Looking forward to feasting on sumptuous steamboat and snacks this weekend, but not looking forward to the bloat, sluggishness, and indigestion afterwards? You’re not alone.
Every Lunar New Year (LNY) sees the resurgence of articles telling us once again how sinful that piece of pineapple tart or bakkwa is in in terms of calorie count. But apart from weight gain, how much exactly do we know about the havoc this yearly period of feasting does to our bodies?
Spoiler alert: The occasional feast probably won’t cause lasting damage to your body. But if you have existing medical conditions, or are overeating at a regular frequency, it’s better that you watch your intake this LNY.
What happens in the body when we overeat?
Most experts agree that the body is able to withstand the occasional binge-session without making a dent in one’s overall health. Symptoms that occur after overeating are typically acute, and the body gets back to normal within a day or two.
To process all that extra calories, sugar, and fats from your hearty family potluck, your body needs to dedicate a little more attention and energy towards digesting them. This leads to that familiar groggy and lethargic feeling you get after a heavy meal. However, remaining sedentary for too long may just amplify this feeling. If possible, work in a post-lunch walk or keep your body moving by helping out with clearing away the dishes.
Your belly feels like it has grown double in size – and it’s not all just food. Part of the bloating is caused by gases produced during the digestion process. With an increased volume of food, you can expect even more bloating, and even more so if you have been drinking carbonated drinks. Ease off this bubbling feeling in your tummy with a comforting cup of ginger or chamomile tea.
Some people may feel a burning pain at the back of their throat or in the upper chest area. Most likely, these heartburn symptoms are caused by acid reflux, which happens due to the large amounts of acid that needs to be produced to digest all that food. Frequent overeating can also weaken the lower esophageal sphincter (LES, the valve that keeps the stomach acids from flowing up to the esophagus and throat), contributing to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). As tempting as it may be, abstain from lying down right after eating, as doing so would encourage the backflow of stomach acids, worsening your heartburn if you have a loose LES.
What happens if overeating becomes too frequent?
If this weekend’s LNY meals make up just a portion of your binge marathons taking place once a week or more, then you have more to worry about. Frequently eating more than your body needs can increase your risk for a number of health conditions.
- Weight gain
Weight gain happens when your calorie and fat intake is more than what your body burns. The excess is converted and stored as fat. If weight gain is a concern for you, fill your plate and tummy with more protein and greens before heading for the high-fat and high-calorie dishes.
- Increased risk of metabolic diseases
Obesity and overeating go hand in hand, and these contribute to a higher risk of metabolic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. When fats accumulate in the body, it is more difficult for the heart to pump blood around the body. This also increases the risk for high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol levels.
- Liver disease
Frequent overeating of high-fat, high-calorie meals can cause unhealthy levels of fat to accumulate in the liver. Overconsumption of alcoholic drinks can also cause this. A fatty liver impedes its functions, and may lead to inflammation, liver damage, liver cancer, or even liver failure.
How can I prevent overeating?
There’s no doubt that overeating doesn’t do much good to the body. But controlling one’s intake is easier said than done. After all, no one really wants to be counting calories in between their games of mahjong or yearly family gossip sessions.
For an easier way to control your consumption this LNY, some suggestions include using a smaller plate to control your portions, drinking water before and during your meal, and consuming more proteins rather than carbs or fat-heavy food.
Making it a point to clock in some physical activity will also help boost your energy levels and burn off some of that extra calories. However, experts warn against going for a total detox after the festivities – as the drastic change could wreak more damage to your already taxed body.