A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Am I really hungry?

Use this ‘hunger scale’ to learn when to start or stop eating

We’ve all done it – eat a snack while watching TV and suddenly you realize the entire package of chips or cookies is gone. How did that happen?

“Many of my patients say they eat mindlessly at one time or another,” said Chrisanne Urban, a registered dietitian at Marshfield Clinic. “They get so wrapped up in what they’re watching or doing that they don’t notice what or how much they eat.”

So what makes you stop eating? Is the plate empty or your tummy full?

It might surprise you to know children are very good at eating when they feel hungry and stopping when they are full. Most of us are born with this ability but lose it somehow in adulthood.

hunger scale updated

A hunger-satiety rating scale from “Why Weight: A Guide to End Compulsive Eating” by Geneen Roth rates hunger or satiety, meaning a full-feeling, on a one-to-10 scale:

Learn to read the hunger scale:

  1. Starving, dizzy, irritable
  2. Very hungry, unable to concentrate
  3. Hungry, ready to eat
  4. Beginning signals of hunger
  5. Comfortable, neither hungry or full
  6. Comfortably full, satisfied
  7. Very full, feel as if you’ve overeaten
  8. Uncomfortably full, feel stuffed
  9. Very uncomfortably full, need to loosen belt
  10. Stuffed to the point of feeling sick

“It’s best to start eating at a 3 or 4 on the scale and stop at a 5 or 6,” Urban said. “Listening to your body’s signals of hunger and fullness can help you achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.”

Like any tool, this will work for some people better than others, but keep at it for a while to see if it helps you. Print out the scale and put it in a spot in your kitchen where you’ll see it often.

It takes practice, it’s certainly worth a try and eventually the memory of that overstuffed feeling just might help you stop eating sooner.

  1. Nov 11, 2018
  2. Jul 27, 2017

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