It’s important to listen to our internal cues when it comes to our hunger and fullness. Just like a dry mouth tells us we’re thirsty and heavy eyes means we need sleep, hunger lets us know that we need food.
Hunger and fullness cues are great in the way that they adapt to our always changing energy needs. Diets can make it seem that we need the same amount of energy every day, but in reality our metabolism changes daily because of many factors- physical activity, the amount of sleep we get, hormonal changes, and more. When we listen to our hunger and fullness cues, we can appropriately respond to what our bodies are telling us we need.
The Hunger Fullness Scale is an Intuitive Eating tool we can use to get in touch with our internal cues. It is a simple scale of 1-10, where each number correlates to a level of hunger or fullness. Take a second and evaluate how you feel, then pick a number on the scale that best fits.
1: Ravenous- dizzy, nauseous, physically ill
2: Extremely hungry- moody, headache, gnawing emptiness in stomach
3: Hungry- stomach growling, need energy
4: “I could eat”- stomach feels slightly empty
6: Mild fullness- stomach feels full but you don’t feel satisfied
7: Satisfied- if you eat anymore, you’ll feel uncomfortable
8: Uncomfortably full- you feel slightly uncomfortable
9: Stuffed- “Thanksgiving Day full”- very uncomfortable, bloated
10: Physically ill- binge eating full, nauseous, sick
It’s important to note that hunger and fullness aren’t only felt in the stomach. Fatigue, anxiety, headaches, nausea, and uncomfortable bloating are all signs that you may be hungry or full. Ideally, you should start eating when you’re at a 3 or 4 and still able to make rational decisions about food rather than uncomfortably hungry. Don’t worry, we all get into situations where we are unprepared and we get to a 1 or 2. When this happens, try to remind yourself that even though you’re uncomfortable, you can still slow down and eat intentionally. There is no right or wrong number on when to stop eating but being at a 7 will leave you feeling satisfied and full until you can eat again.
There will be times when stopping at a 7 won’t happen. If you’re out to dinner with friends, for example, you may get to an 8 or 9. Maybe you have a big dinner planned so stopping at a 6 at lunch is more appropriate for you. You know your body best, so honor your hunger and respect your fullness.