Why Do I Get Hangry? WILDFIT Founder on the Food-Mood Connection

11 minutes read -
Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT and trainer of Mindvalley's WILDFIT Quest
Table of Contents
Highlights: Feeling irritable when hungry? Unravel the mystery of “Why do I get hangry?” and learn to manage it with practical tips from WILDFIT founder Eric Edmeades.
Contents

It’s late afternoon. You’re in a meeting that’s dragging on, and lunch seems like a distant memory. Your stomach rumbles, and your focus starts to wane. And as time ticks by, a wave of irritability washes over you. 

Hanger. Has. Struck.

This fun, colloquial term that combines hungry and angry is often used as a joke. But the nagging question remains: “Why do I get hangry?

Chances are, that feeling is familiar—lashing out at anyone within a five-foot radius or shedding irrational tears over a particularly stubborn jar of pickles. Often, the blame is placed on the absence of a satisfying sandwich or a hearty salad. But is there more to this sudden outburst of emotions?

As The Incredible Sulk would say, “Don’t make me hangry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry.”

Is Being Hangry a Real Thing?

Hanger is the feeling that turns rational people into irritable, short-fused grumps. And yes, it is an actual thing. Hangry is a real word, added to the Oxford Dictionary in 2017.

But it’s not just being a bit miffed because you missed lunch. It’s a potent mix of “hunger” and “angry” (hence the word “hangry”) that can impact your mood, relationships, and even your work.

I suspect,” explains Eric Edmeades, the founder of WILDFIT and trainer of the Mindvalley Quest of the same name, “and this may sound a little crazy, but I don’t know if you’ve ever seen lions eating at a kill. You know, the lions are there, and they fight with each other to get at the food. I suspect that as our blood sugar gets low like that, it makes us grumpy so we can fight for our food better.”

So yes, it seems pretty well accepted that hunger can affect a person’s emotions. But the question is, is hunger the true culprit for those negative feelings? Or is it another little monster, low blood sugar?

Why Do People Get Hangry? The Science Behind It

It’s not necessarily hunger that causes hanger. Rather, it’s low blood sugar levels

When your blood sugar level drops, your body releases the hormones cortisol and epinephrine in an attempt to inspire you to seek out glucose. You may know epinephrine as adrenaline, while cortisol is commonly known as the stress hormone, so it’s no surprise that an increase in both leads to a spot of agitation.

But besides alienating your nearest and dearest, why is feeling hangry bad? Well, for starters, hanger can have severe repercussions for your health. 

1. Being hangry is basically being stressed

Stress itself is bad, isn’t it? It’s linked to higher incidences of:

  • Headaches,
  • High blood pressure,
  • Asthma,
  • Skin conditions,
  • Diabetes,
  • Depression,
  • Anxiety,
  • Heart problems, and
  • So much more.

In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of all doctor’s visits are for stress-related issues. But instead of dealing with the root cause of stress, people often turn to dysfunctional food.

Those dysfunctional foods go into them, increase their toxicity, mess up their energy, [and] mess up their metabolism,” Eric explains. “Then they feel bad again. Then they eat more of those foods.”

2. Your body’s not getting enough of the good stuff

When your blood glucose levels drop, your body naturally sends signals to rectify the situation ASAP. 

What’s happening for most people in the world right now is, they’re having low blood sugar, and that’s triggering negative emotions,” says Eric. “So between low blood sugar and the negative emotion, all of a sudden—boom!—they’re eating something.” 

And what do you think they’re eating? It’s most likely going to be chocolate, ice cream, cake, and what have you.

The problem is that sugary snacks will solve the problem, but only in the short term—by raising your blood sugar rapidly. 

Why is a short-term solution a problem? Because rapid spikes in blood glucose lead to rapid drops. And before you know it, you’re stuck in a perpetual cycle of munching down M&Ms, Coca-Cola, and all else the food industry is feeding you just to keep the hanger monster at bay.

This reliance on sugary treats and convenient (but highly processed) food can lead to an increased risk of all kinds of long-term health problems, including obesity and type II diabetes.  Not only that, but lousy food habits could lead to something more sinister—food addiction.

AI-generated image of a woman eating ice cream on a cone and wondering, "Why am I hangry?"

The Food and Mood Connection

So coming back to the question of “Why do I get hangry?” Well, there are two reasons why your mood might be out of whack, according to Eric: 

  1. You might be malnourished in some ways. “There may be key nutrients, key fats, key vitamins and minerals, [and] hydration that are missing,” he says. “And that’s causing you an energy problem, which has an impact on your psychology.”
  1. There are chemicals, preservatives, stimulants, and other things that are triggering your psychology and causing a sense of anxiety.

So how can a healthy diet improve your mental well-being? Well, let’s break it down.

The second brain

How many brains do you have? Just one? Think again. And maybe use your gut feelings this time.

