I’m sorry for that thing I said when I was hungry


A couple of weeks ago I found myself embroiled in a bit of an interpersonal snafu.  I was trying to broach a sensitive subject with care and delicacy, hoping that I could not only get my point across but that I could do so in a way that was diplomatic and fair.

The problem is, I tried to do this while I was hungry.  And so instead of being careful and delicate, I struggled to find the right words to convey what I wanted to say, and then finally, I became frustrated and blurted out exactly the wrong words required by the situation.

After I finally got to eat something, I realized what I had done, but it was too late – the damage had been done.  And not only that, but the damage had radiated outward in a domino effect of fuckery, and I found myself spending the next couple of hours engaged in a desperate attempt to put band-aids over all of the social wounds my hunger-fueled carelessness had wrought.

It occurred to me later that if you could go back over the past several years and catalog all of the times I had really stepped in some big piles of shit with other people, then dig deep down to find the underlying causes of it, nine times out of ten your excavation will lead you to an empty, rumbling, pissed-off tummy.  Like, three of the four fights I’ve had with Brian?  All happened when I was hungry.

I still remember one time in particular, when I had been cleaning the house all day long and by three p.m. I was hot and sweaty and I’d only eaten a granola bar and some coffee.  He made the mistake of wandering across my path, one thing led to another and before I knew it I was telling him to go fuck himself as he walked out the front door.  Later on, when I finally had the good sense to eat some damn food already, I was mortified by what I had done.

Basically it is in the best interest of everyone who knows me to make sure I eat with regularity.  Well-fed me is even-keeled, emotionally stable, easy-going, laid back.  Hungry me wants you to wipe that fucking face off your head, bitch.

One of the things that has been revelatory for me about embracing a more health-conscious lifestyle is becoming more highly aware of how my body functions – or rather, does not – depending on stress, sleep, food, exercise and a whole mess of other factors.  Food has been one of the big ones.  I’m not talking about issues with specific kinds of food, like “I feel foggy when I eat gluten.”  (I eat gluten all the time and I have no problems with it, which, according to the internet’s diet gurus, makes me into the dietary equivalent of a unicorn.)

Rather, I’m talking about feeling my mental and physical processes slowly fall apart as hunger sets in.  If I try to work out when I am hungry, I am sure to have the worst workout ever.  If I try to do work that requires focus and attention when I am hungry, I usually wind up distracted by everything from random clicking noises coming from another computer or weird itching on the bottom of my foot.  I get tired and quiet. When I do talk, I’m snippy and kind of mean. And this is just after a few hours without eating food.

I’m hardly unique in this regard, by the way.  When I searched for an image to match the title of this blog post, a whole mess of t-shirts and memes popped up.  In fact, a word – “hangry” – has been coined to describe the very specific kind of anger that results when someone’s fuel tank contains nothing more than the fumes of this morning’s bagel.  This seems to happen to everyone, even otherwise good-natured people like myself.

But if so many people know about and experience this, then why on earth do we still expect women to starve themselves under the guise of dieting?  People talk about women being “crazy” and “irrational” but does it ever occur to them that maybe those women are just fucking hungry?  That maybe if they weren’t trying to subsist on a diet of celery sticks with PB2 and seltzer water and dry chicken breast with a half-cup of steamed broccoli, that maybe they’d be a lot more pleasant to be around?  (I have lost count how many personal accounts I’ve read written by former figure competitors who describe how contest prep made them cranky and irritable. Like, it’s just expected that in the weeks running up to a figure competition, you’ll be a total hosebeast.)

Now, when I say “dieting,” I’m not taking about a small caloric deficit with the goal of sensibly losing weight or fat, but rather diets like the one promoted in Bob Harper’s wretched “Jump Start to Skinny,” which has adherents starting out with a “jump start” of 800 calories a day.  Check out Kat Whitfield’s awesome take-downs of Harper’s books over at her excellent blog.  She reads them so you don’t have to!  What a service-y lady.

Eight hundred calories is not even enough to sustain a 4’11” preteen who never gets off the couch.  Can you imagine how cranky and irritable a person must be who is on that diet?  I am pretty sure I would be walking around with people’s heads on sticks like some kind of modern-day Vlad the Impaler if I tried to subsist for three weeks on an 800-calorie a day diet.  (That is, provided I even have the strength to lift the impaled heads in the first place.)  Let’s take a moment to feel bad not only for the dieter but also everyone the dieter comes into contact with.

So maybe now that “hangry” is becoming more of a thing, can we stop for a second and maybe reconsider this expectation that a proper woman is one who barely eats?  (Or as Kat Whitfield says, “aspiring to the lifestyle forced upon people who can’t afford food.”) And maybe we can also consider dispensing with the shitty misogyny of saying women should starve themselves to be thin, but then acting as though they are mentally ill for exhibiting the very symptoms of starvation.

Because – and I know this often gets lost in the conversation about women and our bodies, but hear me out because this shit is revolutionary – women are people.  Our bodies are not just pretty objects for the world to look at, but complex biological organisms that need food and water and rest just to function at a basic level.  Needing to eat and getting pissy when we’re hungry isn’t a sign that we have failed as women, but rather proof that we are actual human beings.

P.S. I’ll just leave this Naomi Wolf quote here: “A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”  Because no conversation about women and dieting dieting is complete without it.


42 responses to “I’m sorry for that thing I said when I was hungry

  1. I wish there was a “LOVE” button for this one, so I’ll settle for this – ♥♥♥ – instead. I just want to give you a standing ovation for this. Such a great perspective on this topic – thank you!!!

    • It is an interesting perspective yet you work to keep your body up to standards. I want to be healthy but I want people to look good–why lie about it? We as women DO desire that–otherwise women wouldn’t treat other women so badly–like life is one big competition because it is. What pisses me off more than the “skinny” standard is all these bastards that come up with these diets and capitalize on this need in women– What is LACKING is depth ad spirituality– a woman is so distracted with the outer whose taking care of the inner? It’s all a distraction to keep our eyes on nonsense–and it works.

  2. I totally relate, as I am also an emotional wreck when I haven’t eaten. I either get a case of the woozies, or I’m a sobbing, sensitive, “hangry” mess.

  3. So, I love this. For what it’s worth (and obviously, I see the irony in saying this), I love the Lean Cuisine commercials where the woman is talking about how “for years [she] thought she hated the sound of childrens’ laughter, but it turns out [she] was just hungry.”

    I, too, (mostly through marathon training) have become incredibly aware of how I respond to things while hungry, but I always feel sheepish or selfish or guilty saying things like, “I need to eat before we discuss.”

  4. I am the same way. I recently looked back on all the times I was grumpy enough to yell at someone in a meeting at work and low and behold…right before lunch time. I frequently forget to eat and so I become hangry more often than I should. My boyfriend has learned that if I am overly grumpy with him, he should just hand me something to eat. It really fixes the problem most of the time! Also, I agree – no discussion on dieting is complete without the Wolf quote; it is pure gold.

  5. This is so relevant to me right now- just last night, my boyfriend and I got into the stupidest argument (basically, I made a joke, he didn’t get it, suddenly we’re fighting). While crying on the couch, I realized- it was 7:30 and neither of us had eaten dinner! I knew from experience that all we needed was to eat and sure enough, the bad feelings dissipated as if by magic.
    I liken my eating habits to that of a hobbit- I need to eat every few hours! Otherwise, like you, I get distracted and irritable. I didn’t realize this until the last few years- sometimes I wonder how different my teen years would have been if I had just eaten more often!

  6. When we leave the house my husband carries emergency snacks in case I get hungry, because once that happens, there will be a tantrum and I will want to go home (I’m not 5, I’m 32). We almost didn’t get married because I was so much of a monster grump, all down to “dieting”!

  7. My workplace keeps a stash of snacks because so many of us get “hangry”… we don’t even say anything to each other, just quietly reach for (or offer!) the snack box…

  8. The only time my husband and I ever fight is when one of us is hungry. The worst is when we are both hungry and can’t decide on a place to eat – watch out! I followed a figure competitor-type diet for a while and I wanted to kill someone. Never again!

