Your “hunger number” is your guide to healthy eating. Using a personal hunger scale is so fundamental to weight management that you will wonder why you haven’t used one until now.
What the Hunger Numbers Mean
The hunger scale we recommend helps you rate your hunger on a scale of 0-10. Here are the key reference numbers to understand:
0 = Empty: The hunger point at which an infant cries or an adult has a hunger pang. When you’re at 0, it’s time to eat.
5 = Satisfied or comfortable: When an infant stops feeding or when an adult feels a neutral feeling, neither hungry nor full. When you’re at 5, it’s time to stop eating.
7 = Full: When you feel pressure inside the stomach from overeating. This is fattening.
10 = Stuffed: When you feel as though you are can’t-eat-another-bite stuffed and are highly uncomfortable from eating way too much food. This is highly fattening.
Getting in Touch with Your Hunger Number
On a scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being empty, 5 being comfortable, 7 being full, and 10 being stuffed, what is your hunger number right now? Close your eyes and focus your attention on your stomach, which is somewhere around your navel. Set aside any analytical or intellectual data you have about when you last ate and simply let your stomach give you a number. By the way, when you hear its number, thank your stomach for the information.
What does your number mean? If it’s 0, it’s time to eat. If it is above 0, wait until your stomach registers 0 before you eat.
Toward the end of a meal – and definitely before you have second helpings – stop and ask your stomach what its hunger number is. If it’s 5, stop eating. If it’s 4, you have room for some more food. If it’s 6 or above, stop eating and forgive yourself for having overeaten. Wait until you are at 0 before you eat again.
What To Do When You’re Really Hungry
It’s possible to get below 0. This happens if you ignore your hunger signals, skip meals, or have low blood sugar. You can also get below 0 if for some reason you can’t eat when you’re hungry. You could feel lightheaded, jittery, irritable, or headachy. The urge at that time is to “eat everything now.” Don’t do that.
Instead, here is what to do if you get below 0: Eat a little something to get up to 0. This could be a piece of fruit, a cracker, juice, or some other food. Wait 10 to 15 minutes until your stomach hunger level is at 0. Then, eat normally, up to or below 5.
Let’s say you’re planning to eat dinner at 7 p.m., but it’s only 5 p.m., and your stomach is already empty and announcing its hunger. You are at 0. This is a great time for a snack. You can eat a little something to get your hunger number up to 2 or 3 to tide you over until dinner. It wouldn’t make much sense to eat up to 5 because then you wouldn’t be hungry when dinner is served.
Are you superhuman? No. So don’t expect to stay within the 0 to 5 hunger number range when you are first starting to use the hunger scale. Please don’t beat up on yourself mentally when you overeat. Forgive yourself, but determine to listen to your body better the next time. And the next time. The more often you eat 0 to 5 or less, the more quickly you’ll reach your ideal size.