We’re right in the middle of holiday season… which means FOOD SEASON. Every year, we’re hit with headlines and pressure to avoid overeating, to avoid holiday weight gain, blah blah blah.
But what if we shift the focus a little away from weight gain, and think more about how icky it feels when you eat too much? Especially this year, it’s important to enjoy any time you get to spend with loved ones, and food is a huge part of that experience! Stressing about avoiding the mac n’ cheese or dessert table just isn’t worth it.
It’s totally possible to have a little of allllll the good stuff while still avoiding that miserable stuffed feeling at the end of your holiday meal. But to do that, we have to understand what happens when we overeat!
Let’s get into it.
Your stomach stretches
Before you freak out over the image of your stomach stretching (I did too when I first learned this)…it’s SUPPOSED to stretch.
To an extent.
The stomach is actually covered in little folds called rugae. They allow the stomach to stretch and shrink, depending on how much food is inside. But if we overeat, it stretches beyond what it’s really supposed to after a meal. And it’s uncomfortable.
How much your stomach can comfortably stretch actually depends on how much you usually eat. On average, your stomach is about the size of a fist but can stretch to hold about a quart of food/liquids.
You might feel a little queasy
“I ate soooo much I might puke.”
Haven’t we all said this at some point?! I think it’s an exaggeration most of the time, but that queasy, “too full” feeling is definitely a familiar one. So can you actually get sick from eating too much? Does your stomach just say “NOPE, that’s enough” ?!
Kinda. When the stomach stretches beyond it’s comfort level, the extra pressure makes you feel nauseated. ESPECIALLY if it stretches too quickly (like if you eat too much AND too fast).
It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to actually vomit, but you’ll feel queasy until some food digests and the pressure is relieved. You can help your stomach by taking a walk or if it’s really uncomfortable, you can lay on your left side, which encourages things to move along.
Get ready to bloat
Ugh. My worst enemy.
Your digestive system gets a little overwhelmed with all that food coming in, especially if it’s fatty, salty food that you might not eat on a regular basis. So it starts working in overdrive.
That brings in extra water and gas, making you super bloated and maybe even a little gassy. Eating too fast makes this even worse.
A big meal always makes me sooooo sleepy. I feel like I’m pretty much down for the count for the rest of the day after I eat too much. Apparently there’s a reason for that Thanksgiving nap, even if you avoid the turkey!
Obviously being uncomfortable is the big reason. You just want to get horizontal and let that food digest.
Otherwise, your body prioritizes digestion when it has a lot of food to handle. That triggers a neurological response that can make you feel a little drowsy. Some of the main hormones that regulate digestion can also make you a little sleepy.
Will you instantly gain weight from one big meal?
Yes, your body is going to use the calories it needs and then may store some extra as fat, but one meal isn’t going to cause a noticeable difference. Weight gain and weight loss happen over time. It’s more of a reflection of your overall diet over the course of several weeks or months!
If you wake up 2 pounds heavier the day after Thanksgiving, it’s probably water weight from all of the hard work your body is doing to digest the food, combined with water retention from eating more salt than usual. Don’t stress (and maybe don’t even weigh yourself the day after a big meal), and just get back to your usual habits.
Remember, food is joy and a huge part of tradition and socialization! ENJOY IT. But if you want to avoid being uncomfortable, just slow down and eat smaller portions 🙂