Healthy Eating: Use The 1 To 10 Fullness Scale To Prevent Overeating

Summit’s nutrition and wellness team explains the fullness scale and how you can use it to prevent yourself from overindulging and develop healthier eating habits.

Fullness scale

Knowing when to put your fork down and stop eating sounds easier than it is for many of us. Summit’s nutrition and wellness team has a trick that can help: when you eat, be aware of where you are on the fullness scale.

Use a 1 to 10 scale

Imagine a scale that goes from 1 to 10. When you are at 1, you feel famished; you have to eat something right away or you feel like you are going to die. At 10, you feel completely stuffed—the way most of us feel after Thanksgiving dinner: you can’t believe you ate all that food and now you just want to sleep.

We encourage clients to avoid the scale extremes. You never want to be at 1 or at 10. When you wake up in the morning, you might feel like you are starving just because you slept a long time. That’s OK. But during the day, you want to eat just enough to keep your hunger level at a 2 or 3 before a meal, and at a 7 when you put your fork down.

Understanding hunger

People think that going on a diet means feeling hungry all the time, but that’s not the most successful approach. It’s OK to feel hungry, but you should never feel like you are starving. When you start dinner at a 1 on the fullness scale, you are at risk of overcompensating and eating your way to a 9 or 10 level of fullness.

The fullness scale

Summit’s nutrition and wellness team cautions that there’s no hard and fast rule about how many or how few meals we need to eat; everyone feels the fullness scale differently.

We like the fullness scale because regardless of your eating habits, you know when you are between a 3 and a 7, and that’s where you want to stay. Maintaining that happy middle can be different for everyone. You don’t want to eat until you are hungry. If you aren’t hungry for dinner four hours after you have lunch, you might want to have a smaller lunch. Some people need healthy snacks to avoid that starving feeling mid-morning or mid-afternoon. Other people can go five hours without eating and won’t feel hungry until 30 minutes before they eat. That’s fine. Not everyone needs snacks. I also have clients who eat breakfast and dinner without ever feeling hungry at lunch, and maintain a balanced diet and healthy eating habits.

There’s not a single way to eat well, and no one eats perfectly all of the time. Tools like the fullness scale can help us to be conscious of our level of hunger and support the cultivation of good eating habits over a lifetime.

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