How to Use the Hunger and Fullness Scale

Hunger & Fullness Scale

The Hunger and Fullness Scale* is a useful tool for assessing your hunger and fullness levels before, during, and after you eat. It will help you identify your hunger cues, observe how different types and amounts of food affect you, and recognize when the urge to eat has been triggered by something other than hunger. This scale is not intended to set strict guidelines about when you should eat; rather, it helps you develop a greater awareness of your body’s subtle signals.

The Hunger and Fullness Scale ranges from 1 to 10. A level 1 represents ravenous—you’re so hungry you could eat this page. A level 10 means you’re so full that you’re in pain and feel sick. Remember, smaller numbers, smaller stomach; larger numbers, larger stomach.

In the middle of the scale is level 5: neutral, comfortable, or satisfied. At a 5, you cannot feel your stomach at all. It’s neither empty nor full; it isn’t growling or feeling stretched.

It helps to develop a good mental picture of what’s happening to your stomach at these different levels of hunger and fullness. Make a fist with your right hand; your empty stomach is about that size.

This is a level 1. One or two handfuls of food will take you from a level 1 to a 5.

Another way to picture your stomach is to think of a balloon. When it’s empty you’re at a 1. When you blow that first puff of air into the balloon, it fills out gently and takes its shape. That’s a 5.

As you take a deep breath and force more air into a balloon, its elastic walls begin to stretch and expand. These are levels 6 through 10. Your stomach is able to stretch to a 10 in order to hold excess food; therefore, the numbers over 5 indicate how stretched or uncomfortable your stomach feels.

If you blow too much air in, a balloon would continue to stretch and eventually pop. Fortunately, stomachs rarely rupture, but most of us have eaten so much at one time or another that we’ve said, “If I eat one more bite, I will explode!” When you feel this way, you’re at a 10.

Of course, changes in blood sugar levels, energy levels, moods, and substances in the bloodstream resulting from the digestive process also signal hunger and fullness. These other clues help tell you how hungry or full you are.

It may be challenging at first to label your hunger and fullness levels with numbers, but as you practice, it becomes second nature. You can learn to use this awareness to decide when, what, and how much to eat.

Hunger and Fullness Descriptions*
1 – Ravenous: Too hungry to care what you eat. This is a high-risk time for overeating.
2 – Starving: You feel you must eat NOW!
3 – Hungry: Eating would be pleasurable, but you can wait longer.
4 – Hunger pangs: You’re slightly hungry; you notice your first thoughts of food.
5 – Satisfied: You’re content and comfortable. You’re neither hungry nor full; you can’t feel your stomach at all.
6 – Full: You can feel the food in your stomach.
7 – Very full: Your stomach feels stretched, and you feel sleepy and sluggish.
8 – Uncomfortable: Your stomach is too full, and you wish you hadn’t eaten so much.
9 – Stuffed: Your clothes feel very tight, and you’re very uncomfortable.
10 – Sick: You feel sick and/or you’re in pain.

* From the book series: Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Download chapter one at

Copyright Michelle May MD. Reprinted with permission.

‘Mindless to Mindful Eating’ Success Story

Kelli and her family

Kelli and her family

Recently, Enliven Wellness Works sat down with Kelli Marchman Rivera to discuss her recent successes after completing the Mindless to Mindful Eating Corporate Wellness Program. Here’s what she had to say…

EWW: What positive health/mind/behavior changes have you experienced since the start of the program?
KMR: I am in control!!! Eating was taking over my life. I ate for every reason in the world except for being hungry. Since starting this program, I now am paying attention to what my body is telling me, and giving it what it asks for. Putting down my fork was the first step. Now, as a family, we eat more unprocessed foods (my husband is so excited about our new crock pot!), and we take the time to sit down with no distractions and enjoy each other’s company. And I’ve had my son tell others about how big your stomach actually is (a fist) and how much food it can hold. I LOVE hearing this thinking taking hold in my family.

EWW: How would you describe your health before you started Mindful Eating?
KMR: As an older teacher, I was eating to control stress. My weight was creeping up the scale, cholesterol was an issue, and I was always tired. I had also noticed the shape of my body changing, and while a little extra around the middle is common in 40-somethings, I was unhappy. I felt out of control, and it was time to do something. The Mindful Eating program came at exactly the right time for me. I used to eat everything on my plate without really enjoying it. Portion control was my biggest issue. Even now I still find myself eating everything on my plate. I just use smaller plates, or put half away before putting the food in front of me.

