The hunger and fullness scale is a way to identify how hungry or full you are (though I prefer to use the terms hunger and satiety). It can be useful to describe your internal sensations of hunger and satiety as you start your mindful eating journey. Usually a 10 point scale is used, either as the numbers themselves or on a visual scale to show 0 being empty and 10 being as full as physically possible.
At 0, you would be literally starving and would eat literally anything, even if you thought it might make you sick.
At 10, you would be so full that you feel like you are about to be sick, just to get some relief from the pressure of how much food is in your stomach.
Most of the time, you won’t be at those extremes, unless you are experiencing significant food insecurity or an eating disorder. Your experience and definitions of each of these levels may be different than mine, because we all experience hunger and satiety different, based on our history and genetics.
How do I use the hunger and fullness scale?
The hunger and fullness scale is sometimes used as a diet. People will tell you that you should only eat if you are hungry and stop when you are 70% full. You might start feeling guilty anytime you eat “too much” or decide to have a snack, even though you aren’t exactly hungry.
Anytime guilt gets involved, we’re dealing with the diet cycle and we are likely going to be out of balance.
Instead, this is just one way that you can tap into your body signals and define how you feel. If you find that this scale gets in the way of understanding your body, you do not need to use it. It is not a necessary part of mindful eating or intuitive eating.
However, many people do find this helpful, and you may be one of those people.
What do the numbers mean on the hunger and fullness scale?
As I mentioned before, everyone experiences hunger and satiety differently. You may not have the same experience as I do. However, I will share my definitions of these numbers to help you define the numbers for yourself. As mentioned above, I consider 0 and 10 to be the extremes of human experience. Outside of eating disorders or significant food insecurity, you are not likely to experience these states.
- I feel nauseated and unwell. I need food now.
- I don’t feel well and need to eat something ASAP.
- I am hungry and need to eat soon, in the next 30-60 minutes or so. If I am not planning to eat a meal in that time frame, it’s snack time!
- I would happily eat, but I could wait a bit. If it’s almost lunch or supper and I haven’t started cooking, now is a good time to start.
- Neutral. My stomach is neither hungry or full.
- Lightly full. I don’t feel the stretch of my stomach being “full” but I can feel that I just ate something. If I just had a snack to “tide me over,” this is the level I want to be at, but if I just ate a meal, I probably am not full enough to be satisfied. This is also the fullness level I would want to be at if I ate a meal and plan to do something active shortly afterwards.
- Satisfied: I can feel a slight internal stretch of my stomach, but I do not feel bloated or unwell. This is generally the point at which I feel that I have had enough of a meal.
- Slightly over-full: I feel a little bloated and feel like I ate a bit too much, but I know that feeling will pass quickly.
- Much too full: I feel very bloated and uncomfortable and likely will for a couple of hours.
In your journal or notes, try defining what you think the numbers mean, with 0 and 10 being the extremes of the hungriest and fullest you can imagine and 5 being neutral.
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