Are you Hungry or just Bored? – The Hunger Scale

The biggest problem we all have when training our bodies to become healthier and when we are dieting is the sudden urge to snack in between meals. As we have all found out, snacking is often bought on by boredom, not so much hunger. West Midlands Tae Kwon-Do’s aim in 2019 is to help provide total fitness to all, including support with nutritional goals, emotional and motivational support as well as general physical fitness. Today we are discussing the Hunger Scale and how it can be used to balance meals.

We have all been there haven’t we? Sat on the sofa, watching TV having a chilled Sunday and before we know it 2 packets of crisps, a block of cheese, a cup of tea and 3 packs of biscuits have disappeared. Hunger is a natural sensation – but how do you differentiate hunger to general boredom? The hunger scale.

The Hunger Scale:

1 Beyond Hungry: You may have a headache and experience dizziness and lack of concentration. Your body feels out of energy and you need to lie down.
2 You feel irritable and cranky, with little energy. You may also feel a little nauseous.
3 Your stomach feels empty and the urge to eat is strong.
4 You start to think about food. Your body is giving you the signal you may want to eat.
5 Your body has had enough food to keep going as it is physically and psychologically just starting to feel satisfied.
6 You are fully satisfied and full up.
7 You are past the point of satisfaction, yet you can still find room for a little more. Your body might say no but your mind still wants to eat the food. You just want a few more bites.
8 Your stomach is really starting to ache. You probably know you shouldn’t have had those few bites, but it tastes so good.
9 You now feel uncomfortable, heavy, tired and bloated.
10 You are beyond full – what we like to call THE CHRISTMAS DAY FEELING! You are physically miserable from the amount of food and are unable to move – you are now in a food coma.


Yep, we have all been in that miserable food coma stage – which isn’t bad for special occasions – however not something we should be experiencing on a weekly (or even monthly) basis. The food coma should not be wasted on the cheeky Saturday night Chinese.

The hunger scale is great for those people who can’t control when they should or should not be eating. This doesn’t mean you have to be overweight though, many individuals who are considered “healthy” often over indulge on unhealthy foods and by using this scale everyone can stop eating in time to feel satisfied and full.


Using the scale for Weight Loss:

This scale distinguishes the body’s physical needs of hunger in comparison to the body craving food to satisfy emotions such as boredom, depression and anxiety. By using this scale for weight loss, you would be looking at eating comfortably between the numbers 3 and 6 consistently – finishing eating when your body is full and satisfied, not when your plate is empty.

That’s one of the worst habits we teach from a young age. “You can have desert if you finish your plate”. This old-fashioned way needs to change. Tell your kids, and tell yourself “finish when you’re full.”  Some people look at this as wasting food, however given a bit of time your eating and cooking habits will change to represent this, and smaller portions can be given at mealtimes.

As well as this, comparing the hunger scale with a food diary will enable you to understand fully your eating habits and emotional controls. By making a note in your food diary of how you felt when you ate can be a powerful reflection of influences of your eating.


What should I do if I get REALLY hungry?

The aim of the hunger scale is to follow 3 simple steps in order to control and maintain sensible eating:

Step 1) If you are feeling Level 1 or 2 hunger start by eating a little bit of something such as a cracker or piece of fruit to reach Level 3 on the scale.

Step 2) Wait 10-15 minuets and see how your hunger feels now.

Step 3) If you’d rate your hunger a Level 3, then eat your planned meal. Eat as normal until you reach Level 5-6 on the scale. The stop eating.

It tends to happen that we drop to Level 1 or 2 quite often when you ignore the hunger signs or skip meals – this may be due to you having an overly busy day. However, when you reach Level 1 or 2 this is where the body has the urge to “eat absolutely everything now” – this is where the control and simple steps help. By stopping eating at a Level 5 – 6 shows how we can keep our body maintained in homeostasis and constant control.


Changing you habits:

Before you eat: Close your eyes and focus on your stomach. Set aside any thoughts about food or when you last ate – give yourself a number. Your body should naturally feel hungry (Level 3 Hunger) every 3 – 5 hours after a meal. The most important tip here is don’t lie to yourself, this information doesn’t need to force you into a diet – this is just information, if you’re going to try to change your habits, then try – you’re only cheating yourself.
If you want to eat or feel hunger for any other reason than your stomach this may be eating for an emotional reason or out of habit – try to find an alternative way to comfort yourself rather than eating.

During a meal: Eat slowly, allow yourself to see how full you are getting. Listen to the body signals that tell you that you are no longer hungry (check back to the hunger scale as appropriate). Look out for these signs and try not to get to the point of feeling “stuffed”. Stopping halfway through a meal to check your fullness is a good way to make sure you don’t overeat.

Finishing a meal: Stop eating when you are around 5 or 6 on The Hunger Scale, even if that means leaving food on your plate. Stopping at a higher number or convincing yourself that you need to leave a completely clear plate means you have probably taken in more food than your body needs.

Through research we have found there is no point in dieting if the habits have not been changed, following this simple chart will ensure a change of habit.

The easy and simple way to a healthier you! The first step! No more food comas, no more boredom snacking – healthy meals to maintain a healthy lifestyle.






Source: NHS Derbyshire Features Service