If you eat too much over time, you’ll undoubtedly know what happens. There are a few things going on in your body after you’ve had enough to eat.
We spoke with two dietitians to find out what happens to digestion and the body when you overeat. Plus, there are suggestions on what you can do to minimize the effects.
What causes eating too much
Eating too much at one time can cause physical discomfort. You might feel bloated, gassy, or have indigestion. Eating too much, even if you do it regularly, can lead to weight gain over time.
Your body doesn’t digest food the same way when you overeat
Overeating can lead to indigestion because your stomach has to work harder to break down the food. When you eat a lot at once, your body releases larger amounts of digestive juices into your small intestine.
This can cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating. It can also lead to heartburn.
Your blood sugar levels might spike
Blood sugar is the amount of glucose in your blood. Glucose comes from the food you eat and is your body’s main source of energy.
When you overeat, especially if you eat sugary foods, your blood sugar levels can increase. This might make you feel tired or shaky.
If you have diabetes, overeating can be especially dangerous. Your blood sugar levels can increase to a dangerously high level.
You might feel tired
If you overeat, you might feel tired. This is especially true if you eat a lot of carbohydrates. When you eat, your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose.
Glucose is then absorbed into your bloodstream and used for energy. Eating too many carbohydrates at once can cause your blood sugar levels to rise and then fall quickly.
This can leave you feeling tired, cranky, and hungry.
Your body might store more fat
If you eat more calories than your body needs, your body will store the excess as fat. Over time, this can lead to weight gain. Some people are more likely to store fat than others. This is due to factors like age, gender, and genetics.
You might get headaches
Overeating can cause headaches in some people. This is likely due to the increased blood flow to your digestive system and the release of hormones like insulin and cortisol.
These changes can lead to changes in blood pressure and inflammation, which can cause headaches.
You might get sick more often
Overeating can weaken your immune system. This makes you more likely to get sick. When you overeat, your body is busy digesting food and doesn’t have the energy to fight off infection.
The effects of eating too much?
Short term effects
The first thing that happens when you overeat is that blood sugar levels skyrocket. “Your body releases insulin to bring your blood sugar back down.
This can cause lightheadedness, shakiness, and fatigue,” says Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
If you’re eating a meal high in fat, you may also notice that you feel more sluggish. “Fat takes longer to digest so you may not feel as energetic,” says Rumsey.
You might also get an upset stomach and a bloated feeling. “When you eat too much food, it can be difficult for your stomach to digest everything.
This can cause indigestion, heartburn, and stomach pain,” says Brigitte Zeitlin, MPH, RD, CDN, founder of the New York-based BZ Nutrition.
Long term effects
If you eat too much on a regular basis, you’re at risk for developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. “When you eat more calories than you burn, your body stores the excess as fat. If this happens over time, you can develop obesity,” says Rumsey.
“Overeating also stresses your pancreas which can lead to type 2 diabetes,” says Zeitlin. “Your pancreas produces insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels.
When you overeat, your pancreas has to work overtime to produce more insulin. This can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.”
Signs if you’ve eaten too much
There are a few signs that can clue you in that you’ve eaten too much.
“You might feel like you can’t breathe or your chest is tight. This happens because when your stomach expands from overeating, it presses against your diaphragm and lungs,” says Zeitlin.
You might also notice that your clothes feel tighter. This is because, when you overeat, your body stores the excess calories as fat.
Overeating affects on the brain
In the short term, overeating can cause brain fog. “You might feel tired, have difficulty concentrating, or feel like you can’t think clearly,” says Rumsey.
If you overeat on a regular basis, it can lead to more serious problems. “Overeating can lead to inflammation throughout the body which has been linked to depression and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Zeitlin.
What to do if you’ve overeaten
If you find yourself overeating, Zeitlin recommends drinking lots of water and taking a walk. “Water will help fill you up and prevent you from eating more. Walking will help burn off some of the excess calories,” she says.
Rumsey recommends drinking mint tea or taking an over-the-counter antacid like Tums. “Mint tea can help with indigestion and bloating. Antacids can help with heartburn,” she says.
If you find that you’re overeating often, it’s time to see a registered dietitian. “An RD can help you figure out why you’re overeating and come up with a plan to help you stop,” says Rumsey.
What are some tips to avoid overeating?
There are a few things you can do to avoid overeating:
- Listen to your body. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.
- Don’t eat on the go. Sit down at a table and take the time to enjoy your meal.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Turn off the TV and put away your phone.
- Pay attention to your food. savor the flavor and texture.
- Slow down. Take your time eating and chew your food slowly.
- Avoid triggering foods. If there are certain foods that cause you to overeat, avoid them.
- Practice mindful eating. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings while eating.
- Seek help from a registered dietitian. If you find that you’re overeating often, an RD can help you figure out why and come up with a plan to stop.
The bottom line
Eating too much of anything will have negative consequences on your health, but some foods are more likely to cause weight gain than others.
“Foods high in fat, sugar, and calories are more likely to cause weight gain and should be eaten in moderation,” says Zeitlin. “If you find yourself overeating, try to identify the trigger foods and avoid them.
Seek help from a registered dietitian if you need assistance.”