Hanger: It’s a Real Thing! (but you knew that…)

by | Jul 15, 2022

Ever Been Hangry? Read on!


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Hanger. It’s a thing.

There used to be a commercial series on TV for Snickers. There were half a dozen of them, each featuring an actor behaving like a raving lunatic. Joe Pesci, Betty White, and Liza Minelli, among others, all of whom are basically nice people. “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” was the tag line, as the stars yelled at, insulted, and physically assaulted everyone around them until they got something to eat. It was hilarious in that “it’s funny ‘cuz it’s true” kind of way.

Just last week I had a client who reported the same thing. “I might not even realize I’m hungry, but when my husband starts backing away from me with that nervous look in his eye,” Mia said. “That’s when I know I need to eat something soon.”

Now, I read a lot of research papers. My favorites are ones about appetite, eating habits, and the emotions that impact them. Yes, there are scientific studies about these things!

So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to come across a study about “Hanger,” actually validating what has been until now only a colloquial phenomenon.

Turns out our bodies don’t like being hungry. And even though you might think you can postpone eating until that spreadsheet is finished, the body wants what the body wants when the body wants it. Tasked with keeping you alive, your body and all it’s complex hormones and neurotransmitters are programmed to perceive lack of food as a sign of trouble. The first wave is some subtle hunger cues, which many of us ignore, that is, if we’re even familiar with them. If these subtle cues aren’t heeded, the body starts to get a little stressed. Then it gets anxious, then it gets angry. And there you are, snapping at your loved ones and stomping down the hall. Familiar?

So, hunger = anxiety, stress, and anger. Hence, “Hangry.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here (haven’t found a solid study on this yet, but it feels right):

Our brains are plastic, they take in information and assimilate pathways based on perceived cause and effect (that part is indeed science). What if after millennia of associating hunger with stress, the converse relationship is accepted as true? That stress means hunger?

I’m suggesting that we come at emotional eating legitimately. Hunger/Stress are tied together in a very deeply grooved way. So, when we experience a stressor like anger, tension, anxiety, even boredom or loneliness, there is a predilection to reach for food as the solution. Interesting thought, no?

Now, that’s not a proven hypothesis, but it is supported by what I see my clients deal with every day.

I help my clients shine some light on those knee-jerk responses. Taking a pause to see what’s really going on when you feel desperate for food, and drilling down so you can make an effective decision about how to deal with what you’re really feeling and needing.

What do you do when you feel angry, lonely, tired, stressed, bored, unappreciated, overworked, or frustrated? If you tend to reach for food in these instances, you’re not alone. IF you’d like to try something different that will take better care of your health (and happiness), let’s chat. I’m happy to take half an hour or so to talk with you and see what’s what. Just reply to this email and we’ll get something on the calendar.


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Hi, I’m Jennifer! I’ve been in practice for over 15 years, and have helped over a hundred women heal their relationship with food.

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