What happens to your body when you overeat at Christmas

What exactly happens in our body when we overeat on occasion and what part is played by our brains?
How to best enjoy that holiday meal

Indulging in a big holiday meal can have some after effects. How does the body deal with a surplus of food? And how can you prepare and avoid some of these after effects?

The holidays are around the corner and so is a lot of delicious food! Families come together and slave in the kitchen in order to serve the most delectable meals and devour them as a group. However, the chewing and digesting of this food are not the only actions required from your body when you eat these scrumptious bites. More processes come in to play, in your body and mentally.

guy with stomach pain

How the brain and stomach interact

It all starts when you first smell or see the meal. Your brain remembers earlier experiences with the specific dish or time of year and you start to produce saliva. The stomach starts to makes juices and hormones are flowing through your body. In other words, the body starts the process of digestion simply through the smell, sight or thought of food.

Equally, the brain puts the body to work. Your blood sugar lowers due to the production of the hormone insulin. The signal that is sent by this drop in blood sugar causes the brain to want to prevent an energy shortage, which means it wants to start eating. In short, thinking of eating results in us eating sooner.

The brain can help with feeling full as well. Research has shown that if we think a meal will be particularly filling, we will feel full sooner. So, in order not to over eat during the holidays, it is best to think that all that delicious food will be very filling. Trick your brain into feeling full!

Read more about your brain and gut and how they affect each other in this blog.

The consequences of overeating

The after dinner dip, or food coma
A lot of people indicate that feel tired after a meal and are suffering from an after dinner dip, or food coma. This is not just a figure of speech, or only in your head, it is a real thing. Feeling slumpy after eating a big meal is the result of the production of a lot of insulin. This causes your blood sugar to spike and that literally tires you out. So it is very possible that you will go into a food coma after a big holiday meal.

Bathroom issues
Who doesn’t like sweets? Celebrations call for treats like deserts and can therefor easily cause you to ingest too much sugar. This may result in the sugar passing from your stomach to your bowels too quickly. The sugar will be combined with a lot of fluid which can cause problems when you visit the bathroom after dinner…

That bloated feeling
If your stomach feels bloated after dinner it is possible that you didn’t properly chew your food. This often happens when you are eating a lot and too quick. To avoid that bloated feeling try to slow down, enjoy your meal and make sure you chew properly. Try putting down your cutleries until you fully swallowed your bite. Another factor may be carbonated drinks, as they too can cause bloating. So think about what and how much you are drinking if you want to avoid the bloated feeling.

Feeling nauseous
A delicious holiday meal usually does not only contain a lot of sugar but also fat. This can make you feel nauseated as digesting the fat will take your body more time than the other parts of the meal. It will also slow down your digestion. This can mean that your stomach is too full and your body does not want to process the food, and wants to expel it. You can avoid this by, once again, not eating too much and by eating slowly.

Sleeping problems
We mentioned a food coma above, which makes you feel tired after eating. But the opposite is also a possible effect of overeating, where you get a very unsettled feeling when you are trying to go to sleep. When you take in a lot of sugar (glucose) the rush can keep you awake. This is why it is best to  give your body some rest and time to digest the food before you try to go to sleep.

Keep the above in mind, but most importantly: enjoy your holiday meals!

Do you want to know more about your body and discover your BMI? Visit BODY WORLDS Amsterdam and do the free Body Scan, worth €35! The scan will tell you your BMI, as well as your fat percentage and how your weight is distributed in your body.