The next time you find yourself snacking, ask yourself if you are actually hungry. With such hectic schedules, it’s no surprise that we are often out of touch with our bodies‘ hunger and satiety signals. There are vending machines around every corner, snacks at work and that ice cream bar waiting at the 7-Eleven down the block. We no longer ask ourselves if we’re actually hungry. Sometimes we eat to satisfy hunger, but at other times we eat to satisfy our appetite – it’s vital to understand the difference.

What’s the difference between appetite and hunger?

Your appetite is a psychological desire to eat. It’s what’s at work when you’re not really hungry but you still want to eat because you’re feeling bored, sad or angry or just because the food is there – you look around and those cookies on your colleague’s desk start speaking to you. Hunger is physical and is controlled by physiological conditions like your blood sugar level and the contents of your stomach.

This is where the hunger scale comes in. It’s a tool that can help you to learn how to eat only when you’re actually hungry and stop as soon as you start to feel full.

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What is the hunger scale?

The hunger scale is a measurement of hunger graded from 1–10, with 1 being ravenous and 10 being overly stuffed.

1 Beyond hungry: you may have a headache. You can’t concentrate and may feel dizzy. You are totally out of energy and need to lie down.

2 Uncomfortably hungry: this is when you are “hangry” – you feel irritable and cranky with little energy.

3 Very hungry: the urge to eat is strong. You feel an emptiness in your stomach.

4 A little hungry: you start to think about food. Your body is giving you signals that you might want to eat.

5 Not full but not that hungry: your body has enough fuel to keep it going and is physically and psychologically just starting to be satisfied.

6 Satisfied and light: you are fully at the point of satisfaction.  

7 Comfortable but slightly too full: you’re past the point of satisfaction yet you can still find room for a little more. Your body says no and your mind says yes to a few more bites.

8 Very full: you are actually starting to hurt. Maybe you shouldn’t have had more food, but it tasted oh so good.

9 Too full: The after-effects of eating feel really uncomfortable. Maybe you didn’t eat all day to leave room for this meal and you feel heavy, tired and bloated. At this point, you just want to go to bed.

10 Thanksgiving dinner full: If you’re American or Canadian, you’ll understand this typical Thanksgiving dinner feeling – you are physically miserable, don’t want to (or can’t) move and feel like you never want to look at food again.

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What should you do with the hunger scale?

The next time you eat, rank your hunger level right before you take your first bite. Halfway through your meal, rank your hunger again using the same scale, and if you find yourself at 5, 6 or 7, put your fork or spoon down and stop eating. Most people enjoy their food and are most comfortable when they are between 3–6 on the hunger scale.

Avoid getting down to 1 or 2 on the hunger scale because you are more likely to overeat, get to 8, 9 or 10 and then hate yourself.

What should I eat when I’m actually hungry?

Before you decide to run down to that 7-Eleven, grab some water first, since we often confuse thirst with hunger. Then if you’re really hungry, always pair carbohydrates with a protein. So instead of just eating an apple, have your apple with some peanut butter. Instead of having just crackers, pair them with some cheese. You are more likely to feel fuller for longer.

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Eatology helps to control your appetite by providing snacks between your main meals. We care about not only the food you are eating but also the way in which you eat. We make sure you remain on the right diet track even when you are not taking part in one of our programmes. For more information, please send an email to

Healthy living Made simple and delicious EATOLOGY, YOUR MEAL PLANNER IN HONG KONG

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