Q+A: How do I know if I’m eating enough?

Over on my Tumblrbeautifullyworthyrecovered asked:

I often find it hard to know when I’m hungry or not, and a friend recently told me I wasn’t eating enough- although I don’t feel hungry? I’ve had eating disorder tendencies in the past and although I’m not restricting I feel this may be a result?


Thank you for your question–this is a good one and a common one. When it comes to knowing how much to eat, how much is “too much” or “too little”, and when “hunger” stops and “fullness” begins, it really is a person-by-person thing. Meaning, unlike the diet-culture’s tendency to stamp a caloric intake number on you; intuitive eating doesn’t work that way.

That being said, don’t worry, I am not going to leave you hanging! There are a few things to take into account first when determining your hunger, and second, when determining your fullness.

When it comes to the principles of Intuitive Eating, often we discuss a “hunger/fullness” scale in which “1” equals absolutely famished, and “10” equals stuffed to capacity (such as after a binge). It does take some time to get in-tune with your body’s satiety scale, and it can be beneficial to keep a chart and track how hungry you are when you start eating each meal, then how full you are when you stop, and how you feel afterwards. This should help you determine your happy “hunger” level and your happy “full” level.

Typically, you should be eating when you are between a 2-3 level of hunger, and stopping when you’re between a 7-8 level of fullness.

You mentioned that you’ve had issues with disordered eating/eating disorder behaviours in the past. Don’t worry, you are not alone! Often, when this is your history, you may find that to begin with, you are more used to allowing yourself to get down to a 1 of hunger, and then the tendency is to either stop when you’re only at about 5 or 6 fullness, or to overeat to the point of 9-10.

Fear not! This is normal in the beginning; however, what you are striving for is to be hitting somewhere less drastic on both ends (2-3 before eating, 7-8 when you stop).

What type of meal also can have some determining factors. For instance, some mornings when I wake up, I’m already at a 1 for hunger because I’ve gone all night without eating. Alternatively, if I’m having a small snack to tide me over until dinner, I may not want to hit a fullness level of 7-8 because then my dinnertime will be ruined, so I’ll opt for a 5-6.

There is no one-size-fits-all to Intuitive Eating; it’s about learning how to listen to your body, honour it’s signals, and maintain good, balanced health.

To help further, here are a few signs that you may not be eating enough:

  • You are hungry again within 1-2 hours (3-4 is more “normal”)
  • You find yourself snacking constantly throughout the day (you may not be getting enough nourishment at mealtimes)
  • You’re lethargic, low on energy, weak, dizzy, or have excessive weightloss (in this case, please consult your recover team / a medical professional)

Here are a few signs that you may be eating too much:

  • You are still full from lunch when dinner comes around
  • You feel lethargic, low on energy, and bloaty or “heavy” after eating
  • You experience excessive weight gain

I hope this helps! 

Disclaimer: Lauren Bersaglio is not a mental health professional, nor a medical professional. Opinions found in both articles and Q+As on this blog are personal thoughts developed over years of research and personal experience with intuitive eating. Please do not take advice here in place of that provided by medical professionals or your recovery team. 

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