Habits of Healthy Eaters: Don't Let Yourself Get Too Hungry

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Readers, I'm embarrassed to admit this. I recently threw a bit of a temper tantrum in public. At age 30. And all because I was hungry.

On Saturday night, all the yoga, deep breathing, and happy thoughts in the world weren't going to save me from the Hunger Monster!

My boyfriend invited me to tag along with three of his friends to a cool new wood-fired pizza restaurant. It was 6 p.m., and I had had a substantial breakfast, a light lunch and a snack. I wasn't at all hungry yet. (Mistake #1. I left home with a cute, small purse that contained zero emergency snacks.)

We arrived and were told it would be a 45-minute wait, so we headed across the street to a bar. The five of us nursed our beers, and we waited an hour. I considered walking the few blocks home for a healthy snack. We walked back across the street, found out our table was nowhere near ready, and headed back to the bar. (Mistake #2. While I can handle one beer on an empty stomach, I rarely to never drink two!) When an IPA was placed in my hand, I thought the calories in it would calm my growling stomach. (Uh, am I new here? Calories in liquid form do not really do much for satiety--I know that!)

Finally, our table was ready. The hostess called us. With an end in sight, my hunger was under control. I was so excited to eat!

Then we arrived to find out it would be another 20 minutes, and we were by now waiting in a crowded, hot restaurant--smelling food, seeing it, and watching other people eat!  We finally sat down, and I immediately felt sick and dizzy. I started whining and feeling terrible--almost panicked. I suddenly rose from the table, in need of air. The beer and hunger hit me, and I felt awful. I told the guys I was going home. I stood outside for a few minutes, realizing that now I had to walk home alone, cook food, and eat it.

So I went back inside. My boyfriend had generously ordered for us, and when they messed up our order, I freaked out.  I was so hungry--and now our appetizer contained an unadvertised allergen! I walked to the server's station, explained it with a bit more emotion than was necessary (no raised voices, bad words or anything--but I was seriously on the verge of tears). Within two minutes a new plate had arrived, and I gobbled down an entire plateful of roasted cauliflower with lemon vinaigrette.

The pizza arrived, and I worried about allergens again (my boyfriend, in his own hungry state, forgot to ask on my behalf). I wouldn't take a bite until the server asked the kitchen (I can get seriously ill from several different foods).

Finally, I ate. Three slices of a thin-crust pizza with spicy Indian tomato sauce and roasted vegetables in about five minutes. I felt sick soon after. My stomach was physically sore, even though emotionally I was calm again.

Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between hunger and cravings. This was one time I knew for certain I was feeling hunger.  

On this scale (from this helpful article about dealing with hunger and food cravings)…
Hunger Level Sensations and Symptoms
1 Starving, weak, dizzy
2 Very hungry, cranky, low energy, a lot of stomach growling
3 Pretty hungry, stomach is growling a little
4 Starting to feel a little hungry
5 Satisfied, neither hungry nor full
6 A little full, pleasantly full
7 A little uncomfortable
8 Feeling stuffed
9 Very uncomfortable, stomach hurts
10 So full you feel sick
…I was at a 1.5. No joke.

Let my embarrassment be a lesson to you. (Seriously, was I 30 or 3?! I apologized profusely to my boyfriend and his friends--and let this be a public apology as well.)
  1. Plan ahead. Carry an emergency snack. There is currently an energy bar in my purse. I will not leave home again without snacks to ward off the hungry beast.
  2. Try to eat when you reach a level "3" or "4." Don't let yourself get to a "2" or "1" on the hunger scale. You'll make terrible decisions, as I did. I had no intention of ordering pizza that night. I wanted the cauliflower and a salad. I ate pizza--too much of it and too quickly--and I felt awful all night.
  3. Never drink on an empty stomach. Drinking alcohol lowers your inhibitions and only compounds hunger-related crankiness. It's harder to make any decision with alcohol in your system, and when you're starving and thinking less than clearly, it's easier to reach for junk food and sabotage your meal plans.
  4. Eat more protein and fiber to fill you up and help you stay full. My lunch and snack had been light on protein: tomato and avocado salad and some leftover millet. No wonder I was so hungry!
I'm still blushing when I think of how I acted, but please tell me I'm not alone in falling prey to the hunger monster! (Anyone?)

Do you get cranky or irrational when you're hungry? What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you because of hunger?