Hunger Fullness Scale

The hunger fullness scale is used to help you understand your hunger so that you can reconnect to your internal cues. If it is hard to determine a number, simply use words, such as ‘really hungry’ or ‘a little full’.

For many people it is very difficult to figure out their hunger fullness cues at first. It may be helpful to use a food diary, where you list a number for before the meal or snack and a number for after you eat.

Learning to use the hunger fullness scale will give you a natural ability to regulate portion control without trying. When you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full, you have the exact right portion for you.

The Hunger Fullness Scale

At 0, you are starving. You've probably gone too long without eating (6-8 hours). You are possibly quite grumpy. You might be feeling nauseous or dizzy, or you may have a splitting headache. You might have trouble thinking clearly. Your metabolism is slowing down to conserve energy. You need food.

At 1, you are ravenous. All you can think about is how hungry you are. You are consumed with ideas about what you want to eat. It has probably been about 5 or 6 hours since you last ate. Because you’re so hungry, once you do eat, it’s likely that you will overeat to compensate.

At 2, you are too hungry. You are probably irritable. You may have a headache. Your stomach might be aching by now. It has probably been 4 or more hours since you last ate.

At 3, you are having hunger pangs. It’s time to eat. Your body is giving you the natural signals that it needs food. You start to salivate when you think of something that tastes good, and your stomach might be growling. This is a good number to start eating--wait any longer and you will be too hungry. It has probably been about 2-3 hours since you last ate.

At 4, your hunger is just starting to awaken. There is a sense of emptiness in your stomach. This can also be good time to eat. You may have eaten about 2 hours ago.

At 5, you are neutral. You aren’t hungry or full—this sensation exists between mealtimes. If you feel this and want to eat, it is not due to hunger--it may be an urge to eat due to stress, excitement, boredom, etc.

At 6, you are just satisfied. You aren’t hungry anymore, but probably will be in about 2 hours. There is definitely more room for food (you are maybe 80% full), and you still feel light and energized. This can be a good place to finish a meal/snack.

At 7, you are 'just right'. You got your fill of the food you wanted. You are no longer hungry and you probably won’t need to eat again for approximately 3 hours. This is also a good place to finish.

At 8, you had a few bites too many. You ate a few more bites because it was there or tasted good. You might feel a bit bloated like you need to undo the top button of your pants. You may not be hungry for another 4-5 hours.

At 9, you are stuffed. Your eating experience has surpassed pleasure and is now just uncomfortable. You may feel a bit numb or sleepy. You will not be hungry for approximately 6 hours.

At 10, you are sick. You feel uncomfortable to the point of pain. You may need to lie down until you feel better. Hang in there--the discomfort will pass, and you can expect to be hungry again in another 7-8 hours.

If you go too long between meals and snacks you run a bigger risk of experiencing food cravings and possibly binge behaviors.

This can make you feel out-of-control. Compulsive overeating is an issue many of my clients have--they tend to eat very little throughout the day (ignoring any hunger cues), and then they find themselves very hungry in the evenings.

Use the hunger fullness scale so you don't make the same mistake so many others do. A good rule of thumb is to try to stay between 3 and 7 on the scale--you should eat around a 3-4 and finish around a 6-7. It works like a pendulum: if you get too low on the scale, you will probably eat until you are pretty high on the scale. Remember, when it comes to eating...listen to your body and not your head.

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Contact us with any questions about eating and mental health issues. You or someone you know may be in need of outpatient eating disorder treatment.

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Jennifer Pereira LPC, RD -  Counselor & Dietitian

HOw's your Relationship with Food?

1. Do you worry that you have lost control over how much you eat?

2. Do you make yourself sick (or use laxatives/exercise) if you feel uncomfortably full?

3. Do you currently suffer with or suffered in the past with eating issues?

4. Do you ever eat in secret?

5. Does your weight affect how you feel about yourself?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, or if you are not satisfied with your current eating patterns, contact us for more information.