By Maeve O’Keeffe, Food & Health Editor
Have you ever felt that crippling sense of hunger, when your insides feel like they have been hollowed out with an ice cream scoop? Your roommate has tucked into your leftover pizza, or stir-fry that you had kept in a Tupperware lunchbox in the fridge. The nice cheese you had been saving for pasta has disappeared. Someone has robbed your grub. You are suddenly overcome by a red misted rage, despite the logical viewpoint that you have loads of other food, there’s a deli in the Centra down the road, and there’s always Deliveroo. But it’s not enough, is it? It’s not what you wanted, not what you had planned. And in your state of intense hunger, it seems like a travesty. Just picturing some smug peer gobbling your food is so infuriating, and you’re sure (well, almost sure) that this was a deliberate conspiracy to enrage you. The injustice, the disrespect, of it all, floods you with molten fury, and a string of expletives ensue in a temper tantrum reminiscent of your toddler years, but worse. Mustering up enough reason to deal with the situation seems beyond your grasp.
If this seems in any way familiar to you, then you’ve experienced (and survived!) feeling “hangry”, which is the term given to the disastrous combination of hunger and anger. For a long time, I thought that feeling hangry was a phenomenon unique to some of my friends and family (myself included), who are more inclined to growl when food is slow to appear in restaurants, or when someone else nabs the last Cornetto from the freezer. I later learned that we are not alone in our intense rages when hungry; feeling hangry is natural and common. There’s more to
hanger than just frustration at your hunger, or the tragedy of watching your 99 fall on the ground as you hop into the car, however. There is a substantial body of research to suggest that feeling hangry is a physiological expression of low blood sugar levels, which manifests in aggression.
You see, our body and brain are reliant on nutrients like sugars to function normally, which might explain why you find it so hard to concentrate in lectures right before lunch. When your blood sugar levels fall past a normal level, for instance if you’ve skipped breakfast, or simply haven’t eaten in a while, then naturally, the brain struggles to function as normal. This can result not only in making foolish mistakes, but also in failing to behave in a socially acceptable way; lashing out at close ones or snapping at waiters. Your brain simply doesn’t have enough energy to see reason, or come up with practical solutions, it identifies this hunger as a threat and treats all perceived obstacles to your desired food as such. The body even releases hormones cortisol (commonly referred to as the “stress hormone”) and adrenaline when hungry. The dip in blood sugar levels may also explain why, when we’re hungry, we’re more inclined to opt for high-sugar foods to provide an instant blood sugar boost; think fizzy drinks, chocolate, or a large fries with a McFlurry in McDonalds.
But how to fight this crippling sense of hanger? Well, as with many things in life, prevention is better than the cure. In order to prevent that feeling of hanger, you should try to fuel up every morning with a high fibre breakfast. Brown bread, Weetabix, and porridge are all versatile breakfast staples that should keep you full for longer. As well as fibre, protein-rich snacks like nuts, hummus, eggs and cheese are ideal to keep feelings of hanger at bay.