The Hunger - Fullness Scale
Close your eyes, place your hand on your stomach, and take a few deep breaths. Pay attention and listen to the signals your body is giving you.
Take the time to find out what hunger and fullness feels like.
It’s work, but the pay-off is great.
What is physical hunger?
It varies from feeling famished to only mild distress. Sensations may include stomach flutter or growling, lightheadedness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, shaky hands, weak knees, and headache. Everyone is a little different, and it’s a matter of degree. Differentiate between hunger, thirst and tiredness because they can all feel the same.
What is fullness?
The elusive feeling of fullness ranges from the mere absence of hunger to actual suffering produced by stuffing it in. But you have to eat slowly and mindfully to hear it. You won't hear it when you eat in front of the TV and inhale at record speed.
The Hunger – Fullness Scale
Hunger and fullness exist on a continuum. The scale ranges from “0” ravenous, to “10” uncomfortably overstuffed, almost sick. A “5” is neutral, neither hungry nor full.
Before, during and after you eat, or whenever you get the idea, use the scale to rate your physical hunger and fullness. Take the time to get to know the scale, and use it the navigate your eating behavior.
How to do it
- Whenever you want to eat, close your eyes, listen to your body, and rate your hunger from 0 to 10.
- Eating at a hunger level of 2 or 3 is appropriate. That’s between moderate and significant hunger, not yet famished. You’re likely to overeat when you’re ravenous, at 0 to 1.
- Slow down while eating and take a half-time break to give your body time to realize that you’ve eaten.
- Try stopping at a fullness level of 7 or 8 out of 10. That’s moderately to comfortably full, and it should keep you satisfied for several hours.
You might prefer to maintain a range of 4 to 6 by eating mini-meals to crowd out your diet and modulate strong feelings. No one way is wrong or right. Manipulate your hunger to suit your needs.
Words to Ponder
The feeling of fullness is defined by our culture and learned in early childhood. Michael Pollan pens lessons I’ve learned from clients over the years.
"...Many cultures have grappled with the problem of food abundance and come up with different ways of suggesting you should stop eating before you’re completely full. The Japanese say “hara hachi bu” (“eat until you are four-fifths full”). And the Prophet Muhammad recommended that a full belly should contain one-third food, one-third drink and one-third air..."
A client once told me that her British granny said to stop eating when “room is left for one pancake.”
Do you trust yourself to stop eating when you are comfortably full?
Read more about working with your levels of hunger and fullness: