How Do You Know When You Are Full

stop overeating, The Hunger Scale, obesity, weight gain, lose weight

Obviously, to prevent weight gain or to promote weight loss, we need to eat less. Many of us overeat because we fail to recognize when we’ve satisfied our hunger. MIT Medical has a scale to use so that you know when you are full and it is time to stop eating.

Babies are born knowing when to eat and when to stop eating. However, over time, we tend to lose our ability to regulate our intake. But why? For most of us, it is because we eat mindlessly, while we are doing other things such as watching television or even driving in a car. Our brain is occupied with other tasks, so we eat more than we should without trying.

Another reason we overeat is because we eat too fast. When we eat, the stomach fills with food to a point where it sends a signal to the brain to stop eating. That signal takes about 12 to 15 minutes for a thin person, but may take about 20 minutes for an obese person. During that time, we may still be eating while the stomach stretches to accommodate the excess food which will ultimately turn into excess body weight.

Slowing down and paying attention to the signals our body is sending is one way to help us eat less and ultimately lose weight. The Hunger Scale is one method where you can judge how you feel, and if you need to keep eating to feed your nutrition needs or stop eating because you are full.

The goal of the Hunger Scale is to stay somewhere between a 4 and 6 at all times. You don’t want to be too hungry or you will likely make poor choices (ie: high fat, high calorie comfort foods). However, if you are at the top of the scale, you are probably uncomfortably overfilled.

1. BEYOND HUNGRY. You feel that you can’t concentrate and may feel dizzy or lightheaded. You may have a headache. You are totally lacking energy because you have let yourself go too long without eating.

2. You are irritable, cranky and very hungry. You have little energy and may even feel a little nauseous.


3. The urge to eat is strong. You feel an emptiness in your stomach. Coordination is beginning to wane.

4. You are a little hungry and start to think about food. Your body is giving you the signal that it is time to eat.

5. Your body has had enough fuel to keep it going and is physically and psychologically just starting to feel satisfied.

6. You are at the point of satisfaction. Just enough food to quell hunger, but not so much where you are feeling uncomfortable.

7. You are past the point of satisfaction, yet you can still “find room” for a little more – Your body says “no” but your mind says “yes” to a few more bites.
8. You are starting to hurt and feel uncomfortable. You realize you shouldn’t have had those last few bites.

9. You are very uncomfortable – feeling heavy, tired and bloated.

10. BEYOND FULL. Think about your last Thanksgiving. You loosened your belt and ate dessert despite eating a six-course meal. You are physically miserable and don’t want to (or can’t) move. You may feel like you never want to look at food again.

Overcoming Overeating

Here are some steps to take to prevent overeating and stay between the 4 and 6 on the Hunger Scale:
Eat slowly. You might try some tried-and-true tips such as "sip water between bites" and "chew thoroughly before swallowing.” These are aimed at slowing us down when we eat.
Be aware. Be more attentive about the whole eating experience; don't eat when you are driving or at the computer. Jean Kristeller, PhD, a psychologist and Indiana State University researcher, suggests a brief premeal meditation to get centered before eating so you can more easily derive pleasure from your food, give the meal your full attention, and notice when you've had enough.
Make the first bites count. Maximum food enjoyment comes in the initial bites. After a few bites, taste buds start to lose their sensitivity to the chemicals in food that make it taste good. Satisfying your taste buds by really savoring those first few bites may help you stop eating when you're physically comfortable.
Make your meals attractive. Using a smaller plate and paying attention to the presentation of a meal can increase your awareness of the food in front of you and help you stop eating when you are comfortable. Some research even suggests changing the color of your dinnerware may help you eat less.
Choose satisfying foods. Steer away from foods that give you a lot of calories for very little volume, such as milk shakes, cheese, and chocolate. The higher the fiber, protein, and/or water content of a food or meal, the more likely it is to be satisfying in your stomach without going overboard on calories. Start your meal off with a clear soup or salad instead of bread and fried appetizers.
Eat small meals more often. You may want to aim for eating small, healthful meals and snacks every 4 to 5 hours to prevent the feeling of being “beyond hungry.” Again, choose filling and satisfying foods, especially for snacks. For example, choose an apple and a piece of string cheese (fiber + protein) instead of a bag of potato chips or a candy bar from the vending machine.

Resources Include:
MIT Medical, Center for Health and Wellness: Hunger Scale
WebMD - Overcoming Overeating