Reflecting on your hunger cues is an important part of your healing process. Last week we talked about using the Hunger and Fullness Scale as a guide to track hunger. Your “homework” was to spend the week using the scale to find where you landed on the scale before and after eating. This week, I would like to spend time helping you to deepen this awareness and reflecting on the data that you collected, becoming more aware of your hunger cues.
Using the Hunger and Fullness Scale is an important tool for reconnecting into your hunger cues. You must be patient with yourself as you are “relearning” to listen to your body. You may have trained yourself well to ignore your hunger cues because of your job, rules of dieting, or rules of your family growing up (no snacking allowed). Coming back “into” your body and listening will take time. But having an external tool to reference can be helpful with an outside marker to find the internal intensity of hunger and fullness.
In your reflection of your hunger cues, you may have noticed that you really do not know where you were hunger-wise. Or you may have had an easy time identifying hunger cues, but fullness felt difficult. This is all very normal. Especially as you are starting to listen to your cues again. You will find over time that the identifying gets easier and easier. You will find yourself using this scale in your head when you are gauging both the when to eat and when to stop eating. This tool is what will help you reestablish the trust.
The Hunger and Fullness Scale
Hunger and Fullness Scale
|Feeling||Rating||Description of Sensation|
|0||Painful hunger. Intense and urgent. Primal hunger.|
|Over Hungry||1||Irritable, “give me anything.”|
|2||Very hungry. Hard to decide what you want to eat.|
|3||Hungry and ready to eat. No urgency.|
|Comfortable Hunger/Fullness||4||A little bit hungry, know you could wait to eat.|
|5||Neutral. You don’t feel hungry or full|
|6||Can feel food is in your belly.|
|7||Comfortable. Feel pleasantly full and satisfied.|
|Over Full||8||A little too full. Can sense you’ve eaten a little too much.|
|10||Painfully full. Can feel “Thanksgiving full.”|
© Hayes Nutrition 2021
As you use you went through or go through the week, use this scale and reflect on your hunger cues as you ask yourself the following questions:
What are the tendencies or trends with your hunger cues?
Did you notice any trends with where you landed with your hunger cues? Were there certain days you noticed you were at one number versus another? Did it vary in the day? Was there a difference with your trends of hunger before you started paying more attention?
Which level of hunger did you experience a more comfortable sensation of hunger? Was it always in the “comfortable range,” or did you find you liked being more in the over hungry range?
Can you pay attention to what feels familiar and what feels like hunger not coming on the radar? If you are always used to eating when you are in an over-hungry place, it may feel comfortable to eat here because it is what you are familiar with and may identify with it being time to eat. The practice is finding where you land in the fullness range when you are eating from your comfortable hunger sensation. Does fullness stay comfortable, or do you push into overfull? There is guidance in this answer. You may need to eat from a place that does not feel that it is coming on the radar to establish a more comfortable sensation of fullness.
Which pattern of timing works best for you with eating? Does every three to four hours work, or did you find you needed every two hours?
Finding your rhythm of when you need to eat will vary in the day. You may find you are hungrier in the morning and need to eat in shorter intervals. You may find you can go longer stretches, like four to five hours, somewhere in your day. The key is noticing what range you are in before and after eating.
If you eat smaller or lighter or “snacky” meals, how did that impact the frequency of your hunger? Did your hunger emerge sooner for the next meal or snack? Did you find yourself unsatisfied? Did it feel like you were always eating?
Becoming aware of what works for you and what doesn’t is key when reestablishing your food relationship. Remember, there is no right or wrong here. It is just finding the pattern that works for you. When you are eating smaller meals or a meal that might be snack food thrown together to make a meal, pay attention to how you feel fullness-wise, but even more importantly, satiation-wise. Does your eating feel done, or do you desire more? Your cues will tell you what is working and what is not!
Taking time to reflect on how you are experiencing hunger and fullness takes time to reacquaint yourself with your body differently. If you have been a dieter or have been disordered with your eating, you have spent a lot of time avoiding listening to your body. The practice of listening may feel uncomfortable at first, and it may feel like it takes up a lot of “space” in your head and your day. This is normal. You have to recognize the way you have interacted with your body before was trauma to your body. The shift is in the actual listening. Use the tools, experience the repair, and discover the difference in listening to the communication your body gives you versus fighting it. You will find yourself engaged in such a healing and empowering conversation.