The Hunger and Fullness scale is a useful tool for assessing your hunger and fullness levels before, during, and after you eat. It will help you identify your hunger cues, observe how different types and amounts of food affect you, and recognize when the urge to eat has been triggered by something other than hunger. This scale is not intended to set strict guidelines about when you should eat; rather, it helps you develop a greater awareness of your body’s subtle signals.
Do you eat when you are hungry? If you are unsure, you are not alone. Determining hunger and fullness is a key to weight loss success, but can also pose as a challenge. While it is extremely important to listen to internal cues for hunger and satiety, social factors, previous experiences with foods, and environmental cues often override the internal ability to eat when hungry and stop when full.
The good news is that you can learn to monitor feelings of satiety by using a hunger scale. In addition to keeping a food journal to track what you are eating, this tool helps you identify when you are eating out of hunger (which is good!) versus when you are eating out of habit (not so good).
How to use the scale: Before taking your next bite, rate your hunger throughout the day. On a scale from 0 to 10: 0=an empty gas tank and 10=filled to the brim
Green light: Go ahead and eat! If you score 0-3, chances are your body needs fuel. Plan your meals and snacks ahead so that you stick to your calorie goal.
Yellow light: Seek a strategy to stave off hunger. If you score 4-6, it may be time for a snack. First drink a warm cup of tea, hot water, or black coffee. Warm liquids can help tame hunger. If that doesn’t do the trick, try a portion controlled high protein snack, such as a boiled egg, 100-calorie greek yogurt, or low-fat cheese stick to take the edge off hunger until your next meal. Registered Dietitian Sari Greaves, RDN recommends a warm cup of antioxidant-rich green tea with lemon an hour before dining out at a restaurant to avoid extreme hunger and “bread basket” temptation. She also suggests eating slowly- it takes 20 minutes to register fullness. Take small bites, pause between bites, and chew your food thoroughly. Eat will utensils that will help slow down your eating pattern, such as using chopsticks for rice and bite size protein and vegetables.
Red Light: Push the plate away! If you score 7-10, chances are you stomach is full. Your best bet is to remove yourself from visual eating cues. Walk away from the table, remove any clear candy bowls or cookie jars from your counterops, and engage in non-food activities such as trying out a new workout DVD, taking a relaxing bath, or reading a book. Sari suggests brushing your teeth to signal the official “end to eating” (having fresh mint breath can help avoid late night snacking) or stick a “kitchen closed” post-it on the refrigerator. A warm cup of tea or diet hot chocolate can also help extinguish a craving.
Now you are prepared with an action plan, so it's time to use the scale below.
0: You are wobbly and dizzy. Thoughts are unclear. Most people have to go all day without food to get close to becoming a 1. At 0, you are weak and tired.
1: You are still very hungry. You are irritable, cranky, and lethargic.
2: You are very hungry, on the verge of having a “starving” feeling.
3: You could definitely eat, but you are not on the verge of collapse. The urge to eat is strong.
4: You are truly hungry. You are looking forward to eating more.
5: You are only a little hungry. Your body is sending messages that you might want to eat.
6: You are a notch past being neutral. You could definitely eat more.
7: You are feeling more satisfied, getting full. If you stopped here, you would need to eat again in 4-4½ hours.
8: You are quite satisfied, full in fact. If you stopped eating here, this would sustain you for 5-6 hours.
9: You are becoming uncomfortable. You could force down another three bites, although your body no longer wants anything.
10: Your body is screaming “get me out of here!” You have no pleasure in eating anymore. If you ate any more, you feel you would explode.
While it sometimes is challenging in the beginning to figure out where you fall on this scale, it will get easier over time. Feelings of hunger and fullness will become clearer
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Dr. Deborah Neiman MD,
Sari Greaves, RDN & Noelle Lusardi, CPT
49 U.S. Highway 202 Far Hills, NJ 07931 908-470-2235
References: nutrition411.com; http://www.healthycellsmagazine.com/articles/how-to-use-the-hunger-and-fullness-scale