26 September 2023

The ‘hanger’ games: How stress at work can be making you hungry

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Meredith Lepore* says that although ‘hangry’ might be a made-up word, new research shows there is real science behind the feeling of hunger to the point of anger.

“Hangry” is one of those words that absolutely sounds made up and is just a result of the Millennial generation’s need to put a label on every feeling and experience and pose made in pictures.

However, there is actually real science behind this feeling of hunger to the point of anger, according to physicians.

If you don’t eat, your blood sugar drops, which causes your cortisol and epinephrine levels to rise to try to balance it out.

However, those hormones can lead to you feeling and acting very irritated with anything that crosses your path (good luck to your office mates on those days.)

On top of that, Neuropeptide Y, which is also released when your blood sugar plunges, gives you that hungry feeling which is associated with aggression.

So you may have saved time skipping breakfast this morning but now you are moments away from luring small children to your gingerbread house to eat them.

New research published last week in the journal Emotion has found that it isn’t just physiology that is making you hangry, it is actually the emotional tone of the environment you are in.

“You don’t just become hungry and start lashing out at the universe,” said the study’s co-author, Assistant Professor Dr Kristen Lindquist.

“We find that feeling hangry happens when you feel unpleasantness due to hunger but interpret those feelings as strong emotions about other people or the situation you’re in.”

Negativity provokes your hanger

The research team from the University of North Carolina ran two online experiments with about 400 participants.

They presented the subjects with pictures that would invoke either positive, negative or neutral reactions and were asked to say how hungry they were.

They were also shown a neutral Chinese pictograph, which they then had to rate as either pleasant or unpleasant on a seven-point scale.

Interestingly, it was only the hungry participants who were also shown an image that caused negative feelings that rated the pictographs as negative.

The hungry subjects who had been primed with neutral or positive images didn’t show negative responses.

“So there seems to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than, say, in pleasant or neutral situations,” the study’s lead author Jennifer MacCormack told News.Sky.com.

In other words, if you are working in a stressful or toxic work environment it could be a major factor in you being hangry a lot of the time.

If you work in a positive and relaxing environment you may be able to push through your state of hanger.

“So there seems to be something special about unpleasant situations that makes people draw on their hunger feelings more than, say, in pleasant or neutral situations,” said MacCormack.

Again this goes back to the sage wisdom of when you start feeling stressed, just eat a biscuit.

* Meredith Lepore is the Deputy Editor of Ladders in New York City.

This article first appeared at www.theladders.com.

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