eating regularly?
- Or – have I skipped meals and snacks, even when I am hungry?
- Or – do I graze on food all day long when I’m not feeling hungry?
Do this exercise for five days in a row, or until you’ve become more aware of your hunger and fullness cues. And remember, this not a magic pill. The scale is to be used as a guide only.
Repeat this practice anytime you’re feeling out of touch with how and why you’re eating.
What if the Hunger Fullness Scale isn’t working?
If you’re struggling to determine your hunger and fullness using the scale, don’t stress! Don’t be too hard on yourself because the process of unlearning external food rules and relearning internal body signals isn’t easy.
Maybe you don’t sense the hunger in your stomach. Maybe your hunger shows up as irritability, moodiness, a headache, lethargy, or you’re unable to focus. Maybe it manifests in some other way. Pay attention to ALL of these body signals and over time you’ll recognise them as hunger.
Re-establishing body trust takes time and a lot of trial-and-error as you determine whether or not you’re hungry. Eventually, you’ll get to a place where you can ask, “Am I hungry?” and make that assessment without using a scale. Until then, maybe start with some of these tips.
Are you interested in learning more about intuitive eating and how you can learn to tune back into your feelings of hunger and fullness? Check out my eating behaviour coaching program here>>