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Hangry: Why Do I Get Hungry & Angry?

By Jenny Craig

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What Does Hangry Mean?

“Hangry” or “Hanger” is a phrase used when one can trace their anger back to their state of hunger. But why does being hangry happen in the first place? Scientists traced the “hangry response” to two things: low blood sugar level (glucose) and increased levels of “fight or flight” hormones.  

Why Do I Get Hangry?

Skipping meals or delaying eating for too long can lead to a reduced delivery of blood glucose to the brain, a perceived “danger” that stimulates the release of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline, which cause the “fight or flight” response), as well as the brain neuropeptide Y. This cascade of events is experienced as anger/anxiety, and the natural response might be to eat! That’s why starvation weight loss diets are so counter-productive.


Understanding the signs of HALT (hunger, anger, lonely, tired) will help you know before you get hangry and learn how to get your body back on track.  How can you check for signs of HALT? Here is a quick checklist you can use:


  • Hunger: “Becoming Hangry” begins with hunger, so evaluate when the last time you ate was and what you ate. Was your meal satisfying, or were you still feeling ravenous? If you were still feeling hungry, make sure to add more healthy snacks available, like classic hummus and wheat crackers that you can add additional vegetables like carrots or bell peppers, or have a crunchy snack, like celery or an apple. If you're on Jenny Craig, add more Fresh & Free Additions to your meals. 
  • Anger/anxious: If you're experiencing extreme anger when hungry evaluate your state of mind and body to figure out what may be making you anxious or angry. What has happened so far in your day, or are you anxious about an upcoming situation or deadline? If so, make a plan for how you can approach the situation to make it less stressful. It’s important to find time to step away from a situation, too, so if you need to go out and get some fresh air, go for it! 
  • Lonely: Loneliness can creep up on you, especially if you’ve had a busy week where you haven’t been able to check-in as often as you like with friends or family. Send a quick text to a few friends or call them to let them know you want to catch up. Making plans to get you out of your work/home routine will break up the loneliness and give you something to look forward to.
  • Tired: Depriving your body of the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep can take its toll. When you get enough sleep, your body is better able to regulate the hormones that make you feel hungry and full. 


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Tips To Avoid Becoming Hangry

Do you always feel hungry or hangry? You may think that you are practicing self-control if you are not eating as much food throughout the day, but skipping meals can lead to a drop in blood sugar which can then make you hangry. Eat snacks and meals throughout the day to keep your belly satisfied. These do not have to be unhealthy snacks, try almonds, carrot sticks, or apples to keep your body fueled.


Being hungry and angry is no fun, at Jenny Craig, we encourage frequent meals and snacks—6 of them in a day to maintain even blood sugars and to keep pre-meal hunger at a “mild” vs. “maniac” level. In fact, we encourage clients to practice the HALT strategy to consciously tune in for signs of getting too hungry, angry/anxious, lonely or tired, all of which can lead to a binge.



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