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Overindulgence

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

What Happens To Your Body When You Overindulge

Overindulgence
Overindulgence

Overindulgence We are already in the swing of this year's holiday season. With the pandemic, many of last year's holiday plans with friends, family, and co-workers were either put on-hold or were smaller more intimate occasions. This year, as we have taken measures to boost our immunity and protect ourselves against Coronavirus, many of us are looking forward to celebrating the holidays to their fullest. This includes attending parties and dinners with family and friends, having cocktails, enjoying goodies at the office, and partaking in consumption of the sugary holiday confections brought to our doorsteps from neighbors and friends.

Once Christmas has passed and we spend the following week finishing off the remainder of our holidays spoils, we have one last celebration-New Year's Eve. For many, this last night of the year represents a night of indulgence with an excess of food choices generally not found on a healthy diet and of course, an ample supply of beer, wine, and other cocktails ready for consumption. Hours into an evening of eating and drinking, we raise our glasses high, filled with champagne, toasting the New Year and all it has to offer. We share a kiss with those closest to us for luck followed by a rousing and often boisterous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne.”

While the holidays are a joyful time spent with family and friends, they are also a time riddled with temptations that can lead to overindulgence. While many start the New Year with the best of intentions including resolutions to improve health practices, we often precede it with a month of overindulgence and overconsumption. This not only creates a further setback from the positive health goals in our resolutions meant to improve our health, it also causes our bodies harm. While you enjoy the well-deserved comfort and joy of the season, it is important for your body and mental health to do so mindfully and with moderation.



Overindulgence During The Holidays

Indulgent eating at the holidays has become a cultural necessity. We kick-off our holiday season with the most indulgent of all holidays: Thanksgiving. We are often seated with loved ones at a table offering a bounty of foods that far exceeds the number of guests. After giving thanks for all we are grateful for, we begin to fill our plates with generous portions and more than we need. We anticipated being uncomfortably full before even taking the first bite. Some plan ahead wearing comfortable clothing with a lot of “give”. We enjoy the meal, perhaps a second helping leaving just enough room for dessert. Whether it is Grandmother’s pumpkin pie or another rich and decadent dessert made only during the holidays, it is safe to say many will top off a large heavy meal with dessert of some kind. If not immediately following this large meal, certainly later. No one wants to offend the host or hostess, right? After all, someone spent the day in the kitchen preparing this beautiful feast, perhaps even working a day or two prior prepping and baking. All of this effort for a short time at the table and an overly full gut that may well display its displeasure with your indulgence in the very near future.

It is actually very normal to feel some guilt or stress around eating during the holidays. Our society has normalized overindulgence and we begin to divide foods into categories of “good” and “bad” which in turn are associated with guilt for eating these foods. While it may be unreasonable to say you won't enjoy your holiday favorites, it is important to remember moderation.

Overindulging With Food

When we talk about overindulging with food, we must first talk about your stomach which is where it all begins. Your stomach secretes hydrochloric acid which helps to kill bacteria and moves your food through your digestive system. It also kicks off the digestive process adding acid as you eat and even more when you overeat. When excess food is consumed, the added acid produced by your stomach begins to make its way up your esophagus resulting in heartburn. With an overconsumption of food, digestion slows and food spends more time in your gut. While your gut is working hard to digest the extra food, you begin to get that gassy, bloated feeling that is associated with overeating. This overconsumption requires your body to send more blood to your gastrointestinal tract to help aid in digestion. So while all of this blood is working in your digestive system, there is less blood available to transport oxygen and nutrients to the other parts of your body. This is what leaves you feeling lightheaded, sluggish, and wanting a nap in front of the television.


When you overindulge in holiday treats that tend to be high in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat, your blood sugar levels spike. When sugar levels in the body spike, you are filled with a sudden boost of energy, quickly followed by a crash because your body didn't need that much energy, storing the rest as fat. As you repeat this process, a vicious cycle is developed and you find yourself with less energy, gaining weight, and with higher glucose levels which can lead to metabolic disorders like insulin resistance, type 1 diabetes, and other more serious health concerns.

What Happens In The Body When You Chronically Overindulge Overindulging can happen any time of the year, however, the holidays make it especially easy. The following can occur if overindulgence becomes more commonplace in your life. For these reasons, it is best to create healthy eating practices that include mindful eating and moderation.

Nausea

When you engage in chronic overeating you will begin to experience feelings of nausea and indigestion. Even though your stomach is capable of expanding, overindulging can exceed the upper limit of what your stomach can hold. This can cause you to experience nausea and even vomiting as your body's way of relieving itself of the pain and pressure created by being overfull.

Weight GainYour daily calorie balance is determined by how many calories consumed daily versus how many you burn. When you overindulge you are likely consuming more calories than you will burn that day. All of those added calories lead to a calorie surplus that is stored as fat causing weight gain and eventually obesity. It is important to practice mindful eating while paying close attention to portion sizes. Overeating can easily spiral out of control and lead to various negative health consequences and eventually serious health conditions.


