I ate too much. Now what do I do?

The big family feast  is over. All your favorites were on the dinner table.

And you ate too much – more than your body could handle at one time. Your eyes were definitely bigger than your stomach. An average stomach holds about one or two cups of food. You start feeling discomfort when the stomach stretches to accommodate up to twice that amount.

Now you feel miserable. You’re bloated, tired and pretty much disgusted with yourself.

So now what?

First thing to do is relax. Being hard on yourself isn’t the answer.

“Once the deed is done, you need to avoid the temptation to continue nibbling or to clean your plate – or anyone else’s plate – if food still is present,” said Kim McClintic, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian at the Center for Healthy Lifestyles at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, Illinois. “Enjoy, but don’t let the overindulgence go on for several weeks. That’s when it can show up on the scale and possibly in our health.”

After you ate too much

“Pull yourself away from the table,” Kim said. “Be the first to volunteer for dish duty and clean up instead of settling down on the couch in front of the TV. Also, it might be helpful to sit up straight and engage in some simple, deep breathing techniques.”

No napping

Fight the urge to fall asleep too soon after feasting, Kim said.

“Fatigue can set in because your body is using a lot of energy for digestion and that can make you feel sleepy and lethargic,” she said. “Digestion continues even though you are snoozing and can cause indigestion, heartburn, nausea and disrupted sleep. Some experts recommend waiting one to two hours after a very large meal before napping.”

Take it easy

If you ate too much – to the point of being overly full – avoid doing any strenuous physical activity, Kim said.

“However, some simple stretching exercises, a light walk, some simple household chores aren’t bad ideas,” she said. “Again, many experts recommend waiting at least an hour after a very large meal before doing any strenuous exercise.”

Go natural

If you’re feeling nauseous or have an upset stomach, Kim suggests trying some ginger.

“I know ginger has some solid backing for helping with nausea and upset stomach – ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger candy or chews or freshly grated ginger,” she said.

In addition to aiding the stomach, ginger also can help increase movement of the rest of the gastrointestinal system after you ate too much.

Time to eat

When it’s time for the next meal, don’t skip it in hope of saving calories, Kim said.

“This often backlashes and can feed a craving and/or send you into another over-indulgence,” she said. “Skipping meals causes one thing – hunger. At the next meal, commit to practicing portion control, eating slowly, cutting your food into smaller pieces, chewing each bite and swallowing before the next bite goes in and take a few sips of water in between bites to help you slow down and feel fuller.”

There’s always tomorrow

One thing to remember, Kim said, is that you only tripped, but didn’t fall.

“Avoid negative self-talk, guilt and regret,” she said. “The attitude of, ‘I already blew it, I ate too much, I may as well wait …’ can dictate your food choices for the next several days or weeks. Everyone has an oops, so just get back on track.”

Don’t count on it

Kim stresses that you should avoid the temptation of weighing yourself after you ate too much.

“You have to eat about 3,500 calories to gain one pound and likely what’s showing up on the scale is fluid retention from excess sodium from the food,” she said. “Take some time to do a little meal planning for the next week. Have ingredients on hand for a few healthy meals you can fix for suppers and things to pack for lunches.”

The OSF HealthCare dietitians have plenty of healthy recipes to choose from online if you’re needing some suggestions.

In the future

To avoid that feeling of being miserable from overeating, prepare yourself when facing a big family dinner.

Kim offers the following advice:

  • Don’t arrive hungry: Skipping meals during the day will find you ringing the doorbell “irrationally” hungry. Take the edge off of intense hunger by having a light snack 30 to 60 minutes before arriving.
  • Ditch deprivation: Depriving yourself of special foods can make you want them all the more. Enjoy a small portion and eat it slowly, savoring each bite.
  • Conversation is “calorie-free”: It’s not all about the food. Family gatherings provide opportunities to be with family and friends. Make it a point to engage in conversation with five to seven people before saying goodbye.
  • Position yourself: If it’s buffet-style, sit or stand as far away from it as possible and with your back to it. Scan the buffet table before picking up a plate. Choose only the foods you “really” want (healthy or not) then commit to only one trip. Family style? Place those serving bowls at the opposite end of the table.
  • Eat slowly: Commit to being the last one to finish at the table. Allow at least 20 minutes before you head for second helpings.

Get moving

Lastly, Kim recommends working activity into your plans when a large meal is involved.

“Grab some shoes and head out the front door for a walk, jog, a little football toss, hoop shooting or kid chasing,” she said. “If weather is an issue, walk the mall, use home gym equipment, get kicking indoors with interactive video games, put on some music and start dancing or head to the gym.”

Additional help

If you find yourself overindulging often, perhaps you should speak to your doctor about healthy eating habits. If you don’t have a doctor, visit our online directory to find one near you.

Helping you in your health journey

The Center for Healthy Lifestyles at OSF HealthCare St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, Illinois, offers a variety of cooking and exercise classes, numerous presentations and health seminars and vital health screenings.

Its mission is to assist members of the community in achieving healthier behaviors and making informed health care decisions. This is achieved through comprehensive prevention, education, counseling and diagnostic services.

Last Updated: February 16, 2021

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About Author: Lisa Coon

Lisa Coon is a Writing Coordinator for OSF HealthCare, where she has worked since August 2016.  A Peoria native, she is a graduate of Bradley University with a degree in journalism. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers in Iowa and Illinois.

She lives in Groveland with her husband and son. In her free time she likes to cook, bake and read. She freely admits that reality TV is a weakness, and she lives by the quote, “The beach is good for the soul.”

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Categories: Diet & Exercise