When Should I Eat?

Hunger is a basic survival mechanism.  It’s what signals our brains that our bodies need nourishment and energy — and it drives us to eat for fuel.  We’re born with this ability – think about babies and how they cry when they need food – and how they stop eating when they’re full.

Those of us who struggle with our weight are sometimes disconnected from the signals that tell us when we’re hungry and when we’re full and satisfied.  Some of us don’t even feel hungry because we eat so frequently that we never get to the point where our bodies knock on the door to let us know that they’re hungry.

The Hunger Scale

There is a hunger scale to help identify how hungry you are before, during and after eating.  The scale goes from 1 to 10 with 1 being ravenous and 10 being so full that you feel sick.

The Scale:

  1. You’re ravenous and too hungry to give a hoot about what you eat
  2. You’re starving and absolutely must eat immediately because you’re irritable, cranky, and have no energy
  3. You’re hungry and the urge to eat is strong
  4. Your hunger pangs are signaling the first signs of hunger; you’re a little hungry
  5. You’re satisfied – not hungry but not full and you’re not aware of food in your stomach
  6. You’re fully satisfied and are aware of food in your stomach
  7. You’re very full, your stomach feels stretched, and you’re past the point of satisfaction but can still find room for more
  8. You’re uncomfortable because your stomach is too full and you really wish you hadn’t had those last few bites
  9. You’re stuffed, very uncomfortable, and your clothes feel very tight – that belt buckle or snap on your jeans doesn’t stand a chance
  10. You’re beyond full and feel sick, miserable, and you don’t want to move


What Number?

  • If you’re at number 5 or above you’re not physically hungry and something else is triggering your eating.
  • If you’re at number 4 you can wait to eat or eat a little bit.
  • If you’re at a 2 or 3 it’s a good time to heat – have you noticed that food tastes pretty good when you’re hungry?
  • If you’re at number 1 you need to eat — but pay attention to what you’re doing.  When you’re starving you don’t care too much about what or how much you eat – and usually shovel food in as quickly as possible – which can result in overeating (pigging out) and ending up at a 7 and up.
  • Gauge your hunger.  If you’re only a little hungry, only eat a little.  Preventive eating – or eating because you might be hungry in a little while – can cause you to pack in a lot of calories.

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