The holidays are quickly approaching, and honestly, we all need something to look forward to, right? So let’s talk about the holiday season, or, more importantly, how to enjoy the holidays while not falling into the common health and energy slump. It is important to enjoy every part of the holidays, from Halloween candy to New Year’s champagne; the key is to enjoy in moderation while not depriving yourself. The following compelling reasons will remind you to avoid overeating this holiday season while still enjoying life! You will go into 2021 feeling great and able to say that you made it through the wild ride of 2020. You can face anything!
Overeating causes the stomach to expand.
When we overeat, our stomachs, normally the size of a fist when empty, stretch to accommodate the extra food. If we overexpand the stomach, it begins to adjust to the new “normal” size and require more food to achieve a feeling of fullness. Immediately after overeating, the stomach presses against other organs, causing discomfort and a feeling of nauseated fullness. An occasional large meal is fine, but don’t fall into the habit. Moderation is key to enjoying all the great foods of the holidays and still feeling great.
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Overeating can cause destructive acid reflux.
To digest food, the stomach produces hydrochloric acid that breaks down what you eat into nutrients for the body. Overeating can create issues with the digestive process causing the stomach to regurgitate food from the stomach back up through the esophagus. If you have ever had acid reflux, you know it tastes and feels awful, but you may not realize it also damages the esophagus and can eat the enamel away from your teeth. To add to the danger of overeating, many popular holiday and celebratory foods are high in fat. Eating foods with a higher fat content can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax instead of closing normally. This relaxation may allow food to regurgitate back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux is best avoided, but if you can’t find your condition’s cause through an elimination diet, please consult with your doctor.
Overeating slows digestion and creates bloated discomfort.
Your body is designed to be an efficient machine. Your stomach naturally produces enough digestive acids and enzymes to digest your regular food intake, but when you overeat, it lacks sufficient digestive power. By overeating, digestion is slowed down, and food remains in the stomach for longer. Food sitting in the stomach tends to make you feel gassy, bloated, and just plain unwell. Try to practice mindfulness when you eat. Enjoy every bite, so you don’t feel compelled to overeat.
Overeating can impair your cognition and cause memory loss later in life.
Holidays can trigger an avalanche of happy and unhappy memories, and many of us like to turn to comfort food in both of those instances. It is fine to occasionally give in to sizeable, high-fat comforting meals like mom made, but don’t get caught in a cycle of overindulgence. If sustained, overeating can cause mild cognitive impairment and memory loss later in life. Indulge in moderation and make memories you will remember for many years to come.
Overeating can cause urgent bowel movements.
Overeating can greatly distress the digestive system and cause urgent bowel movements. The gastrocolic reflex triggers peristalsis, or the forward pressing movement that allows food to be pushed through the colon. When you eat those extra half dozen cupcakes from the Christmas party, you may be stretching the stomach, which then sends a signal to the colon to make room for a large amount of food, which then sends you to the bathroom. Avoid uncomfortable after dinner situations by eating appropriate servings and maybe only having one dessert.
Overeating may cause sleepiness and lack of motivation.
Have you ever finished a big meal out with friends and suddenly realized how cold the restaurant is? Or maybe everyone else is ready to go out for after-dinner drinks, and you are more prepared to crawl into bed than between pubs? Both of these situations may be the result of overeating. After we eat, blood is sent to the digestive tract to optimize digestion; usually, we don’t even notice because our bodies are so used to the process. However, when we overeat, more blood is sent to the gastrointestinal tract, leaving less for the rest of the body. This movement of blood can cause a person to feel cold, sluggish, sleepy, and even dizzy. Holiday foods are traditionally full of carbs and sugar, which can compound the effect of overeating by creating insulin crashes.
Overeating at night can add incredible stress to the body.
Whether you are up late at the company Christmas party or playing the zombie at your local haunted house, the holidays are full of late nights, and frequently late meals. Late-night binges can cause serious indigestion and esophageal irritation in the short term. Over the long term, frequent late-night binges can stress the body to the point of affecting the heart, causing rapid or skipped heartbeats. If you need a snack at night, stick to something light that you know your body digests well.
Though the holidays are stressful and sleep may seem like a luxury, be very careful to take time for self-care. Enjoy this holiday season and celebrate making it this far! Eat a small piece of cake, take a nap, and get that cross stitch back out; life is about balance.