Tuning into the body and understanding the stages of hunger and fullness is the most effective way to develop a healthy and sustainable approach to food. Mindful eating uses mindfulness to develop a state of awareness of the body’s cravings, hunger levels and satiety cues. This approach to eating can influence the emotional and physical response to food (aversion and cravings), eating behaviours (eating disorders and binge eating) and overall food intake providing a novel approach to aid weight management .
Feast or famine: find your sweet spot
Many people are not aware of what hunger or how fullness or satiety feels like.
Instead of a cycle of under or overfeeding or focussing on type of food, a conscious approach lets you instead practice mindful eating. When you use the ‘hunger level scale’ you can become aware of how hungry you really are and allow your true level of hunger to guide if and what you will eat to satiate that hunger.
Based on the following scale developed by the Queensland Government, it is recommended that to maintain your natural body weight, eat when you are hungry at the scale of 3 and stop when you are full. If we rate our fullness from a scale of 1 to 10, then we should aim for a scale of 6 .
By having regular meals through the day, the hunger level is maintained in the ideal zone and prevents hunger levels dropping below 3 which can lead to overeating of unhealthy food choices and reaching a 7 or more on the scale.
How Do I Know If I’m Hungry? I’m Either Full Or Starving
This simple mindful eating practice helps you get in touch with your level of hunger:
Set a quiet calm area where you can eat and turn off any distractions and technology.
Finding a comfortable seat, take a few deep breaths and rate your level of hunger before you eat. Use the hunger level scale to determine if you are hungry? If so, what level of hunger do you feel?
- If you rate your hunger level at 6 or above, consider if there are other reasons besides hunger that are urging you to eat:
If there are other reasons besides hunger, pause and instead of eating engage in an alternate activity. This might include a short meditation or yoga sequence, going for a walk, calling a friend, running an errand or completing a small chore at home.
Listen To Your Body, Follow Your Own Appetite
Apply this simple practice to your day and don’t worry if you feel any resistance or agitation arise. Instead acknowledge your awareness and apply self-compassion to the process.
Learning to rate your hunger and fullness levels before, during and after your meals and snacks will not only enhance your practice of mindfulness but support your health and well being. Enjoy!
 Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., & Higgs, S. (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 97(4), 728–742. doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.045245
 Queensland Government. Nutritional Education Materials Online. Weight Control Resources [Internet] Queensland Health; 2015. [cited 2016 August 3] Available from: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/nutrition/resources/wtmgt_hungerscale.pdf
 Eating Disorders Foundation of Australia. Mindful eating fact sheet. [Internet] 2014. [cited 2016 September 3] Available from: https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/docman/fact-sheets/234-fact-sheet-mindful-eating