diagram of the hunger fullness scale

Hunger Fullness Scale: What it is and How to use it

If you’re like most people, you’ve tried at least 1 diet, or maybe it feels like hundreds at this point. 

I remember first hearing about intuitive eating assuming it’d be like everything else. Another diet and “sustainable change” I’d fail to make sustainable. 

Here’s the thing, intuitive eating is actually just you making your own rules for your diet. So, there’s actually no way to do it wrong. 

Some tools can help you figure out intuitive eating, like the hunger fullness scale. 

The hunger fullness scale helps you relearn your body’s cues. Keep readings to learn more about the intuitive eating hunger fullness scale and how to use it.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating is a self-care way of eating. It’s based on the idea that you know what’s best for you and your body. 

Your body has a natural system that regulates your hunger and fullness cues so that you eat just what your body needs. 

The problem for many people is that they were told they shouldn’t trust their bodies. That if they allow themselves to eat whatever they want, then they’ll simply eat “bad” foods and stop taking care of themselves. 

But that isn’t what happens with intuitive eating. 

Instead, when you learn to listen to your body and honor your needs, you take better care of yourself. You listen to what you truly need and not what someone else thinks may work for you. 

Intuitively you know what works best for you. You just may need help relearning how to understand your body’s cues after years of dieting rules. 

What is the intuitive eating hunger fullness scale?

The intuitive eating hunger scale is a system for ranking hunger on a scale from 1-10. This hunger fullness scale helps you assess your body and learn your signs of hunger. 

diagram created  by food peace nutrition of the hunger fullness scale

There are some general feelings most people experience with hunger and fullness. But the subtle signs of hunger can vary based on the person. For example, subtle signs of hunger could be:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Starting to think about food
  • Dips in energy levels
  • Signs of heartburn
  • And others

Here’s what each number on the hunger fullness scale means:

1 – Famished

This extreme level of hunger usually leaves people feeling nauseous and very uncomfortable. 

Both ends of the hunger fullness scale are when people feel physically ill because of the extreme levels of hunger or fullness.

You’ll likely be extremely focused on food, feel like you’re starving, and may feel like you could pass out from not eating. 

2 – Extremely hungry

At the extremely hungry levels of the hunger fullness scale, you’ll feel like you need to eat now, may feel a little hangry, and likely feel uncomfortable. 

Often, when people first start to relearn their hunger fullness cues, they don’t recognize they’re hungry until this stage. 

Or they simply don’t let themselves eat until they feel extremely hungry because it’s learning how to approach eating after years of dieting and delaying eating.

3 – Hungry

Hunger is when you feel like it’s not to eat now and are feeling the physical signs of hunger. You may notice your stomach growling and feeling very distracted by thoughts of food. 

4 – Early Hunger

Early hunger occurs when you first start to feel hungry. It’s that stage where you feel, “I could eat, but could also wait a bit for when I’m more hungry.” 

Depending on your signs of hunger, you may notice some food thoughts creeping in, feeling a little distracted, or emptiness in your stomach.

5 – Neutral

Neutral hunger is the stage where you don’t feel particularly hungry or full. Once your relationship with food heals and you understand your body’s needs, you won’t experience thoughts about food or eating during this stage.

6 – Mild fullness

Mild fullness is the stage where you begin to feel full but aren’t quite mentally satisfied with your meal yet. You could stop eating and wouldn’t feel hungry again for a while, but may still want a little more food. 

7 – Satisfied

Satisfied is the stage where you feel completely comfortable with your level of fullness and feel mentally satisfied with your meal.

8 – Uncomfortably full

At this stage, you feel a little uncomfortable with how much food you ate. Clients often tell me this stage feels like “that was a couple bites too many.”

Often after 20-30 minutes, the discomfort goes away.

9 – Stuffed

Stuffed is that feeling many people experience after Thanksgiving meal where they have the urge to unbutton their pants because it’s so uncomfortable. 

You’ll likely feel very bloated when stuffed and extremely uncomfortable.

10 – Overstuffed

Overstuffed is the stage that some people describe as a food coma. Where you feel like you need to lie down or could throw up because you’re too full. 

How to relearn your hunger and fullness cues using the hunger fullness scale

Usually, when people start learning intuitive eating, they have no idea what any of their signs of hunger and fullness are. They’ve learned to base eating off of meal plans or a completely off track cheat meal. 

But don’t worry, you can learn to understand your body’s cues again to satisfy your needs and feel better. 

The intuitive eating hunger fullness scale is a useful tool to help you relearn your specific signs of hunger and fullness. 

Note that your specific hunger and fullness cues may be different from those I listed above. So, stay curious and take some time to learn what yours are. 

Be willing to give yourself grace as you learn.  

Everyone gets it wrong sometimes, and that’s ok. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It just means you’re learning and using that information to help you understand your body better.

How to use the intuitive eating hunger fullness scale to relearn hunger fullness cues

When relearning the hunger fullness scale, it can be helpful to take notes throughout the day of how you’re feeling. 

Before and after meals, take notes of changes to how you feel physically and mentally. Over time, you’ll start to figure out how food affects you and your signs of hunger and fullness. 

Most people (my clients and myself included) get so used to ignoring our hunger cues—by drinking water, chewing gum, going for walks, and just pretending it isn’t there—that we end up ping-ponging back and forth from extreme hunger to stuffed.

When you wait until you’re extremely hungry to eat, you tend to eat quickly. Your body tells you, “I need food now,” and you end up not stopping until you’re uncomfortably full. 

If this sounds familiar, try eating at an earlier stage to see if it changes how you feel. 

p.s. Want help understanding your hunger and fullness? I can help with intuitive eating coaching. I teach this scale to my clients and help them learn to honor their hunger and fullness. 

Let’s have a conversation about what’s standing in your way to reaching your dream relationship with food, exercise, body image, and yourself. Schedule your consult here.

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