Is Your Diet Making You Cranky?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I'm someone who would never do well with an extremely low-calorie diet, because I can't stand to be hungry. My friends and family know that if I'm irritable, it's usually because I need to eat. I eat every few hours like clockwork. I'm starving when I wake up in the morning, and always eat breakfast right away.

Over the years I've learned how to eat a healthy diet but still enjoy the foods I love. If you told me that I'd never be able to eat my favorite dessert or snack again because it wasn't considered "healthy", I wouldn't be happy. These are just a few reasons why traditional diets wouldn't work for me and don't work for many others. Feeling hungry all the time or thinking you'll never enjoy food again would make anyone cranky. New research shows that dieting makes people more likely to be irritable and angry.

The study compared the attitudes of those on a diet with those who ate whatever they wanted. According to the researchers, "people who exerted self-control were more likely to prefer anger-themed movies, were more interested in looking at angry facial expressions, were more persuaded by angry arguments, and expressed more irritation at a message that used controlling language to convince them to change their exercise habits."

In one of the study's experiments (published in the Journal of Consumer Research), people who chose to eat an apple instead of a chocolate bar were also more likely to choose movies with themes of anger and revenge. In another experiment, participants who chose a healthier (and less tasty) snack over a better tasting but less-healthy one. Those who chose healthier were more likely to be irritated by the marketers message, which used phrases like "you should" or "you ought to".

It's not easy to change your eating habits, especially if you've eaten a certain way for a long time. I think the key is finding balance: try not to change too many things at once, since small changes can add up over time. Remember that eating healthy doesn't have to mean depriving yourself of the foods you enjoy- any food can be incorporated into your diet in moderation. Focus on how eating healthy makes you feel. I enjoy a bowl of Cheetos as much as anyone else, but I usually feel sluggish after I eat something like that, so I try to remember that it's not a good thing to do every day.

Do You Suffer from Diet Rage? Learn how to Stop Dieting and Start Living.

What do you think?

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I do NOT do diet food!!! As far as I'm concerned, all that "diet" crap is horrible. I love eating WAY too much to ever give up on any specific kind of food that I love eating. I would never have been able to lose as much as I have if I had to give up on the things that I love to eat.

