Whether it’s in the morning or afternoon, feeling hangry is horrible. Your temper gets short. Your body feels off. Your stomach’s not rumbling, it’s roaring. It’s hard to think clearly at the moment, much less think ahead, and you’re ready to bite the head off anyone who irks you.
That double-punch combo of anger and hunger, a feeling is known as hanger, is very real. It doesn’t mean you are a horrible, ill-tempered person. It just means you really need something to eat. Even better, feeling hangry can be prevented, even during a busy workday.
What hanger is (and yes, it’s real)
“Hangry” has been in common use since 1918, but only officially joined the English language in 2018, when Merriam-Webster added the word to the dictionary. Even prior to becoming an official word, you’d find hangry mentioned everywhere from The New York Times to Ebony, CNN, and NBC. A portmanteau of “hungry” and “angry”, hangry simply means you feel incredibly hungry to the point that you feel increasingly irritable and short-tempered.
Hanger has also been the subject of a growing body of research and study, as scientists and medical professionals try to figure out the physical and psychological causes and effects of feeling hangry. At the workplace too, hanger can be an issue: When you can’t think clearly or have a snippy attitude, it’s hard to be a productive, focused, get-it-done team player.
Hanger is preventable
Unfortunately, eating junk food leads to that classic “crash” when your blood sugar sharply decreases again, leaving you feeling pretty crummy. Luckily, you can manage hanger without sugar.
To prevent or stop feeling hangry eat regularly
Yup. It’s really that simple.
Of course, even a modest solution has its details. Here are a few other tasty tactical tidbits to prevent hanger in the first place:
- Keep tabs on your overall emotional state
If you’re feeling irritable, there’s a good chance you’re due for a healthy meal or snack. Get in touch with your feelings, do a quick personal review—frame it however you want.
- Being aware of your emotions can also lessen hanger’s negative impact
Research demonstrates that just being aware of your emotions can help you take the sting out of a hangry short temper.
- Don’t blame the world
Bad meeting? Did someone cut you off in traffic? Whatever made you grumpy, look inward before you blame outward. Crabbiness may be hanger, which can make you overreact to challenging situations.
Start your day with a hearty, healthy, sugar-bomb-free breakfast
When you go too long without eating, it’s hard to concentrate and perform to the level you need to at your job. Stopping and preventing hanger comes down to eating meals and snacks that combine complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats—not snagging whatever is sweet and filling.
Complex carbohydrates (in other words, not a bunch of sugar and refined white flour) can give you a solid supply of glucose. Protein provides the energy stores you need for top physical and mental performance, plus it helps us feel fuller, longer. Adding healthy fats to the equation will help slow digestion to a healthier pace. Instead of a quick burn, your glucose reserves stretch farther, which keeps your energy level stable longer.
The best way to get a jumpstart on those solid, lasting energy levels? You guessed it: a hearty, healthy, energy-boosting breakfast.
After a night’s sleep, our bodies are ready for food. If you don’t eat at home, it can be especially hard to resist a spread of pastries and donuts at the office. As much as possible, start your day with a hearty breakfast that balances complex carbs, proteins, and fats. Sweetness doesn’t have to be banished from breakfast, but try to reserve sweetness as an accent, not the main feature.
Stock and carry wholesome snacks
Your personal hanger prevention program doesn’t stop at the breakfast table though. Hanger is especially notorious for striking between meals, such as mid-morning or mid-afternoon.
That’s where a stash of healthy snacks can really come to the rescue. When you feel your focus dropping, or when those first sparks of hanger start to flare up, make sure you have quick access to balanced snacks such as combinations of produce, grains, and protein sources.
The key to stopping and preventing hanger is to pump up those blood sugar levels, but not with a sugar quick-hit. Diverse foods contribute the right mix of nutrients that both provide energy supply and help your digestion gradually meter out the nutritional goodness.
And remember, think of snacks as a way to tide you over until your next meal, not a heavy indulgence that defeats the purpose of getting your focus and energy levels back on track. The key to a good snack break is to tell your brain it’s getting what it needs, so your mood can stabilize along with your blood sugar.
When it comes to snacks, you can get your company involved, too. If there aren’t healthy offerings in the break room, talk to your human resources department about introducing a healthy snack program. If your employer has snacks on hand but they’re not exactly healthy, suggest healthier bulk items, whole grains, and fresh produce instead.
Stay productive and stave off hanger
Remember, hanger happens—but it’s easy to prevent and easy to stop. Pay attention to your feelings: If you’re getting frustrated or irritable, that’s a sign it may be time to get a bite. Knowing your emotional state can also blunt hanger’s effect on your attitude.
Most importantly, eat regularly and eat well. Whether you have a full meal or grab a quick snack, hanger cannot stand up to balanced foods that give your brain and body what they need. That way, not only can your workday be full, but your belly can too—and that’s a much better way to get a good day’s work done.