How Can the Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale Help You To Find Food Freedom? Find out here!
Have you heard about the Intuitive Eating hunger scale and are you wondering why you should use it? Or how you should use it?
Read on for all the details about this powerful tool!
What is the Intuitive Eating hunger scale?
The Intuitive Eating hunger scale is a 1-10 scale that helps us understand what different levels of hunger and fullness feel like in our body.
There are many different words to describe each of the levels of hunger and fullness, and if you look in the Intuitive Eating book or workbook, you’ll find descriptions by the authors.
Here’s how I describe the different levels:
1 – Extreme hunger. When you eat at this level is a primal, ravenous hunger.
2 – Very hungry – Your mind is likely focused on getting food quickly. You may eat very quickly when you begin eating at this level.
3 – Meal hunger. You are definitely ready to eat something substantial but overall you feel pleasant. Your stomach may be growling, or you may have trouble focusing on work. If you wait a while longer, this hunger may become intense. We tend to enjoy our meals most at this level because we are hungry enough to enjoy the taste, but not so hungry that we eat so fast that we aren’t able to be present.
4 – Snack hunger. You are slightly hungry, but you could definitely wait a little bit longer, or you may have a snack if your next meal is hours away.
5 – Neither hungry nor full. Your body feels neutral.
6 – Slightly full
7- Pleasantly full
8- Slightly uncomfortable. Your stomach may feel unpleasantly full.
9 – Very full. Like many of us feel on Thanksgiving or another holiday.
10 – Physically sick. You may be unable to focus on anything other than how you feel.
There are many benefits of using the Intuitive Eating hunger scale. It is one tool we use in Intuitive eating to assess our hunger, but the benefits and learning opportunities go far beyond that. *******Insert copy You’ll see an example of the Intuitive Eating hunger scale below, but there are variations.
For more information on why it’s so important to pay attention to our hunger, read my prior article, Principle 2 of Intuitive Eating: Honor Your Hunger here.
What are the benefits of using the Intuitive Eating hunger scale?
I want you to know that the Intuitive Eating hunger scale is simply more than a piece of paper with numbers on it! It is an incredible tool that will help you heal your relationship with food and your body!
I know that this may seem a little too good to be true, so let’s discover some of the benefits of using this tool, together.
The Intuitive Eating hunger scale benefits you by:
- Helping build trust between you and your body
Let’s face it. Dieting praises ignoring our body’s hunger signals. And routinely failing to pay attention to or honor your body’s hunger signals is a form of trauma.
One of the critical first steps in Intuitive Eating is predictably and intentionally feeding our bodies. Restoring the trust that dieting has eroded will let your body know that you are on her side.
- Helping you increase interoception, a/k/a the superpower of intuitive eaters.
The greatest benefit of the Intuitive Eating hunger scale is an increased awareness of your body’s signals. You see, the Intuitive Eating hunger scale is one way to help increase our Intuitive Eating superpower – Interoception!
Interoception is your ability to feel your body’s inner sensations, like your heartbeat, hunger, or thirst.
Fun Fact: Research shows that intuitive eaters have a higher level of interception.
This increased awareness allows us to tune into – and honor – what your body needs on a daily basis.
Did you know that dieting and following rigid meal plans actually weakens our interception?
Yup, when you are weighing, measuring, and counting your food, and ignoring your body’s hunger cues, you become detached from your body and its signals. As women, we often don’t feel what it’s like to live IN our bodies. How sad is that?
It is kind of like having a friend call you to catch up or hang out, but you never answer or return the phone call. How long do you think this friend is going to keep trying to get your attention before giving up?
The beauty of interoception is that it helps us sense subtle hunger and fullness, it lets us sense our emotions more readily, and to respond.
Why does this matter?
And this matters because Intuitive Eating is an inside job. To get to a place of food and body freedom, we throw all those tools of dieting into the trash bin and learn to use our body’s internal signals to help us get to eating experiences that are satisfying and nourishing.
The point of learning about your hunger and fullness levels is three-fold:
- It helps you learn which levels feel best in your body;
- It helps you to get in the habit of tuning in to your body more regularly. Over time, that’s one way to work on interoception!
- It helps undo the harms of dieting and cultivates a bond of trust between you and your body.
How you can start using the intuitive eating hunger scale?
- Start slowly. Pick one meal or snack each day to practice. If you’re a recovering perfectionist (and so many of us are!), you might be tempted to practice with every meal and snack you eat. This often ends in frustration and burnout so I urge you to find one time each day where you can do this exercise.
- Have the Intuitive Eating hunger scale with you. Print out or download a copy and keep it with you as a reference before you begin eating.
- Do a body scan before you begin eating. A body scan is a short exercise, where you tune into the sensations of your body. We can learn so many things doing a body scan and it’s one of the best actions you can take – and you get to sit quietly while doing it. So it’s a kind of relaxation too.
