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The Hunger Scale

After many years of dieting or disordered eating, the idea of simply “listening to your body” can seem challenging or even impossible. The hunger and fullness scale is an objective tool that can be helpful as you work on building awareness and more attunement with your hunger and fullness signals again. This is also a major component of Intuitive Eating, and comes from Principle #2, Honor Your Hunger (full blog post on this principle linked if you’d like to read more).

Please note, if you’ve been chronically dieting, restricting, or are in recovery from an eating disorder (ED), it may be inappropriately soon to start using the hunger scale. Your hunger and fullness cues may not be regulated and/or consistent presently; the priority is going to be eating adequately and regularly throughout the day vs being able to tune into these biological cues.

However if you (and your treatment team if you have one) think you are ready to use the hunger and fullness scale, it’s important to use it as practical, gentle guidance vs following it rigidly. Doing so can more or less turn it into a “hunger and fullness diet”, involving black and white thinking and ultimately further perpetuating the diet mentality.

Additionally, if you’ve been ignoring or denying your hunger signals you might lack the ability to hear the more subtle signs of hunger or fullness. Often this may present as only feeling extreme hunger or the idea of going back and forth between “feast and famine”. Silencing our cues only continues the cycle of hunger suppression and keeps us stuck in the inability to adequately fuel, so keep this in mind and talk with your team if you think this might apply to you.

Now time for the actual scale… as you can see in the image below, a hunger and fullness scale usually ranges from 0 or 1-10. That can be a lot of information and everyone’s experience is subjective and different. Due to this, it might feel helpful to clump some of the numbers into categories such as 0-2 is “over hungry”, 3-7 “my normal eating range” and 8-10 “over full”. Remember, there are no “right or wrong” numbers!

Using the hunger and fullness scale and checking in with your signals takes time and patience! You won’t “get it” overnight, so be gentle and nonjudgmental with yourself as you work on building this skill set!


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