Understanding Your Hunger Scale

blog Apr 10, 2023

All guides are now here.

If you would like to listen to this blog as a podcast, it is at Keto and Low Carb Success Episode 6.  

When I first began my work in earnest with the hunger scale, I was beginning with the Keto diet, so some of my references here are to that. However, learning to use my hunger scale has opened up new eating horizons to me.

Here is the roadmap to this week's blog:

A bit of personal experience

Learning that your hunger scale is perhaps the most important key 

What mistakes are we making?

What is the cost of making these mistakes?

Let's call out a new way of doing things

Constructing a hunger scale

Eating past a 6 or 7 is not a moral issue

Actionable Coaching Advice

Get out of prison using your hunger scale

A bit of personal experience

  • The hardest part for me about following Keto was that it was not a prescribed diet. Yes, at the beginning I watched my carbohydrates like a hawk, but it was not a prescribed plan.
    • I had to plan what to eat all by myself.
    • The hardest instruction with Keto is the directive to “eat fat to satiety.”
      • What does that even mean?
      • When did I ever eat to satiety and not blow right past it?
      • I stopped eating because an App told me I was out of points or calories.
      •  I ate until I was stuffed, and another bite would make me sick.
      • I ate until all the food on the plate was finished.
      • So what the heck was satiety?
      • What did “enough” mean?
    • I realized that I needed to pick my hard.
      • I had finally come to a point where I realized that my old hard was weighing, measuring and tracking.
      • My new hard was going to be to learn my hunger and satiety cues.
        • Although I had been an on-the-clock eater and thus my hunger cues were somewhat dulled, it didn’t take long to find them. Skipping one or two meals during that first week of trying this out clinched my ability to pick up on what hunger really feels like.
        • Other things that dulled my ability to know when I was hungry were environmental cues like “smell cookies – want cookies” or triggers such as anger and boredom.
        • The satiety cue was – and sometimes still is – difficult.
          • Because I had been weighing and measuring my food since the age of 13, I used measurements to tell me when I had enough.
          • I never ever made that decision on my own.
        • Learning to identify my levels of hunger and satiety was one of the most important steppingstones in being successful in dieting on its head and developing an eating lifestyle not a diet.
        • I used the hunger scale (on paper or in my mind) every time I questioned whether or not I was hungry and howhungry I was.
        • When I did it enough times particularly on paper, I was eventually able to think about it before I reached for food.
        • Now, without much thought, I just stop for a second and put a number to my thought or urge to eat.
        • Very often I will identify the number as being at or above 5 (which is satisfied to full) in which case my thoughts of food end right there and I know it’s not time to eat.
        • Other times I think about it further and ask myself what is causing me to want to eat even though my number is 5 or more.
        • Oftentimes I can pinpoint the issue. It could be that I am bored, I had a disagreement with someone or that I am avoiding an activity.
        • The next step is to not even think about the number but immediately recognize what is driving me and dismiss the hunger as head hunger or emotional hunger.
        • In other blogs I address urges, but before you can begin to tackle that, you must learn to identify real hunger.


Learning to work with your hunger scale is perhaps the most important key for getting out of diet prison.


What mistakes are we making?

    • The most common mistake that we dieters make is thinking that we need an outside source (such as an app, a commercial diet program and our measuring spoons and cups) to tell us when we are full.
    • We think we are always hungry and will never know when we are full.
    • Wrangling with your hunger scale can often be just wrangling with head hunger (“It’s lunchtime so I’m hungry for lunch”), heart hunger (“I’m lonely and food always makes me feel better”) or habit (“I always pick up and eat a croissant when I pass this bakery”).
    • However, as I addressed in an earlier blog, there is very much a hormonal biological basis for when you feel true hunger. Leptin and ghrelin, known as the “hunger hormones” along with insulin, all play important roles in hunger regulation. Their ineffectiveness, caused by years of yo-yo dieting and/or high carbohydrate consumption, makes it so that you can eat and never feel full, making it hard to find the “satisfied” mark on your hunger scale.
    • We make the mistake of thinking that means we need to give up and just eat what we are told to eat, in the quantities we are told to eat.
    • This is not true!
    • Your body will begin to self-regulate if you exercise portion control and eat few, if any, foods that keep you hungry such as excessive carbohydrates that raise your insulin levels. 


Why are we making these mistakes?

  • We make these mistakes because we are brainwashed into thinking that we don’t know what is best for our own selves.
  • We think we have no control and can’t be trusted around food.
  • We think we will never learn.


What is the cost of making these mistakes?

  • The number one cost of making these mistakes is that you have self-doubt, negative-self talk, and a defeatist attitude toward losing weight.
  • You think that you must follow a commercial diet plan because only the plan has the answers you need.
  • The cost is that you never trust yourself. You do have the answers, my friend, you really do. You just need to listen for them.  


I want to call out a new way of doing things and this is to work to understand and use your hunger scale.


