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How Emotions Affect Hunger: The Science Behind "Hanger"

It’s not your imagination: “Hanger” is real, according to science.

In a recent study, scientists compared two groups of women: one had fasted for the previous 14 hours, the other had just eaten.

The fasting group reported:

  • More negative emotions, including anger, tension, fatigue, and confusion.

  • Fewer positive emotions - lower vigour and slightly lower feelings of self-esteem.

This can be problematic for some people as negative emotions can be linked to overeating, unsuccessful diets, and weight gain.

You don’t need to be a nutrition scientist to see how those things might affect one another.

So what can you do about "hanger"?

If you experience it often, your diet might be too restrictive.

Try focusing less on restriction and more on adding foods that support your goals (fresh produce is a great place to start).

Granted, everyone feels hungry at times (especially if you’re trying to lose weight).

But there’s a difference between being “a little bit hungry” and “so hungry my brain is going to explode!”

“A little bit hungry” is normal, and with practice, you can build your tolerance for it.

Remind yourself that most hunger isn’t actually an emergency. It tends to come in waves (so if you wait, it dissipates).

This is a worthwhile skill NOT because you want to restrict yourself.

Instead, it’s a tool for when you really can’t eat.

For instance, situations like preparing for a colonoscopy or being stuck in traffic can be quite challenging.

Because in those times? Hanger only makes a bad situation worse.


Ackermans MA, Jonker NC, Bennik EC, de Jong PJ. Hunger increases negative and decreases positive emotions in women with a healthy weight. Appetite. 2022 Jan 1;168:105746. PMID: 34637770


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