What is a hunger scale?

Tanya Zuckerbrot
Nutrition & Dietetics

Registered Dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot explains what a hunger scale is. Watch Tanya's video for tips and information on healthy nutrition.

A hunger scale is a scale that teaches you to eat when you’re hungry and to stop eating when you’re full. Dieting rules, and food myths have infiltrated our thinking, as a result people have forgotten to listen to their bodies. We don’t eat when we are hungry, and we over eat when we are full. The hunger scale helps you get back in touch with your body, and enjoy the eating experience, and the pleasure that can be derived from food without a consequential weight gain. A hunger scale is a practical weight-loss tool, and one that I have use with my clients. 
Hunger Scale
  1. Ravenous
  2. Over hungry
  3. Hunger pangs
  4. Hunger awakens
  5. Neutral
  6. Just satisfied
  7. Completely satisfied
  8. Full
  9. Stuffed
  10. Sick
Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life
The Hunger Scale is a subjective 10-point scale that helps you determine your level of hunger or fullness. The scale serves two purposes: to signal when it's time to eat and then when it's time to stop. Before you pick up your fork, take a moment to tap into your body's natural cues: how hungry you are, how your stomach feels, if you're having trouble concentrating because you're ready for a bite. This will help you decide if it's really time to eat or not.

The Hunger Scale:

10 Stuffed: You are so full, you feel nauseated.

9 Very uncomfortably full: You need to loosen your clothes.

8 Uncomfortably full: You feel bloated.

7 Full: You feel a little bit uncomfortable.

6 Perfectly comfortable: You feel satisfied.

5 Comfortable: You're more or less satisfied but could eat a little more.

4 Slightly uncomfortable: You're just beginning to feel signs of hunger.

3 Uncomfortable: Your stomach is rumbling.

2 Very uncomfortable: You feel irritable and are unable to concentrate.

1 Weak and light-headed: Your stomach acid is churning.

The Hunger Scale is easy to use, but it may require a little bit of practice, especially at first. You'll get to the point where it becomes automatic; eating only when you're hungry and stopping when you're comfortable will be almost second nature. Of course, there may be times when the desire to eat will be strong even though your hunger level doesn't indicate it's time to eat. Whenever this happens, try to distract yourself with something else: take a walk, call a friend, write in your journal. You'll probably find that once you get started, you'll forget all about eating.
The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

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The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Bob Greene has helped millions of Americans become fit and healthy with his life-changing Best Life plan. Now, for the first time, Oprah's trusted expert on diet and fitness teams up with a leading...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
A hunger scale is a tool that can prevent you from overeating so that you're better able to control your weight. One common type of hunger scale asks the user to rank hunger on a scale of 1 to 10. A ranking of 1 might mean "absolutely starving," a ranking of 5 would mean "comfortable" and 10 would represent "totally stuffed—I can't eat another bite."

You can use a hunger scale before, during and after a meal. Before a meal, ranking your hunger will help you decide if you really need to eat. Sometimes what seems like hunger is really a response to an emotion or to a craving triggered by, say, a food commercial. Midway through a meal, you can use a hunger scale to decide if you're getting full enough to stop. For example, if you rank your hunger at 5 or higher, you should probably push away from the table. If after a meal you rank your hunger at 10, it may mean you've eaten too much and you should try to be more mindful next time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.