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Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale

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An intuitive eating hunger scale brings us back to our body. It is designed to help us tune into a spectrum of hunger experienced in the body.

Many of us may only feel comfortable connecting and honoring hunger and fullness at its extremes. For example, our choices about food only happen when we are either ravenous or uncomfortably full.

The intuitive eating hunger fullness scale teaches us:

  • All bodies will experience the symptoms of hunger and fullness differently
  • As individuals, there may be varying levels on the hunger scale we feel most comfortable starting and stopping at
  • Where we start and stop at on the hunger/fullness scale can influence what and how much we choose to eat
  • Where we choose to start and stop on the spectrum of hunger can influence how we feel one or several hours post meal
  • The composition of the meal can alter the type and extent of the fullness we feel.

The intuitive eating hunger fullness scale is not: 

  • The hunger fullness diet
  • Another metric to create rules and rituals of restriction around

In learning to navigate our hunger and fullness cues, we are creating a reciprocal relationship with our body.

We are learning to trust our body to provide us with signals and cues to tell us when and what to nourish with.

In return, our body can learn to trust that we will provide it with adequate foods to nourish with. Are you ready to build your own hunger/fullness scale based on your bodies unique needs and experiences? Let’s do this!

What Should Be On A Hunger Fullness Scale

Typically, a hunger fullness scale ranges from 1-10.  Each number should be correlated with one or many physical experiences related to hunger.

While there are many types of hunger, all which are valuable and valid, the hunger fullness scale is really only designed to measure the physical sensations we experience with hunger.

It’s important to note that emotional hunger is just as important to honor as physical. However, using a tool such as a hunger fullness scale will help us to discern what type of hunger our body is experiencing and when.

Diet culture often  teaches us that ONLY the most extreme hunger should be honored.

The hunger fullness scale can be used to discern that all levels of hunger provide a different experience with food. We will connect with food differently based on physical hunger levels as well as the way we feel about food.

Hunger and Fullness Cues

We’re often taught to disconnect with our bodies during eating at a very young age.  Our society is littered with rules about food and eating rituals that can disrupt our ability to listen to our bodies.

Everyone will have different hunger and fullness cues, as well as symptoms associated with extreme hunger and extreme fullness. What is most important, is to know how your body experiences hunger and fullness. Here is a list of body sensations that may be associated with hunger and fullness. 

You can use these body sensations as you are drafting your hunger and fullness scale. 

signs of fullness

Intuitive Eating Hunger Cues

Deciding which level hunger we’re at in intuitive eating can feel very different for everyone. There is no right or wrong to how you experience hunger with an intuitive eating hunger scale.

However, there are a few things that hunger will NOT feel like when we are truly practicing intuitive eating including:

  • Urgency
  • Restrictive
  • Anxiety provoking
  • Painful

When we are practicing intuitive eating, we’ll start to notice that hunger builds slowly.Hunger begins to feel exciting in many ways, an experience we are able to be fully present in the moment.

Some of the less common signs of hunger that we will tap into when we are truly intuitively eating include 

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble finding words
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

While most of us are familiar with what extreme hunger feels like in the body, as we start to tune into our true signals we will discover entirely new sensations that may mean hunger. 

Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Ideally, we want to start eating food before we really even care about it! Of course this isn’t always possible, but eating at the first signs of hunger can really  

Feel Your Fullness

Fullness feels different for everyone. However, what is typical for most will be a growing pressure felt in the belly that signals it’s likely time to stop eating. There is no specific quantity of food or single physical experience everyone has when they reach fullness.  

It’s important to be very clear that there are many different levels of fullness, and all will result in a different physical experience. 

Where someone feels comfortable stopping eating will vary. This fullness scale will help you to determine if we are actually stopping at a level that helps our body feel both physically and emotionally satisfied.  As we work through what we are experiencing at eat level of the meal, we can often decipher if we are stopping too soon or too late for our bodies. 

When we are determining our level of fullness, it might also help to write down wether the sensation was pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. 

Signs of Fullness

  • More pressure breathing
  • Difficult to move
  • Sweating
  • Pain in upper abdomen
  • Overall pain in the belly
  • Feeling pressure from clothing
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Nausea
  • Too tired to talk
  • Round bodied

How Do You Use An Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale?

There are some very simple steps for creating your own personalized intuitive eating hunger scale. The most useful hunger fullness scale will be one that is unique to the physical experiences of your body. Here’s a step by step guide to help you do that!

Time needed: 20 minutes.

How To Make Your Own Intuitive Eating Hunger Scale

  1. Draw a horizontal scale with the numbers 1 and 10 at the end.

    Think about a time when you were the MOST hungry in your life or the MOST full. List the exact sensations your body felt at the most hungry you’ve ever been below number 1. List the exact sensations your body felt at the most full below number 10.

  2. Draw a square, circle or bucket below levels 1 and 10

    Fill in each bucket to represent the space the food took up in your body. This helps you get really personal with the experience. Line with numbers 1,2,4,7,8, and 10 attached

  3. Fill In Hunger and Fullness Cues For Level 5

    Now think about what your body feels like at level 5 on the hunger and fullness scale. Do you just need a small snack? Could you eat an entire meal? List the sensations your body feels below the tick mark at level 5.

  4. Fill In Hunger and Fullness Cues for Level 3, 7 and 8.

    Write hunger/fullness sensations for levels 5 and 8. Then move to level 7. There’s often a clear distinction in fullness between levels 7 and 8. How does it feel in your body?

  5. Draw and Fill In Buckets If you Want To

    This isn’t necessary for all numbers on the chart. But it can be helpful for the numbers that you personally notice a big transitioning point in your body for.

  6. Add remaining numbers to the hunger/fullness scale

    Add in remaining numbers and body sensations to the hunger fullness scale. Intuitive eating hunger scale with numbers 1-10 and body sensations

Your Hunger Is Valid

Regardless of what sensations you experience on each level of the scale, or where you start and stop on the hunger scale, your hunger is valid!

Use this chart to help guide you in getting to know YOUR body, and how you feel before, during and after your meals and snacks. Do you have additional ideas you have used to learn more about your bodies hunger and fullness cues? Please share them in the comments below!

Try the free hunger/fullness scale handout by clicking on the button below. Here you can work through each step of designing your own hunger/fullness chart. There is a blank hunger/fullness chart you can fill in as well!

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!