Health Advocate Blog

Recognizing true hunger

Overeating at meals, emotional eating, or excessive snacking when you’re not really hungry can be a major culprit for weight gain. Your body has natural signals that will tell you when it’s time to eat. Learning to recognize true hunger can have a positive impact on managing your weight. Using the hunger scale can help you figure out when to eat and when not to eat. Learn more about this helpful tool below!

The Hunger Scale

This scale ranks physical cues of hunger to help you identify when to eat. Use the scale to determine your level of hunger.

  1. Starving: You feel weak, dizzy, and may feel a burning sensation in your stomach.
  2. Very hungry: You feel agitated, irritable, have low energy levels, and your stomach will be growling frequently.
  3. Pretty hungry: Your stomach is just starting to growl.
  4. Beginning of hunger: You will start feeling the need to eat, but you can wait.
  5. Satisfied: You are content, neither hungry nor full.
  6. Slightly full: You feel a little full, but comfortable.
  7. Slightly uncomfortable: Hunger is gone, but you feel a little uncomfortable.
  8. Stuffed: You feel like you ate too much.
  9. Very uncomfortable: Your stomach may hurt and you feel like you might get sick.
  10. Overstuffed: You feel so full you are sick.

Using the Scale

Follow these tips to use the hunger scale!

  • Ideally, you should aim to eat when your hunger is at a 3 or 4 and stop eating when you’re at a 5 or 6.
  • Eat slowly. It can take about 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to know your stomach is full; if you eat too fast, you may miss the signal and overeat.
  • Take breaks. Check your hunger status a quarter of the way through your meal, again halfway through, and after you’ve finished eating three quarters of the meal. At each pause, assess your hunger level. If you’re still hungry, proceed to the next pause, and so on. If your body gives you any indication you’ve reached a 5 or 6, it’s time to stop eating. Don’t worry–you don’t have to eat all of the food on your plate.
  • Portion your food. Fill your plate with only what is recommended. Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables, a quarter proteins, and a quarter carbohydrates.
  • Don’t go too low. Sensible eating can be difficult if you let yourself go to a 1 or 2, as you are more likely to make unhealthy food choices, eat too fast, and then go beyond a 5 or 6.
  • Snack smartly. If you feel hungry between meals, it could be an indication your body is looking for some nutrition. Don’t be afraid to give in to a healthy snack. Trail mix is a great option for both satisfaction and nutrition!
  • Avoid distracted eating. Try to eat more mindfully. When it’s time to eat, your food should be the main focus. Distractions such as the TV, cell phone, books magazines, etc. can cause you to eat more without realizing it.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Eat for enjoyment, but in moderation. While there may be less nutritious foods that should be reduced while working toward healthy eating and weight loss, getting rid of them altogether can set you up for failure.

For Health Advocate Members

If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Coaching program, call us today to connect with a Wellness Coach for more healthy eating suggestions!