What’s the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale? I’ll talk specifically about the Hunger-Fullness scale, how you can use it to become more in-tune to your body’s signals before, during and at the end of your meals and why it’s a helpful tool to help you have a healthier relationship with food.
If you find yourself to be an emotional eater or looking for food when you’re stressed, this tool can help you recognize how you’re feeling, to be more mindful and how to handle any emotions you’re feeling. But before I explain the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale is, it’s good to have a brief background on exactly what Intuitive Eating is.
So what is Intuitive Eating? It’s an approach that helps you develop a healthy relationship with food. It was developed by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RDN and Elyse Resch, MS, RDN. There are 10 principles to Intuitive Eating which I won’t go into here, I’ll save that for another good read.
Right now, I’m going to focus on the Hunger Scale specifically, because I use often in my practice with clients and it’s a tool that’s very helpful for you to use to begin paving towards having a healthy relationship with food.
Intuitive Eating is about connecting with your body which is what the Hunger-Fullness Scale begins to help you with. To quote Evelyn Tribole MS, RDN, “Intuitive Eating is a dynamic mind-body integration of instinct, emotion and rational thought. It is a personal process of honoring your health by paying attention to the message of your body and meeting your physical and emotional needs.”
That’s pretty deep and I’ll circle back to that in a minute.
The Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale is a tool, to help gauge how hungry you are and how full you are getting. Think of it as a gas tank. It’s a scale of 0-10 with 0 being empty, 10 being full and 5 being neutral meaning you’re neither hungry nor full, you’re content.
If you’ve tried your share of diets over the years, over time you may have inadvertently suppressed your hunger. Maybe a thought such as, “I just ate 2 hours ago, how can I be hungry already?” or “It’s not even lunch time, I just had breakfast, I’m not going to eat yet.” It’s those kind of thoughts that make you ignore your hunger cues.
Maybe you avoided eating lunch or an afternoon snack, so by the time you get to dinner you don’t realize how famished you are! As a result of not eating enough earlier in the day, you overeat at dinner or later in the evening.
Now I can circle back to that mind body integration quote from Tribole, diets make you lose that connection with your body, that integration that you are born with.
Let’s break down the scale a little more.
Each time before you eat, ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Are you experiencing any signs of hunger? This is especially helpful if you use food as a coping mechanism for stress and difficult emotions.
Can you recall the last time you felt hungry? It’s possible it was just a few minutes ago but maybe you can’t remember.
Ideally, you don’t want to go past 3. When you hit anything below 3, that’s when your body goes into biological defense mode and wants to overeat to compensate.
Please keep in mind this is just a guideline. This is not set in stone, you have to be flexible and plan ahead for meals and snacks.
During meals it’s important to eat without distractions. That means putting down the phone, tablets, and turning off the TV. Distracted eating inhibits you from enjoying the food in front of you and possibly the company surrounding you, so sit and focus on your meal.
I want you to know that it’s okay to leave food on your plate. The clean your plate mentality does more harm than good and is an old school way of thinking. Remember, if you’re out dining you can always take leftovers home. At meal time don’t over serve yourself, you can always have seconds after noticing where your fullness level is.
To recap, the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale is a useful tool and can be applied in your daily life in many different ways. It can help you…
For a more in depth guide on how to use the hunger scale and how you can heal your relationship with food, reach out to me to learn more about my services.
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Marissa Perrotta is a registered dietitian and registered yoga teacher owner of Plantable Nutrition & Wellness, specializing in prenatal and family nutrition.