It’s the simplest of tools. And you have it on your person at all times…no apps, websites, pen, or paper needed.
Introducing…your Hunger-Fullness Scale!
Using your Hunger-Fullness Scale creates mindfulness around your:
- Body’s physical hunger signals
- Nutrition choices
- Eating experience, in general
It prevents reaching either extreme. When you are starving and feeling weak, your physiology is going to kick in at the next meal or when you are in front of food next. You are more likely to overeat or choose non-sustaining foods. This can overeating can push us to the other end of the scale very quickly.
In the opposite regard, the Hunger-Fullness Scale reminds us that food is meant to nourish. Eating until you are overfull or stuffed is eating past the point of nourishment. And it means your body now has to digest and metabolize way too much food at one sitting, which ultimately, leads to weight gain.
The Hunger-Fullness Scale also requires us to be mindful of whether we are eating due to actual physical signals versus emotional ones. [Side note: Eating is a part of the human experience. We all emotionally eat from time to time and that is perfectly okay and normal. We just want to make sure emotions aren’t the driving factor in eating and nutrition choices…a factor but not the driving decision maker.)
So how do you use this thing?
Ideally, you want to stay between 3-6. To do this, it is important to stop, tune into your body, and ask yourself questions throughout the day.
Throughout the day and BEFORE reaching for a snack or beginning a meal, ask yourself:
- How am I feeling right now?
- Is my body asking for food? Or am I bored/sad/anxious/stressed/etc.? [Hint: When you are emotionally hungry, you may be craving or wanting a specific food. When you are physically hungry, any food will suffice. Stay tuned for a post that dives deeper into this.]
- If I am hungry, how hungry am I? What foods would satisfy, or be a “match,” for my hunger?
- What is an appropriate portion of food to satisfy my hunger?
During a meal or snack (about 10-15 minutes in), set down your utensils and ask yourself (these are especially helpful when out to eat):
- How and I feeling right now?
- Am I still truly hungry? [Hint: It takes approximately 15-20 minutes for the signals from our stomach to reach our brain and let us know that we are full. It is very easy to eat past this point!]
- Am I satisfied? If I took a break for a few moments, would I feel satisfied?
- If I take another bite, will I feel overly full or stuffed?
- Am I taking more bites or handfuls because the food is there or because I am truly hungry?
For many of us, the day goes by without ever checking in with ourselves. If this feels like a new concept to you, I suggest setting up some external reminders to get tuned in. A couple ways you can do this include:
- Setting up a recurring reminder on your phone, a couple times per day
- Block off 5 minutes on your work calendar to check in and ask “How am I feeling right now?”
- Put a reminder post-it in a highly visible place
- Print off this Hunger-Fullness Scale and post it on your refrigerator or pantry (PDF here: Degrees of Hunger & Fullness)
A Few Caveats
Now that I have sold you on tuning into your Hunger-Fullness Scale, I need to mention a few caveats, or loopholes, if you will. Even the strongest of tools don’t work if not used appropriately.
There are foods that are not going to necessarily fill you up but they will contribute significantly to your overall intake. Creating awareness around them doesn’t require us to count calories. There are some alternative questions to ask about these foods:
- Am I physically hungry? Or am I bored/sad/anxious/stressed/etc.? [Hint: Again, when you are emotionally hungry, you may be craving or wanting a specific food. When you are physically hungry, any food will suffice.]
- If I am going to enjoy it, how much do I need to be satisfied? And savor. Every. Last. Bite. Overtime, you may find with rich foods, that a little may go a long way.
- Is there a healthier alternative that could be just as satisfying? [Hint: This is a helpful question for choosing appetizers. Upgrade from fried to fresh, baked, broiled, or steamed.] And if not, go back to Question 2.
- Is there a way that I could get more bang for my buck with this? [Hint: For condiments like salad dressing, ketchup, and BBQ sauce, try enjoying a small amount on the side and dipping your fork with each bite. A little will go a long way!]
That’s it. Easy-peasy. Your relationship with your body and food always should come back to you…YOUR wisdom, your body’s wisdom. Sometimes we just need to slow down, quiet the distractions, and tune in.