One of the main reasons I created Fulfilling Fridays is to share some practical tips that you can use to eat more intuitively and mindfully. The first tool I want to talk about is one that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle immediately and that will help prevent overeating with little to no effort – the hunger scale!
Part of mindful eating is choosing to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. (I like to think of it as honoring your hunger and respecting your fullness because it really is all about giving your body what its asking for.)
It’s not a new idea but actually putting the concept into practice can prove more challenging that it might seem.
That’s why I love the hunger scale, especially for mindful eating newbies. Its a great way to better understand this concept and put it into practice.
Before I get into it, some terminology…
Intuitive Eating vs. Mindful Eating
Nope, intuitive eating and mindful eating don’t mean exactly the same thing – but they’re similar and both concepts are really important for learning how to nourish yourself without external rules.
Mindful eating is the act of being present and paying attention to the experience of eating – without judgment.
Intuitive eating (IE) is a larger philosophy focused on becoming attuned to internal hunger and satiety cues, living without food rules and restrictions, and eating mostly for physical (instead of emotional) reasons.
So, you can think of mindful eating as one small component of the larger intuitive eating picture.
The Mindful Eating Hunger Scale
Using this hunger scale is so simple and it really helped me out when I was first learning how to eat more intuitively.
It’s free, its easy, and it only takes a few seconds – so you really don’t have an excuse for not trying this at home right away! 🙂
How to use a Mindful Eating Hunger Scale:
- First, think your hunger level on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being ravenous and 10 being stuffed.
- Aim to eat something when you feel like your internal hunger level is between 3 and 4.
- While eating, check in with yourself every few bites to reassess your hunger level.
- Aim to stop eating once you’re satisfied and your hunger level is between 6 and 8.
Your Body on the Hunger Scale:
If you’re having trouble putting a number on your hunger, think about it this way…
When you’re hunger level is between 1 and 2, you feel ravenous. You’re light-headed, dizzy, famished, and hangry. We’ve all been there and it’s not a pretty picture!
When your hunger is at this level, your body is in emergency mode – it wants anything (and everything) that might be able to provide a little energy – especially the foods we’ve been hard-wired to love, – like foods that are excessively high in sugar and/or fat. This can make it pretty tough to make a nourishing food choice.
Eat before you’re running on empty so you never have to be in this place!
This is your hunger sweet spot!
Your tummy is rumbling and you definitely have an appetite, so this is your signal to get cooking!
Eating when your hunger level is between 3 and 4 makes it a lot easier to make a good food choice because you’re body isn’t freaking out…it knows that you aren’t in the middle of a famine.
Here, you can use nutrition as a tool for guiding your food choices. You have some time (and some energy left) to prepare a meal/snack that will provide balanced energy from carbohydrates, protein, and fats.
And you definitely aren’t overeating when your hunger level is here – your body is asking for more food, so go ahead – nosh and nourish!
You feel comfortable and light and have a neutral level of hunger – you’re not really hungry but not really full/satisfied yet either.
This usually happens while you’re still eating or shortly before/after eating.
If its before eating something, now’s the time to start planning your next meal/snack.
If its during your meal, start thinking about whether you’ve had enough to eat.
Do you feel satisfied?
Were you aiming for a lighter meal or snack? (Maybe because you’re about to take a yoga class or are going out to dinner in an hour or two.)
If yes, this might be a good time to stop eating.
This is your satiety sweet spot!
This is the level when you begin to feel completely satisfied and nourished.
Now is probably a good time to stop eating, since you really aren’t feeling any of those internal hunger cues anymore.
Your belly feels nice and full but you aren’t over-stuffed or uncomfortable. You’re a nourished, happy camper!
This is like Thanksgiving Day, one-too-many-slices-of-pumpkin-pie stuffed.
Just like you want to do your best to avoid that hangry 1-2 level, you should also try your best to stay out of this area too.
This is the point at which you have eaten so much that you feel sick. You’re bloated, uncomfortable, and kinda feel like you could throw up.
Interestingly, I think it’s really easy to jump quickly from that first 1-2 level to this 9-10 level because you’re so hungry that you completely forget to check in with yourself while eating. Before you know it, you’re here.
In my opinion, the best way to avoid this level of uncomfortable fullness (and the weight gain that can come along with it) is to eat regularly and choose balanced, energizing meals and snacks that will prevent you from ever feeling too uncomfortably famished. (Sounds a little counterintuitive to eat more often in order to feel less stuffed…but it works!)
What do you think –
Have you ever thought of your hunger on a scale like this one? Do you notice that its more difficult to make healthy choices once you’re famished? What practical tips do you have for someone who wants to prevent overeating?