Disclaimer: This blog post is about a Hunger Scale, used to measure how hungry you are in any given moment and determine what food would be most satisfying. They are a part of the practice of Intuitive Eating. If you are experiencing food insecurity and/or are under-housed, where your choices about food and options to prepare it are limited, Hunger Scales are, at the least, ineffective. I acknowledge my privilege in using Hunger Scales.
A friend once told me not to let myself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I try to follow that sage advice as much as I can. Learning to be aware of my breath when I’m angry has helped me to stay focused and not throw the kitchen sink into arguments. Picking up the phone and dialing a friend eases my loneliness, when I remember to do it (relentlessly scrolling my FaceBook feed, however, does not). And naps are a godsend.
Hunger is a trickier beast for me, as it can feed other emotions like anger, loneliness, and exhaustion (yes, in my world tired is a feeling), causing them (and me) to burst into flame like a forest fire. I remember once, in an argument with my partner that seemed to be going in vicious circles for longer than necessary, they urged me to eat something. “Let’s just stop for a moment so you can have a peanut butter sandwich. We can start fighting again afterwards.” I was infuriated that they would even suggest something like that, especially when I was feeling so damn small and unloveable (arguing does that to me). However, it worked. Once my blood sugar became balanced, I could listen to reason. And tearfully work things out.
So here is my Hunger Scale. Because I’m not a Numbers Person (they freak me out!), I use phrases. Maybe they will sound familiar to you:
Snack Hungry - I find myself nibbling on various and sundry snacky foods or finishing the leftovers in the fridge. I’m not quite yet ready for a meal, or maybe it’s too early for dinner. Snack Hungry can trigger a Grazing Episode, where I mindlessly eat a lot of things over a sometimes short period of time in order to distract myself (some people call that a binge).
Meal Hungry - I know I need to eat a meal and it’s a good time in my schedule to do that. I have the patience and resources to purchase necessary ingredients if need be, the creativity to think of something to make, and the time, energy, and resources to cook for myself. Cooking feels like fun and is an act of self-care. I may have a snack while I’m preparing my meal, but it usually doesn’t lead to grazing.
Restaurant Hungry - I am hungry and don’t have the energy, patience, or time to cook for myself. My creativity is dwindling and my self doubt is gaining ground. The thought of food is taking the majority of my attention, and I need to eat soon. If I have the funds available, I will go to a restaurant for a meal. Otherwise, I will go home and find something there. I may have some initial difficulty making a decision about where and what to eat, but I am able to feel confident in my choices once I do.
Fast Food Hungry - I am really hungry and need to eat quickly, yet I can’t seem to decide what or where to eat. Fast food may be a good option at this point simply because it is fast. And I need to eat. Fast. Self doubt is hampering any ideas I have about solving this problem and I am mercilessly criticizing myself for every choice I make around food (especially fast food). By the time I figure out what to eat, I am emotionally overwrought. I may find myself eating in my car just to get food in me quickly. I may not even enjoy the food I'm eating. Once I have eaten, I often crave sweets for the rest of the day. A Grazing Episode may follow.
Gas Station Hungry - All bets are off and I am searching for the closest, quickest thing to eat that will satisfy me until I can have a meal. Whatever I end up eating is usually intensely salty and is washed down by something intensely sweet - i.e. a packet of cheese crackers and a soda, foods that are readily available at convenience stores. At this point I often feel incredibly guilty about eating these foods, because “I should be making better choices.” My emotions are all over the map and I am really tired. My eating feels really disorganized for the rest of the day, and I am usually critical of whatever else I do eat.
Using this Hunger Scale helps me stay connected to my body. I use it to gauge my feelings around food and what I need to do to take care of myself. How does this Hunger Scale resonate for you?
Stacey Beth Shulman is the Wake Up Fairy for your Soul. As a Gentle Activist, Subtle Disruptor, Intuitive Creatrix, and Deep See Diver, she uses her superpower of compassionate intimacy to create brave spaces for people of all shapes, sizes, genders, and abilities to experience joyful movement, restful stillness, and attuned eating with pleasure and delight. Click here to get in touch.