Growing up, “food fight” didn’t necessarily mean gleeful spaghetti slinging or flour flinging, like in the movies. (Although there was the time my sister rolled in a plate of Jell-O. She was one. Of course we still tease her about it.) Sometimes a food fight just meant that we were arguing because we were hungry – Hiltons don’t tolerate low blood sugar well. I don’t remember who first made the connection between hunger and anger (probably my mom, she’s a very smart nurse and also, well, our mom) but I can remember more than one time where my mom charged into a screaming match with a granola bar in each hand, waving them at us and telling us to just eat something already. Of course I was insulted that she thought an oatmeal cookie was going to fix my VERY SERIOUS THANK YOU teenage problems. Yet it worked more than I’d like to admit.
And we’re not the only ones to get “hangry”, or hungry-angry. In the years since I’ve seen (okay fine, and been in) way too many fights about silly things because one or more of the people involved were starving. Scientists at Ohio State University agree, finding that hangry is a legit scientific phenomenon in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Hungry people are cranky people,” says the lead author Brad Bushman, definitively stating what moms have known for centuries. (Note to all my fellow science geeks: The full study isn’t available online yet unless you want to pay a lot of money. So I’m living off press releases right now.)
The study gave couples blood glucose monitors and voodoo dolls (oh the life of a research scientist!) and then instructed each partner to take their blood sugar in the morning and evening. Each person was then told to take their voodoo doll every night and stick pins in it, representing how angry they were with their partner on a scale of 0 – 51. Zero pins meant no anger at all while 51 pins was Lorena Bobbit worthy.
After three weeks, the couples were brought back into the lab. The researchers found that even controlling for a number of variables like overall relationship satisfaction, people with lower blood sugar were more stabby. The hangrier people got, the more the doll became a pincushion. They noted that there was no difference between men and women in how they were affected.
The couples were then told to play a confusing and weirdly vindictive computer game that allowed them to punish their partners with loud, annoying noises like “fingernails on a chalkboard combined with an air horn.” (I really want to know who thought of that combo!) And the scientists again found that the people with the lowest blood sugar doled out the most punishment. Bushman speculated that this could make blood sugar a possible factor in domestic violence – although I’m going to say that feels like a huge stretch to me. I’ve seen people get plenty angry when they’re hungry but I’ve never seen anyone get violent because of it. Yell at a waiter? Yes. Smack somebody? No. Plus, I think the causes of domestic violence go a lot farther back than lunchtime. Either way people should know not to hit other people, even if they are hangry.
Bushman concluded, “So if you are having a discussion with your spouse about a conflict situation, make sure you’re not hungry.” He advises skipping candy bars and other high-sugar foods, which can spike blood glucose but lead to a crash. Instead, go for something nutritious.
I’ll admit that for myself, I don’t get hangry so much as I get hungry-depressed (dungry? hunpressed? Hahah that sounds like I’m getting bench-pressed by Attila!). When I’m super hungry I just kind of give up on everything. I can’t make decisions, even if it’s where to eat. I get whiny and morose and then just quiet. It’s amazing (and kinda sad) how quickly my gut-brain connection goes from hunky dory to it’s not worth trying anymore!
So in honor of hangry becoming a real science-backed thing, I came up with 10 emotion-food portmanteaus for Shape:
Exeravenous: Exercise-ravenous. Extreme hunger brought on by an extra intense workout.
“Let’s skip the smoothie bar and head straight to the buffet. After that workout I’m so exeravenous that even this lemon-scented towel is starting to look good! I need some real food.”
Cakecation: Cake-vacation. Giving yourself permission to eat whatever food you want on your vacation.
“Of course I’m having Nutella crepes with sprinkles for dinner! I’m on cakecation!”
Pre-munchstrating: Premenstrual munching. PMS is famous for causing wicked cravings. At least now we have a name for it?
“I just downed a pint of rocky road in 10 minutes. I must be pre-munchstrating.”
Stracking: Stress-snacking. Worrying so much about something that you don’t even realize you’re popping handfuls of yogurt raisins until the bag is empty.
“Deadlines are looming, I have a big date tonight, the forecast is snow again and I just realized I stracked my way through sixteen servings of pretzels! Not helping!”
Brunchies: Bored-munchies. Keeping yourself occupied in boring situations by munching on whatever’s handy.
“I can’t take one more round of singing The Wheels on the Bus! I don’t care if that means I lose the mother of the year award. Besides, I’ve eaten all the toddler’s fishy crackers thanks to major brunchies. And they didn’t even taste good.”
Remorsefull: Remorse-full. That immediate pang of regret you get when you realize you’ve eaten way too much junk.
“That box of cronuts was so delish they were totally worth the six-week waiting list to get them! But maybe I shouldn’t have eaten all of them at once – I’m so stuffed, I’m remorsefull!”
Chocomotional: Chocolate-emotional. That panicked, desperate feeling when nothing but a box of salted caramel chocolate truffles will do.
“That presentation couldn’t have gone worse. Where are the M&M’s? I’m feeling chocomotional!”
Drunkies: Drunk-munchies. It’s the equivalent of beer goggles for food!
“You know what really goes good with this beer? Pretzels. And peanuts. And pizza. Oh and friend pickles!” “Girl, you have the drunkies.”
Holidaze: Holiday-daze. That blurry period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s where you eat your fave festive foods knowing you won’t have them again until next year.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be drinking a peppermint hot chocolate every day anymore now that I’m out of the holidaze.”
Stressarvation: Stress-starvation. When you’re so overwhelmed that the thought of eating anything makes you want to puke.
“I know your family is going through some really tough stuff now but you need to eat something! They wouldn’t want you suffering from stressarvation.”
Bonus: Fappy: Fat and happy!
New dad and “sexiest man alive” Channing Tatum recently told Ellen Degeneres about relaxing with his new family, “Right now, what me and my wife like to call it—I am very ‘fappy’. I’m very fat and happy right now.” As he should be!
So do you get hangry? Or do you have a different emotion when you get hungry? Do you have a made-up word to add to my list??