Another level of hangry

Another level of hangry


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Print this page Email A Friend!

THIS decade has seen the establishment of the word hangry. A rise boosted by the candy bar manufacturer's advisements, showing sugar- and chocolate-induced transformation from angry to calm and collected personalities.

Their depictions may be dramatic, and in the long term their solution is more like putting out fire with gasoline, but the idea of being hangry is now a part of our lexicon.

On the chance that you are not familiar with the term, hangry is a play on the words “hungry” and “angry”, which describes a state of irritability brought on by hunger or cravings.

The idea of being cranky when hunger is setting in is clearly not a new one. It's not new to parents of nursing babies, of small children; it is not new to teenagers, to stressed working individuals, to bored individuals, or late-night eaters; it is not even new to pets and wild animals.

Why do we get hangry?

The basic formula for hanger is simple: Hunger + crankiness (unto anger) = hanger.


The cause of hunger is simple enough. As a stomach empties, it releases the hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin enters the brain and affects the hippocampus and neurons beginning a chain of reactions in the nerve cells responsible for hunger, and suppressing the hunger-inhibiting cell.

You become a hunger machine, a craven organism seeking fulfilment. This sensation of hunger represents a state of starvation or even calorie deprivation. Unfortunately, in a society filled with foods which are over-enhanced, over-refined and easily available while requiring little energy to obtain, this response designed for your ancestors can severely damage your wellness, if obeyed.


But why do we feel angry? Where is this crankiness coming from?

A simple answer is your brain requires fuel to regulate emotions, and the main source of brain fuel is glucose. If blood glucose runs low, your brain will respond, and any general frustration, stress, mood, will easily erupt into crankiness, moodiness, irritability, and even anger.

If you have a diet which is now of sugars, flours and other insulin-spiking simple carbohydrates, you will, over time, have a more regulated blood sugar level and a levelled response to energy changes.

Now you see why curing hanger with a candy bar is in the long-term truly adding fuel to the fire.

So, the hanger solution seems simple enough, have small regular meals with vegetables, healthy fats (another energy source), and complex carbohydrates.

But, it's never that simple

For many of us, hanger is more than a momentarily empty stomach and a few grams of sugar — it is indicative of deeper emotional issues.

Think of a day when you are busy, occupied accomplishing everything you had set your mind to, or think of an enjoyable day of fun and excitement with good company. On each of these occasion, you may barely remember or even feel like eating. You may eat once in the middle of the day, or, suddenly remembering that you haven't eaten, have a meal at the end of the day, with no hunger much less hanger.

Did you become superhuman? Did your stomach stop producing hormones? Did your brain and muscles magically learn to run on fats and oxygen alone? Or did you instantly become a fat-burning powerhouse? No, none of the above.

Your mind simply was not allowing the hunger processes to distract it from your busyness, activities, day of accomplishment or enjoyment — you were mentally distracted from being hungry.

Emotions affect hunger and hanger

If you could live every day occupied with enjoyment, feeling fulfilled, focused and motivated, you would only need to apply nutritional knowledge and you would be your fittest, healthiest self.

Sadly, most people do not exist in this state. Many people are stressed, often unhappy with their daily lives, waiting for each hour, business or emptiness to drag along — all pressing on their emotions, increasing their sensitivity to hunger signals and lowering blood sugars. Even some people's attempt at distracting themselves with shows are well known to add to feelings of hunger.

To put i simply, many people are not at all fulfilled by their lives, their choices or much of their realities.

For many of these individuals, the only thing they have to look forward to is the eventual submission to hunger. The satiation of having that meal which makes them finally feel fulfilled, relaxing them to their very core, and making all their mess finally seem worthwhile. Without the food release, life is unbearably harsh.

It is easy to see why this instant, addiction-like gratification overpowers their better choices to pursue wellness and to learn the embrace of clean, healthy, energising foods, which will, in time, help them solve their energy, focus and mood problems — not to mention keep them healthy.

But, in the moment, until they are re-habituated, only their comfort food seems worth the effort — only the comfort foods matter. Their emotions, already tested and worn my sugar level changes, frayed by their perceptions and primed by their attention, hunger signals present the most primitive of responses, discontent, crankiness, and even anger.

This is such a pronounced and unhealthy state that studies have been done on it. Their findings show that pre-existing negative emotions affect hunger and hanger levels. These results are not to be taken lightly, as it is believed that the negative emotions and resulting states can also produce fatigue and inflammation, which are both associated with chronic and deadly diseases.

The studies are continuing, but for now I will offer some advice:

• Recognise that hanger is more emotional than physical; deal with it mindfully as an emotional state.

• Understand that the hungry, frustrated messages you are receiving from your brain is deceptive and can even prompt your conscious mind to find justifications for abandoning change.

Commonly perceived hunger is actually: Strongly influenced by psychological factors such as sensory and normative cues including social facilitation (group eating), motivations (advertisements and signs) and the ubiquitous nature of commercial foods; cultural training and habituations; memories of past satisfactions (similar to addiction); life's unyielding stressors.

• Avoid or minimise sugary foods, flour-based foods, simple carbohydrates, and all insulin-spiking foods. These foods are a treasure of energy to your primitive mind, but the over-availability and over-processing has made them a hazard to human lives. They affect your brain's sensitivity and response systems similarly to addictive drugs; ramping your cravings and draining your emotional strength.

• Choose wholesome, natural, unprocessed foods and healthy oils. Our ancestors thrived on them; ingested intelligently, they will keep your blood sugar levels steady and reduce your dependency and reaction to sugars.

Hanger may seem like a cute name, but the resultant emotional eating and stresses contribute to the massive and costly health issues plaguing individuals, and the society at large.

Separate yourself from the complications and save yourself the inevitable suffering. If you recognise that your health may be at risk, become more self-aware. Do not just undertake a meal plan, join a eating management programme — the answerability and support is invaluable in getting you past your habituations and helping you learn to enjoy fuelling your body on health-giving foods.

Fitz-George Rattray is the director of Intekai Academy, which is focused on helping people live a healthy lifestyle through nutrition and weight management. If you are interested in losing weight or living a healthier lifestyle, give them a call at 876-863-5923, or visit their website at

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon