Knowing when to stop eating isn’t always the easiest thing to do. You’re not sure if you’re full, but there’s still food on your plate, and you’re expected to eat it. However, if you continue eating, you’re likely to put yourself through some serious discomfort. This is when it’s helpful to use a hunger and fullness scale.
In this post, I’ll explain what a hunger and fullness scale is, how to use it, and how to know when to stop eating.
What’s a Food Fullness Scale?
A hunger and fullness scale, or food fullness scale, is a tool used to help you determine if you need to eat or stop eating. It helps you relearn how to listen to your body’s hunger cues instead of eating everything in sight. You can use a food fullness scale to combat overeating, boredom eating, or eating due to peer pressure.
Also, the hunger and fullness scale can help you unlearn diet culture. It teaches you to eat when your body wants food rather than when you’ve been told you should eat.
The hunger and fullness scale ranges from 1-10 and sits midway at 5, where you feel no hunger or fullness at all. Each number below 5 counts down feelings of hunger, getting more severe with the lower numbers. The numbers above 5 count up to more extreme forms of fullness.
- Painfully hungry – You feel physical pain, weakness, or illness because you haven’t eaten.
- Very hungry – You’re experiencing slight hunger symptoms such as headaches, hunger pangs, and low energy.
- Hungry – You are starting to feel empty and irritable.
- A little hungry – You feel hunger, but it isn’t bothering you yet.
- Neutral – You don’t feel hungry or full.
- A little full – Feeling fullness, but you could keep eating.
- Comfortably full – You feel content with your fullness.
- A little too full – You’ve eaten a bit too much and are starting to feel uncomfortable.
- Uncomfortably full – You feel stuffed and uncomfortable.
- Painfully full – You’re in undeniable pain from overeating and may feel nauseous or ill.
To help you use the hunger and fullness scale, I created one to put up on my site. Check it out below. For a printable version, you can download it on the Freebies page.
Using a Hunger and Fullness Scale
Using a hunger and fullness scale starts before you even begin eating. Use the scale to gauge how hungry you are and how much you’ll need to eat to reach a comfortable level of fullness. Initially, it’s good to fill your plate with smaller portions until you get a feel for how much you need to eat. If you’re still hungry after finishing what’s on your plate, you can eat a bit more.
The goal is to keep yourself within the “comfortable” area on the scale, never falling below a 3 or getting above an 8. This will take some practice to figure out, but it’ll become second nature once you learn to listen to your body’s hunger cues. Until then, using the hunger and fullness scale is a good start.
You may feel hunger or fullness in different ways from other people, so it’s important to listen to your body’s signals and figure them out. For instance, when I’m around a 2 on the scale, I start to feel nauseous. This is a clear sign that I need to eat immediately and shouldn’t let my hunger get to that point.
Other signs that you’re hungry include feeling tired, dizzy, irritable, light-headed, or having hunger pangs. Signs that you’re too full include bloating, gas, pain, sluggishness, and nausea.
On a side note, this scale should only be used if you’re eating enough. It won’t be as effective if you’re dieting, restricting your calories below 1500 per day, or have an eating disorder. Because of this, your hunger cues could be out of balance. Focus on eating enough or finishing your recovery first.
Knowing When to Stop Eating
When following a food fullness scale, eat when you’re starting to feel hungry, around a 3-4 on the scale. Once you know what this feels like for you, you can get into the habit of feeding yourself at the right time. Try not to let yourself get to a 1-2. If you do, you’ll be more likely to overeat, putting yourself too high on the scale and making yourself feel stuffed.
For fullness, you should aim to stop eating around 6-7 on the scale, not passing 8. Reaching 9 or 10 can cause you pain and gastrointestinal distress.
With that being said, sometimes it’s not easy to find your hunger cues, and that’s okay. The hunger and fullness scale isn’t for everyone. Don’t worry about taking it too seriously, as following the scale doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s only meant to be used as a guide, so don’t feel guilty if you ate too much or let yourself get too hungry.
For binge eaters like myself, stopping yourself while you’re eating will be the hardest part. You may know to stop when you reach a 6 or 7, but you may not feel like you can. I recommend portioning out your food at first until you find out how much to eat before reaching an 8 on the scale.
More Advice on Mindful Eating
Learning to understand your thoughts is one of the biggest keys to ending binge eating. Brain over Binge is a book that helped me with binge eating by teaching me how to combat my illness from the inside out. The author, Kathryn Hansen, describes her long battle with bulimia and the changes she made to overcome it.
This book offers a simple and permanent solution that doesn’t involve restricting your favorite foods. Whether you struggle with overeating, binge eating, or bulimia, I wholeheartedly recommend it! If you’d like more information, I wrote an in-depth and honest book review here.
Using a Hunger and Fullness Scale: In Summary
A food fullness scale is an easy way of tracking how hungry or full you are. It’s on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being famished and 10 being overstuffed. To use it, you simply need to rate your hunger before and after eating and keep yourself between a 3 and an 8 on the scale. This will ensure you’re never uncomfortably hungry or full.
Keeping yourself between 3 and 8 on the scale is a balancing act that gets easier with practice. However, once you’ve got it figured out, you’ll be well on your way to food freedom and eating mindfully!
Do you use a hunger and fullness scale, or have you tried to in the past? Share your experience in the comment section!
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