Risk For Disease

When you only overindulge during the holiday season, it is less likely to affect your long-term health. However, chronic overconsumption of food can lead to obesity which puts you at risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions like having higher levels of fat in your blood, high or elevated blood pressure, inflammation, and insulin resistance. These raise your chances of acquiring more serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and strokes. Insulin resistance can develop due to chronic overeating. It creates an excess amount of sugar in your bloodstream reducing the ability of the hormone insulin to store blood sugar in your cells. When left uncontrolled, it can lead to type 2 diabetes.

Hunger Dysregulation

The two major hormones in your body that regulate hunger are ghrelin and leptin. While ghrelin works to stimulate appetite, leptin suppresses it. When you have gone without eating for a long enough period of time, your ghrelin levels increase telling you that you are hungry. Once you have eaten, leptin lets you know when you are full. When you overindulge, this balance is disrupted which can lead you to create a cycle of further overeating. When you consume foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat, the “gut” brain, known as your second brain, communicates to your “head” brain releasing “feel-good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine which activate the pleasure center in your brain. This is what causes your body to associate pleasure with foods that are high in fat and calories. This communication and “feel-good” process eventually takes over hunger regulation, where you begin to give in to cravings and eat for pleasure and not hunger, creating a cycle of overeating making it difficult to determine when your body needs food.


Brain Function

Overindulgence can harm brain function, having a negative effect on memory and mental decline. There have been several studies that have conclusively linked chronic overindulgence and obesity to mental and memory decline in older adults with more studies being done to further identify the extent and mechanisms of these declines.


Overindulgence When Drinking Alcohol

The consumption of alcohol is often associated with times of celebration. The holidays are often filled with opportunities to enjoy a drink with family and friends. Having the occasional drink does not generally pose a threat to those in good health and in cases like a glass of red wine, can even offer health benefits to your cardiovascular system. However, it can be detrimental to the health of those with certain preexisting health conditions or those taking certain medications. If you are unsure whether or not having a drink is safe, it is always better to err on the side of caution and abstain.


An overindulgence of alcohol has multiple consequences to your body aside from the obvious, a hangover. Alcohol is high in calories and sugar, contributing to weight gain specifically in the stomach area called visceral fat leading to other health conditions which can be serious or even fatal. An overconsumption of alcohol for longer durations of time can lead to problems with nearly every organ in your body.


The Hangover

A hangover is often the result of an overconsumption of alcohol. However, that isn't always the case. A hangover can be a bit unpredictable and can even occur after only one drink. There are a number of other things going on in your body that affect this. A hangover can be described by a variety of symptoms experienced after a night of overindulging. Some of these symptoms are as follows:

Hangover Symptoms

  • Anxiousness

  • Concentration Issues

  • Depression

  • Disrupted Sleep

  • Excessive Thirst

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Increased Heart Rate Irritability

  • Sensitivity to Light Shakiness

  • Slow Reflexes


Why You Experience Hangover Symptoms Dehydration

Alcohol is both toxic and a diuretic, meaning it draws water out of the body. Drinking leads to frequent urination, referred to as “breaking the seal”. While urine is your body's way of eliminating waste and toxins, it is also dehydrating you at the same time. To help yourself stay hydrated when enjoying an evening of drinking, follow each alcoholic beverage with a glass of water. This will help to prevent you from getting dehydrated and help protect you from the unwanted effects of a hangover.

Heart

An overconsumption of alcohol can create a faster heart rate the following day as a symptom of a hangover. Alcohol can weaken the heart muscle leading to irregular beats. After repeated episodes after excess alcohol consumption, a condition referred to as “Holiday Heart” can develop often occurring after a fun-filled holiday. This issue usually resolves itself once alcohol consumption has stopped.

Withdrawal

When you drink alcohol, the neurotransmitters in your brain are disrupted affecting how the body releases “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. This is what gives you the happy, social, and care-free feeling you get after a couple of drinks. You can have too much of a good thing, because the following day, you are no longer feeling the dopamine rush you created for yourself the night before with drinking, instead what you are left with is an endorphin crash leaving you irritable and moody. Some even experience bursts of hysterical crying. What was fun the night before isn't so fun the next morning.

Metabolism

When you drink alcohol, your body is designed to metabolize it by oxidizing it in your bloodstream transforming it into acetaldehyde. This is the chemical that leads you to feel awful and experience many unwanted symptoms. With too much alcohol in your system, your liver, which is tasked with filtering, becomes overwhelmed and a build-up of acetaldehyde becomes toxic to your system, not to mention alcohol itself is toxic. This is what causes you to feel nauseated, lethargic, shaky, and generally feeling poorly the next day.




Strategies For A Happy Holiday of

Mindful Eating & Drinking In Moderation


To continue to maintain good health and healthy habits during the holiday season, mindful eating and moderation are key. Advanced planning with an eating and drinking plan can better set you up for success. It is all about balance.

