Main Course

Reasonable Explanations for ‘Hunger Rage’

Feeling 'hangry' - angry due to hunger - seems to be the most popular excuse for irritability on the internet. The concept, however, turns out to be much more than a cute buzzword. As Eleanor Morgan, UK Editor for Vice Magazine's food channel Munchies, reports, the explanations for 'hunger rage' are deeply embedded into modern culture.

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Brendan Francis Newnam: What is your experience with ‘hanger’?

Eleanor Morgan: To say that it defines me is probably one of the biggest understatements I can make. My life is kind of defined by exactly what my next meal is going to be, where I’m going to eat and how I’m going to eat it and it’s been that way as far as I can remember. But the hanger thing is something that I have been aware of and trying to come on top of in recent times just because it’s such a horrible feeling.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So you identify that when you’re deprived of food you get grumpy and mean.

Eleanor Morgan: Absolutely. And anger is very similar emotion to anxiety and I feel both of them in equal measure when I need to eat.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well according to your article the anxiety and anger you’re feeling are very real so tell us why do we turn into monsters when we haven’t eaten in a while.

Eleanor Morgan: Well I think the important thing to remember is between our brains and our digestive system there is effectively a super highway of hormones and when we’re hungry there’s an increase. And I only found this out through interviewing a professor in the US. There’s an increase of a hormone called ghrelin which increases our motivation to eat and when this hormone is elevated it can also activate the pituitary adrenal axis in the brain. Basically your stress component and once you eat this hormone then chills out a bit and your mood returns to vaguely normal. So yes there is a lot of science behind it.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s so good to hear that there’s a scientific excuse for my occasional bouts of grouchiness. Also a reason why our body does this, right. I mean there is a purpose behind anger.

Eleanor Morgan: Well yeah. I mean it releases it if you’re physical symptoms aren’t enough of a prompt for you to eat. You know your stomach grumbling. Feeling lighthearted or whatever. The activation of this part of your brain is another way of your body saying hey. We need to eat something. So yeah so it’s kind of two-fold please feed me plea from your body.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. The professor you cite in your article, Paul Curry, he teaches at Reed College. He also talks about how you don’t have to eat a certain amount of food to satisfy anger, right. You just have to let your body know something is coming.

Eleanor Morgan: Certainly from my own experience which is the only way I can relate to what he was saying. I mean the moment you start eating, a few mouthfuls in… your body realizes the satiation. Is that the right word? Satisfaction is coming.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Saity. I think would be the technical word.

Eleanor Morgan: When you start eating, everything kind of calms down.

Brendan Francis Newnam: In the article you talk about real world consequences happen related to anger and you site this study down in Israel.

Eleanor Morgan: Yeah. A few years ago the scientists did a paper. They examined 1000 rulings from Israeli judges and they were parole hearings. And over the course of a year, the investigators found out that most of the lenient verdicts were given in the mornings and right after lunch, which suggests a significant relationship how favorable the judge was feeling in relation to when he or she had last eaten so it kind of…

Brendan Francis Newnam: It’s like right after breakfast and right after lunch, the most lenient rulings?

Eleanor Morgan: It was significant. I think the significant rulings peaked at about 65% in the morning and declined over the day so I think it’s pretty black and white.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So we’ve established that hanger is a real thing. It’s part of the human conditional and it’s been so for a while and yet I feel like it’s been kind of the zeitgeist lately. Wouldn’t you agree? You guys over there at Vice are kind of monitoring what’s happening in the vanguard. I mean I feel like it’s more popular than ever.

Eleanor Morgan: Definitely. I think people love composite words and buzzwords and the internet loves these things. I think it’s very easy way for people to kind of… It’s an arterial root into a subject. Well it’s true. If there’s a kind of buzzy word that you can associate with it. It’s one of the ones that actually works and makes sense, but it’s definitely something you hear. I mean I hear it at least once a day I think.

Brendan Francis Newnam: So you’re saying that this is like the cronut of human emotions right now.

Eleanor Morgan: Yeah. It is