Written By: Brianna Hanson
SIGNS OF HUNGER
When one’s body doesn’t get the energy it needs from food, it can trigger intense biological mechanisms that can affect the body both physically and mentally. Today, we often see eating or not eating as a matter of willpower. The focus is far too often on deprivation, when in reality, there is a biological need for energy. Interestingly, when deprivation is increased, there is a heightened desire for food, along with increased salivation and an increase in digestive hormones. Fueling your body with adequate energy, according to your hunger cues, will lead to moderate, mindful eating.
If you have been dieting for a while, your hunger cues may be silenced. Reasons for this can include, but not limited to:
- Years of denying your hunger
- Skipping meals
- Turning to calorie free beverages instead of food
- Just being too busy and stressed from life that attention to food is put on back burner.
If you haven’t heard your hunger signals in a while, it’s time to start listening. Hunger cues can come in many different forms and it’s important to note that not everyone’s cues will be the same. Here are some ways you might experience hunger:
Stomach: Rumbling, gurgling, emptiness
Throat and esophagus: Dull ache or gnawing
Head: Cloudy thinking, light-headedness, headache, difficulty focusing, increased thoughts around food
Mood: Irritability or crankiness
Energy: Waning, sleepiness
Numbness: overall lethargy
Understanding your own hunger signals takes practice and attention to your body’s needs. A good place to start is to check in with yourself every couple of hours and ask, “What is my hunger level?” and “What are some of the hunger cues I am experiencing?”.
FEELING YOUR FULLNESS
Respecting fullness involves the ability to stop eating when comfortably full, based on individual fullness cues. The level of fullness that you are comfortable with is highly personal.
Healthy levels of fullness include, but not limited to:
- A subtle feeling of fullness in the stomach
- Feeling satisfied, or a neutral feeling of neither hungry nor full.
- Less occupation with thoughts around food
- Increased energy or a change in your mood
The key to feeling your fullness is to be conscious of your physical sensations while eating from the first bite of food to the last. In order to achieve this, it’s important to try your best to limit distractions. We live in a world where this is increasingly difficult, so, this might not be fully realistic for everyone, however, there is something to be said about actually tasting the food you are eating. Someone who is always multitasking when eating, will never truly enjoy their meals and even more so, won’t stop eating until they realize that they ate past their comfortable fullness level. Just remember to listen to your bodies signals that tell you that you are reaching fullness and be aware of the taste of the food you are consuming.
THE HUNGER-FULLNESS SCALE
The hunger-fullness scale is a practical way to help increase awareness of hunger and fullness levels. This scale was created by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. The point of this scale is not to convince you that you must hit a certain number on the scale at each meal, rather it is to train your mind so you can naturally feel your hunger and fullness cues. Level 1 is the absolute hungriest you could be and 10 is the fullest you could be.
Aim for a level around 3 when starting to eat and a level of 6 or 7 when stopping. Any number lower than 3, meaning a ravenous hunger or an empty stomach, can lead to overeating.
If you are over level 3 before eating, you are likely not biologically hungry but could be wanting food for reasons other than hunger, and this is totally okay! A number between 6-7 will leave you feeling satisfied but not overfull.
A good practice is to ask yourself how you want to feel when you finish a meal. If you know how you want to feel, it can be easier to stop eating at an adequate fullness level.
Understanding hunger and fullness cues is one of the best ways to honor our ever-changing caloric needs. The hunger-fullness scale is a great guide; however, you know your body best. Figure out your own personal hunger and fullness cues to be able to best fuel your body.