Years of external influences on our hunger cues and satisfaction can make us lose touch with these feelings, and this can often lead us to overeat, or eat when we are not even hungry at all.
Most of us have heard the phrases “finish everything on your plate” or “no dessert if you don’t finish your dinner” when we were growing up. While this often comes from a place of love, a hope for kids to eat all their veggies (for once), and a dislike of food wastage, over time this can start to override our innate feelings of fullness. As adults, this means we may tend to eat everything on our plate, rather than how much our body is telling us we need. Using the hunger and fullness scale can be a great way to start to listen to our bodies again, re-learning our true hunger and fullness cues in order to eat more intuitively and mindfully.
What is the Hunger Scale?
The hunger and fullness scale helps to rate your hunger from 1-10. 1 being when we might not have eaten for 7-8 hours, and we start to feel dizzy, nauseous or have hunger pains. 10 is where you might feel overfull to the point of feeling sick. You might not want to move and might feel as if you never want to eat another bite of food ever again.
Why Is Mindful Eating Important? And What Does It Have to do with The Hunger Scale?
Eating mindfully or intuitively is simply being conscious about why you are eating, what you are eating and how your body is feeling. If you think of one of your favourite eating experiences, I’ll wager it wasn’t in your car on the way to work or sitting in front of the TV whilst watching Bachelor in Paradise. Why we eat is often about so much more than just nourishment, and mindful eating is about getting back in touch with those internal hunger cues, to build a positive relationship with food.
# Tips and Reminders for Mindful Eating
Physical hunger is characterised by a gradual increase in hunger over time, a rumbling tummy, a deliberate choice eaten with awareness and a sense of satisfaction after eating. Psychological hunger can often make a sudden appearance, usually due to external cues (being offered free food at work or seeing something in the fridge while looking for something else). You might tend to crave a specific food and feel a sense of urgency or panic if you eat something you may even then want something more. Psychological hunger may present in response to a feeling, and you might eat quickly without really tasting the food.
Ideally, we want to eat when we are about a 3 on the scale and stop at about a 6. Regular meals and snacks can help prevent us from getting to a 1 or a 2. At this stage when we are ravenous, we can often experience a loss of control, and we tend to make choices based on convenience to get food faster. Sometimes when we eat at this stage we can eat very quickly, and this can lead to overeating and potentially reaching a 7-9 on the scale.
If you have rated your hunger at a 6 or more, but are still feel hungry, think about the other reasons you may feel this way. Other external hunger triggers may include places/situations (i.e. shopping in a busy centre with a food court or free food offered at a work function), people, or emotions.
You might find using a hunger awareness diary helps to start to increase your awareness of your internal hunger cues. Track your hunger and fullness before and after each meal and make a note of how often you might be hungry for reasons other than true hunger. Do you feel satisfied? If not, what do you think would have satisfied you? As a family, a good practice can be to take a two-minute break in the middle of a family dinner. Ask yourselves how hungry you feel now? How does the food taste? What is your favourite flavour?
For parents raising young kids, following the division of responsibility can be important to help kids continue to follow their innate hunger and fullness cues, and not to lose touch with how their bodies are feeling. This means you (the parent), are in charge of when, what, and where your kids eat, but they are responsible for how much, if any, they eat.
Re-learning our bodies hunger and fullness cues take time and can often change day to day. Some days you might feel full after just a small meal, other days you might feel you are eating a lot and not feeling full. Remember, intuitive and mindful eating is all about getting back in touch with why we are eating and how our bodies feel, making sure we are getting the most enjoyment out of every eating experience.
If you want to learn more about Intuitive Eating or the Hunger Scale and how you can use it to have a more positive relationship with food, give us a call at Generation Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All four clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, at the University of Queensland (UQ) in December 2015 and completed a Masters of Dietetics at UQ in 2017. Working as a clinical dietitian in acute hospitals over the last three years has allowed me to gain experience across a vast range of specialised clinical areas including oncology, renal, surgical, antenatal, paediatrics, geriatric rehabilitation, and bariatric surgery. During this time, I had the opportunity to work as part of the state-wide Advancing Kidney Care 2026 clinical working group to develop standards, resource profiles and clinical care pathways to manage chronic kidney disease across Queensland. I also had the opportunity to mentor student dietitians throughout their clinical placements.