Hunger A word that is feared in the diet world. It can mean discomfort and suffering. In our western world of abundance and with food readily available 24-7, it’s certainly nothing to be feared. Its just our body’s signalling system to let us know when to eat and how much to eat. In the quest to lose a few pounds, hunger is something we need to get to know better.
How a little bit of hunger can help
Hunger can help by showing us how to tune into our needs and wants. So lets get to know hunger a little bit better, tune into it and learn more about ourselves with a helpful tool called – the hunger scale.
The hunger scale
The hunger scale is a tool that helped me immensely in tuning in to what my body needs. It has helped me know when to eat and importantly when to stop.
How it works
On a scale of 1 to 10 you rate your hunger. 1 being absolutely ravenous and 10 being so stuffed you feel like you could pop. 5 to 6 is your happy place where you feel satisfied, complete and energised. Most of the time this is where you should stop.
Its a scale not a rule
I say most of the time because there will be sometimes where you will want to go over. A Christmas dinner or birthday three course meal, for example. That is ok. Its not a rule, it’s a scale. Feeling too full sometimes is ok if you choose it. It becomes a problem if you feel like that at most meals and you don’t choose it. Eating over a 5 or 6 is perfectly natural to do sometimes if you have chosen to do so. If you have overeaten and it has felt out of your control its likely to have been driven by your emotions.
When to eat
On the other end of the scale 3 or 4 is when you should eat. 4 is a gentle pang in your stomach and 3 might feel more like a rumble or grumble. If you have a meal to prepare start at 4 and by the time its ready you’ll be a 3. Preparing food when you are at a 2 is never a good idea because you may be tempted to eat a meals worth of food while you are preparing it! Plan a little something to take the edge off. Sit down and enjoy it and then get cooking. The best thing is when you eat at a 3 or 4 food tastes so good and your will crave healthier food.
Find your sweet spot
At 1 or 2 on the scale your energy levels dip and you will eat anything to feel better. Usually sugary or fatty convenience foods. If get you get to a 1 or a 2 before you can eat just remember that you don’t need to eat twice as much to make up for it. Your stomach is the size of your clenched fist and that size of meal is all it will take to fill you up.
How the hunger scale can help you
The hunger scale is your friend that helps you get to know yourself a bit better. Tuning in, questioning it making friends with it shows you that its nothing to be feared. Feeling a little hungry is good. It is a sign you are not over feeding yourself.
Helping you plan for success
Everybody is different and feels hunger at different times of the day so get to know it and plan accordingly. I usually feel hungrier in the morning after I have worked out and in the evening at dinner time. So I plan around that which usually means I have a lighter lunch. That fits into my schedule as I can’t be bothered carrying around a big lunch bag. A protein rich soup or salad suits me fine. It has helped me by taking the stress out of what to eat and when to eat.
What is real hunger and what is not
The biggy for me is that tuning into hunger has helped me to understand my emotional eating patterns. Ask yourself, am I hungry? Check in with your scale. If you are a 3 or a 4 the answer is yes. Eat.
If you are not feeling physical hunger. Are you thirsty? Drink something. If you are not thirsty then it is emotional hunger.
Is it boredom? Is it stress? For me it is usually tiredness. So instead of reaching for a sugary pick me up if I am able to do so I will take a nap, relax or go to bed early. Occasionally I will go for the pick me up. Usually a flat white now days but thats ok (I LOVE good coffee).
Out with perfection and in with consistency
Its not about perfection its about consistency and owning the choices you make. Sometimes you will eat when you aren’t hungry and that is absolutely fine. Just own that choice and make a better one next time. Checking in and not feeding my emotional hunger with food has been a game changer for me.