EWW: What motivated you to make these changes? 
KMR: As a teacher, there are many things that are beyond our control. Teacher evaluations, unruly kids, long hours, and new curriculum every year take its toll emotionally and physically. Eating was one thing within my power to control. And now I can.

EWW: What keeps you motivated?
KMR: My body is changing. While I do not own a scale, and never will, I feel that my clothes are fitting a little bit better. My mood is happier. Control does that. And in the back of my mind, the idea that being healthy will keep me around longer to take care of my family will always motivate me. I’ve also been talking to others about being mindful. While some have been resistant, I’ve had a couple come back and say, “You know, I tried putting down my fork, and I really did begin to feel satisfied before I’d finished the food.” Success!!! Friends in the program have also helped me. It’s nice to see a fellow mindful eater in the hallway, and celebrate successes together.

EWW: What are your future goals?
KMR: I will continue to eat mindfully, one day at a time. With the holidays coming up, this will be interesting. But no more diets! I am in control of me! I choose what I will eat, and this has freed me up from the guilt involved in what I used to think of as “cheating”.  I have also begun a weight training program in the mornings (Body Electric on PBS) that makes my body feel stronger. And I will continue to wear my pedometer. It’s a great motivator to get moving.

EWW: Do you have any advice for others who would like to improve their health but realize now that diets are not the answer?
KMR: Pay attention to your body. Slow down and listen. Food is not for comfort. Food is just for staying alive. Put your fork down between bites for just one meal. And see what happens. 


Enliven_Logo_sprout_1Enliven Wellness Works provides a full menu of workplace wellness solutions.  To learn more, contact or click here.

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

National Diabetes Awareness Month

National Diabetes Awareness Month, observed annually in November, is a time for individuals, organizations, and communities across the country to shine a spotlight on diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, – or sugar – for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.

Diabetes is one of the most serious health problems we face today. Over 8% (26 million) of the U.S. population are dealing with this battle.  Compared to the general population, African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, and people with a family history are disproportionately affected by diabetes. Diabetes can be prevented or delayed  by maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and being active. With these steps, you can stay healthier longer and lower your risk of diabetes.

For more information on diabetes, visit Or, to see what’s happening around the world on World Diabetes Day (November 14th), click here.

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month 2014

September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. Childhood obesity rates remain high. Obese young people have an 80-percent chance of becoming obese adults and are more likely than children of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults. As a result, they are more at risk for associated adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, stroke, and several types of cancer. Attacking the obesity problem while children are young is our best hope to eliminate an obesity problem when these children are adults. Ready to take action? Check out these tips and more to help improve the health of our children at

  • Keep fresh fruit in a bowl within your child’s reach to grab as a quick snack.
  • Take a walk with your family after dinner.
  • Plan a menu for the week and get your children involved with the planning and cooking.
  • Turn off the TV during meals and share some family time.
  • Talk to the principal about organizing a school health team.

Let’s call national attention to this epidemic! For more information, visit

Back-to-School Recipe – Eggplant Pizza Pie


This is a simple throw-together for a busy back-to-school night.

Ingredients (I must admit I don’t use exact measurements here. I just throw it together, and it comes out awesome every time):

  • Onion
  • Eggplant
  • Basil
  • Spinach
  • Pine nuts
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Sliced tomatoes
  • Feta (Bulgarian)
  • Naan bread

1. Dice and sauté onions, add diced eggplant and cook until soft
2. While the onions and eggplant are cooking, make a simple pesto. I prefer using the bullet to quickly grind it all down.  In the bullet, add spinach, basil (and any other herbs of choice i.e. oregano, cilantro, etc), pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.
3. Finally, put it all together. Place Naan bread on a cookie sheet (you can toast it in the oven for about 5 min before adding ingredients  – depending on preference). Add a layer of pesto, top with sliced tomatoes, crumbled feta (we prefer the Bulgarian kind), and finally the eggplant and onion mixture.
4. Bake at 375 for about 10 min

This takes about 30 minutes total, and is phenomenal! Enjoy!

(Sorry, there’s no picture yet. We ate it too fast 🙂 )

kaluwa pic 2013Kaluwa  is “the Dancing Health Coach”.  She has graduated from SUNY Oneonta with a BA in Human Biology, and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition  as a Certified Holistic Health Coach recognized by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners.  She is also a  Certified Group Fitness Instructor, and a Dance Instructor. Kaluwa enjoys healthy living, and “walks the talk”. Her family shares the passion and enjoys activities together such as growing herbs and vegetables, cooking, walking, rollerblading, dance, martial arts, meditation, yoga, and learning and playing at every opportunity.

