Intentional Eating: What is it?

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. I have used the phrase Intentional Eating to describe a combination of Intuitive Eating concepts and Biblical Concepts and how they can come together. Intuitive eating consists of 10 principles. Each of these principles focus on getting rid of dieting! In fact, three of the principles involve getting back to feeling and understanding your hunger. Principle #2: Honor Your Hunger, Principle #5: Feel Your Fullness, and Principle #6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor.

Biblical concepts come into this equation when we think about our “why” and our “how”. The Bible helps us understand the importance of taking care of and respecting our physical bodies. The Bible also teaches us to create balance in our lives in using food as both nourishment and for pleasure. We can also learn what kinds of attitudes please God in the way we eat. For example, God loves to see that we are patient and joyful in our journey.

Using the Hunger Scale

The hunger scale can help you pay more attention to your body and determine if you are physically hungry or if you are eating for other reasons.  This scale is helpful when you are trying to increase your awareness of yourself, your food choices, and how you feel.  Intentional 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

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 be intentional about recognizing 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 almost certainly will not 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?

1 2 3 4 6 7 8 9 10


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.  Just beginning to develop some awareness about your body and what it needs can be really helpful in your journey. Salud!

Note: article originally published Oct 26, 2018 and has been revised.

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