Updated: Jan 22, 2022
Have you ever been so busy or distracted that you forgot to eat? Have you woken up one day and had something like a green smoothie for breakfast, then a fresh salad with chicken for lunch, a protein bar for a snack, and then you came home and by 8pm you were eating everything in sight? Or have you gone on a diet, decided that certain types of foods were totally off limits, and then the next time you had them you ended up binging and having the whole bag? We've all been there. Each time we don’t feed our bodies or deny our bodies of what they want or need, we begin to swing a pendulum back and forth between restriction and overconsumption (binging). Whether it’s not prioritizing your own biological needs because of external responsibilities, diet culture, or an attempt to “be good” about what you eat, the cycle begins and can be difficult to break. Many of the women I interact with have woken up to how they’ve fallen into these patterns and have already made strides in getting off diets, listening to their body, and investing time and energy into self-care. We want to live in a balanced way and part of that means eating in a balanced way, maintaining our energy, and respecting our intuition and biological hunger.
One of the most valuable ways we can listen to our body and know when to eat is by learning the Hunger Scale.
The Hunger Scale works like a rating system. It uses numbers 1-10 to describe your level of satiety (how hungry or full you are) and gives an easy-to-use framework for knowing when it’s time to eat. The Hunger Scale:
1- At a Level 1 hunger, you’re running on empty. You can’t focus and might feel weak, shaky, or dizzy.
2- At a Level 2, you’re more likely to feel like you’re in the Hunger Games than think about the Hunger Scale, because girl, you are HANGRY! This is where irritability and distraction are taking over your mood and day.
3- When you’re at a Level 3, you’re feeling some stomach growls and know you need to eat ASAP. It’s definitely time for a meal!
4- Level 4 is when you know that you “will need to eat soon” (you may find yourself saying this already or will soon when you get in touch with using the scale) and maybe feel some light hunger growls. This is a great time to go ahead and have a meal!
5- Level 5 is a neutral feeling. You’re neither hungry nor full.
6- At Level 6, you’re satisfied or pleasantly full. You’ve had just enough to no longer be hungry.
7- Reaching Level 7 means you’ve had a few extra bites for pleasure because you’re really enjoying your meal.
8- When you reach Level 8, you may begin to feel bloated and stuffed.
9- At Level 9, you feel uncomfortably full.
10- Level 10 is when you feel so uncomfortable that you can’t look at food and may feel sick. Ideally, you’ll use the Hunger Scale and learn to keep your body between Levels 3-7 most of the time. Here, the pendulum isn’t swinging from feeling starving to binging or reaching for whatever is most convenient. Your choices don’t have to be restricted because you’re naturally going to make balanced choices-- even if you do decide to eat a dessert or snack food.
Using the Hunger Scale for some might mean more frequent smaller meals or snacks. For others, this will still mean three square meals. No matter what is right for your body, you’ll still be able to find this empowering dialogue and trust with yourself because your body knows you’ll take care of it. You’ll feel more satisfied, focused, and content throughout the day.