As you sit quietly for 1 minute, think about the following questions. And no, you don’t have to spend more than a minute on this exercise!
- What feelings, if any, do you notice in your body? Do you feel any areas that are unpleasant? Where are they?
- Is your stomach rumbling or feeling empty?
- How do your head and brain feel? Do you have a headache? Are you dizzy?
- How is your mood? Do you feel pleasant or are you irritated, or angry!
- Remember that we feel hunger in different parts of our body! Hunger doesn’t only exist in our stomachs!
Read through the hunger scale below and pick a number that is closest to how you feel now. Remember that there is no right answer! This information is for you only and it is to practice. As you use the hunger scale more frequently, you will be more refined and find this process to be much quicker.
Note: If you find yourself wondering about the other end of the scale – fullness – that’s important too, but I recommend that you focus on hunger independently first. When you’re ready to dive into feeling your fullness, you can read my article Intuitive Eating Principle 5: Learning to Feel Your Fullness.
As you use the Intuitive Eating hunger scale more frequently, you may notice some interesting things:
- You may find that there’s a level of hunger that makes your overall eating experience more pleasant.
- You may find that working through meal times leaves you feeling ravenous. Thus, you eat your food so quickly that you don’t really enjoy the tastes and textures. Plus, eating very rapidly often leaves us overfull. And feeling bad**
- You may use your exploration of hunger and choose to alter your meal schedule and frequency because you ultimately feel better.
FAQs about the Intuitive Eating hunger scale:
What if I’m not sure about a particular number on the Intuitive Eating hunger scale? Can I use decimals?
Are you feeling like a particular description doesn’t exactly capture how you feel? You’re not alone! But am I hearing some perfectionism?!
If you reflect and think about the purpose of the Intuitive Eating hunger scale, you’ll remember that it’s just for you. I urge you to toss that perfectionism aside and pick the number that most closely meets how you feel. It’ll be ok. I promise!
Perfectionism is so common! I even wrote an article about it here!
- What if I guess my hunger or fullness level wrong?
Sometimes, when we begin using the Intuitive Eating hunger scale, we might read the description, choose a number and move it on. Then, a few weeks later, we might have a different, more nuanced understanding of the Intuitive Eating hunger scale. And we might decide that the number we chose was wrong.
I want you to know that it’s no big deal!
In fact, looking back and recognizing how much you have learned and refined what hunger and fullness feels like in YOUR body lets you know that you are making progress.
Learning and refining is a part of every step of your Intuitive Eating journey and the numbers of the Intuitive Eating scale are there to help you.
There are no right or wrong answers!
Should I only eat when I’m at a level 3 and stop eating at a level 7?
No! Intuitive Eating is not the ‘eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full’ diet! Intuitive Eating embraces the nuance that comes with the human experience. Above all, Intuitive Eating is rooted in self-care and body respect.
Sometimes eating lunch before you are very hungry at 11:30 am is the best choice you can make when you have meetings from noon until 3 pm. And you WILL still eat past fullness sometimes because that is also completely normal.
With practice, the Intuitive Eating hunger scale can become a powerful tool to help you home in on what different levels of hunger and fullness feel like in your body, and how eating at different hunger levels along the scale affects the satisfaction you get from your eating experiences. And with this insight, you’re able to build the trusting relationship with your body and eating that you deserve.
- What if you’re on the fence and wonder if taking the time is worth the effort?
You might be wondering if using a piece of paper can really help you transform your relationship with food and your body. Are you feeling like that? You know, I did too!
It can be helpful to reflect on why you are hesitant. Does it feel too easy? Does it feel like it might not work for you? While the Intuitive Eating hunger scale is simple, its benefits can be profound.
One thing I have found in my work is that most women today are so disconnected from their bodies. It’s not our fault!
Diet culture teaches us that our current bodies aren’t worthy of love, which has the effect of us shutting down our inner body experience. Using the Intuitive Eating hunger scale is one great way to awaken your awareness of your body. And the benefits all grow from there!
- Are you still feeling apprehensive about diving in and beginning to use the Intuitive Eating hunger scale?
Don’t let perfectionism get the best of you! Why not start using the Intuitive Eating hunger scale for one meal today?!
Grab your copy of my PDF version of the Intuitive Eating hunger scale today! Use this tool to help you begin your Intuitive Eating journey.
Did you know that Intuitive Eating is unlike any other way of looking at food? What you are feeling is so normal. In fact, many women need some extra support to help them fully embrace and understand Intuitive Eating.
Are you curious about how embracing Intuitive Eating might improve your life?
It’s normal to need support along the way. Book your complimentary Take Action Call with me to find out what it’s like to have the support of an Intuitive Eating professional each step of the way.
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”