During an 8 hour flight back from Australia recently it felt like we were being fed the entire flight. I was still full from the first meal they served (I’m much too disorganised to BYO healthy plane food) when they bought out another round of food. Ugh.
I was reminded of a fantastic weight loss tool that most of us could use…whether trying to lose weight or not. It’s called the Hunger-Fullness Scale. The scale goes from zero (so hungry you could eat your arm) to ten (so full you could burst). Its premise is to help us to listen to our bodies and to eat more mindfully.
The scale recommends the ideal time to eat is at hunger levels 2-3, when our body sends ‘I’m hungry’ signals or your stomach is growling. Why not wait until we reach the starving stage (hunger level 0) to eat? Because this is when we’re so hungry that we make poor food choices and are more likely to overeat.
We feel satisfied or comfortably full at hunger level 5 or 6 and this is the ideal time to STOP eating. Eat more and you’ll likely be taking in excess calories, putting stress on your body and you’ll feel pretty uncomfortable.
Our stomachs are only as big as a clenched fist, so it really doesn’t take much food to fill our bellies. And this, my friend, is where mindful eating comes in.
Eating slowly and chewing food well can help us eat more mindfully. Savour every mouthful and think about the flavours and textures of the food you’re eating, and minimise distractions such as watching TV or scrolling through your news feed. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to send ‘I’m full’ signals to the brain so take the time to enjoy your meal.
Sometimes, our bodies trick us into eating when we’re not actually hungry. How many times have you walked to the kitchen and stared into the fridge despite having eaten merely an hour ago? This is non-hungry eating and is often due to boredom or emotions…which can easily tempt us to over-indulge on treats because we crave or want to suppress a certain feeling (happiness, comfort, anger etc) and due to past experiences we may think that food can make that happen.
It is well worth learning to listen to you body. Mapping out your hunger levels during the day can help you identify non-hungry eating. This is a particularly handy activity if you are trying to lose weight because it can pinpoint patterns and triggers for emotional or non-hungry eating.
Are you out of touch with your body’s hunger and fulness signals? Download this Hunger/Fullness Log from Foodwatch to track how hungry and full you are during the day.