  • The most important thing you must do right here and now is to pick your hard.
  • If you have never worked with your hunger scale, I want to tell you right now that it will be harder than any diet you have ever been on, but things can turn around very quickly if you give it an honest go.
  • I am going to read out loud here the hunger scale that I created and use. Pay attention right now and don’t write anything down. I have it available in many places including the show notes and the free bonus guide I am giving you with this episode. It is also in my blog, book and course – it is so important that I am making it easily available in all these places.
  • A heads up that famished is a 1 and stuffed is a 10. 
  • It is very important that you listen to, read and understand the narrative at each level of the hunger scale.


Constructing a Hunger Scale


1 -        Ravenous and famished. You are starving, feeling faint or shaky.

2 -        Really hungry. You may be preoccupied with food.

12: TRY NOT TO ALLOW YOURSELF TO GET HERE: You will make poor food choices and eat too fast.

3 -        Hungry. Ready for a meal but you don’t feel like you need to stop everything and eat.

4 -       Hungry.  You could put off eating a bit longer. Distraction will take your mind off food, but not for long.

34: THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO EAT:  You will be able to make good food choices and not wolf down your food.

5 -        Neutral.  If you are eating, you could stop here.  Also, if you are not eating, your mind really doesn’t go to food. You haven’t hit 3 or 4 yet.

6 -       Satisfied.  A little more might make you full, but you could finish what you are eating and not be stuffed.

56: THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO STOP EATING: You have enjoyed your meal and can easily walk away from anything that is left. You will stop thinking about food or you might notice about 20 minutes after finishing that you are comfortably full.

7 -       Full.  You might start to feel a little uncomfortable and wish you didn’t have those last few morsels. 

8 -       Very Full.  At this point you are definitely feeling uncomfortable, and definitely wishing you hadn’t continued eating. 

78:  STOP – REALLY:  You might find that you are determined to also have a dessert with a meal.  I’m telling you now: You’ll be sorry. Please don’t!

9 -       Overfull, stuffed, uncomfortable, bloated, stomachache. 

10 -      Absolutely stuffed. You are not only uncomfortable, but you may be nauseous, sweating, need to sleep, and painfully full.

910:  FORGIVE YOURSELF: Then, if you can, get up and walk around. 

  • Don’t make it worse by beating yourself up and punishing yourself by eating even more. 
  • If you find yourself here often then it is time to talk with a counselor or do some serious thought work and introspection.
  • You are getting here not because the food tastes too good to stop. 
  • There are other, deeper issues, and I implore you to work on figuring them out.


Please know that: Eating past a 6 or 7 is not a moral issue.

  • It is not the tipping point between whether you are a good person or a bad person, a worthy person or an unworthy person.
  • It is a question of how do you want to feel?
  • There is the physical layer.
  • The mental layer is actually more important.
  • How will you feel if you eat food not on your plan and feel way past full?
  • Can you give yourself permission or will you beat yourself up, hate yourself and maybe get totally derailed from your food plan?
  • It is important to see yourself through several of these situations.
  • Sometimes eat, sometimes don’t eat.
  • Eventually you will learn what is best for you.
  • One size does not fit all! 



  • Construct a hunger scale.
  • You can use mine that is available as a free download (below), or make one that suits you better.

There are several ways to construct a scale.

  • One that I like in addition to the one I use here, provides a visual. I remember at a Weight Watchers meeting years ago, we all found red balloons on our chairs.
    • We were asked to blow air into them until they started to take shape but weren’t full.
    • That represented what I call “5” on my scale: Neutral.
    • On either side of that quantity of air were 1 to 4 and 6 to 10.
    •  It gave a great visual of your stomach being empty to totally full and ready to pop.
    • Sometimes instead of visualizing the number I will see that red balloon in my mind’s eye. 
  • I have also used a scale of 1 to 5, where 2 to 3 would sit at neutral, and full would be at 5.
    • It was easy to ask myself if I was -2 to +2.
    • -2 would mean to at least start preparing to eat so that I would not get into famished territory where I would make unhelpful decisions.
    • +2 meant that it was either time to wind up my meal or not eat at all if I hadn’t started.
  • No matter what scale is comfortable for you, become aware of your hunger/fullness signals and where “neutral” lies for you.

There is no judgement involved.

  •   If you are eating when you are not hungry, just note it.
  •  If you have eaten past full, just note it.
  •  We are going to come back to the hunger scale many times because questions come up about whether or not you can eat even if you aren’t hungry, or what to do when you have blown way past full, and all those negative thoughts come back into play. But for right now, let’s just get into the swing of awareness.
  • Journal on how you feel – mentally and physically – at each level.
  • But if you just take the time at least think about it, you will be on your way to making smart and guided decisions.

Get Out of Diet Prison Using Your Hunger Scale

To help you understand and construct your own Hunger Scale, I am offering you the Working With The Hunger Scale guide.

  • Using this free guide is perhaps the strongest key to unlock the door of diet prison.
  • Using it will free you from the diet prison of weighing, measuring and tracking your food.  

Learn more about this with my book and course:

Book Breaking Free From Diet Prison: Common Sense Keto and Low Carb 

Course Keto and Low Carb Success

 The Hunger Scale

Granny Keto Transitions Program

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