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Do you wish it were easier to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full? The intuitive eating hunger scale can be a great tool to help you understand your body’s needs, allowing you to feel more comfortable and adequately energized.

intuitive eating hunger scale

What Is The Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale?

The intuitive eating hunger scale is a tool used to help you understand your hunger and fullness. It helps you tune into your body’s natural energy regulation. The hunger scale helps you to avoid discomfort from getting uncomfortably hungry (hangry!) or uncomfortably full. Using the hunger scale is the best way to appropriately fuel your body since our bodies energy needs differ from day to day

The hunger scale that I like to use is a scale from 1 to 10. The lower numbers indicate hunger, with #1 being that you’re totally running on empty. #5 is a neutral feeling, you’re not hungry or full. As you go further up the scale you start to get towards the fullness side, with numbers 9 & 10 being those food coma-ed, ill feelings. You can snag a free copy of the hunger scale that I use in my free e-book, The Ultimate 5 Step Guide To Food Freedom

Now, it’s normal to not understand the middle part of the hunger scale and to only really know what being super hungry or being stuffed feels like. Dieting and following food rules tends to silence our hunger cues which allow us to feel our hunger and fullness accurately. It’s important to first get those hunger cues back and strengthen them. I have an entire post talking about how to get hunger cues, which may be helpful if you’re feeling a little lost with them.

So now that we know what the hunger scale is, let’s chat about how to actually get started using it.

How To Use The Hunger Scale

Watch a full how-to use the hunger scale video on YouTube here!

The process of learning how to use the hunger scale is just that, a process. I like using the analogy of an archer. At first you’re going to use the hunger scale, not really knowing those middle numbers, and you will probably wind up not really close to the “bullseye” of being adequately fueled and comfortable. But as you use the scale more and more you get better at noticing those hunger and fullness cues, leaving the table closer to that bullseye comfortable feeling.

The best way to get started, in my opinion, is to pick just one meal a day to use the hunger scale at. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to do it at every single meal and snack. This will likely set you up for feeling guilty if you forget to use it, or that all or nothing thinking where we think “Crap I forgot. No use trying for the rest of the day. I’ll start again tomorrow”. If you do forget, even at your one meal/snack you decide on, give yourself grace. No one is perfect and implementing new habits can be tough!

Once you pick your meal/snack to use the intuitive eating hunger scale at you can use the activity that I call “mid meal check-ins” which I’ll explain how to do.

How To Do An Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale Mid-Meal Check in

For these mid meal check-ins you’re going to evaluate where you are at on the hunger scale 3x throughout the meal/snack.

  1. Before the meal
  2. In the middle of the meal
  3. At the end of the meal

When you do this observe that you find, without judgement. Are you starting the meal super hungry? Are you ending still hungry? Maybe uncomfortably full? Notice these and also see if you notice any trends. 

Once you being to take note of your observations decide how you can make adjustments. For instance, if you’re seeming to start meals very hungry, like a 2 on the hunger scale, maybe it would be a good idea to add a snack in earlier in the day to prevent this. Does that feeling of being so hungry cause you to wolf down your meal without tasting it, and leave you feeling so stuffed? Maybe layering in some mindful eating exercises would be helpful.

Pick an adjustment or two to make, experiment with it, and see how it feels. Is it helpful? Does it feel good? If yes, take note of that and continue to do so. If not, no worries, adjust again! This is a learning process to understand what allow YOU to feel best. Every single person is different and it takes experimentation to find out what that is. 

intuitive eating hunger scale

Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale Tips

Here are a few tips that can help you use the hunger scale and fuel your body to the best of your ability:

  1. Avoid extremes. Avoid getting too hungry and too full. Keep snacks on hand to prevent hanger and allow yourself to use mindful eating exercises to prevent getting too full. 
  2. Pick just one meal/snack to start with to prevent feeling overwhelmed. Then add another, and another.
  3. Remember, we will NEVER be perfect. Perfection does not exist. There will be days when we over eating, under eat, etc. This is normal. Listen to your body and it will adjust as needed.
  4. Learning how to use the hunger scale is a lot of upfront work and mental energy at first. However the more you use it the more automatic and habitual it becomes.
  5. It’s 180% okay to eat when you’re not actually hungry! This is called “practical hunger” (I have an entire post on practical hunger here!) One example of this is eating lunch early, when you might not be hungry, because you know you have a work meeting during your lunch hour and if you wait until after to eat you’ll be hangry. Taste hunger is another example.
  6. Living with no food rules and intuitive eating is NOT the hunger and fullness diet. Food is much more than just fuel. For instance, one example is a bride and groom may not be hungry for wedding cake at that moment (likely they just had a full dinner) but they’re still going to eat it for celebration. 
  7. If you find yourself becoming obsessive about using the hunger scale, take a break. There may be other work that needs to be done, like handling extreme hunger, which is not always a good time to begin using the hunger scale.

I hope this post was helpful in explaining what the intuitive eating hunger scale is and how to use it! Leave a comment with your thoughts and which meal or snack you’d like to start using it at!

Happy eating, 

XOXO

-Colleen

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