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Using a Hunger Scale to Curb Mindless Eating

hunger scale

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Using a hunger scale to stop overeating

The hunger scale is a useful tool to help become more aware of the body’s signals for fuel. Once I started practicing using a hunger scale I realized how many times I was eating just because I felt like it was time to eat. I realized how often I had habits of putting bites in my mouth when I wasn’t hungry at all. A piece of cheese while waiting for dinner to be ready, a handful of nuts before bedtime, a morning snack when I was bored at work. Cleaning my plate even though I was full. It all adds up.

Tune In

Using the hunger scale can help you tune back into your body’s needs. It’s a way to eat when you get a little hungry and stop when your satisfied but not full. If you have fat to lose you have stored calories on your body. Allowing yourself to get a little hungry before you eat allows your body to tap into those fat stores and use them for energy. When you eat every two or three hours you don’t allow your body to use up those energy resources.

There  are many different versions of hunger scales you can find on the internet. This one is how I think of my own hunger scale.

hunger scale

Put it in Practice

Start listening to your own body’s signals. What does a -2 feel like for you? How does your body feel when you are satisfied at a +2 but not full. Journaling this at each meal can be helpful. The more you practice the sooner you will find the sweet spot. Your goal is to stop at satisfied. Satisfied is where your body is telling you it has had enough. I spent years thinking I needed to get to full each meal. This one tweak – stopping at satisfied – helped me break a months long plateau and has continued to help me make good choices.

When this is dialed in you will have more and more opportunities where you do not overeat. Be prepared to leave food behind. It’s OK to not eat the last few bites if you are satisfied. Even if it’s broccoli. Using this tool can help you learn to stop when having a treat. It can help you learn not to overeat when out to dinner.

Some of the physical signs of “satisfied” I noticed were subtle. I tend to sigh when I am approaching satisfied. If I pay attention and stop a few bites later I find that it is perfect. If I am moving past satisfied I start picking out the good parts of my food. That’s a good signal from my body that I am no longer eating for fuel but for entertainment. You may find that if you are approaching satisfied your mind will start to wander. That’s a great time to check back in with your body to see if it’s time to stop eating.

Sometimes, if I’m not sure if I’m satisfied I will set my plate aside for 10 minutes. If I am hungry after 10 minutes, I come back and eat more. Most of the time that 10 minutes has given the food time to reach my stomach and I realize that I am ready to be done with my meal.

It takes a while to get it dialed in. Feel free to comment below with any questions you might have about the hunger scale.

This post is a part of a 30 day series for the Ultimate Blogging Challenge. For more topics like this click here for the main page with all the links.

About the Author Tammy Fuller

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  • Snehal says:

    This is so helpful. In India we say that children never overeat because they have tuned in their intuition. As we grow up we forget different feelings as you have mentioned . Definitely gonna use it. Thank you.’

  • Paul Taubman says:

    What a great scale! I love that Not Full/Not Hungry is at Zero and you go up or down from there.

    Many times I find I am at a “0” and go looking for a snack. Clearly, there is no need for it (for hunger reasons, that is). This will be a good gauge from now on as I go get something to eat.

  • This is so important!! I went to a workshop maybe 20 years ago or so, and learned about this kind of fullness rating. You could decide how full you want to be at the end of the meal & experiment to see how to do it & what amount of food gets you there. And then, never again do you have to be stuffed to the gills! I chose a number that means, “full, but not stuffed” to me, and have basically been eating that way ever since. Now, I know that at Thanksgiving meals or after-meeting buffet-style events, I can get a little of everything that looks good, and go back for more if I am still hungry of whatever particular thing I liked best. It has been transformational, so I am glad you’re writing about it here!

  • There have been so many times I’ve felt stuffed and miserable after eating and I wonder why I let myself keep eating even after I was full. The concept of smaller, more frequent meals during the day makes so much sense as well as listening to the signals that your body puts off…love this idea 🙂

  • Ruth Bowers says:

    I love your Hunger Scale! Getting control of your eating habits is such a big part of living intentionally, and one I really have problems with. Definitely adding this to my bag of tricks. Thanks!

  • Marguerite says:

    I really like this article along with the scale. It made so much sense. I use to be that person that Always stopped at +2 Satisfied & even just a little before that. Boy has that changed over the last couple years. I will really have to tell myself, “ok, now put the fork down and walk away.” I am looking forward to incorporating this scale and breaking my habits. I’ll even get rid of the bag of pistachios next to my bed.

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