So you’ve decided to stop dieting. But now you realize that you don’t even notice your hunger, or you eat past comfortable fullness much of the time. However, there is a handy tool, called the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale, that can help you tune into your body’s cues.
Hunger is not Bad
Diet culture tells us that being hungry is a bad thing, something to be ignored. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Feeling hungry is the body’s way of telling us it is time to refuel.
Our bodies automate many processes such as regulating our breathing. These processes take energy, and we need to do our part to help our bodies work well by refueling them properly.
If you notice these signs, your body might be telling you to eat something:
- Growling stomach
What is the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale?
The scale is a tool measuring from one to ten, with extreme hunger at one and extreme fullness at ten. It’s a useful guide for people who are getting back in touch with hunger and fullness cues.
The key is to not become obsessed with using the scale as a hard and fast rule of when to start and stop eating, so it’s often used at the beginning of the Intuitive Eating journey instead of as a permanent guide.
However, if you stop using the scale and notice you are struggling to feel hunger and fullness cues, it is totally ok to start using it again!
This tool is great for people who have lost their hunger and fullness cues. Losing these signals can be due many circumstances, such as:
- food restriction when dieting
- eating sporadically due to a chaotic lifestyle
- regularly eating very quickly with distractions (TV, meetings, etc).
This scale is great for people who are new to Intuitive Eating because listening to your body’s signals is part of being an intuitive eater.
However, you may find the scale is not useful when you first start this journey. If you do not receive hunger cues currently, it’s best to eat every 3-5 hours to get your body used to a pattern of eating. That way it will know when the pattern is off, and will send you signals to eat.
It has been suggested that the best times to start and stop eating are when you have cues correlating with the numbers between 3 and 7. That’s because if you are extremely hungry around a 1 or 2 on the scale, your body goes into survival mode and will push you to eat until you’re uncomfortably full.
By eating a lot of food after you’ve been at a 1 or 2, you’ll have enough fuel should you have to go a long time without eating again. Keep in mind, though, that this instruction from the brain makes it incredibly difficult to stop eating when you are at a comfortable level of fullness.
However, the guideline to eat at levels correlating with a 3 or 4 and to stop at a 6 or 7 can make the scale seem like a rule you need to follow, and Intuitive Eating is not about rules!
In fact, Intuitive Eating has incorrectly been called the “Hunger Fullness Diet” because of this scale. Therefore, it is best to find which feelings your body gives you and when it feels best to start and stop eating based on its unique cues instead of always relying on the scale.
So it’s OK to Eat when I am not Hungry?
Absolutely! As mentioned above, the scale is a guide, but it does not need to be followed perfectly.
If you are at a wedding and cake is served but you’re not hungry, that doesn’t mean you need to pass up the cake! It just means you might be more full than is comfortable, and that’s ok. Other times you might be feeling neither hungry or full, so at a 5 on the scale. But you have a meeting for the next two hours and know you’ll be hungry if you don’t eat something now. Better to grab a snack before to avoid being miserably hungry later!
I Can Eat Past Comfortable Fullness?
Yes! Sometimes we are enjoying food so delicious we don’t want to save more for lunch tomorrow. Or other times you want that chocolate sitting in your pantry, even though you’re pretty full.
Think of being full like being sunburned: It’s uncomfortable for awhile, but the feeling eventually passes.
Becoming an Intuitive Eater
It is quite a journey to become an intuitive eater! Often it involves several resources, such as reading Intuitive Eating, as well as a professional to guide you through.
If you are interested in 1:1 coaching, know that I am an Intuitive Eating coach!
And if you want updates from Intuitively Nourished RD, as well as my free “Ditch the Diet Mentality” journal, click here!
I am a non-diet registered dietitian on a mission to spread the truth about dieting and the harm it does to our bodies physically, mentally and emotionally. It is my goal to show women that there is a fantastic life outside of dieting if they’re willing to step out of their comfort zone and start living!