What Happens to Your Body When You Overeat?

plate of foodOK, we've been told over and over again, if you eat more then you burn, you'll gain weight! It's rocket science, right? No, of course not! But, most Americans have figured out how to tip the scale upwards anyway, with 70 percent now falling into the overweight or obese categories. But, what happens inside your body when you overeat?

Let's supposed it's TGIF! You know, it's time to let loose and relax! For some, that means spending the night out on the town, raising glasses, and then swinging by the local White Castle to satisfy the munchies. Others may stay in and curl up with their soul mate, watch a movie, order takeout, and share (or not) that pint of Ben and Jerry's. In this all too common scenario, it's relaxation = overindulging in food and drink.

If you spend many of your weekends this way, you could be binging more than you think. And then add in those extra slices of pizza on Tuesday, those cookies at the office birthday party, Chinese takeout when you just couldn't cook and the mindless snacking in front of the TV, and now you're eating more than you need!

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How the Body Reacts to Too Much Food

From 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 that food. During the digestion process, the food moves from the mouth to the esophagus to the stomach, and then the small intestine, and then the pancreas to the liver. The National Institutes of Health breaks the process down further in the article Your Digestive System and How It Works.

Here are a Few of the Things That Can Happen to Your Body When You Overeat

    • The stomach swells. When you eat too much, the stomach expands just like a balloon so it can accommodate the large amount of food. This causes it to push against the other organs in your body and makes you feel like you need to loosen your pants.


    • You start feeling bloated and gassy. You swallow your food, you add air into the digestive tract, and that gas expands in the stomach, so you end up with a feeling of being bloated. This sensation is exacerbated if you consume carbonated beverages with your meal. This gas needs some sort of release and one of the most common ways is a great big belch!


    • 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 requires an increase in the amount of acid to break it down. You may be more prone to heartburn if you're over-consuming foods that take longer to digest like those White Castle Double Cheeseburgers along with the beer you had before.


    • Excess calories are stored. This is a big one; excess calories are stored! As the 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 the fats, carbs, and proteins. Cells in the intestinal walls absorb these macro-nutrients, along with vitamins and minerals, to be used for energy or storage. Excess calories that aren't needed for energy are stored as fat.



    • You may feel drowsy and tried. As the pancreas releases insulin, it sends off a cascade of hormones to be released. Serotonin and melatonin, the feel good hormones are released. These can make you feel tired and content. (Like at Thanksgiving, so stop blaming the turkey!)


  • You feel nauseated. Leptin, a hormone that is produced by the fat cells, tells the brain you're no longer hungry, and you 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. If you have more fat cells in your body, you can develop leptin resistance, making it even harder to recognize fullness and ultimately lose weight.

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