Are you hungry or just bored? By monitoring how you feel before and after meals, you can understand how emotions can skew your diet, and start developing better eating habits.
“It’s all about mindfulness — being in the moment, being present when you’re eating,” says Connie Cheng, wellness director for Gold’s Gym.
Our hunger scale will help you assess yourself at various points throughout the day, before and after meals. If you’re honest with yourself about how you feel, you’ll know whether or not you want to eat (or have eaten) for the right reason.
Here’s the key: You always want to be in the middle section of the scale and should adjust your meals and portions to stay in that range. No matter what time it is, you never want to feel like you’re starving or like you’re absolutely stuffed. The more you use this scale, the more you’ll recognize your behavior and be able to modify it to develop healthy eating patterns.
“When you find that middle space is when you can control your eating,” Cheng says.
0 to 2
You’re only about 5 to 30 percent full. You’ve waited too long to eat, and you feel starved, faint and angry. You’re more likely to binge.
“People who wait too long to eat usually have demanding jobs and schedules,” Cheng says. “They come home and eat the entire contents of their fridge and end up feeling stuffed because they rushed.”
Learn the benefits of meal prepping.
3 to 7
The sweet spot before eating is from 3 to 5. You’re ready to eat and making purposeful decisions on food without the urge to rush. This is the perfect time to sit down for a meal. (If you have to wait before having a meal, grab a small snack to keep you from dropping into the 0 to 2 range.)
After eating, you’re at level 6 to 7. You’re 80 percent full and 100 percent satisfied. If you keep eating, you’re overeating.
Follow our portion control guide.
8 to 10
You’re 95 to 100 percent full. You ate too much or too fast, and you feel stuffed. At this point, any more eating is strictly emotional.
“There’s a difference between eating food to feel joy versus feeling joy while you’re eating,” Cheng says. “Food is not going to fix sadness, but you can feel joy as long as you’re completely, mindfully in the moment.”
Understand healthy indulgences.