  9. Can I take you to lunch? And buy you a drink?

    This is bloody brilliant.

    I used to suffer from hypoglycemia and it is still not a great thing if my blood sugar crashes. My husband also knows to keep granola bars in his pockets, backpack and the car for me. There is nothing worse than being ravenous and nothing to eat in sight.

    Our culture doesn’t help — people are made to feel guilty (!?) for even stopping work to eat a proper/healthy/delicious meal for lunch (i.e. not gobbling crap at your desk) or for eating anything more substantial than broiled fish and salad. My food groups include martinis and the occasional muffin. I would rather burn off the calories later than eat another damn salad.

    I plan to blog soon about fighting, and will link to this.

  10. I wonder if so many “mean girls” are mean and cranky only because they are starving themselves. This post has so many great points – from the hangry phenomenon to women’s bodies not just being objects for visual consumption.

  11. So true. I definitely get hangry, a word I introduced my husband to years ago. He is odd in that he can just eat one big meal a day and be fine, but if I don’t eat at least three times a day, watch out! Once I get hangry, I also obsess over food, and nothing will get done until I eat. Apparently I get this from my dad who is one of the most even-keeled, patient people you could ever meet–as long as he eats regularly.

  12. I’m with you… If I don’t eat all day I get very hangry. My students know this. When I’m eating Greek yogurt during class they never complain because they know if their teacher is hungry, that also means she’ll be HANGRY and they don’t want that!

  13. Oh dear, I’ve been living under a rock. What is this cultural expectation that women don’t eat? Is it like the one where they also don’t sweat and always look like they’re wearing makeup (but you shouldn’t be able to tell it’s makeup, natch) and never, ever fart? I’d not heard of this one, but it’s ridiculous.

    I’m a daily news journalist and my little sister is a doctor doing her first year of residency – between us we keep several cereal-bar brands afloat because nobody should have to deal with a hangry interviewer or ER doctor.

    • You are lucky to be under the rock. I think it has always been this way. I remember my grandmother telling me how she and her friends used to eat before they went on dates or to parties so the boys wouldn’t see them eat. Also, I have observed that because women can’t acknowledge how much they eat, it makes weight loss harder. They insist that they aren’t eating anything and just can’t lose the weight because they are too embarrassed to make an honest assessment of their diets.

  14. Every once in a while, I’ll get someone at school — teacher, administrator, parent, student — who wonders why I don’t issue lunch detentions. (A lot of our kids are dependent on buses and also are depended upon for care of younger siblings, so after school presents its own issues.) But, really? Asking me to skip my own lunch? Let’s go with — “no.”

  15. Arrrrgh!! I cant’ believe there are people advocating starvation with 800-1200 calorie diets. I am 50 years old, 5.4 tall, weigh 58 kg, 17.7% BF and NOT genetically gifted. I consume about 2500 calories a day and my weight has been stable for at least 2 years. Why? Because I lift! I ditched the cardio about a year ago and have not looked back. Iron rules!

  16. I don’t condone any kind of dieting or calorie restriction nor restriction of any kind of food, but why is it that no one here clicks on the fact that overall you should be able to go a few hours without food without your body spazzing completely? it is NOT natural for you to have to carry around snacks just to keep yourself level, it means that you have poor blood sugar regulation and possibly other issues and its something that needs to be fixed not covered up with a bunch of snack foods. I feel bad if that’s the kind of whacked metabolism you have that literally turns you into a Jekyll and hyde monster simply because a few hours have passed without food…I don’t fast or anything to that effect but my system is strong enough that IF by chance I miss a meal I can stay solid until I do eat, and everyone should be aiming to have that kind of inner stability. I love the message of this post but at the same time is this acceptance as though this is an ok thing,…when its not.

    • When I mean a few hours, I’m not talking like three hours, but more like 6-8 hours. Plus I think my metabolism is generally a lot faster when I’m in training, so I get depleted a lot easier because I’ve burned through a few hundred extra calories, as well as dealing with the afterburn effect.