Even though I've lost 54lbs since starting my weigh loss journey, I still eat all the same foods that I've always eaten - I just eat much smaller portions now than I used to. I also eat more often than I did before. I used to eat three large meals a day and now I eat five small meals a day. I'm definitely not starving!!! :) Report
Considering that I am not on a diet, but making a lifestyle change, my "diet" does not make me cranky. In fact it is the other way around. I am in a better mood than i was when I was eating what I considered weight watchers or spark people food. I have basically gone raw and it has done wonders. Now we just need WW and Sparkpeople to add some of the ingredients that i use. Report
I have found that including a lot more healthy protein and fats in my diet at every meal and snack and cutting out sugar and refined carbs makes me feel a lot more level and calm. Blood sugar problems really mess me up emotionally. Report
Certain foods can make me more cranky - actually more refined sugars and carbs, but what really makes me cranky is lack of sleep. Report
Hmmm....guess that might explain some of my tastes in entertainment.....heh, heh......but I can't say that I'm really dealing with "diet rage", though......I may get peeved with myself when I make a bad choice or two during a week, but I do get over it in time and move the saying goes, "progress, not perfection" (and boy, did that take me a LOOOOOONG time to "get")..... Report
I do not agree with the study that this article references. Choosing to be healthy does not cause crankiness. On the flip side, eating as much of whatever you want does not cause happiness. It may feel good for a while, but if you feel bad about yourself later, how is it helping you? Report
I'm sorry but I don't buy it. I think it depends on the individual person & their reasoning for dieting. If they are doing it for the right reasons, I seriously doubt they are going to be all that cranky! Report
I like to get creative if I am cutting back on foods I love. For instance, instead of eating a chocolate bar I will have one cup of strawberries in a bowl with a tablespoon or two of Hershey's dark chocolate syrup drizzled over it. I also drizzle chocolate syrup over peeled, sliced oranges and bananas. Since one of my very favorite candies is dark chocolate orange jells, the fresh orange and chocolate syrup really hit the spot for me and I am adding vitamins nutrients I never would have had if I ate the orange jells. Report
I do get cranky when I try to DIET!!! Eating is one of the best pleasures in life and food satisfies many emotional triggers in lots of us, so without understanding our emotional needs and working on them diligently, we have to be careful when eliminating foods we LOVE. I try everyday, to pick healthy foods that I absolutely LOVE! Like fresh green, garden salads with as many fresh, crunchy veggies as I can get into them. For some reason, crunchy foods satisfy me when I watch TV, so I eat my daily salad at night in front of my favorite TV show. I LOVE Chobani yogurt very, very cold. So I partially freeze my fav. flavors and add additional fresh, organic berries and fruits to match! That is my dessert for the day! I LOVE chocolate, so I have something a couple times a week like skim milk, chobani vanilla yogurt, soy protein powder, ice cubes and Hersheys' LITE chocolate syrup blended into a great drink! I LOVE pizza. So get real creative with what I chose as a healthy crust like a fresh, whole wheat NAAN bread, then I top with healthier sliced fresh tomatoes and a low-fat mozzerella,or riccota, or feta and freshly grated parm. And on top of all that, I add fresh italian herbs and red pepper flakes! OK??? get the picture??? What am I missing...what am I giving up??? Nothing!!! Especially if you shop for and use the freshest things you can to eat and incorporate into your fav foods. I LOVE chips, so I use fresh yukon golds, sliced kinda thickly, salt & freshly ground black pepper, olive oil spray and bake till crunchy! My motto: don't buy anything in a package...go home and make it by hand with wholesome, fresh ingredients! When you LOVE food, like I do...this keeps MS. CRANKY at bay!!! Report
While it's common for people who get hungry to feel cranky, it doesn't necessarily mean that people who are rigid in their choices of food are made more irritable by their diets. It could be that people who are cranky are more likely to be rigid in choice of food. This is a correlational study - no causal relationship has been established. Report
My husband, who doesn't, and has never had a weight problem, cannot tolerate ONE MINUTE of hunger. As a result, he'll often say things like, "Honey, did you eat? You must be starving!" when I'm really not; but, low and behold, 5 minutes later, I feel as though I'M STARVING!!!! It's funny how I can do fine sticking to my planned meals when I'm occupied, until I hear this suggestion or see the picture of a really good dessert recipe (which I haven't planned for)! That's when I HAVE TO REACH FOR THE APPLE - or even just a half an apple!!!! I love apples; and, the fiber content gets me through until the next planned meal/snack! Sometimes, I have to stop and truly ask myself if in fact I'm truly "hungry" or "just want to taste something." The key for me is making sure that there are always healthy options in the house for both!!!! I do eat what I want and usually plan sinful desserts that serve me best when eating out - THAT WAY, WHEN IT'S GONE ..... IT'S GONE, BABY, GONE .... nothing left over to torment myself with in trying to refrain ---- because THAT'S what makes me grumpy!!!! Report
I used to suffer from diet rage, but not now. Sometimes I have a bit of anxiety, in the evenings, getting through, without eating junk. I'm getting better with that though, I knit. Report
My husband and I are both counting calories but he has taken it to the extreme and has been a real pain in my you know what. I don't even want to be around him because of his grumpy moods.
For myself, I have learned that it's ok to be a little hungry. In fact, I prefer feeling a little hungry to the feeling I get when I over eat. Report
I would also say that not only can depriving yourself of certain foods, indulging too much in unhealthy foods can also lead to crankiness. Sugar is a problem for me...if I eat something that is too rich or contains a LOT of sugar, I am tired, cranky, and irritable soon after, and sometimes it goes even into the next day. I'm not diabetic, but I do have insulin resistance, so the inability for my body to process all that sugar is probably causing that. While I agree you don't need to deprive yourself completely, I also think it's important to pay attention to your body and see how different types of food can even affect your mood. Report
I don't suffer from rage: I suffer from sadness. If there aren't foods that I like available to prepare the meal, or if it is getting past the meal time, I get hungry but fewer and fewer things appeal to me and then I want unreasonable things and then I get sad because I can't have them and can find nothing I can (or am willing to) eat. And I can get symied by as simple a missing item as smooth peanut butter rather than crunchy, peaches instead of plums. Roast beef instead of steak.. So I wander off feeling sorry for myself. And my body really only likes three meals a day, so if I didn't eat between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. I won't have anything until breakfast: other than my own pity party. It certainly does cut down on the carbs and calories, but it makes for a totally unproductive evening -- which is depressing. Report
I can't stand to be hungry either. My weight loss success has been without hunger! If I'm hungry, I'm going to eat! I'm going to eat whole foods with some nutritional value to satisfy this grumbling tummy. Report
I always wondered how people who could have so much self control felt. I've been acquainted with a few people who could diet and exercise flawlessly, and the two ladies I am thinking of were quite cranky unhappy people. I always thought it was just a personality flaw, but now I realize it might be a result of their need to control things and a by-product of their lifestyle. This article has helped as I now feel I understand those two women better. Not that I see them often, but it may help in future dealings with them. Report
The only diet that's made me cranky was the high protein one back in the early 70s. After about 5 days on it, I could have chewed nails (the iron kind, not the finger ones). I'm keeping my Spark diet fairly balanced, but some days it's tough getting up to the 1230 calorie level. Because of IBS, I've gone as long as 5 days without eating when I had to travel for my job & it really didn't bother me much. It was comfort foods in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep after Mom died that put on the weight. Report
I agree. The word diet can sure make you angry. Most don't work. I do struggle, but it is getting easier. I sometimes ask myself (with things that are not healthy) can I live without that and I almost always decide I can. And it helps. Report
It's very interesting to me that those who exercise self-control prefer angry images and angry movies. I myself love a good vengeance movie but I never thought it was related to my dietary self-control. Some good food for thought. Going back to a previous Sparkpeople blog about the best foods to counter certain moods, green tea was suggested to counter anger.