The following are tips to help you prevent overindulgence:

Avoiding Overindulgence When Eating Weigh-In

If you are someone who tends to gain weight easily or has difficulties maintaining a healthy weight, weighing in may be of help. Weigh yourself weekly to help you keep an eye on any changes before they get out of control. Your weight can fluctuate and is different in the morning than in the evening so don't be discouraged if you see the needle on the scale move a little.

Create An Eating & Exercise Plan

If you know you are going to be attending some gatherings that offer temptations, plan ahead. Decide ahead of time what you feel is reasonable to eat and stick to that plan. Be careful of grazing, mindless eating, and portion control. This is where we get ourselves into trouble. When filling your plate, make the majority of your food choices healthy ones limiting those items you know to be indulgent as your “special treats” for the evening. Pay closer attention to the meals you do have control over leading up to these events ensuring you are eating a well-balanced diet.

Exercise

The holidays are a busy time for everyone but it is important you keep your body moving, not just busy. Physical activity makes you feel better and can help you to better maintain your weight during the holiday season. Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly make better food choices and are less prone to overindulging when eating and drinking. One way to think is like this: How many miles does it take to walk off a slice of pie or an Old Fashioned? Now determine if it's worth the walk. It might be a little easier to justify to yourself if you have been good about maintaining exercise.


Relief For Overeating

Despite all of your planning and efforts, the temptations of the holidays were too great and you have overeaten. You are experiencing the unwanted symptoms of overindulgence and want relief.

The following three items are here to help:

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive enzymes help to break down proteins, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates. This helps reduce the distention of your stomach, reduces bloating, and eases digestion. The enzyme should be acid-resistant, working on just the stomach and not the small intestines.

Calcium

Heartburn occurs when hydrochloric acid from the stomach makes its way into your esophagus and throat. Calcium relieves this by tightening the valve that keeps the stomach acid where it belongs, in your stomach. While swallowing a calcium supplement does not prevent reflux, a powder like calcium citrate dissolved in water after the meal with help provide relief.

Avoiding Overindulgence When Drinking Create A Drinking Plan

Alcohol impairs your judgment and leads to poor decision making. You know your limits and should stick to them. If three is your limit, pace yourself. Pay attention to the clock. When was your last drink? Did you drink a full glass of water afterward? Give your body an hour to digest and metabolize a drink before having another. If it helps, employ a friend or partner to help you stick to your plan and spare you a hangover and the possible embarrassment of becoming the life of the party you hadn't intended on becoming. Be careful of the gracious host who is frequently topping off your glass. This is a sure way of losing an accurate account of how much you are drinking.

Hydrate

Because alcohol is a diuretic and can leave you depleted, it is important to drink an 8 ounce glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume. Your body will thank you the next day.

Eat

It is critically important to line your stomach with some sustenance before drinking. Eating a meal with good carbohydrates and protein will help to line your stomach and can help to reduce the peak alcohol-blood concentration by a third. Eating while drinking, like a cocktail or glass of wine with a meal is another good way of balancing the alcohol in your system when each are done in moderation.

Keep It Light

Research has shown that clear spirits, especially those mixed with water or soda can help with hydration and are less prone to resulting in hangover symptoms the following day. Spirits such as bourbon and rum have a higher alcohol content and are often mixed with dark sugar laden sodas which only worsen a hangover.

Hangover Relief

Despite all of your planning and efforts to avoid overindulgence while drinking, you have woken with a hangover, are repentant, and you want relief!


The Following Three Items Are Here To Help: Green Tea

Green tea is loaded with antioxidants. It can help your metabolism and is helpful with the detoxification process. The better your body is able to detoxify and clear the alcohol from your system, the sooner you will begin to feel better.


Milk Thistle

Milk thistle is an herb that has been around for centuries and used is Aryuvedic medicine to both cleanse and strengthen the liver. In fact, it is the most well-researched plant in the treatment of liver disease. Milk thistle works by helping clean the liver so it can do a better job of removing toxins like alcohol and acetaldehyde acid, a byproduct of alcohol, from your bloodstream. Milk thistle is frequently used in Europe and other parts of the world before an anticipated night of debauchery getting ahead of a potential problematic hangover.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral that gets depleted with the consumption of alcohol, as well as with foods that are high in sugar and sodium. A relaxing bath with magnesium salts before going out can supply your body with the additional magnesium absorbed through your skin working to combat the effects of the alcohol. Magnesium does relax the bowels and can have a laxative effect for some.

The holidays come around once a year and we look forward to celebrating with family and friends. These occasions are often filled with temptations that can lead to overindulgence. If you find you have overindulged, that is okay too. While it is normal to feel a little guilt or stress around holiday consumption, it shouldn't consume you and take away from the joy of the season. Remember, moderation is key, and if you have failed to moderate, forgive yourself and move on. Make better choices the next time temptation comes knocking.

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