Eating more than your body needs over and over again is the best strategy for weight gain. Rocket science? Of course not. Most Americans have figured out how to tip the scales with 70 percent now falling into the overweight or obese categories. But what happens inside your body when you overeat?
Let’s suppose it’s FriYAY. And we all know that that means…. it’s time to let loose and relax! For some that means spending the night out on the town, raising glasses then swinging by the drive-thru to satisfy the munchies. Others may stay in and curl up with their love to watch a movie, order takeout, and share a pint of ice cream. In either scenario, all too often, relaxation = overindulging in food.
If you spend many of your weekends this way, you could be binging more than you realize. Add in those extra slices of pizza on Tuesday, two (or six) cookies at that office birthday celebration, and mindless snacking in front of the TV on Thursday, and you’re eating more than you need on the regs.
How the Body Reacts to Too Much Food
The moment that you set your eyes on or smell food, your digestive system begins working and preparing to eat by releasing the enzymes and hormones that break down food. During the digestion process, food moves from the mouth to the esophagus to the stomach to the small intestine to the large intestine. The pancreas and liver contribute digestive juices to help with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. The National Institutes of Health breaks the process down further in this article.
When you overeat, here are a few of the things that can happen to your body:
- The stomach swells. When you eat too much, the stomach expands like a balloon to accommodate the large amount of food, which then pushes against the other organs in your body and makes you feel like you need to loosen your pants.
- You start feeling bloated and gassy. Every time you swallow food, air gets into the digestive track, and that gas expands in the stomach, making it feel bloated. This sensation is exacerbated if you consume carbonated beverages with your meal. Burping is a common side effect of eating too much food, because the build up of gas needs to be released somehow.
- Heartburn starts to set in. The stomach produces hydrochloric acid to break down food, and, if you overeat, this may lead to a back up into the esophagus, resulting in heartburn (the more food you eat, the more acids needed to break down the food). You may be more prone to heartburn if you’re over consuming foods that take longer to digest like greasy cheeseburgers and beer.
- Excess calories are stored. As food moves through your digestive tract and into the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed, the liver and the pancreas begin to secrete enzymes to digest fats, carbs, and proteins. Cells in the intestinal walls absorb these macronutrients, along with vitamins and minerals, to be used for energy or storage. Excess calories that cannot be used for energy are stored as fat.
- Organs work overtime. Digesting a massive meal requires the organs to work in overdrive, secreting extra hormones and enzymes to break down the food. When this happens on the regular, issues can start to happen with metabolism and endocrine function, like insulin resistance, increased cortisol, and reduction in growth hormone.
- You may feel drowsy and tired. As the pancreas releases the hormone insulin, it sends off a cascade of hormones to be released. Serotonin and melatonin, the feel good hormones, are released. This may make you feel tired and content.
- You feel nauseated. Leptin, a hormone that is produced by the fat cells, tells the brain that you’re no longer hungry and need to stop eating. If you eat too fast, you may miss this signal and continue eating past the feeling of fullness, causing the body to produce more leptin. People that have more fat cells in their bodies may develop leptin resistance, making it even harder to recognize fullness, and, ultimately, lose weight.