Kids are great at knowing how to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. As adults, we lose touch with this sensation. Many of my clients tell me they can’t remember the last time they actually felt hungry. So today I’m talking about the hunger and fullness scale, one of my favorite tools to use as you learn to eat more intuitively.
I get asked what type of “diet” I eat, or believe in, almost every single day. I hate that word “diet”. Just because I’m a dietitian does not mean I’m a fan of a certain type of diets.
What I do believe in: mindful and intuitive eating. That is, being conscious about what you are eating and why and learning to listen in to what your body is feeling. In our busy lives, we tend to multitask. We eat breakfast in the car, lunch in front of our computer, dinner at the coffee table, and nighttime snacks on the couch while watching late night TV. Mindful eating is about getting back in touch with the experience of eating and enjoying our food, while intuitive eating is about learning to tune in to what your body is telling you. No silly diets telling you what you can and can not eat (because that is never fun). With mindful and intuitive eating, you get to decide what you eat and how much you eat. Instead of focusing on external cues (i.e. free food at an office meeting) you focus on internal cues (i.e. what your hunger level is and what your fullness cues say).
My favorite tool to use to help you eat more mindfully is the hunger and fullness scale.
The Hunger and Fullness Scale
How to Use the Scale
- When you are getting ready to eat a meal or snack, ask yourself, “Where am I on the hunger and fullness scale?” Ideally, you’ll be between a 3 and a 4.
- Halfway through your meal, pause for 10 seconds 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 a few questions:
- Do you eat regularly?
- Or – do you skip meals and snacks, even when you’re hungry?
- Or – do you graze on food all day long without ever feeling hungry?
If you don’t listen to your body – feeding it when it’s hungry, stopping when it’s not – you can mess up your hormonal hunger and fullness cues.
Do this exercise for three to four days, or until you’ve picked up on your hunger and fullness cues. And remember, this can change over time. Some days you may feel full after just a small meal, while other days it can feel like you’re eating a ton and not feeling full. Repeat this practice anytime you’re feeling out of touch with how and why you’re eating.