In the last year or so, the term “HANGRY” most simply meaning hungry + angry has come onto the scene.
I’ve seen memes, quotes, even apparel, centered around this new catchy term.
You know, that feeling when you’re just SO hungry, you can’t think about anything but biting off someones arm if you don’t get food thrown at your face that very second??
I certainly used to experience this!
But after making the shift to eating real, nutrient dense food and listening to my body and it’s needs, it’s very, very rare for me. Lately, I’m not so fond of the term gaining popularity because in my opinion it’s just masking an underlying issue many people are facing!
Most of us are eating diets heavy in refined sugar and carbohydrates, light on protein, and very light on healthy fats- the macronutrients that keep us full and satisfied! We’re also often told to eat small meals throughout the day… comprised of low-calorie things like sugary yogurts, cereals with skim milk, oatmeals with lots of sugary toppings, fruit-only smoothies, power bars, and more.
These things lack much of the nutrient density to keep us satisfied and clear-headed for any length of time, sending our blood sugar on a never-ending rollercoaster headed straight into the hangry zone.
Being hangry really affects our hormones, emotions, and mind.
When we’re starving and ignoring hunger signs, we send our bodies into a stress response and release cortisol, the stress hormone.
Our bodies will continue to release cortisol until we give them the message that they’re out of danger.
When we’re feeling angry and irritable, it’s very difficult for our bodies to control the irritability we’re experiencing due to our brains lacking glucose. This is from the extreme highs and lows, spiking our blood sugar and then experiencing it plummet, with all the nutrient-empty food we’re constantly eating.
The other issue I want to discuss is blood sugar dysregulation. About 65% of American adults are at risk for metabolic syndrome, or blood sugar dysregulation. Blood sugar dysregulation can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to shuttle glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into the cells to be used for energy.
When this service is requested far too often by our bodies and the food we eat (high in refined sugar and carbohydrates) insulin resistance can occur and lead to increased fat storage, elevated blood pressure, and high levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found in your blood).
Blood sugar dysregulation can also lead to type II diabetes, and reactive hypoglycemia, a condition where glucose levels can’t return to the normal range and drop below normal.
Symptoms associated with hypoglycemia are fatigue, shakiness, hunger, nausea, dizziness, sweating, anxiety, weakness and confusion.
Just because the general population is experiencing something, doesn’t mean they should be.
Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s normal.
There’s no need to be hangry. In fact, it’s as easy as incorporating some things and eliminating some others from your diet, and listening to your body when you’re hungry to heal the hangry monster inside of all of us.
When I was experiencing this I was ravenous, shaky in between meals, never satisfied, and had intense carb and sugar cravings all day long. Is that fun? I didn’t think so. I’m going to shed some light on some ways to go from hangry to healthy!
Start your day with protein and some healthy fat
For many this is the hardest thing to do when making a shift towards a healthier lifestyle, but for me in my own journey it made the biggest difference.
Years ago there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t start my morning off with Special K cereal and skim milk. I often ate three bowls because it was so sugary and delicious, and I never got full.
I was hungry all morning and desperate for more. I eventually started eating oatmeal for breakfast instead, and while one bowl did satisfy me briefly, I didn’t stay full.
Last year I started eating paleo, and cutting out grains, the decision was made for me that I needed to switch up my breakfast. I started having eggs and sautéed veggies..and I was actually full, for hours! Then I started eating my dinner leftovers for breakfast, canned salmon and avocado, or ground beef or turkey with veggies cooked in ghee or coconut oil.
I really adjusted to having a bigger, nutrient-dense breakfast, and I remained motivated to eat this way because I was so satisfied! I could go for hours without feeling hungry, and when I did get hungry, it was a gradual, normal hungry feeling, not a ravenous monster inside of me screaming for fuel. I had never felt this way before! By beginning my day this way, I started making better choices for lunch and dinner too, no longer craving more carbs and sugar, but another balanced meal of protein, and healthy carbs and fat. I felt calm, clear-headed, and had a lot more energy.
By starting your day this way, you’re going to regulate your blood sugar first thing in the morning, feel satisfied, and combat cravings that could pop up later in the day.
So start experimenting with some different breakfast options like I did! Get the idea out of your mind that breakfast has to be muffins and bagels. There’s no rules on what you can eat when, just eat real food every meal of the day. I think you’ll be amazed at how differently you start to feel by beginning your day with protein and fat, and how quickly feeling hangry a few hours later becomes old news.
Drink more water
Ahh, the power of hydration. Much of the time when you’re hungry or having cravings, you’re actually just dehydrated.
Most people aren’t drinking enough water. If this is you, start making it easier for yourself by keeping a full glass of water by your bed that you can drink first thing in the morning, spicing up regular water with a squeeze of lemon, lime, orange, or adding a handful of berries, and bring water with you in a reusable water bottle to your workout, workday, and commute.
The more hydrated you are, the better all your bodily functions will be operating, and that will help you to regulate cravings and detect accurate hunger signals.
Focus on the right types of carbs
All carbohydrates aren’t created equal.
There is a big difference between refined carbohydrates like breads, pastas, and cakes filled with sugar and nutrient dense carbohydrates like veggies and fruits.
When you start making simple swaps for healthier choices like fruits and vegetables filled with fiber, vitamins and nutrients you’ll be nourished and reap the benefits gradually instead of a spike and a crash to your blood sugar. You’ll see you become more satisfied at meals, and able to go for a few hours before you even think about your next meal- isn't that amazing?
Focusing on nutrient density will help ward off that hangry feeling in between meals because your body will be getting the nutrition that it needs.
There are so many beautiful fruits and vegetables out there, start experimenting and finding out what you like.
A spoonful of fat like ghee or coconut oil, your favorite spices, and some sea salt will make any vegetable dish delicious- I promise! I have a bunch of delicious veggie recipes on my site to get you started!
Get in tune with your amazing body
There is so much nutrition information out there- gurus, experts, trainers, shows, books, and friends and family telling us what to eat and when to eat it that we can often become out of touch with our own individual bodies. It’s hard to know what’s right for you, when everyone else is telling your what to think.
Everyday I try to go through the day listening to my intuition, what feels good to eat, how much of it do I want, and when do I want to eat and when have I had enough. This is no easy task, however, and it can take a while to make this adjustment after years of following an eating plan, counting calories, or eating all the things you think you should eat...but you'll get there with time and practice!
When you start eating more real food (more meats, veggies, fruit, healthy fats like nuts and avocados and less from a bag or a box at the grocery store) you’re going to see a change in the way you feel. You’re not going to get hangry, you’ll feel more balanced and clear-headed and it will become easier to get in tune with your body’s needs, wants, and desires.
You may need some support in this process, like deep breaths before meals, time meditating or reflecting on what feels good and what doesn’t, journaling about your relationship with food, or experimenting with different meals and ways of eating to find out what works for you.
The more you do these things, and don’t just follow an eating plan outlined in Shape magazine, the more you’ll never see the hangry monster again.