Have you ever so thoroughly indulged yourself during a meal that you’ve felt horrible afterward? You might have regretted how sluggish and heavy you felt following a big meal. It may even be a staple part of your holiday meals with friends or family. Being too full and a little uncomfortable may almost be a tradition!
Naturally, most people don’t like feeling so heavy after eating big meals. It can distract you from the tasks you have to do for the day, and those groggy feelings may stick around for many hours.
Apart from feeling miserable and bloated while you’re lying on the couch with your pants undone, it isn’t great for your body (internally and aesthetically) to overeat. Fortunately, there are a few ways to help undo the damage from overdoing it on a huge meal.
What to Do When You Overeat and Feel Sick?
Here are some things you can do to feel lighter after you overeat.
Don’t beat yourself up. One over-the-top meal won’t ruin your health. Plus, too much guilt about eating habits can lead you to deny yourself.
This can make you feel deprived and then cause you to binge again in an unhealthy cycle. Instead, decide what you’ll do differently in the future, especially in the days that follow.
Don’t chug it by the liter until you feel sick. Just sip on a cup of water (about 8 ounces) after a big meal. It can help your body get rid of excess salt you likely got from your meal. It can also keep you from getting constipated. Continue to drink water over the rest of the day to keep yourself hydrated.
The liquid will be absorbed by any soluble fiber in your system and act like a gel to push last night’s meal through the digestive tract. In other words, it will reduce a bloated belly by helping you poop.
Down a Detox Elixir
In additional to guzzling plain old H2O, you can get your insides feeling better with a simple water-based detox elixir.
Simply warm a mug of water and add slices of fresh ginger, lemon zest, and a splash of raw apple cider vinegar.
The ginger can tame a gurgly stomach, the lemon zest delivers a good source of antioxidants, and the raw apple cider vinegar brings probiotics to your gut, which may help combat post-feast bloating.
Do Not Lie Down After a Meal
As tempting as it is to go lie down and possibly get a nap in after a big meal, it is a big no, no. You already feel sick after a meal, lying down may sound like a great idea to help cure it, but it will only worsen it.
Not only does it let your calories just sit in your body without being burned off, but it slows down your digestion.
Laying down may cause you to throw up and have acid reflux, only making you feel worse than you originally did. Plus, it messes with your digestion. When you lie down, rather than making its way down, it is easier for your food to make its way back up, slowing down the digestion.
Take a Walk
An easy stroll will help stimulate your digestion and even out your blood sugar levels. Or go for a leisurely bike ride instead.
But don’t overdo it. A real workout could send the blood to your legs instead of your stomach, which could slow digestion.
Skip the Bubbles
If you’ve already overdone it, carbonated drinks may not be a great idea.
When you drink them, you swallow gas that can fill up your digestive system. This will make you feel even more bloated. You burp some of it away, and the rest moves through your digestive system until you pass it as gas.
Throughout the day, aim to eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal as produce is low in calories and high in potassium and water.
Fluids and potassium help your body get rid of excess sodium, which can help you feel less bloated. On top of that, vegetables are rich in fiber, which will help keep you regular, and antioxidants, which can help repair some of the free radical damage caused by overindulging.
Give Away Leftovers
If you still have food left after a meal, it might make you think you’ve eaten a healthy amount even though you’ve actually eaten too much.
Some research suggests that this could make you eat more and exercise less later. If you keep leftovers, it may help to divide them into single servings so you don’t overdo it next time.
Don’t keep calorie bombs like grandma’s pecan pie in the kitchen if you know you can’t resist.
Have a serving of fish, like tuna flaked over a green salad for lunch, or grilled salmon for dinner.
Why? Fish is an excellent source of B-complex vitamins, which your body uses to turn the foods you eat into energy, and also helps you metabolize alcohol.
After some time has gone by, work up a real sweat: Run, lift weights, play basketball.
It’s best to wait at least 3 to 4 hours after a big meal. It will burn off some of those extra calories. It may also help jump-start your metabolism and prevent constipation. And regular exercise seems to help control mood and hunger so you’re less likely to overeat in the future.
Try to look at eating as a kind of meditation. Pay attention to the flavor, feel, and color of your food. Think about the meal: Where was the food grown or raised? How did the cook make it?
Try to take small bites and chew well. Stop from time to time and ask yourself if you feel full yet. This can help you eat less and feel more satisfied.
It can take around 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain it’s full. If you’ve already eaten too much in the first 10 minutes, you haven’t given your brain the chance to figure it out. Half an hour later, you’re sure to feel uncomfortable from too much food.
Slow down and you may find that not only do you eat fewer calories, but you also feel more satisfied.
When to Seek Help
If you often eat until you’re too full or even sick, you could have what’s called binge eating disorder.
You might hide it from others. You may feel ashamed or disgusted after you eat too much. It may seem like you can’t stop even if you want to.
Over time, it can take a serious toll on your body as well as your mental health. Treatment can help, so talk to a doctor if you’re worried.
Change Your Vocabulary
Rather than believing your night of merriment has set you down a path on which it will be difficult to backtrack, use the words ‘shift’ or ‘pivot’ and visualize yourself making a turn in your eating and movement habits.
This simple change in vocabulary can help you accept the fact that you both enjoyed the evening of eating and that you can enjoy the next day by making different choices.
That said, if you find yourself feeling negative emotions in response to your indulgence —whether that be guilt, shame, regret, annoyance, or any other feeling(s) — embrace them. Examine these feelings to understand what might have triggered them and then wield that analysis to better manage your response to a similar situation in the future.