Yup, your second brain (otherwise known as the enteric nervous system) is nestled within the walls of your alimentary canal (otherwise known as your gut).

It’s called “the second brain” because it’s made up of the same cells that power the brain, called neurons. In fact, the second brain contains more neurons than either the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system—true story.

So gut health isn’t just about getting enough nutrients and looking after the bacteria in your gut microbiome; it’s also crucial for your mental well-being.

There’s a lot of research going into how the gut affects serotonin levels and mental health disorders like depression. The functions of the second brain open up new fields of nutritional psychiatry and psychology and highlight more than ever the importance of the food we eat for mental health.

Listen in on The Mindvalley Show: “The Gut Health Health Doctor Reveals the 5 Top Tips to a Happy Belly” with Dr. Megan Rossi.

How to Stop Feeling Hangry: 6 Tips From Eric Edmeades

You are what you eat”—it’s likely you’ve heard this saying before. It’s something that the diet culture often teaches.

Now, are you familiar with “your food is your mood”? Sure, there’s a strong connection between the food you consume and your emotional state. But this phrase also suggests that being mindful of your food choices and eating habits can contribute to better emotional well-being.

If you’ve ever struggled with the negative side of your emotions, then you should re-examine your relationship with food. And a good place to start is to address the six human hungers.

These are the six primary motivations for humans to eat,” Eric explains. “Each of them has a different way of motivating you to eat.”

So let’s take a closer look at each with tips from Eric on how to stop feeling hangry.

1. Stay hydrated

Why do I get hangry so easily?” It could be just because you’re thirsty.

Thirst is a unique kind of hunger that’s often misinterpreted by our bodies. Many times, when our body craves water, it sends hunger signals. 

For almost all of our history, when we ate, we would get water from our food,” explains Eric. “Most of the food we ate had high water content in it.”

As a result, dehydration may trick us into thinking we’re hungry. 

Unfortunately, the foods in the human diet today don’t have high water content. So, when we feel an unexpected pang of hunger, we reach for those chips or cookies to tide us over. And that causes the vicious cycle of unhealthy emotional eating.

Tip from Eric Edmeades:Make sure you stick with your six to eight glasses of water a day. That will help you a great deal by removing one of the six hungers and making you properly hydrated on a consistent basis.”

2. Provide your body with nutrients

This form of hunger is nutritional, and it’s your body’s genuine way of signaling a need for more nutrients. 

As Eric explains in his Mindvalley Quest, it’s when your body is signaling that it’s low on some nutrients like iron, vitamins, and minerals. He adds, “And then your body will attempt through cravings to push you in the direction of seeking out those foods.”

However, it isn’t merely about filling your stomach. It’s about fulfilling your body’s requirements for vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. 

And this deep-seated need for sustenance can’t be fooled by a simple snack. Rather, it can be better managed by adopting a diet rich in whole foods, according to a 2020 study.

These foods are essential and include things like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains—all of which can keep you feeling satiated longer. And that reduces the temptation to overeat as well as give in to your hangriness.

Tip from Eric Edmeades:Your health is far more determined by you getting enough of the good stuff than it is even by you eliminating the bad stuff. 

If you focus on getting enough of the plants that you need to be eating, enough of the healthy proteins that you need to be eating, [and] enough of the hydration and water that you need. And if you focus on that, then you’re going to reduce your nutritional hunger dramatically.”

3. Eat regular, balanced meals

Our bodies instinctively crave dietary variety to secure a range of necessary nutrients. In fact, we need a variety of different foods to satisfy our huge nutritional requirements.

There are, traditionally, 200 plant species that humans used to eat,” says Eric. Never mind the different types of nuts and animals that were part of that diet. 

And now,” he adds, “people are getting almost no variety in their plants, but they are getting tons of variety in their sugars.”

The thing is, we often mistake this desire for a varied diet for general hunger. However, studies in nutritional science highlight the importance of dietary diversity for optimal health.

So if you notice recurring hunger despite eating adequately, consider diversifying your meals. Incorporate different food groups, colors, and cuisines to fulfill this hunger.

Tip from Eric Edmeades:What we have to do is satisfy our sense of variety by learning a new eating paradigm.” And that paradigm is called food freedom.

AI-generated image of a burger and fries on a table as a way to show "Why am I hangry?"

4. Cut out the crap (food)

Humans have two primary energy sources: fat and sugar. And when your body is predominantly burning sugar (as it is with today’s way of eating), your energy is going to a rollercoaster. This, then, prompts feelings of hunger even shortly after eating. 

This kind of hunger is your body’s emergency signal for quick energy. To avoid this, focus on foods with low glycemic indexes, such as whole grains, legumes, and lean proteins, which provide slow-release energy and help maintain stable blood sugar levels. 

