Rating your hunger and fullness

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Wednesday, 21 July 2010.
Tagged: eating mindfully, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle

Rating your hunger and fullness
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Listening to your stomach and eating mindfully are the two best techniques for weight control. They work regardless of what sort of diet you're on. They both have the same result - they make you listen to your body's internal hunger so you stop eating when you're physically satisfied (but not over full) and therefore don't eat that bit too much.

Step 1. Listen to your stomach

Your stomach is only the size of your clenched fist. Imagine this and you'll soon realise that it doesn't take a lot of food to fill that volume.

Aim to eat only when you're hungry.

Stop when you're comfortably full - not stuffed! Check in with your stomach every so often and remember, it takes your stomach 20 minutes to signal your brain that it's FULL!

It's normal and natural to feel hungry several times a day. If you eat according to when you're normally hungry and normally full, your stomach will tell you when it's empty or full.

Step 2. Practice mindful eating

In order to "hear" your stomach, you have to eat mindfully. This means eating slowly, savouring each mouthful, chewing well and enjoying the different flavours.

Focus on the food in front of you. Put your knife and fork down between bites. Sit down to eat, even if it's only for a snack. Turn the TV off and don't read.

Note how food feels in your mouth and how much flavour you're ‘extracting', so you feel satisfied with less.

Apart from helping you with your weight, it's an easy way to slow down in our hectic lives and live ‘in the moment'. I practice it all the time. Read how to eat mindfully here.

No need to count kilojoules/calories

You don't need to count kilojoules or calories with this hunger scale.

Counting kilojoules is a useful thing to do ONCE to educate yourself about WHICH foods are highest in kilojoules and WHICH ones are the lowest.

I suggest you buy a pocket calorie counter book and write down everything you eat and drink over a couple of days and then tally up your total intake. Try Calorie King website for calorie counts and an online food diary.

What quickly becomes apparent is that chocolate, desserts, pies, pastries, fast food and chips come at the top of the kilojoule/calorie range while vegetables, salad, fish, fruit, water and most other healthy fare comes at the lower end. It's a revealing exercise!

Do it once for the learning you'll get but don't become obsessive about toting up each kilojoule. It's far easier to limit junk food or reduce your fat or refined carb intake.


You stomach expands as you eat. If you eat slowly and chew well, your stomach will tell you when it's full.

Researchers talk about "satiety" which means the condition of being full and unable to take in any more food. It's a pleasant feeling, equated with complete fullness, satisfaction and the disappearance of your appetite after a meal.

My teachers at school, old-fashioned as they were, preferred the term "replete"! The word satiety comes from the old French word satiete, which in turn comes from the Latin satis which simply means 'enough' or 'sufficient'.  Nice.


My hunger-fullness scale from 10 down to 0

I've devised this simple scale to help you rate your feelings of hunger and fullness.
Use it as a way to tell when you're really hungry (stomach hunger, not mind hunger or comfort eating) and to control your cravings.

10: Stuffed. I'm so full I feel sick.

9: Unbearably full. I need to undo my trouser top button.

8: Uncomfortably full. I feel bloated.

7: Full. I feel sluggish.

6: Full but I shouldn't have eaten that last mouthful.

5: Comfortable and satisfied.

4: Peckish, I could eat something.

3: My stomach feels empty and I'm finding it difficult to concentrate.

2: My stomach acid is churning and my tummy is rumbling.

1: I feel nauseous and light-headed.

0: If you don't feed me soon, I'll be too weak to chew!


How to use the numbers

  • Eat from 1 to 5 and you'll lose weight.
  • Eat from 3 or below to 5 or 6 and you'll maintain.
  • Eat from 4 to 10, you'll gain weight.

EXAMPLE 1  Before you eat:
Wait until your hunger has reached a 3 or below before you eat.
Ask yourself: Am I really hungry? Am I at a 3 or less? If not, it's a craving, not true hunger.

EXAMPLE 2  Whilst eating:
Half way through your meal, stop and check in with your stomach. Ask yourself what is my hunger number now?

  • If it's a 4, keep eating and check in again in five minutes.
  • If it's a 5, stop eating now! Anything above that means you've overeaten beyond your natural fullness and will cause weight gain.

Download the Foodwatch Hunger-Fullness Log

Tune in to your stomach and give your feelings of hunger or fullness a number from 0 to 10. Use the free download pdf Hunger-Fullness Log (524 KB) I've created to check your stomach ratings. Every hour, check how hungry you are and keep a record over 4 or 5 days.

You will soon pick out your own natural pattern of hunger over the day. Remember it is normal and natural to feel hungry several times a day - the trick is to match your meals with those times when you're most hungry!