Week 5

Hunger, snacks and labels

This week we will look at the reasons for being hungry, how this can make you feel and what you can do to stop yourself overeating

Welcome back to week 5 of our 12 Week Weight Management Programme. Deciding to continue with this programme is helping you along the way to meeting your long-term target.

Weekly check-in

How did you get on last week? Have you manged to record how you’re feeling alongside your eating and drinking?

Did you achieve the goals you set yourself last week?


Last week we spoke about different reasons you eat, sometimes it’s because you’re hungry, you’re bored or you’re feeling low.

Sometimes people eat because the clock says a certain time, for some people 12.30pm means it is time for lunch or 5.30pm is teatime.

Are you eating because your body needs food, your stomach is rumbling and you are feeling hungry, or is it that you desire a particular food – you just want it? These reasons for eating are very different and it’s helpful to recognise what your reason is. Hunger is the natural signal from our body telling us that the body needs food. Appetite is our desire for food.

Before you plan to eat something, do you ever ask yourself: “How hungry am I?”

The Hunger Scale

The Hunger Scale can be used as a traffic light system. The aim is to avoid getting into the red zones, the amber is the time to be cautious about why you are eating and green zone is the one to be in. Don’t let yourself get into the red areas, do your best to stay within the green areas (3-6) when eating.

Where on the scale?How hungry am I?How do you feel?
1 RedStarvingHungry – Grumpy – Ravenous
2 AmberUncomfortably HungryStomach rumbling and feeling really hungry
3 GreenVery HungryI am really ready for food now!
4 GreenA Little HungryFeeling peckish
5 GreenNot Full but Not that HungryI can think about other things – I don’t have food on my mind
6 GreenSatisfied & LightI could eat more but … I have had the right amount
7 AmberComfortable but Slightly too FullI am glad I stopped when I did
8 RedVery FullI have just had more than I needed – I’m feeling that I have slightly over done it
9 RedToo FullI am feeling uncomfortable – I have eaten too much
10 RedMajor Celebration fullOh I need to loosen my belt, a wee lie down is needed

It takes time and practice to get in tune with your body’s hunger and feeling full messages. Like learning any new skill, it is ongoing work if you’re to become good at it.

Avoiding distractions

One way to help you to make progress is not to eat while doing other things, for example watching TV, reading or driving. You can only have 100% attention on one thing at a time. When we start to multi-task, we are dividing our attention and focus.

If you’re doing other things while eating, you’re often not even aware you’re eating, so unsurprisingly you’re not aware that you may be overeating.

Why do we snack?

We touched on snacking in week 4. Snacking often involves eating something we grabbed from the cupboard, the vending machine at work or while at the petrol station.

The general meaning of “snacking” is “eating between meals” so this could be a planned part of your daily food intake. Often snacking is not planned for, it can be something you do without thinking.

When we think of snacking the image that usually comes to mind is of sitting on the sofa having a chocolate biscuit with a cup of tea watching TV.

By using the Hunger Scale you can plan your snacks and note them in your lifestyle diary.

Reading food labels

We talked about reading food labels in week 3. As this is a subject we know people find important we wanted to return to it this week and look at it in a bit more depth.

Reading food labels is not always easy to do, don’t be put off by this. It gives you a lot of useful information about the food or drink you are about to buy. 

When reading food labels remember:

  • the information may be per 100g, per portion or per the pack – always check.
  • check the volume of the packet/tin and what is a usual portion.
  • the calorie content is often shown as a percentage of the average daily intake. You will most likely be trying to take less than this average.
  • calories are the most important piece of information for you; however, it is good to also look at the other major nutrients.
  • you would want products with higher fibre.
  • you would want products with lower fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt.

This BDA guide to food labelling is helpful for understanding food labels.

Reducing fat and sugar

Foods with a lower and healthier content of fat, sugar, saturates and salt are good, look for these values:

  • fat: 3g or less per 100g
  • sugar: 5g or less per 100g
  • saturate: 1.5g or less per 100g
  • salt: 0.3g or less per 100g

A medium content which would be okay most of the time:

  • fat: between 3.1g and 17.5g per 100g
  • sugar: between 5.1g to 22.5g per 100g
  • saturate: between 1.6g to 5g per 100g
  • salt: between 0.3g to 1.5g per 100g

Higher values should be occasional choices:

  • fat: more than 17.5g per 100g
  • sugar: more than 22.5g per 100g
  • saturate: more than 5g per 100g
  • salt: more than 1.5g per 100g

Weekly goals

It’s time to set new goals for next week. Use the questions to help you with choosing your goals for the coming week. The goal setting sheet will then help you go through the steps for setting this week’s goals.

We know that setting goals and aiming to follow them is useful in managing your weight and changing behaviours.

Setting your goals

When setting your weekly goals you should:

  • decide which day next week you will be coming back to this programme, this will be the day you can review your goals
  • consider the areas for change we have discussed this week
  • look at your lifestyle diary/journal/app/photos and choose areas where you feel you could make a small change over the next week

If you don’t meet your goals every day, that’s ok. It’s important to keep returning to what you’ve written down. We’ll review them next week.

Your can use our goal-setting tool to record your goals for the week, or print out our blank weekly journal (PDF, 42KB) to fill in yourself.

Set goals for the week ahead, for example use the hunger scale every day and read food labels when shopping.

All fields have a maximum character limit of 140.

For next week

During this week you should:

  • consider which of your current behaviours you feel ready to change and set realistic goals for this week
  • continue to monitor your goals by keeping your lifestyle diary or journal, app or take photos
  • make a list of snacks under 200 calories
  • print the hunger scale and put it on the fridge

Last updated:
18 May 2020

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