National Fruits and Veggies More Matters Month


More Matters

September is National Fruits and Veggies More Matters Month. Join us in incorporating more fruits and veggies into your diet. Take a trip to your local farmer’s market and sample something you may never have eaten before. It all starts with more. Eat more fruits and veggies in the morning, for snacks, for lunch, for dinner. Get the essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants fruits and vegetables you need by making a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables the focal point of every meal to meet your daily goal. It doesn’t matter if the fruit is fresh, canned, dried, frozen or 100% juice, it’s never been easier to eat fruits and veggies than today, every day.

For more information, visit–More+Matters+Month

Compassion or Control?


Compassion or Control? Have you ever compassionately helped someone out of a bind and felt exhausted or depleted? Have you offered advice that wasn’t acted upon and felt angry? Have you given something that wasn’t utilized and felt used? Me, too! And I didn’t like it; not one bit. But it kept happening – over and over – and I had to start to look at the common denominator – me.

As I’ve ambled through my journey of self-discovery, I picked up a copy of Iyanla Vanzant’s “One Day My Soul Just Opened Up” (at my friend’s gentle encouragement), and boy, did she hit me with some zingers! When I got to the topic of compassion – which, I thought – by my continuous out-pouring of ‘help’ –  I would glide through – I was stopped in my tracks. It hit me like a ton of bricks – and I didn’t like that either, but the Truth was so loud that I could no longer ignore it.

Compassion, she says, is not helping others get out of their messes, but supporting them through their messes until they come out the other side. Helping someone do something they should be doing for themselves is not compassion, but a quest for power and control. Power??? Control??? Me??? Ummmmmm…yes. That was my (sad) Truth. Man, that Iyanla tells it straight!

But the more I read it, again and again, it started to make sense. If I was really acting with compassion, I would not be carrying their load and the responsibility for the fixing. Compassion doesn’t feel like that. Control sure does. She goes on to say that compassionate people do not take other’s power away. And isn’t that what I’m doing when I’m making the calls for you? Scheduling appointments for you? Paying the bills for you? Shoving my (unsolicited) solutions down your throat? Yep. I’ve taken on the role that believes ‘I know best and can do it better, and you should – and will – be grateful’ (which usually doesn’t happen).

“A compassionate person wants you, as a universal being, to realize your wholeness. Your wholeness has nothing to do with being nice, and a compassionate person recognizes that your journey to wholeness may not look nice. Compassionate people have the ability to nurture, comfort, and provide nourishment to others at various stages. They heal without making themselves sick”

Since I’ve been practicing the art (and it is an art because it takes lots & lots of practice) of compassion, I find myself more at ease; more able to discern where I end and you begin. I’m able to be truly compassionate and demonstrate empathy, and sometimes sympathy, while supporting others through their crises’. It allows me to be more loving and kind, and it allows them to stand on their own two feet and solve their own problems. In other words, I’m supporting them while they find their own power. And that’s something we can both feel good about!

Here are some tips I’ve used to help me discern between compassion and control:

  • Is this something they can/should be doing on their own?
  • If I do this, will it deplete or exhaust me in any of the following ways? Energy? Money? Time? Peace of mind?
  • If they don’t/won’t accept my help, can I be at peace about it?
  • What’s the worst that can happen if they do it on their own, even if they fail?
  • Can I let others fall down and learn their own lessons, or do I insist they avoid that pain at all cost and just let me handle it?

I think you get the gist. If letting people manage their own lives causes me any distress at all, it’s time for me to retreat. There’s a reason that the airlines suggest we put on our own masks before helping others with theirs.



Laura M Turley, LMT – After working over 30 years in various corporate roles, then managing the many challenges of middle age, Laura finds that she’s uniquely qualified to relate to – and address – the myriad issues facing individuals in this age group. Certain aches and pains that accompany growing older (and wiser!) are quite common but equally as significant are the increasing side effects of our habitual patterns, life stresses and the fact that we make little-to-no time for ourselves. Massage allows her to bridge the gap between your daily pressures & pains of life to a more healthful, pain-free existence – and it feels good, too!  Laura’s clients say that her knowledge – coupled with her compassionate approach – is what keeps them coming back.