Why You Should Think Twice Before Arguing On An Empty Stomach

The concept of "hangry," a 21st-century term that combines "hungry" and "angry" into one word, isn't a new one. Now a part of the Oxford dictionary, it denotes the cranky and irritable sensations we experience when we're on an empty stomach. Small things — like blaring horns, a sarcastic comment, or loudly chomping partners — might set us off more when we're not satiated. 

So it should come as no surprise that arguing with your spouse is one of the things you should avoid doing on an empty stomach. You know what we're talking about. These are those arguments that you know you could have avoided but they seem to be somehow going round and round in circles. You're not getting your point across and neither is your significant other. The entire thing seems pointless but you can't stop anyway. Before you know it, you're both exhausted and you've said things you might not be able to take back. 

While the obvious reason for why this happens is plain as day when your stomach growls, there is also a more intricate science as to why this happens and it has to do with your blood glucose levels and self-control. 

You have poor self control when you're hungry

According to a 2014 study published in PNAS, low blood sugar levels caused by hunger can make people have less self-control and say hurtful things to their partners. 

The study employed 107 couples for 21 days (via The Columbus Dispatch). Each participant was given a voodoo doll (which they were told to imagine were their significant other) and 51 pins which they were asked to literally "pin" to the dolls as a way to vent their frustrations. The participants' blood sugar levels were monitored twice daily. They found that the lower the blood sugar levels, the more the number of pins on the voodoo doll. Twice as many pins were pushed into the dolls by participants with low glucose levels than those with higher numbers. 

The study also used a different test where participants were allowed to play blaring music into the ears of their partners who were wearing headphones as a way to unleash their anger, per CBS News. Again the lower blood glucose levels synced up with the louder and longer blasts. It comes as no surprise that we need to fuel our bodies with food, and even though our brain is smaller in comparison to the rest of our body, it consumes 20% of the calories we ingest, lead author of the study and Ohio State University psychology researcher, Brad Bushman shared with CBS News.

When should you be arguing with your partner?

Most relationship experts will tell you that there is a right and a wrong time to argue with your significant other, and arguing on an empty stomach is a behavior that can ruin your marriage

Even if the matter is pressing, you're better off grabbing an energy bar or sitting down for a small snack before broaching the topic with your spouse. Make sure you're not distracted, or tired, and also that your emotions are under control. And if possible, seek out a mutually agreeable time to discuss matters. 

When you're ready to discuss things, your approach matters too. Avoid using "you" statements, blaming, name-calling, belittling, and walking away. Be respectful, and empathetic, and listen carefully to what the other person has to say too. Couples counselor Jenise Harmon told The Columbus Dispatch that while avoiding arguing when you are hungry may not solve all your problems, it's a good starting point. If you really can't wait to have your food, perhaps you can try what researcher Brad Bushman recommended to SheSpeaks. "When you discuss a sensitive topic with your spouse, you should do so over dinner, or better yet after dinner — but you should definitely not do it on an empty stomach."