Perhaps the real magic of a long weekend is its ability to render rational humans incapable of stopping at just one helping at a leisurely brunch. But what are all those extra mouthfuls actually doing to your body? Here, what happens to your body when you eat too much…
Overindulgence got you looking – and feeling – a bit rounder? The ballooning waistline is likely temporary. “The average adult stomach can hold two litres of food, but can expand by up to four times its size,” says Dr Megan Rossi. “Food leaves your stomach after two hours, but a big meal can take up to four to move into your small intestine.”
Six helpings deep and you still can’t put the fork down? That’s where leptin comes in. “Known as the satiety hormone, leptin is produced by the body’s fat cells and carried by the bloodstream into the brain, where it sends a signal to the hypothalamus that you’re no longer hungry,” says Rossi. Don’t wait for your waistband to start cutting in – when your brain says stop, listen.
The reason you’re drowsy before pudding? “To aid digestion after a big dinner, blood rushes to the stomach, which can cause fatigue. This should go within two hours,” says Rossi. The hormones that aid digestion can also influence melatonin (the sleepy hormone) and the happy hormone serotonin.
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Fight the urge to find the nearest couch and set up camp. Lying down will put pressure on your stomach and could cause stomach acid to rise up to your oesophagus, triggering heartburn. Try to stay upright until that full feeling has subsided – at least half an hour.
You might feel tempted to sweat out those excess kilojoules, but it’s likely to make you feel worse. “Fatty foods take a while to break down, so you’ll need to wait longer than usual to exercise after eating,” warns Rossi. “Listen to your body, but I’d suggest sticking to a walk.” Stroll, anyone?