Congratulations, you’ve decided to stop dieting! However, now you realize that you don’t even notice your hunger, or you’re aware that you eat past comfortable fullness much of the time. Luckily there is a handy tool, called the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale, that can help you tune into your body’s cues.
It’s not bad to be hungry
Diet culture tells us that being hungry is bad, 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.
Consider all the processes our bodies automatically regulate, such as breathing, heart rate and temperature. These all require energy, and we need to do our part in helping our bodies to function optimally by fueling them properly.
If you notice these signs, your body might be telling you it’s time to eat:
- Growling stomach
Fortunately, there is a tool available to more easily determine our cues.
What is the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale?
The scale is a tool that ranges 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 their hunger and fullness cues.
The key is to not use the scale as a hard and fast rule of when to start and stop eating. To avoid this, it’s often used at the beginning of the Intuitive Eating journey to bring awareness to these cues instead of as a permanent guide.
This tool is great for people who are relearning their hunger and fullness cues. These signals may not be present due to several reasons, such as:
- food restriction when dieting
- eating sporadically due to a chaotic lifestyle
- regularly eating very quickly with distractions (TV, meetings, etc).
However, if you do not receive hunger or fullness signals when first starting your Intuitive Eating journey, you may find this tool is not helpful (yet!). In that case, it’s best to eat every 3-5 hours to get your body used this a pattern of eating. That way it will eventually learn when the pattern is off, and will send you the appropriate signals.
Guidelines for using the Scale
The general guideline is to start and stop eating when experiencing cues correlating with the numbers between 3 and 7. That’s because if you start eating with signals representing a 1 or 2, your body will be in survival mode and encourage you to eat until uncomfortably full.
By eating to the point of uncomfortable fullness after being extremely hungry, you’ll have enough fuel on board should you go a long time without eating again.
However, following the guideline of maintaining cues correlating with numbers 3 to 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 determine when to start and stop eating based on your body’s unique cues.
Is it OK to eat when I am not hungry?
Absolutely! As mentioned above, the scale is a guide without hard and fast rules.
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. 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!
Can I eat past comfortable fullness?
Yes! Sometimes we are enjoying food so delicious we don’t want to save part of it 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 using several resources, such as the Intuitive Eating book* and having a professional to guide you through.
I provide 1:1 virtual coaching to help women enjoy the Intuitive Eating process while moving through it more quickly than if they navigated it alone. If you are interested in 1:1 coaching, click here to schedule a free Discovery Call!
And if you want periodic updates from Intuitively Nourished, as well as the free “Ditch the Diet Mentality” journal, click here!
*Affiliate link (I will receive a portion of the proceeds if this link is used, but there is no extra cost to the consumer)
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 truly living!