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What is the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale

by Dana Bean, RD

Learn what the intuitive eating hunger scale is, how to use it, and even what to do when it’s not something you jive with.

what is the intuitive eating hunger scale title page

Intuitive eating is a way of eating that includes focusing on internal cues of hunger, satisfaction and fullness, to determine what and how much we eat. This differs from following external diet or health rules. We go way more into the basics of intuitive eating in this article.

It is a tool developed by the creators of intuitive eating used to gauge your hunger and fullness levels at a given time. The hunger scale uses a numeric scale from 1-10 with 1 being ravenous/extremely hungry. It can be used to help people become aware of their bodys’ cues and sensations indicating how hungry or full the body is.

The intuitive eating hunger scale can be used as a check during the day where hunger has been overlooked. It can be a helpful way to notice what hunger feels like in the body and how to know when you’re comfortably full. In general, it’s advised to avoid the two ends of this scale to stay away from out control hunger and uncomfortable fullness. This is not a strict rule though and we’ll come back to this.

hunger and fullness scale 1-10

How do I know if this is something that will work for me or help me?

If you’re new to exploring intuitive eating, the hunger scale can be a great tool to learn with. It can help to identify what your personal hunger and fullness cues are and promotes getting more in tune with your body. If you’re new to intuitive eating, know that it can take time to get better at these skills!

If you’ve been practicing intuitive eating for a while, it doesn’t mean you can’t revisit the hunger and fullness principles. It can be worthwhile to use the intuitive eating hunger scale to reconnect with your body even if you feel solid in other principles of intuitive eating. If you’re having a hard time figuring out what your body needs, this tool can be a helpful way to draw more attention to what can feel like subtle hints from your body.

Do you regularly feel hangry before eating? Or start eating and before you know it you’re feel uncomfortably full? These are great signs that you could use some help identifying the earlier signs of hunger and/or fullness.

Using the intuitive eating hunger scale can help get us more in tune with the cues our body gives us.

Since the tool can allow you to recognize hunger and catch fullness before it gets too uncomfortable, it can help to prevent the restrict binge cycle. This is because the more often we are hanging out at the “ravenous” and “very hungry” parts of the scale, the more likely we are to jump to the “feeling sick” part when we do get access to food. In this case our body has been deprived and has a biological safeguard that wants us to get food and fast!

Overall this can create more balance with eating, less feelings of loss of control, and more moderate hunger levels throughout the day.

There are some pretty wonderful benefits to using the intuitive eating hunger scale, but there may be a few things to consider for individuals.

For some, using the hunger scale can feel like a set of new diet rules to follow. With a history of weighing, counting, and tracking, dieting is often too meticulous with numbers. Following the hunger scale (with values from 1-10) can understandably feel off-putting after a lifetime of using numbers to dictate how you eat.

Some may also find that it feels like a rule to stick between the optimal numbers of the intuitive eating hunger scale. Eating is fluid, dynamic, and is never expected to fit in a perfect box.

While the hunger scale can help us become more in tune with what’s going on in our body, it should not be used to cause guilt or shame if you do find yourself on the very hungry side or overly full side. This is likely to happen at times and can be used as a time for reflection or knowingly moving forward instead of a time to feel bad for not following the “rules” of hunger/fullness.

If you resonate with the items mentioned above, it’s ok to not use the intuitive eating hunger scale! Some find as they let go of diet rules that they can incorporate the hunger scale later in their intuitive eating journey, and others don’t end up finding it helpful at all. All options are perfectly fine!

If you struggle with it feeling too numbers based or that it promotes perfectionism for you, no worries! There are other ways to determine your hunger and fullness without the numerical scale. Try asking yourself if you’re feeling neutral, pleasant, or unpleasant in regards to hunger. If you’re feeling neutral or unpleasantly hungry, it’s probably time to eat.

You can apply the same principle to fullness. Feeling pleasantly full? It may be a good time to consider finishing up the meal soon whereas being unpleasantly full could cause discomfort. Again these are suggestions, not rules.

non-numeric method to assess hunger and fullness

Really, it depends! It can be a useful tool, especially if you are new to intuitive eating or feel disconnected from your body. However, if it harms more than helps, then the alternative method might be a better fit.

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