Check the (hunger) scale

by Kate Kinne | Apr 22, 2020

I had an interesting conversation with my nine-year-old son the other day.  It was dinner time and he wasn't eating much, and when I asked about snacks he said he had eaten too many pretzels.  He said that he wasn't even hungry when he ate them, but he just felt like it should be snack time.  Gah!  We are all guilty of that on occasion, but I had to have a chat with him about that (I know, poor child stuck at home with a dietitian mom).  I immediately needed remind him to only eat when he is hungry, and even then, pour a small snack into a small bowl and eat from there, rather than eating from the package.  He rolled his eyes and reluctantly agreed.  I thought it might be a good reminder for all of us, because there is sure to be a lot of boredom and stress eating these days, right?  

Think of hunger on a scale of one to ten.  This is PHYSICAL hunger, not an emotional hunger.  At one, you are so hungry that you are weak and dizzy.  At ten, you are uncomfortably full.  At five, then, you are perfectly satiated, not hungry and not full.  It's best to start eating at around a three, where you are hungry and physically need food, and stop eating around six or seven, where you are satisfied / mildly full,  but not uncomfortable.  If you wait to eat until you are feeling unwell because you are so famished, you are much more likely to overeat, sending you to beyond full.  Many times when we let ourselves get that hungry, we also don't really care what we eat, and we are much less likely to make deliberate, healthy choices.  I remember having an "aha" moment when hearing about this hunger scale as a dietitian.  I grew up eating until I was FULL.  To step eating before that seemed strange, but I quickly realized it felt so much better.  

Try an experiment, I mean, you have time, right?  Everytime you put something into your mouth, a meal or snack, write down your "hunger number."  And then do the same after your meal.  Could you make any adjustments to your routine?   How much have you been eating without paying attention to physical hunger?  

Please keep in mind that many times we confuse thirst for hunger.  So, stay hydrated during the day to help prevent eating when, in fact, you're just thirsty. 

If you are physically hungry, by all means, eat something, and make sure to enjoy it!  Need a new, satisfying snack idea?  How good do these apple cookies look?!  Slice apples, smear with your favorite nut butter, and sprinke with any nuts, seeds, dried fruit, coconut (you can buy unsweetened!) and/or chocolate chips.  See the full recipe here. 

I wanted to send a quick shout out to all of you warriors out there, the essential workers who are fighting this COVID-19 battle and supporting this community.  I see you, I appreciate you, and I pray for you.  XOXO

Be well, friends!  
Healthy Regards, 


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