Why We Get “Hangry” and What to Do About It


The swim party was well attended and loads of fun until the last few minutes. But then something happened that changed my perspective forever.

With nearly 100 people looking on in frozen silence, my son screamed, stamped his feet, and raged at the top of his lungs, “No! I won’t leave. You can’t make me! No! I won’t! Stop trying to make me! Nooooooooooo!!!!!!!”

My husband, much to his frustration and embarrassment, wrestled our then 8-year-old boy (who responded with kicking and growling) to get him to leave the pool party, which was a going away party for a family we didn’t even know very well.

Yep, we were those parents. We knew we were being judged. And we felt responsible, but we didn’t know how to stop the tantrum.

A few days later, I was feeling “hangry,” and my husband teased me about it. He said something like, “Well hey Miss Grumpy, have you had lunch?”

I had. But as I reflected, I realized I had eaten mostly carbohydrates for lunch. Left over spaghetti.

In that moment, all kinds of alarms went off in my mind, and a lightning bolt of connections raced through. I was grumpy because my blood sugar was low.

Suddenly, I understood why my son had tantrumed at the party. His blood sugar was low. He had cookies and soda but did not eat his hamburger. He hadn’t had any protein to help his blood sugar stay stable.

At some level I knew eating mostly pasta would make my blood sugar crash eventually. As I thought more about the tantrum incident, I realized that deep down I knew it would happen to my son also, but somehow that knowing didn’t come fully into my consciousness. I didn’t really acknowledge my sense that it was going to happen.

Why did I ignore my feeling about what would happen?

The answer is simple, although most of us don’t like to look at it. The answer is D-E-N-I-A-L.

Denial is when you ignore or refuse to see the reality of a situation. Humans do it all the time. I think it’s a psychological survival skill. How can we go on in the face of difficulties if we don’t stay in some form of denial at least some of the time?

I think I was trying to avoid disappointing my son by making him eat a hamburger when what he wanted was to drink a soda and eat cookies. I was trying to avoid having to fight that battle with him.

But my denial made the situation much worse and was the basis for the much larger crisis.

Denial is not a friend to people who have had bariatric surgery, either. Denial is the basis for staying involved in an addiction like sugar, or slipping into transfer addiction, like alcohol, shopping, or sex.

Getting out of denial is painful, but it’s a worthy endeavor.

My son’s tantrum was hard on him, which made me sad. And it was embarrassing for my husband and me.

The good news is, it woke us up and helped us see that we were hurting our son by not feeding him in a way that would keep his blood sugar stable.

Thankfully, that was his last real whiz-bang tantrum. Our denial was gone.

One effective way to get out of denial is by hitting bottom: having a really bad experience that forces you to change your ways, despite the fear or inconvenience.

Recent addiction research is showing, though, that you don’t have to hit rock bottom to get out of denial. You can “raise your bottom” by taking a head-on look at your denial.

Take some time today to think about denial as it relates to your own life. Ask yourself and journal about these questions:

What truths am I avoiding?

What reality am I wanting to ignore?

How can I learn from the lessons life is trying to teach me?

How can I get out of denial and into healthier living?

You probably want to change your unhealthy ways. Most of us do. Just remember sometimes you must drag yourself kicking and screaming into a healthier way of thinking and living.

I will add, if you’re struggling with addiction of any kind, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll do my best to get you pointed in the right direction. There is good help out there. You are not alone.

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From Katie Jay’s Small Bites newsletter. Subscribe and get your complimentary report: The 21 Most Common Mistakes People Make after Bariatric Surgery at www.BariSupport.com. © 2022, Katie Jay. All rights reserved.