I too have suffered in the past from extreme crankiness if I hadn't eaten. That doesn't seem to be as big a problem now - due to post-menopause, a change in eating habits, or a change in foods I eat?

Interesting blog. Thanks! Report
I think too many "DIETERS" do not plan ahead. On my healthy journey I put thought in to our meals. If I know what the next meal will be I look forward to it with anticipation. The people who cook their own meals who can overcome the hands to mouth habits in front of the TV and in the movies do so much better at staying satisfied with what they eat. I know DH and I do. Report
Most days I have my favorite health foods, but I always leave room for an occasional diversion of a treat or going out to eat! Report
I so do agree. it is about a life style change and not a diet. And I too will be a b*tch if I don't eat. Usually that has to do with me being hypogylcemic. Report
I agree! I actually don't think that I'm on a diet...I'm on a healthy lifestyle change Report
I agree. I also get cranky and moody when I skip a meal. You have to plan accordingly. Diet is something I dont do,Healthy eating Yes! Report
Will power and self control are overrated.

Instead for me it's important to engineer my environments and my habits so that the healthy option is the only option. If there's no choice, then there is no internal struggle about it, and that removes stress.

This means not stocking the house with snack foods and binge triggers, or putting myself in tempting situations more than necessary. It means putting the grocery bags in the back seat or trunk, not next to me in the passenger seat.

I can hum along in a pretty contented way as long as I'm not faced with temptation too frequently. Report
I watched Dr Oz, one day this week, and they had a bit about "Crankiness Cures"
dark chocolate,baby powder smelling, folic acid, milk and exercise, was told to improve crankiness. Report
Thank you.

This is very much how I feel about dieting... I refuse to "diet" in fact, in part because of things that the word associate with. Instead, I focus on a general healthy lifestyle (which means eating a mostly healthy diet most of the time, watching my proportions, eating slowly, drinking more water, etc.). I don't do well hungry--I'm not only irritable (um, that's putting it mildly) but I can't function--I can't focus on anything and I get really, really impatient. So I try to eat regularly, make sure that when I have a meal or a snack it has protein, and if I eat a little, wait a bit, and am still hungry, I eat something more.

I'm still struggling with it but my goal is find the balance between living my life and healthy living, and that includes a balance in diet between being happy with my meals etc. and not feeling deprived, but still making mostly healthy choices. It's a learning curve, and baby steps are key, at least for me. Report
I'm working "The BECK Diet Solution" as Judith Beck, PhD teaches how to THINK like a THIN person. So, getting angry about following my food plan is something that she addresses. Those angry thoughts have ANSWERS that you give back and then move on working toward your goal. I recommend her book to everyone & we have a Spark Team. Report
All I can say is....I KNEW it! It's always best to listen to our own bodies! If I want chocolate, my body tells me that. If I want an apple, well apple it is! Here's to living, loving, laughing and eating! Report
My goal is health. But for some health does mean abstaining from some of our favorite foods and learning healthy alternatives to those foods. For example; Mrs dash for salt or lean chicken for a nice steak. I think moderation in everything is a good motto but for some us we no longer have that option. Report
I agree! I have always hated the word diet. To me that means restriction from the foods I crave. I have found it helpful to think of wanting to be healthy and making better choices vs dieting. Guess what... It works! Report
I've been tracking my calories for the past two weeks and it's on the lower end of the spectrum of calories for me to consume. However, I don't deprive myself. I may have lower calorie options, but they are tasty. You just need to know what to pick to eat that you like. I am hungrier more of the time, but I think of it positively as that means my body has to use the energy reserves it has large quantities of. I hate action movies or anything volatile. I eat spaghetti and meatballs, chicken sausage calzones, ice cream as well as fruit and veggies. I don't eat them every day or multiple times a day. But I find that I'm enjoying my food more because I'm savoring and being more conscious about what I'm putting in my mouth. I just assume that my body will get used to it after awhile. I already can't eat as much as I used to in one meal without feeling extremely full. Report
I agree as well. Report
I count the calories I am eating - but don't deprive myself of the things I love. If I know how much I've eaten, I can make room for a little dessert or something. I seriously go off track when I don't count though. I don't feel like I am dieting. I feel like it's a healthier lifestyle. Report
When I was not counting calories and "dieting" (if you want to call it that, the word just means a specific way of eating, as in less food), I weighed (long ago, at my highest) more than 240 pounds. I track calories. I do not eat extremely low in cals, though, sometimes I gain a little weight but have essentially lost/maintained for more than a decade and a half (hard telling, been a long time).

If that is stress, blessed be. Report
i totally agree! Report
I can honestly say that when I was tracking my calories I was anxious, stressed out, and a lot angrier than I am now that I'm listening to my body and trying out Intuitive Eating. Just ask my husband! Report