Intentional eating is not a new concept, but we seem to have forgotten the benefits of being intentional about life in general and also about our food and nutrition. Throughout our day, we have many temptations that lure us away from eating health and taking care of our bodies well. Think about your typical day. How often do you see, smell, or consider a not so healthy food options? In my typical day, I come across temptations like this at least 6-8 times each day! How can we help ourselves to strengthen our self-control muscles to resist most of these temptations?
Intentional Eating with the Hunger Scale
One of the most practical ways to resist temptation and to eat with intention is to use the hunger scale. The hunger scale can help you pay more attention to your body and determine whether or not you need to be eating. This scale is helpful when you are trying to increase your awareness of yourself, your food choices, and how you feel. Intentional (mindful) eating can be a way to help you succeed in your health goals by helping you slow down, enjoy your food, be thankful for your food, and become more aware. For more information about mindful eating visit https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/
The hunger scale is a simple tool that may help you eat more intentionally. It is a scale from one to ten. One is ravenous, like you would eat most anything if it was in front of you, and ten is feeling sick because you overate. Your goal is to stay between a three and a seven MOST of the time. One of the keys when considering using this scale is to not let yourself get over hungry (a two). The second key is that you don’t want to get to the point of being full (an eight). Rather, you should strive to be aware of your hunger pangs at a 3, and stop when you are feeling satisfied.
Assess Your Habits
Our typical eating habits don’t follow this rule very well. We are often unprepared and allow ourselves to become over hungry (a two), and we often think we need to eat to the point of being full (an eight). When we allow ourselves to become over hungry, we don’t make a good choice. Think about just arriving home from work ravenous. Is the first thing you will reach for some carrots? No, probably not. Your body is craving something that will give you a lot of energy in a short period of time. This is when we often make a not so good choice and choose chips, cheese, crackers, or cookies. We also often eat to the point of feeling full. We do not need to eat that much. Our bodies are actually designed to function much better when we are satisfied, but not full.
When was the last time you ate just to be satisfied, but not full?
Look at the hunger scale below. Assess your situation and where you tend to begin and end your meals. If you are allowing yourself to become over hungry, brainstorm some solutions to prevent that. Maybe you need to add a snack. It may help to change your meal schedule or to increase your portion at one of your meals.
Look also at the opposite end of the scale. If you are allowing yourself to get to the point of full, how can you prevent that? Consider slowing down during your meal. Maybe you need to eat with more intention and focus on the flavors and textures of your food. Lastly, giving thanks before a meal provides a moment to be more intentional with your habits.
Where are you?
|Over-hungry||Hunger Pangs||Hunger “awareness”||Neutral||Just Satisfied||Completely Satisfied||Full||Stuffed||Sick|
Consider a couple of possible solutions. Take time to plan how you will implement this solution. For example, if I decided to add healthy snack on my way home from work to prevent myself from getting over hungry, I might need to plan a morning where I can prep my veggies to include in that snack. I might also need to put a reminder on the door so that I don’t forget to grab it on my way out.
Think about printing out this scale and using it often. You can also make it a part of your journal or food records. Just beginning to develop some awareness about your body and what it needs can be really helpful in this journey to a healthier you. This hunger scale is a very helpful tool in keeping you on the Nourished Road.