This Simple Tool Could Put an End to Mindless Eating

Master mindful eating with this handy hunger gauging trick.

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If your “Hello, my name is” nametag should say “Mindless Muncher,” join the club. Most people can’t help but overindulge from time to time—whether it’s Thanksgiving, a birthday party, or a Friday night in with some Häagen-Dazs and Netflix.

An extra slice of ‘za once in a while won’t tip the scale much, but making it a daily habit can. Mindless eating happens when entertaining distractions, emotional fluctuations, or stressful situations numb your hunger cues, causing you to eat more without realizing it. (Who hasn’t polished off half a bag of chips after a stressful day or while binge-watching a TV show?)

So how can you regain control over your eating patterns? Enter: The hunger scale. This simple tool can help you listen to your body, so you know when to pick up and put down the fork. Next time you’re mid-meal or hit with a craving, rate your hunger from 1 to 10, like so:

1. Ravenous. You’re starving; you’d eat your desk if you could.

2. Very hungry. You can’t concentrate; visions of hamburgers dance in your head.

3. Hungry. Your stomach feels empty and it’s growling (Grrrr).

4. Semi hungry. It’s not urgent, but you’re ready to eat.

5. Comfortable. You’re neither hungry nor full.

6. Satisfied. You’re perfectly, comfortably full.

7. Very full. You’re thinking you ate too much of that super burrito.

8. Uncomfortably full. OK, you ate the entire super burrito.

9. Very uncomfortably full. You need looser pants and a nap STAT.

10. Stuffed. You feel sick.

If you’re feeling anything before 5 (“comfortable”), then go ahead and eat. If you’re feeling anything after 5, don’t eat. For ultimate appetite control and weight management, sit happy between 3 (“hungry”) and 6 (“satisfied”). Here’s more on why feeling too hungry can sabotage your weight-loss goals.

Mastering mindful eating? Now that’s scrumptious. Here are more habits of “losers” who maintained mega-weight loss.