Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

10 Reasons People Eat Mindlessly

Why do people get hangry?

Do you know someone who gets "hangry?" You know that irritable feeling you get when you are overly hungry. Or, maybe you know someone who struggles more with what I call, "regretfull"—that icky grumpiness that happens when you are too full.

Susan Albers
10 Reasons People Get Hangry
Source: Susan Albers

Both sides of the coin—eating too little or too much—lead to a lot of mindless eating.

Mindless eating has a strong impact on how you feel and in turn on how you act. When in the throws of "hanger" or "regretfullness," research shows that it's hard to concentrate, think clearly and be patient with others.*

Despite our best efforts to eat well, it's often not as easy as it sounds. In my new book, Hanger Management, I reveal 10 of the most common reasons people slip into a hangry state and then mindlessly overeat.

1. Too Busy to Eat (Don’t have time, other things take priority)

2. No Routine (No set eating schedule)

3. Too Much Effort (It takes too much energy to cook, plan meals and make decisions)

4. Dieting (Cutting back or restricting food)

5. Mindless Eating (Picking and snacking, but few real meals)

6. Empty Calorie Eater (Eating food that is not filling)

7. Indecisive (Confused by nutrition information or what is truly healthy to eat)

8. Hungry All the Time (Difficulty decoding body cues, feeling hungry constantly)

9. Social Eater (Eat well with others, harder when eating alone)

10. Too Stressed Out (Feeling overwhelmed, don’t have the mental energy, emotional eating)

In working with hundreds of people over the years on emotional eating, intuitive eating, and mindful eating, I've learned a very powerful truth. What you eat impacts how you feel and how you feel impacts what you eat. While the relationship is strong, it's often difficult to navigate the path between them. The ability to understand hunger cues can easily get skewed or confusing in a world that pushes dieting but sets up a mindless eating environment. The good news is that you can reset that ability!


MacCormack JK, Lindquist KA. Feeling hangry? When hunger is conceptualized as emotion. Emotion. 2019 Mar;19(2):301-319. doi: 10.1037/emo0000422. Epub 2018 Jun 11.