And it’s always advisable to cut out inflammatory foods like sugary foods, artificial trans fats, refined carbohydrates, processed meat, and excessive alcohol—the usual suspects.

Tip from Eric Edmeades: It’s really important to notice when blood sugar is the issue for you.” When it does, also notice if it triggers negative emotions. And this gives you the opportunity to make conscious food decisions.

5. Identify emotional eating

A kid runs, falls, and skins their knee. Mom comes with kisses, hugs, and chocolate chip cookies. Now the kid associates chocolate chip cookies with mom’s love. All the way to adulthood.

This is known as emotional hunger. And it’s common to seek comfort in food during times of stress, sadness, or even joy. 

Emotions drive us to eat,” says Eric. “Many times, it’s not just the emotion; it’s the nostalgia of that particular emotion. Nostalgia is a very, very powerful driver.”

The food industry capitalizes on this emotional connection. Coca-Cola and the Christmas polar bear ring a bell?

There are foods you eat right now that you think make you feel better, aren’t there?” says Eric. But the question is, do they really make you feel better? Do they? ‘Cause I’m going to suggest that maybe they don’t.”

Mindfulness techniques, such as intuitive eating and meditation, have been shown to be effective strategies for managing emotional hunger. And recognizing and addressing your emotions directly rather than resorting to food can lead to a healthier relationship with eating.

Tip from Eric Edmeades: What we want to do is notice how we’re using food to satisfy those emotional needs because those needs are so significant that we will do anything we can to satisfy them.”

6. Recognize the sensation of “emptiness”

If there’s one thing you should know when it comes to the topic of “Why do I get hangry?”, it’s that an empty stomach and hunger are two different things. 

When our stomach feels empty, we link it up to hunger, and we feel like that is a kind of hunger,” Eric explains. However, if you’ve ever tried fasting of any kind, you know that by day two or three, your stomach becomes properly empty. And that “hunger” you feel? It can actually go away.

Empty hunger isn’t about a nutritional need but about the desire for the sensation of a full stomach. Historically, in “feast or famine” conditions, humans learned to eat their fill when food was plentiful. 

However, in our modern world of readily available food, this instinct can lead to overeating. Recognizing that this sensation doesn’t necessarily equate to a genuine need for food is essential. 

Tip from Eric Edmeades: Empty stomach hunger is a dangerous one. So pay attention. When sometimes you’re just eating to change a feeling in your stomach, an empty stomach does not mean hunger; it means empty stomach. And frankly, your stomach is grateful when you allow it to be empty from time to time. Everything needs a break.”

Eric Edmeades, founder of WILDFIT and trainer of Mindvalley's WILDFIT Quest
Eric Edmeades, trainer of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest

Beat the Hanger Games

So ask yourself again: “Why do I get hangry?” It’s a serious one-on-one you should have with yourself, especially if you have a hard time controlling your cravings for junk food or sugary snacks.

If you need a little help through it all, join Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Masterclass with Eric Edmeades. This free, hour-long workshop takes you away from all those fad diets and instead focuses on changing your mindset and psychology when it comes to food.

Join the 20,000+ students who’ve long sayonara-ed their bad eating habits, like Adam Salyards from State College, U.S.A.:

Within weeks [of WILDFIT], I started having less reflux. I started cutting back on my medications. Then I cut dairy, and “overnight,” my lifelong sinus issues cleared up and I could breathe! My asthma disappeared shortly after, and I stopped taking my daily inhalers. All, total, I stopped taking eight medications for reflux, sinus issues, and asthma.

I lost 18 pounds and several inches off of my belly and waist. I am starting to get lean, and I feel amazing! Chest pains—gone. Constant reflux—gone. Low energy—gone. Joint pain—gone. Difficulty breathing—gone.”

You’ve seen how food can affect your physical health, mental health, mood, and mindset. But your mindset can just as effectively transform your relationship with food. And the WILDFIT approach will not only kick your addiction to candy, chips, or ice cream but also replace it with healthy cravings for food that heals and nourishes.

The thing is, mastering your hanger is more than just conquering a craving; it’s the first step to taking control of your overall well-being. 

Welcome to your (food) freedom.


Images generated on Midjourney except for the one of the Mindvalley trainer.

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Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is an SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is an SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Eric Edmeades - Trainer
Expertise by

Eric is the founder of the most effective health transformation program available on the planet; WILDFIT®. Awarded by the Canadian Senate for his dedication to improving the quality of human health and wellbeing, Eric Edmeades is also a serial entrepreneur with experience including wireless networking, military research, Hollywood film production, and award-winning and life-saving medical simulation. Widely celebrated as one of the most powerful and entertaining speakers in the world, Eric Edmeades has shared the stage with Sir Richard Branson, Jack Canfield, John Gray, Robin Sharma, and President Bill Clinton to name a few.

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