Have you been on an early morning flight and the person behind you is either kneeing the back of your seat or messing with their tray table, and all you want to do is turn around and scream at ‘em or better yet, smack ‘em upside the head? Or you’re walking down the street and someone is in front of you hogging the sidewalk and you’d like for a lightning bolt to knock ‘em down so you can get past? Seen any road rage lately… well, you wouldn’t be wrong to chalk any of this up to the beautiful marriage of the words HUNGRY and ANGRY…otherwise known as HANGRY!
I bet you could blame a lot of your short, irritated and frazzled behavior on a lack of food if you thought about how long ago it was since you put food in your mouth…
As the funny Snickers ad that I found on YouTube says, “You’re not you when you’re hungry”… Um no, WAIT… That doesn’t give you permission to go get a Snickers Bar! Just hang on and you’ll soon know just what to eat when hangry hits and how to avoid it.
Does your tummy rumble when you get hungry, or do you go from your happy go lucky and bubbly self, to downright irritable, impatient and annoyed? Yep, it happens to us all. And no, the word hangry isn’t when someone is angry about being hungry, not that’s not it. It’s that your body and brain are in need of an energy surge from food to lift that mood from the floor up.
You may feel hangry before you’re hungry. Some people don’t get a rumbly tummy like Homer Simpson or Winnie the Pooh, nor those empty stomach pains when it’s been hours since they ate. Instead, they notice their mood has changed. And not in a burst of sunshine, blue sky, rainbows, and kinda way.
Can the physical presence of hunger actually affect our brains and have an impact on our mood, perceptions, and reactions? Oh yes, it can because it’s a biochemical reaction due to the low glucose level in your blood that feeds your brain. So this physiological effect leads to a corresponding psychological shift when we’re hungry.
Hunger as a state actually causes a lot of shifts in hormones, how our brain processes things and even in the nervous system – and that looks a lot like what we see in anger, fear, and sadness.
The part of our brains associated with hunger, fear, anxiety, and anger is called the limbic system. All the components of the limbic system work together to regulate some of the brain’s most important processes.
The reason we have emotions in the first place is to help our bodies maintain homeostasis. Your brain is always trying to monitor the body and make sure you’re in homeostasis and if you’re not, it sends a signal to the body that we have to shift some things. That shift out of homeostasis (as in when you haven’t eaten for a while) means that the level of sugar or glucose in your blood decreases. When your blood sugar gets too low, it triggers a cascade of hormones, including a stress hormone called cortisol and the fight-or-flight hormone, adrenaline. These hormones are released into your bloodstream to raise and re-balance your blood sugar because there’s no food to do the job.
That takes time and as your brain is trying to figure out the balance, you’re likely to be stuck in a negative mindset more than those who are sated.
Sidebar: Sated. I’ve always found that a really weird word to describe I’m FULL. I digress… Let’s get back to it.
Essentially, it’s not just our bodies that run on food, it’s our brains, and when we don’t have that critical glucose at the needed levels, the mechanisms of self-control over aggression break down and we can’t filter our emotions well. Think of the toddler on the floor of the supermarket in a full-on meltdown. While mom or dad are standing there wanting the floor to swallow them up, little Jack or Jill’s blood sugar level likely just tanked. Are there times when you feel like you’d like to throw yourself on the floor and just let all that emotion out? Yep, me too.
Let’s talk about what to eat when you’re hangry!
A typical craving or go to when you’re feeling hungry and angry would be some sort of comfort food. Yea, I know what you’re thinking… Chocolate, cake, a can of pop for some, cookies, ice cream or my favourite… Chips. It doesn’t always have to be something sweet and my go-to is absolutely savoury, not sweet. When you’re in this state, rather than grabbing what’s going to exacerbate the low blood sugar and leave your mood back on the floor in another hour or two from eating something sweet, try these instead:
- A super-fast go to is carrots with a dip, like hummus or tzatziki.
- Grab an apple or banana and some fat and protein like almond or peanut butter. I top my banana with a dollop of nut butter or eat an apple and have a teaspoon of whatever I can lay my hands on that’s fast.
- If you’re someone who is always on the go and not able to pick up a snack, pack some raisins and nuts. In my new book, Sprout Right Family Food, my recipe for Hit the Road Trail Mix or Bite Sized Fruit Balls will do the trick. The sweetness of the raisins helps boost your blood sugar quickly, while the nuts sloooow down how fast the fructose releases.
- Grab a piece of cheese and some grapes, an apple or a pear.
- How about some avocado, either as guacamole or piled on a piece of wholegrain bread and topped off with an egg.
- And lastly, how about a handful of any kind of berries with some almonds, walnuts or pecans.
Why are you hangry? Or hungry for that matter?
For some, they get too busy to eat or believe it or not, they forget to eat. I heard from two clients this week that the busy took over and meals got skipped.
Still, I hear it over and over again that avoiding food for part of the day, like skipping breakfast or lunch is going to help in the fight to lose weight and fast!
Well, it won’t, so eat. Eat for the sake of losing weight and for those around you! Even a quick handful of blueberries or scoff down a banana and mouthful of almond or peanut butter will help keep your hanger at bay.
While some are successful with fasting for periods of hours, it really isn’t for everyone. And if hangry hits you, I’m talking to you!
How to avoid the hangries (there’s my made-up word again)
Eat within an hour of waking. Don’t run out the door with just a coffee in your hand and no food to back up that caffeine high that you’ll eventually come crashing down from. Take along something like my Blender Pancakes to munch on your way into the office. Soak some oats overnight in a saucepan and warm through in the morning, but make extra so you can do the same again tomorrow. Throw in some frozen berries, eat at home or take it in a thermos to go. If you want to, make one of my favourite recipes called Overnight French Toast.
Eat a handful of nuts, a hard boiled egg or a mitt full of sugar snap peas at any time during the day. Or if you’re just not going to get to chew anything, my Take This by Lianne KID BOOST superfood powder shaken or stirred in your water bottle will just about give you wings until you can get some real food in.
Lunch needs to happen, as does dinner, but within 3 or at MOST 4 hours of your last meal.
If you’re on a weight loss mission, then eat it off, don’t starve it off. It can be done, just eat your meal off a smaller plate so you don’t feel deprived, or end up deprived and in the depths of HANGRY. And I don’t want to gloss over EAT IT OFF, it’s maybe something that I’ll touch on in an upcoming episode. Food is important for your mood. If you don’t eat, that homeostasis is thrown right off and your metabolism doesn’t know whether it’s coming in or going. Look out for more on this in an upcoming episode!
See what you can do to self identify your hangry times and get ahead of them. If 3:00pm is your worst time, have a snack by 2:30pm and see how it goes. Also increase your water intake. Coffee will add to your highs and lows.
What have you found works best for you? Share with me here.
Also I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about the podcast wherever you listen! It helps others know that EAT THIS is worth the listen.