      My question to you would be, how would you recommend going about fixing this situation? I mean, I personally think the solution to just keep a snack in your purse is an easy resolution to the problem and I like easy resolutions to the problem (Occam’s Razor and all that), but you don’t seem to agree. I’d be curious to know what your solution to this would be.

  17. Ugh I’ve said so many horrible things when I’m hungry… my coworker calls it “irrational angry Steph”, and that’s why I have a drawer full of snacks in the office!! But let’s back it up for a second — Bob Harper expects people to live on 800 cals/day for 3 weeks? What kind of shit scam is he running? I used to think he was so much better than his evil counterpart, Jillian, but I guess not.

    • What makes this more terrible, is that in “The Skinny Rules” he has women on a ~1200 calorie per day diet.

      In “Jumpstart to Skinny” he makes it very clear many times you are supposed to transition to “The Skinny Rules” after your 3 weeks are up because it is a more ‘sustainable’ diet plan. So these poor people are being told that 1200-1500 calories is your limit. I suppose it might seem like a lot after 800 per day, but probably not.

      P.S. Lovely article and thank you for sharing my reviews!

  18. I think Bob Harper likes women to be skeletal, unhealthy and above all, WEAK!! Many men feel threatened by strong/healthy women, maybe he should marry Tracy Anderson.
    People need to get into their heads that low colorie/starvation diets are not sustainable. I know a
    woman who was/is overweight and went on the 1200 calorie diet and now she is fatter than ever!

  19. You are amazing. This post is amazing. The links on the post lead to amazing stuff. I’ve used amazing four times now because it’s true. That’s all.

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  23. I absolutely love this! I tell my mom I’m hangry all the time. It’s sad the social atmosphere we live in, where women are expected to diet, but if they take it too far (i.e. develop an ED) they are labelled as attention seekers/crazy. I learned through training for a half-marathon the beauty of being well fueled.

  24. This is the best. I just had to laugh out loud and send it straight to my husband. There’s been more times I’d care to admit where I’ve been lazy or distracted and put myself in this situation of being unfed and irrational. I say “FEED ME.” lol I can’t function or have a good thought process without some protein — I’ve become more aware of how to stave off that hangry feeling, but routine is definitely helpful. My body responds to eating at the same times, same foods, etc. Oh, and water, don’t get me started on making sure I’m “watered.” I feel like a plant… I need nutrients and to be watered. Too many fights until I realized THIS was a discipline I had to learn. THANK YOU for posting this. It made my day 🙂

  25. Yawn.

    More sophistry from the rabid Ms Wolf: “a quietly mad population is a tractable”. Sadly for Ms Wolf, the bleating across the feminised Western lands from hypergamic housewives blaming their declining SMV on society, (rather than what is arguably the simplier solution of moderating their own intake) isn’t a co isn’t a patriarchal conspiracy… except in the sense that men *prefer* women with BMIs in the healthy range.

    I digress.

    Note: The correlation between food and hunger isn’t very well understood by the majority it seems. Food actually makes an individual hungrier… the saiety experienced is only short term.

    Consider, is it actually harder to eat at (or slightly under) maintenance cals for at a given body weight, compared to a lighter bodyweight? Well, unless one is at cicra 15 BMI then the answer is: No,of course not.

    Since energy expenditure rises by 9.5 kcal /per kg for women (Hans-Benedict eq.) then there usually is no beneficial long term effect on satiey gained by maintaining a higher bodyweight… when the limbic system will merely re-set to the higher consumption.


    Of course, to be fair, through the indoctrination of gotta-get-mine-gotta-get-more mass market capitalism, *has* actually made the perception of hunger something to be perceived as intolerable… only to get us the sheeple, to purchase more products (quote the Snickers ad “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”)

    Hunger has been experienced by humanity for the most part of it’s existence and is a perfectly acceptable state to exist in for brief periods.


  26. Thank you thank you thank you! I’ve been battling some self image issues recently, especially while trying to resolve them with my social ideals of fat acceptance and feminism. Somehow reading this post help things click into place that little bit better. I’m sure they’ll unclick themselves but now I know I can come back and reread this!

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