Howdy y’all! How’s it going?
Let’s talk about hunger and satiety – they’re pretty self-explanatory, yet in the throws of my eating disorder, I had become out of whack with my natural hunger and satiety cues. I’d stuff myself during binges and then purge, or I’d attempt to restrict, only breaking down into binging and purging. No a good situation, y’all. I was all over the place, my body was completely confused.
At the Center for Discovery in Bellevue, however, the nutritionist and staff encouraged us to start listening to our bodies, and they had us do a “check in” with how hungry we were on a scale from one to ten at dinnertime so we could practice using the scale, being intuitive about hunger and satiety, trusting our bodies to tell us how full or how hungry we were at the start of the meal.
One important aspect of recovering from an eating disorder is hearing and listening to hunger and satiety cues. Anyone trapped in an eating disorder knows that your “second head” (aka the eating disorder) controls what you eat, when you eat, how you eat, etc. aka NOTHING to do with hunger and satiety. In fact, a lot of people with eating disorders completely lose these hunger and satiety cues and say they have no idea what hunger and satiety mean.
First step at finding your hunger/satiety cues is following an appropriate meal plan, created by both you and your eating disorder dietitian. Together you can come up with suggestions for meals and snacks that are realistic and will meet your nutrition needs. Once your body starts “working” again, your metabolism will start to come back and people say that slowly but surely they start to feel subtle signs of hunger and satiety.
Once that happens, it’s time to start tracking hunger and satiety cues. This is not meant to be “perfect” but rather a chance to learn more about these signals and what they mean and where they come from.
Here’s that very scale:
The Hunger and Satiety Scale
- You are STARVING! You feel tired and empty, with no energy. You may have a headache and feel nauseous.
- VERY HUNGRY – You can’t seem to tolerate anything. You may be preoccupied with hunger, and pangs may be very uncomfortable. You may be feeling dizzy and grumpy.
- Ready for a Meal – Your stomach may be growling, and you can sense pangs/gnawing sensations; you may even notice a slight pressure in the back of the throat. You are unable to focus on school, work, or conversation.
- On the Edge of Hunger – You may be feeling empty or hollow in the stomach, perhaps noticing your thoughts drifting towards food.
- Neutral – Not hungry or full. You body had enough fuel. You are ale to focus. If you are eating, you can still eat more.
- Mildly Satisfied, like after a snack – Your body feels energized but could take a few more bites.
- Satisfied, like after a meal – You body feels energized but not full. Hunger is gone and the rate of eating slows.
- Definitely Full – 2 bites too many. The taste, texture, and appearance of food may not stand out very much at this point. You may notice yourself eating without paying attention to the food. You may feel a slight discomfort.
- Uncomfortably Full – You are VERY full, your stomach may hurt, you may be feeling sleepy or sluggish.
- Beyond Full – You are likely physically miserable. You may have an intense urge to lie down, you are in pain, you can’t focus, don’t want or can’t move.
I do very well now listening to my hunger cues thanks to this little scale.
For instance, when I ate dinner on Sunday night, my hunger was at about a 3 before my meal. Once I had finished, I was at a 7.5, I’d say … I was pretty damn satisfied! 🙂 My hubs cooked up two giant rib-eyes (I cut mine in half and saved it for another meal), and we had steak salads with heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers (and hummus for me), all on a bed of spinach with bleu cheese.
Here are a few “guidelines” about the scale:
1. Try to start eating when you’re at a 3 or 4 on the hunger scale- what does that feel like to you?
2. Stop eating at a 5 or 6 – and see what that feels like. It’s also helpful to sometimes wait to see if your body feels any different after digesting your meal (ex. the typical 20 minutes later idea).
3. Instead of relying on external signals (like an empty plate) to stop eating, try to listen to your satiety cues. This may mean putting your fork down between bites and trying to sit still with food still on your plate, i.e. just slowing down while you eat and listening to the cues.
I hope this scale helps someone out there … it’s very *different* for me to be listening to my cues and relying on that scale to gauge fullness and hunger. The bulimia in particular caused an abnormal increase in the sensation of hunger in my brain, also known as hyperorexia. In hyperorexia, you’re only satisfied with large meals (and then purge them, leading to even MORE hunger … which leads to more purging, you get the idea).
Reference: All About Hunger and Fullness in ED Recovery by Jennifer McGurk.