Christmas Day is fast approaching, and we Brits are prepping for the annual feast of feasts – mentally, physically and emotionally.
We know it’s going to leave us feeling bloated, uncomfortable, stuffed, yet every year we think nothing of stuffing our faces with heaps of turkey, mountains of potatoes and enough veg that could realistically see us through to next year.
And while the “average” calorie counts of your Christmas dinner is often exaggerated, it’s pretty much a given that the food you’ll eat will be richer, and therein hides excess calories.
Now, one day of indulgence is obviously not going to throw your fitness track into the fire along with the yule log, but just what does this delicious, decadent debauchery do to your body?
If you enjoy a tipple with your Christmas dinner, you can expect this to be zipping through your bloodstream about now.
Alcohol absorbs rapidly into the blood stream through the small intestines and stomach, and will dilate your blood vessels, especially the capillaries under your skin, making you feel all toasty and cosy.
Did you know that the average stomach capacity is about 1 litre?
Now, your stomach is pretty resilient, and can easily stretch to this capacity, but when you swallow food, you also swallow air, even more so if you drink something fizzy along with your meal.
The thing is, it takes up to 20 minutes for you to feel “full,” by which time you’ve most likely already overeaten. As your stomach begins to expand more and more, it literally squeezes all your other organs, and itself to expel that excess gas, one way or the other.
It’s no wonder you being to feel a little off by this stage…
It’s around now your pancreas begins to kick in to produce insulin, the hormone that helps convert all the glucose in your blood to storable glycogen.
However, as you’ve most likely overeaten, your blood sugar levels will rapidly rise, meaning your pancreas has to work even harder to get all that sugar under control.
Once things have settled down, the resulting drop in your blood sugar levels will make you feel super sleepy indeed.
Here come the meat sweats…
When you’ve finished your meal, blood hastily flows to your digestive tract in order to get all that food broken down.
To accommodate this, your body naturally increases your metabolic and heart rate. As a side effect of this, your internal temperature also increases, making you feel all hot and bothered.
And yes, sweaty too.
On top of that, you see that tipple you enjoyed earlier, well it actually counteracts your body’s natural processes and actively SLOWS down digestion, not to mention the fact rich foods are notoriously difficult to break down, leaving you feeling stuffed and sluggish.
Proteins and fats can sit and stew, literally, in your stomach for two to three hours after a meal leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
This is also the time where wind becomes a bit of an issue.
You see, along with your stomach squeezing and squeezing to get rid of all that air you swallowed when eating, enzymes are also busy trying to break down all that food, and sometimes they come up against raffinose.
Raffinose is a complex sugar found in veggies like brussels sprouts that the body’s enzymes simply cannot process leading to increased flatulence.
You may be starting to feel a little more human around now, but this is just a brief intermission. Why?
It’s cheeseboard time!
Crackers, cheese, chutney – carbs, fats, refined sugar. Add to that more wine and the whole process starts all over again.
It’s no wonder everyone crashes out after the cheese is served.
Good news folks, all that food is on its way to the large intestine now – a process that takes 6-8 hours.
You might start feeling like you could eat some more food around now…
It’s over! Your body will most likely start getting rid of any undigested food having absorbed all the goodness from it (you might feel like you need the loo about now) and your hangover will also begin to ease.
But, it’s Boxing Day, and that means you simply HAVE to go through it all again, right?