Have you ever been hungry?

When is the last time you were hungry? I mean “really” hungry. Apparently, North Americans lose the sense of hunger by the time they are 35 years old. Our culture has trained us to prevent hunger and voila – we gain weight, become obese, and suffer many diseases due to overeating. We need to allow hunger to happen and then re-learn how to recognize and respond to it in a healthy fashion.

 Merriam-Webster defines hunger as: 

  • a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient,
  • an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food,
  • a weakened condition brought on by prolonged lack of food.

 Hunger is a totally physical condition. You don’t have to think about it to recognize it. It is a gut feeling without question. However most of us no longer experience it. If you stopped eating right now, it would take 3 days for you to feel real hunger.

Your stomach growling is not hunger. It’s deceiving since your stomach may growl when it expects to eat, not when it is actually hungry. In fact, growls sometimes occur more often after eating than before.

Headaches, light-headedness, and weakness are not hunger. They are the result of sugar-processing issues brought on by years of overeating.


Cover of

Cover of Seven Secrets of Slim People


Vikki Hansen & Shawn Goodman in Seven Secrets of Slim People, Hay House Inc., 1997 introduces a 0 to 10 point scale that quantifies hunger, fullness (satiety) and overeating. This scale is crucial to correcting eating disorders. Leslie Beck, in Heart Healthy Foods For Life, Penguin Group, 2009 discusses eight stages of hunger and its satiety or satisfaction. I know that I maintain a normal BMI if I eat only when I am hungry.

I have modified their ideas by visualizing each stage as a segment of a clock. The hunger phases occur from 0 (or 12) to 6 o’clock and the fullness or over-fullness stages from 6 to 12 (or 0) o‘clock.

0 – absolutely starved; you will overeat.

1 – too hungry to care what you eat; you will overeat.

2 – seriously hungry; can’t concentrate; you must eat now.

3 – moderately hungry; could wait longer.

4 – slightly hungry; you could eat something, but not a large meal.

5 – hunger has almost disappeared; you could eat another bite.

6 – satisfied, comfortable; not hungry and not full  

7 – slightly uncomfortable; you feel the food; you are slightly full..

8 – uncomfortable; sleepy, sluggish; your waistband is noticeably tighter.

9 – very uncomfortable; stomach hurts

10 – stuffed, bloated; Leslie Beck calls this “Thanksgiving Day” full.

11 – in pain; nauseous

The secret to eating properly is to eat only at the 4 to 6 o’clock stages. Stay tuned. There’s more to discuss about hunger and overeating in future posts.


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