Do you think you could lose weight if you only ate when your body needed fuel?
When you understand your hunger cues, you tune into the needs of your body and effortlessly avoid mindless eating and unnecessary calories.
It’s a strategy that works for me. And it can work for you as well.
Let me show you how to rate your hunger using a hunger scale. It’s a simple trick that will turn you into a calm and confident eater who easily makes smart eating decisions.
Lose Weight by Understanding Your Hunger Cues [Video]
When you master the skill I teach you in this video you’ll understand your eating cues.
With this tool in your toolbox, you will find it easy and effortless to make better eating decisions, which could save you hundreds of calories each day.
True Hunger vs. False Hunger
Learning to evaluate my TRUE hunger level is one of the things that helped me transition from being overweight and out of control with my eating into the mostly carefree eater that I am today.
You’ll notice that I used the term “true” hunger as opposed to “false” hunger.
There’s a difference.
True hunger is driven by a physiological need of your body for fuel, whereas false hunger is driven by other factors, such as habits, routines, whims or scarcity.
SCARCITY: “I have to eat the Girl Scout Cookies now because if I don’t, I’ll miss out till next year!”
ROUTINE: You look at the clock and see that its noon, so you decide to eat lunch. You never stop to think about how hungry you are and allow that information to influence when or how much you eat. You just eat because that’s the routine.
WHIM: The waiter comes around with the dessert tray after you ate a big meal. You feel stuffed, but the desserts look good and dessert follows a meal, so you ask for the chocolate cake.
HABITS: You grab a bag of popcorn at the movie theater concession stand because a movie without popcorn just seems wrong.
Those are examples of false hunger. They represent times throughout our day that we eat mindlessly and help to explain why some people are always hungry.
When you eat at times when your body doesn’t need fuel, your body has to do something with those extra calories, and that usually means moving them into storage as fat.
Also, your body has to expend a lot of energy to deal with all of those extra calories, which leaves you feeling sluggish and sleepy.
What Is a Hunger Scale?
So, how do you tell the difference between true hunger and false hunger? You use a hunger scale.
A hunger scale is a simple scale from 0 to 10 on which you rate your hunger.
Before I explain how to use the scale, let me give you the concept behind it.
I want you to think of your stomach as the gas tank in your car.
When your gas tank is getting empty, the gauge on your dashboard will go down.
When your stomach is getting empty, your hunger number will go down. So, a low hunger number indicates true hunger, eating should only be done to satisfy true hunger.
Learning to rate your hunger is very simple, but it takes a bit of repetition at first.
How To Use a Hunger Scale to Understand Hunger Cues
What you want to do is create a simple Hunger Scale.
Simply draw a line on a piece of paper with “0” on one end and “10” on the other.
The “0” means your “gas tank” – your stomach – is empty, and you need to eat.
The “10” means that you are super stuffed with no room for more food.
What you want to do is rate the fullness of your stomach throughout the day using this scale.
So, throughout the day ask yourself, “How full is my stomach?” (How full is my tank?)
It will help, as you learn this, to put your hand on your stomach to help focus in on the sensation you feel in that area of your body.
When you have a sense of your fullness level, simply assign a number to your hunger.
Evaluate Your Hunger Cues
So, you might pause right now and put your hand on your stomach and ask yourself, “How full is my stomach?”
Give yourself about 10 to 15 seconds to really try to identify how full you feel.
The Satisfied Zone
Maybe you feel comfortable hunger-wise, not overly hungry, but also not stuffed, so you assign your hunger as a 4, 5, or 6, which is what I call the satisfied range.
When you’re in the satisfied zone, you can put your mind on other things rather than eating because your body does not need fuel.
If you feel as if your stomach is getting a bit empty, you might assign a 3 to your hunger level.
That “3” tells you that, hunger is on the way, but if you plan on having dinner within the hour, well, you can likely make it until then without a snack.
Time to Eat
If you’re a one on the scale and dinner is an hour away, well then maybe you could prepare a small side salad to tide you over until dinner.
Understanding Hunger Cues Helps You Lose Weight
The advantage of learning to evaluate your hunger cues is that when you get good at it, you develop an air of calmness when it comes to eating that allows you to make really good eating decisions.
But, practice is required.
You will need to practice rating your hunger for a few days before you feel like you “get it.”
I recommend that you practice for five days straight and check-in with yourself numerous times throughout the day.
It’s a good idea to set a timer on your phone or computer, to ring in two-hour intervals to remind yourself to rate your hunger.
When the timer rings, take 15 seconds to focus in on how full your stomach feels.
You might feel a bit silly doing this at first, but this is a valuable skill that will quickly become automatic.
Within a week you’ll start to notice that you often “feel” like eating, but you are not truly hungry, and that insight has the potential of saving you hundreds of calories each day.
Learning to rate your hunger is an easy and effective trick that will make your weight loss go much smoother.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.