Everyone has experienced the wrath of hanger: One second, you’re totally fine, but the next? You turn into a ravenous monster, ready to strike. It’s no wonder why, considering low blood sugar basically causes your brain to freak out. And for people who are hypoglycemic, that experience can lead to mood swings, shakiness, and fatigue, among other symptoms. Well, adding some scientific backing to what you’ve known in your heart (or rather stomach) to be true since you could even say the words “avocado” and “toast,” a new study just confirmed that being hangry indeed does have a major impact on humans’ emotional response.
For the study, published in the journal Emotion, researchers conducted two experiments. In the first, 400 people were shown images designed to incite a positive, negative, or neutral response; then they rated a separate, ambiguous image on a scale from pleasant to unpleasant. After participants completed the tasks, researchers asked them how hungry they were, and ultimately, the hungrier participants were more likely to say the ambiguous image was negative.
In the second experiment, participants either fasted or ate before having to do a tedious task, only to have the computer they were working on crash right before they completed it—which the researchers blamed them for. (Ummm, where’s Stephanie Tanner when you need a spirited “how rude!”?) Given that the hungry participants were more emotional after the computer crashed, compounded by the other study’s results, the researchers concluded that being hungry plays a significant role in how we emotionally react.
“Bodily signals matter not just for our long-term mental health but also for the day-to-day quality of our psychological experiences, social relationships, and work performance.” —Jennifer MacCormack, lead study author
“Bodily signals matter not just for our long-term mental health but also for the day-to-day quality of our psychological experiences, social relationships, and work performance,” lead study author Jennifer MacCormack, told Newsweek.
So, what should you do if you’re on the verge of hanger and don’t want your hunger-fueled emotions to get the best of you? According to nutrition expert Sophie Medlin, it’s all about planning ahead. “If you know you’re prone to hanger, being prepared for this by keeping healthy snacks at hand and making sure you eat before stepping into long, challenging, or critical situations.”
Sometimes, your hunger will get the best of you—that’s a given. But the next time you have a food-related outburst, take comfort in knowing you’re only a few bites away from feeling like yourself again. Hey, it’s just one more reason to prioritize self-care.
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