This is Part IV of the Mindful Eating Series – A Prophetic Example.
Part I can be accessed here: “The Mindful Eating Series: Eating with Ihsan”
Part II can be accessed here: The Mindful Eating Series: “Drinking Mindfully”
Part III can be accessed here: The Mindful Eating Series: “Creating the Right Environment for Mindfulness”
It is narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (s) said: “We are a people that eat [only] when we are hungry, and when we do eat we do not get full”. Although this is a weak hadith narrated in the books of history, it is one that I personally love! This is because it is the cornerstone of what I teach a lot of my clients, particularly when it comes to mindful eating. Recognizing when you are hungry and when you are full is the epitome of listening to your body.
Our bodies are capable of telling us when we are hungry; we just have to tune into those signals. As infants that’s exactly what we do: cry when we are hungry and stop when we are full. Unfortunately, we may be a bit out of touch with these signals and need to re-learn what they feel like.
Hunger is felt a little differently by everybody, but typical signs of hunger are a light rumbling of the stomach, feeling light-headed or dizzy, starting to feel tired, and/or thinking about food. As you become more hungry, these cues may become stronger and stronger. Fullness is often recognized by a lack of hunger, a satisfaction/food starting to taste less satisfying, and/or no longer thinking about food.
An easy way to understand hunger and fullness is to use the Hunger-Fullness Discovery Scale. This is a scale found in the Intuitive Eating book (among other places) and can really help us navigate how we are feeling.
Use this scale to help you identify your initial hunger when you being to eat and your fullness after you are finished eating. This rating system is purely subjective and will help you get in touch with your body’s inner signals. There is no right or wrong way to use this system; it’s merely there to help you increase your awareness (mindfulness).
The neutral point is 5, when you are neither hungry nor full.
Hunger: Visualize your stomach getting emptier and hungrier as you go towards 0. At 4, you begin to feel the first awakening of hunger. Hunger pangs begin there and increase to a 3. By 3, your hunger is completely set and you’re feeling quite hungry. At 2-1, you are ravenous. Try to start eating around a 3.
Fullness: A level of 6 or 7 is just-satisfied to satisfied. At 8, you’re full; at 9, you’re stuffed; and at 10, you are beginning to feel sick from overfilling your stomach. Work toward ending your eating at a 6 or 7. Although 8 is full, being full is actually uncomfortable it’s where you start to feel discomfort and so aiming to stop at a 7 will leave you feeling your best.
The idea is that the lower you start on the hunger side of the scale, the higher you end up on the fullness side. This is because when we get very hungry we tend to eat everything in sight! Think of a time you came home from work and school and you were starving: You probably grabbed whatever you found and couldn’t really stop eating until you were uncomfortably full.
This is because the body does not like being hungry! The body doesn’t know there’s a McDonald’s across the street or a fridge full of food–being hungry (to the body) means there is no food available. So, when it finds food, it smashes! The best way to avoid this is to avoid getting too hungry (try to always have a snack on you). But sometimes life happens, and you don’t. And that’s ok! One thing you can try is to have something small in a time like that (maybe a few dates or a glass of milk). Then give yourself 10 to 15 minutes for the body to absorb them and return back for a meal afterwards. This is exactly what we are taught to do when we break our fast and it works well for our bodies.
Take this week to really learn more about your hunger and fullness. Try answering the following questions:
- What does fullness feel like to you?
- How do you recognize hunger?
- How long do you stay full after reaching a 7?
Make sure to be non-judgmental. Mindful eating is not about judgement, it’s a journey, an experience and you can only truly enjoy the experience and grow from it if you approach it neutrally. There is neither good nor bad, only varying levels of mindfulness.
Watch the Mindful Eating Series on Dua the Dietitian’s Youtube channel to learn more about Mindful Eating and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), you can also read the entire series, visit Dua the Dietitian’s blog, and follow her on Instagram or Facebook.
Dua Aldasouqi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Health Coach, and the founder of Dua the Dietitian. She has been practicing since 2010 and genuinely believes that our relationship with food should not be complicated. She is also a student at Qalam Institute and loves combining the traditional teachings of Islam with modern day nutrition guidance. You can reach her on her website, Dua the Dietitian, or on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Tumblr.