Nutrition 101

Are You Really Hungry?

With everyone spending more time at home – and in the kitchen – we may find ourselves consuming a lot more food than we normally do. But is this eating due to actual, physical hunger, or is it relating to boredom, stress or other emotional triggers?

There are two basic types of hunger: physical hunger and emotional hunger. Physical hunger is the body’s signal that it needs energy or nutrients. If your stomach is growling or if you feel lightheaded or weak, you may be experiencing physical signs of hunger. Emotion hunger occurs when we eat to deal with our feelings or situational triggers.

Both types of hunger are very real. Focusing on physical hunger can help individuals develop healthier habits to deal with emotional eating. This is where the Hunger Scale comes in. The hunger scale is a valuable tool for the entire family that can be used to identify hunger and fullness. Using the hunger scale bolsters mindful eating and helps you decide how much and when to eat. Utilizing the hunger scale may help you and your family eat a more balanced diet and keep you feeling at your best.

The hunger scale starts at 0 and goes up to 10. A brief description represents each level of hunger. 

  1. Empty: Uncomfortably hungry, stomach hurts, headache, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dizzy, weak.
  2. Ravenous: Difficulty concentrating, low energy, headache, past the point of comfortable hunger.
  3. Very Hungry: Stomach may hurt and may be growling loudly, feeling the immediate need for food. 
  4. Moderately Hungry: Thinking more about food, stomach is growling and the need to get something to eat increases. 
  5. Lightly Hungry: Starting to think about food, deciding what sounds good, stomach gently growling. 
  6. Neutral: Neither Hungry nor Full. 
  7. Lightly Full: Satisfied, will likely be hungry again in 1-3 hours.
  8. Moderately Full: Satisfied, comfortable, will likely be hungry again in 2-3 hours.
  9. Full: Comfortably full but would not want to eat more. Satisfied.
  10. Stuffed: Past the point of comfort, full, stomach may hurt. Time to unbutton the pants!
  11.  Sick: Uncomfortably full, feel sick. “Thanksgiving Full.”

Did You Know? 

  • It is normal for hunger and fullness to vary during the day. Staying in moderate hunger and fullness ranges (3 - 7) will help to avoid extremes in hunger and fullness.
  • If you start eating when lightly to moderately hungry, you are more likely to stop eating when you are lightly to moderately full.
  • If you start eating when you are empty or ravenous, you are more likely to eat until you are uncomfortable.

After practicing using the hunger scale, the numbers will have more meaning. It may take a while to distinguish between what the different levels really feel like. By paying attention to your feelings, identifying hunger level will become second nature. 

If your child constantly complains of being hungry, use the hunger scale and ask them to “rate their hunger.” The basic idea is to eat when hunger is at a level 3 or 4, the points of physical hunger, and to stop when you are full, perhaps at a level 6 or 7.

How hungry are you right now?! 

According to our Experts, there are best ways to deal with your kids’ constant hunger complaints! Click here to read what they are!