How to Know When You’re Full

Sep 27, 2018 1:01:19 AM

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Have you ever eaten one (or three) too many bites of something and were left feeling stuffed? (Yep, us too.) This usually happens when you’re distracted and eating for reasons other than hunger. It’s easy to fall out of touch with your natural hunger and satiety cues, which help tell you when to start and stop eating. Or to learn habits when you’re growing up (i.e. “always clean your plate;” “don’t waste food”) that can lead to overeating as an adult. 

Learning to accurately assess how hungry and how full you are can help empower you to make better decisions and create healthier eating habits.

The Hunger Scale

Coach Sara recommends using the Hunger Scale–where 1 represents feeling weak with hunger and 10 represents feeling sick from overeating–to regularly evaluate your hunger and prevent overeating. Here’s her version:

  1. Weak and lightheaded: Your stomach acid is churning.
  2. Very uncomfortable: You feel irritable and unable to concentrate.
  3. Uncomfortable: Your stomach is rumbling.
  4. Slightly uncomfortable: You’re just beginning to feel signs of hunger.
  5. Comfortable: You’re more or less satisfied, but could eat a little more.
  6. Perfectly comfortable: You feel satisfied.
  7. Full: You feel a little bit uncomfortable.
  8. Uncomfortably full: You feel bloated.
  9. Very uncomfortably full: You need to loosen your clothes.
  10. Stuffed: You are so full you feel nauseated.

To effectively use the hunger scale, keep these tips in mind:

  • Eat only when you reach level 4 or lower. Eating when you reach level 3 or 4 is best. Letting yourself get overly hungry (level 1 or 2) can lead to overeating.
  • If your goal is weight loss, stop eating when you reach level 5 (more or less satisfied, but could eat a little more). Drink water, and allow time for your brain to get the signal that you are satisfied and done eating.
  • If your goal is weight maintenance, stop eating when you reach level 6 (perfectly comfortable and satisfied). Drink water and allow time for your brain to get the signal that you are satisfied and done eating.
  • Always stop eating before you reach level 7 or higher (uncomfortably full, bloated, need to loosen your clothes, etc.).
  • If you are at level 5 through 10, it’s best to not start eating. Eating at these levels could mean that you’re eating out of boredom, stress, loneliness, excitement, anxiety or for other self-soothing reasons.
  • The only time you should eat without feeling hungry is in the morning within 1-2 hours of waking. For some people, skipping breakfast can sometimes lead to overeating later in the day.
  • Depending on your schedule, it’s okay to fast overnight for 12-16 hours. Reach out to the Yes Health coach team for help planning the best eating times for your schedule.  
What is mindful eating?

To eat mindfully is to eat with both intention and attention: the intention of caring for yourself and the attention necessary to enjoy your food and notice its effects on your body. Practicing mindful eating helps you avoid overeating, because paying attention to each bite of food in the moment gives your brain and stomach a chance to communicate, so you are aware when you become full. It can also help you discern the difference between genuine hunger and emotional eating. 

Coach Chloe offers these 5 simple tips to help prevent overeating:

  1. Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before every meal
  2. Invest in smaller dinner plates (9″ vs 12″)
  3. Always cut up your food (it makes it look like more on your plate)
  4. Avoid eating nuts, crackers or other snacks directly out of the package. Instead, measure out a small portion and put it in a bowl or on a plate.

Check out these helpful links for more information:

Emotional eating vs physical hunger

Emotionally driven eating:

  • Comes on suddenly
  • Feels like it can only be satisfied with a specific food
  • Feels urgent, as though it must be satisfied right away
  • Feels like it exists in your head or mind, rather than in you stomach
  • Usually causes you to feel uncomfortably full before it subsides

For more information about emotional eating, check out our blog post:

Why Do We Eat When We’re Not Hungry?

Physical hunger:

  • Comes on more gradually
  • Tends to reside in the physical body
  • Goes away when you are physically satisfied
To snack or not to snack: the relationship between eating frequency and blood sugar levels

“If we’re constantly expected to eat snacks, we’re scheduling our meals based on a static time frame, rather than on what our body may actually need,” says Coach Julie. Some of the latest research debunks the myth that we must eat every 3-4 hours. It instead suggests comfortably going longer between meals without snacking (such as a 12-16 hour overnight fast) can allow insulin levels to drop and aids in both appetite and blood sugar control. Eating less frequently may also be better for avoiding insulin dips and spikes. Coach Rachel helps Yes Health members learn the signs of blood sugar dips and how to avoid them by getting the right balance of nutrition at each meal, and using healthy snacks on an as-needed basis. “In an ideal world, meals should keep us feeling satisfied for a few hours,” Coach Rachel notes. “If you often feel hungry between meals and need to snack often, the addition of protein, healthy fats and lots of fibrous veggies can help keep you feeling fuller, longer.”  

Studies show that people who eat fewer, larger meals have lower blood glucose levels. They may have bigger blood sugar spikes, but overall their levels are much lower. Eating less frequently has also been shown to improve satiety and reduce hunger, compared to eating more frequent meals. Studies also suggest that eating the largest meal of the day in the morning, or early in the day, lowers average daily blood sugar levels. This may be beneficial because the body’s blood sugar control is better in the morning. Skipping breakfast is unlikely to be harmful to healthy people, however, people with diabetes may benefit from eating a healthy breakfast and getting most of their calories early in the day.