What is the hunger-fullness scale, and why is it important? When should you start eating, and when should you stop? Is meal timing important, and why? Why is this topic important and how is it relevant today?
The hunger scale, as I learned it, goes from -10 to +10. Zero is neutral hunger, neither hungry nor satisfied. The negative side of the scale represents your level of hunger, from -1 (barely hungry) to -10 (ravenous like you haven’t eaten in weeks). The positive side represents the satisfied to full scale, with +1 being slightly satisfied (you could stop eating and not be hungry, but you still feel the need for more) to +10 (post-Thanksgiving style… you’re so full you might vomit).
The hunger scale is important because paying attention to it teaches people to listen to their own bodies’ signals, so they can learn to eat only when they are truly physically hungry, and to stop before they’ve over-eaten. Most people are so accustomed to eating by the clock (“it’s time for dinner”), or eating while distracted by the TV or social media such that they eat significantly more than what their bodies require. People will also turn to food to soothe an unpleasant emotional state. They will eat because they are feeling lonely, bored, frustrated or upset, angry, sad, etc. without ever questioning whether they are actually hungry and in need of fuel or not.
To eat by the hunger scale, you should wait to eat until you are at or below a -2 (stomach growling, hunger disrupting ability to concentrate), and stop eating at a comfortable +2 (pleasantly satisfied but nowhere near full). This meets your body’s fuel requirements without overeating. This is how I lost 85 lbs without following any type of traditional diet plan. There is no need to count calories, weigh or measure your food, and no need to eliminate carbs or any other major nutrient group.
The timing of your meals is not nearly as important as your attention to the hunger scale. Some people are not hungry for breakfast, and it serves no purpose to force themselves to eat in the morning if their bodies are not asking for fuel. It is not ideal to eat a large meal close to bed-time, however if someone is very hungry late at night they should aim to eat only to neutral hunger (Hunger Scale of zero) if they are going to bed soon.
This topic is important and relevant, because so many people are willing to pay for diet plans, supplements, or potentially harmful drugs to help them lose weight, when all they really need is a working knowledge of the Hunger Scale. Diets, supplements, or drugs only work until you stop using them, so unless you plan to stay on that diet or keep taking those drugs for the rest of your life, you can expect to regain some or all of what you lost as soon as you go back to your old habits. Permanent results require permanent lifestyle change. Eating intuitively by the hunger scale requires no medical supervision, no tracking or counting, and no need to consult an app to see if you’re “allowed” to eat. Eating by the hunger scale teaches you to change your habits, which is the only sustainable way to hang onto the results of your efforts.
The reason people become overweight is not because they can’t control their hunger. It’s because they eat when they aren’t hungry, and they don’t stop eating until they’re full. But your body will tell you what it needs, if you’re willing to train yourself to listen.
Written by Natalie Fayman, CPC, ACC, ELI-MP, COR.E Dynamics Wellbeing Specialist
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