How to Avoid Becoming Hangry (and What to do if it Happens)

Hangry 1

You may be asking yourself “what does it mean to be ‘hangry?’ Is that a real thing?”

Most of us have experienced a moment, either firsthand, or vicariously through a friend, when we’ve missed a meal or waited just a little too long to eat. It’s likely that things went south very quickly. Suddenly, the most minute of tasks became full-on chores. On your short commute home, everyone was cutting you off and driving like a maniac. The questions that your colleague was asking were the most ridiculously unintelligent questions you’ve ever been asked. That comment that your spouse made was, without a doubt, the most unreasonable and rude thing he or she – or anyone – had ever said. Literally, ever. In the history of time, nobody’s ever said anything worse.

You’ve reached “hangry,” and it’s a real thing.

Julia Naftulin, in Health magazine, documents a study that found that participants became more aggressive and angrier as their blood sugar levels decreased. Ultimately she explains that a decrease in blood sugar causes an increase in the release of cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline) to try to regulate glucose levels, and these hormones lead to irritability. For a more in-depth and scientific explanation, see this story on

All-in-all, being hangry is no fun. It’s no fun for you, and it’s no fun for the people around you. So what can you do to avoid the wrath that is “hanger?”

Prepare: I cannot stress this point enough. Critical to avoiding becoming hangry is planning your day such that you’ll eat at reasonable intervals. This is especially important when your daily schedule falls outside of your norm. Do you have a road trip planned? Outline restaurant stops along your route, and pack a cooler full of emergency meals. Do you have an extra-busy workday ahead? Pack an easily accessible, on-the-go lunch. Nobody wants to deal with a hangry-hot-mess during a long car ride or an important meeting.

Snacks: Always, ALWAYS have a snack-stash in  your purse, center console, desk-drawer, pocket, hand, etc. Purse almonds (a stash of nuts in a small, waterproof, rust-proof, bullet-proof tin that can fit in a pocket, purse, etc.) are my go-to, because protein. For allergy sufferers, jerky, protein bars, Greek yogurt, or hard-boiled eggs are a great option. Speaking of allergies –

Allergies: Avoid them. Don’t have them. Speaking from experience, if you are allergic to many-a-food, you’ll have a hard time eating at social gatherings, and it will be nearly impossible to make a quick snack-stop in a hanger-emergency.

Water: Staying well hydrated is important for two reasons. First, water has been shown to reduce hunger. Obviously if you’re already hangry, water isn’t going to satiate you, but it may dull the symptoms. Second, dehydration can lead to mood swings, decreased concentration, and headaches, which will only exacerbate the symptoms of your hanger. Stay well hydrated.

If it’s too late for the above methods, and you or someone you know has already become hangry, here are a few things you can do.

Protein: Find the nearest protein-laden snack and eat! If it’s a friend that has become hangry, pull out your purse-almonds or emergency beef jerky and save the day.

Stress: Avoid it. Completing your homework, working on important work projects, and even searching for whatever important thing you misplaced are examples of tasks that are likely to become a million times more stressful when experiencing hanger. Avoid these types of tasks until after your next meal or heavy snack.

Offended: Don’t be. As we’ve already learned, when an individual’s blood-glucose is rapidly dropping, adrenaline and cortisol are steadily increasing. This increased production of hormones can cause a stress-response, which may include lashing-out at loved ones. Don’t take it personally if a hangry individual becomes testy with you or says some not-so-nice things.

Direct commands: Avoid them. Never, in the history of the world, has anyone ever relaxed by being ordered to relax. Commanding someone to “relax,” “calm down,” etc., is likely to increase. Not only is that individual now more stressed and hangry, but he or she also feels dismissed. Here are a few phrases alternative to “calm down” or “relax:”

“Here’s a snack.” This should be uttered while handing the person a snack.
“Can I get you something to eat?” said while already getting him or her something to eat.
“I love you. Your feelings are valid. Here’s a snack.” Also said while handing over a snack.

In summary, “hangry” is a very real state-of-being which causes increased stress for all parties involved. To avoid hanger altogether, one should drink plenty of water, schedule mealtimes, be prepared with snacks, and definitely NOT have allergies. If one does become hangry, make sure to avoid stress and direct orders, and don’t be offended. Following these suggestions will ensure a happy, well-fed, and hanger-free existence.

“han·gry |haNGɡrē | adjective | 1. bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger”


How to Avoid Becoming Hangry (and What to do if it Happens)

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