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Hanger: When Hunger Breeds Anger

Why it's vital to prevent emotional over-reactivity from low blood-sugar.

(C) 4774344Sean/Fotosearch
Do you sometimes react with more irritation than is helpful?
Source: (C) 4774344Sean/Fotosearch

On the one hand, it's always worth listening to your anger. Anger relays important messages. Anger tells you that you are not getting something that you want, or that you are getting something that you don't want. That's information you need. Anger then alerts you that it's time to figure out ways to more effectively get what you want—or to figure out how to prevent a bad situation from persisting.

At the same time, it's vital to ask yourself if your anger is stronger than it might otherwise be because of a temporary state of vulnerability. After all, when do kids fight? Most of the time it's when they are tired or hungry, and of those two, hungry may be the more common cause. Does that apply to grown-ups? The same is true whatever your age. Hunger plus anger indicates one is hangry.

When do you become hanger-prone?

Knowledge, including self-knowledge, is power. When do you tend to get irritable, frustrated, annoyed—or worse, prone to full-blown anger?

A good place to start if you want to prevent these hangry moments may be to keep an anger log. You can download a free anger log here.

After you have been keeping the log for several days, patterns will emerge.

  • At which hours are your most likely to get irritated?
  • And during those times, how likely is it that you are hungry?

Low blood sugar predicts higher emotional reactivity. At an hour earlier, a certain situation would have simply felt like a problem to solve. Instead, it triggers annoyance. When the intensity of your irritable reaction is out of proportion to the actual seriousness of the event, that's hanger.

Prevention of negative emotions virtually always beats reparations after the fact.

I'm a fan of Susan Albers' new book Hanger Management. Albers offers what she refers to as 45 Tips for Turning Hungry into Happy.

Interestingly, many of her tips address ways to avoid over-eating in addition to suggesting how to prevent hunger per se. That's because hunger and over-eating tend to go together. Both, as she explains, indicate a deficiency of planned and mindful eating.

Is there a link between getting too hungry and excessive eating?

Albers points out that over-eating can create a different kind of hanger problem: becoming too mad too quickly at others. When someone eats excessively, they are likely to realize it after the fact, and at that time get hangry at themselves.

Take a moment to clarify your eating patterns.

  • When do you get too hungry?
  • When are you at risk for eating too much?

Most importantly, if you were going to decide how you could better prevent hanger, both from getting too hungry and from over-eating, what three small changes could make a massive difference?

Here are three tough questions.

  • At whom in your life do you tend to get mad when hanger erupts?

Remember, your eating and anger patterns have massive impacts on those you love. Do you really want to wait too long for nourishment, which can cause pain to those around you? Even minor irritability or a mildly frustrated tone of voice is likely to hurt the receiver's feelings.

Remember too that anger poisons relationships, hurting you as well as your loved ones.

  • Who besides you in your world could benefit from keeping an anger log?

Could their attention, and yours, to when they get hangry help you both to enjoy a more consistently peaceful and positive relationship?

  • What might be a better way to handle frustrating situations than getting angry?

You might try this video's Best Possible Light visualization to figure out new ways to handle situations on your anger log list.

To end hanger . . .

Awareness is the first step. Start keeping your anger log today.

Check out both Albers' book on hanger, and my books on eliminating unnecessary anger from your relationships for further ideas.