My boyfriend needs hanger management. He needs to Google up some classes, find one that fits his schedule, and attend. When he’s hungry, he’s like the people in the Snickers commercials before they eat the candy bar, and he terrifies me.
Fortunately, I know he is not alone. I often get angry when I’m hungry (the two feelings that combine to form the popular portmanteau), and have been always curious about how food and mood connect. Many people talk and joke (and tweet) about being #hangry, but few know the actual science behind it.
“Unlike normal hunger, which comes from the need for energy, food and sugar cravings associated with irritability are coming from drops in blood sugar associated with the fatigue of your adrenal ‘stress handler’ glands,” says Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, board-certified internist and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Complete Guide to Beating Sugar Addiction. “The adrenal gland makes cortisol, our stress hormone, whose job it is to get your body to produce sugar during stress so that your brain has a steady source of fuel. When it is unable to do so, blood sugar drops during stress, and your brain feels as if it were suffocating.”
Pretty gnarly, huh?
When your blood sugar is low, you can become more susceptible to anger and frustration, and even lash out on those around you until the beast (i.e., the hangry version of yourself) is fed. And not just fed, but nourished, because you can’t (and shouldn’t) combat low blood sugar with a box of cookies. Low blood sugar not only affects your mood and irritability, but can also cause tremors, dizziness, hyperventilation, depression, and anxiety, so it’s imperative that you eat properly to stay energized and healthy (If you want to stave off hanger like someone who is professionally good-looking, you may want to check out 10 Celebrities With Bangin’ Bods Reveal Their Favorite Smart Snacks).
“Choose fiber-rich foods, including whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” suggests Leigh Tracy, registered dietitian at Mercy Medical Center’s Endocrinology Center in Baltimore. “Add a handful of unsalted nuts or low-fat dairy to snacks and meals as well.”
An important tip: don’t skip breakfast. Eating breakfast improves concentration and performance, and provides strength and endurance for the day’s events. What’s more, maintaining a healthy diet throughout the day will allow you to address problems and concerns with rational and constructive thought, since arguing with a coworker or spouse on an empty stomach is both mentally and physically exhausting (If you’re like us, however, breakfast is something you rarely have time to make in the morning. So Healthy Breakfast Recipes You Can Make the Night Before might be worth a look?).
Fortunately, although hanger wins many battles, it doesn’t have to win the war. By acknowledging that you have a problem (because acceptance is the first step on the road to recovery, after all), you can learn how to control your hanger before it starts. By eating breakfast every morning and choosing foods high in protein and fiber throughout the day, your brain and stomach (and significant other) will thank you.
Find New Ways to Stave Off Getting Hangry…