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: What “Hanger” Does to Your Brain and Behavior

What “Hanger” Does to Your Brain and Behavior

Global Content Strategist

The health communications field is overflowing with medical terms and slang. It is essential that as health communicators, we educate the general public about such terms so they can make informed health decisions. One of the slang terms that recently found its way to the Oxford English Dictionary's list for word of the year is the term hanger.

Being "hangry" can be defined as a feeling or showing anger caused by hunger (it's a clever combination of hungry and angry-and we do love our combination words!). Although this may seem like just a slang term used to make fun of your friends who cop an attitude when they need a snack, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the state of hanger is a real condition. Anger itself is not necessarily good for positive behaviors and objective decision making; being angry and hungry only worsens the situation.

Here's the scoop (pun intended!), our brains and bodies are dependent on energy that comes from food, and when this energy runs out, we may become hangry. Because this is a never-ending cycle, as we need to fuel our bodies regularly, let's take a look at what actually happens when we get hangry:

  • Hungry brain: Hunger affects how our brains function. Without energy, the chemical levels in our brains are out of balance and our systems go into a fight-or-flight response. Self-regulation and self-control may be limited as we become impulsive.
  • Angry mind: As our brain deals with the lack of nutrients, our mind and our ability to control our actions may be limited. We may become cranky, impulsive, argumentative, and emotionally depleted.

It is essential that we understand this connection in order to re-gain balance in a healthy manner. Often, as we search for food to refuel, our adrenaline level spikes and we may feel even hungrier. We may go for something sweet-a cookie just looks so good! However, this impulsive and quick intake of sugar may lead to an insulin spike, and this may leave us feeling moody.

Check out these tips for suggestions on fighting of hanger in a healthy way.

Although many may think that being hangry is a funny incident shared among friends, there is some medical backing to the term. Understanding it is the first step to managing it. So, here is to never getting hangry again!

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.

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