Maybe it is the holidays, maybe it is a stressful week, a random Tuesday, or a Saturday night full of booze and food. We all have overeaten, and we’ve all experienced the negative consequences and feelings that come along the next day (or even the next few hours). We’re talking about things like bloating, cramping, water retention, lethargy, indigestion, guilt, shame, and regret. We’re going to help your understanding of overeating and tell you what to do after overeating, as well as what not to do, to get you feeling back on track and in control of your habits and health.
Overeating Is Normal(ish)
If you’ve overeaten or overindulged, congratulations, you’re human! It happens to everyone and we all end up doing it from time to time, whether intentional or unintentional. While overeating is normal, we say that it is normal(ish) because it isn’t exactly something that you want to do very often. What about when you do overeat, and those feelings sink in both physically and mentally, what should you do? Should you not eat for a while? Lay down? Beat yourself up in the mirror and tell yourself you’re stupid! No way! Let’s get into some of the positive things you can do after you overeat.
Understanding The Behavior
When we make ourselves not feel good, whether it was on purpose or accident, it doesn’t feel good. Understanding overeating means understanding that it is a behavior. Instead of condemning the behavior though, we want to sit with it, recognize it, acknowledge it, and learn from it. In doing so, we’re able to take the judgement out of the behavior so that we don’t make ourselves feel even worse. Overeating isn’t exactly good, bad, ugly, right or even wrong. When we beat ourselves up or guilt trip ourselves, we can actually have that overeating behavior snowball into something bigger, longer, and worse than the initial overeating behavior.
Also, when we don’t condemn ourselves for eating a little too much, we can recognize why we’re experiencing the negative side effects. Was it the food content itself, like dairy or gluten? Was it the amount of food? How about the combination of food and drink? Did you eat too fast or drink too much with your food? All of these things contribute to the way that your body accepts, processes, and excretes the food contents we put into our body, especially when it is too much. These are considered the ‘triggers’ to the gas, bloating, stretching of the intestines and gut, as well as the indigestion, for example.
How Often Do You Overeat?
Something to consider about overeating is how often you find yourself acting in this way. While it is often okay to indulge once in a while, or have a ‘cheat meal’ when you're very consistent and regimented with your eating on a normal basis, the body can actually benefit from overeating or what some call a ‘refeed’. These types of once in a while meals can actually improve the body’s adaptation of glucose and insulin processing when the calorie intake increases, then goes back to the deficit level.
However, if you find yourself partaking in indulgent or overeating behaviors often, one thing you want to ask yourself is why? Why are you doing this to yourself, especially if it causes negative consequences, like those physical and emotional effects we talked about earlier? If you know that’s how the food and food amounts are going to make you feel, and you still CHOOSE to do it, there may be a deeper reason.
Ask yourself some questions like, is my plan during the week too restrictive? How do I cope with stress? Am I starving myself during the week? Am I bored or lonely. Am I numbing my feelings or coping with feelings that I do not want to face or deal with presently? Are these feelings making me feel undeserving of my progress, am I self sabotaging myself on purpose (consciously or unconsciously), am I playing a role in my social circle or am I getting pressure for positively changing my habits from my social circle, making me feel like I’m ‘too good for them’ or ‘not the same that I was’?
When we understand the root causes of our behaviors, we’re only then able to begin to change them for the better, breaking the cycle for good.
What To Do After Overeating - Immediately
Alright, so you overate. Now what? While you can’t exactly undo all the food you just ate or go back in time and not do it, there are ways to improve the way that you feel and aid your digestive process so that you can move the food along your GI and little more efficiently and effectively, to relieve yourself of the negative overeating side effects sooner.
The first step? Your mind! You’re going to have to work against that little voice inside that creeps up full of guilt, shame, and negative self talk. Condemning your behavior and making yourself worse is only going to, yes you got it, make yourself feel worse. So let’s not, eh?
Next, be compassionate to yourself. You’re not a bad person because you overate. You’re still you, you’re still the same person, and if you share some compassion towards the situation, you’ll better be able to help yourself get back on the up and up, sooner. You’re still a good person, we promise.
What To Do After Overeating - A Few Minutes Later
When you get into a better head space and mindset about your behavior, a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset? That’s how you can really sit and ask yourself, ‘what does my body need right now’, and actually be able to hear what it says back. That might be water, going to the bathroom, doing some deep breathing, a walk, or taking a seat and relaxing, for example. Are your pants pressing on your stomach, making you feel even worse? Maybe you should change them. Does your body feel stiff and rigid, like it needs movement? Get up and go take a walk.
What To Do After Overeating - 15 Minutes Later
Distract yourself from how you’re feeling. You aren’t beating yourself down with negative self-talk, which is great. You asked yourself what you need and how you’re feeling, maybe even took an action or two to help your body feel better. Now? Go do something and distract yourself from how you feel. Chances are if you lay down, especially if you lay on your right side, your body is just going to smoosh itself, thanks to gravity, and make you feel worse (ugh). This is also a prime way to get indigestion and heart burn because you’re pushing those stomach juices and acids right back up where the food started. If you do need to sit down, try to sit in a reclined or relaxed position, with the torso still upright.
That being said, if you can do something other than sit, we advise that. Maybe go take a shower, call a friend, journal real quick about how you’re feeling, or if you’ve really done it now, consider taking something like Gas-X, especially if you’re really uncomfortable. If you do have some Pepto-Bismol or Maalox, you can use these to help soothe irritation in the stomach, but these antacids should be used sparingly, as they’re not good to use regularly (at all).
What Not To Do After Overeating - 15 Minutes Later
An all too common thing that people do when they overeat, especially after they overeat, is take a laxative because they think it’ll move everything through the GI faster and make them feel better. Yikes! There is nothing that you can do for your body, regarding moving thing through the digestion process faster, you just have to let your body do its thing, and if you hate it so much, learn from it so you don’t over do it again. Laxitives will only prolong the gas and pain, and they can also cause further indigestion or nausea, leaving you feeling worse off than before.
What To Do After Overeating - 30 Minutes Later
If you still haven’t gotten up and walked around, now is the time to do it. Or go take a shower. Or if you feel like you have to poop, go pop a squat on the toilet and gently massage your stomach in a downward motion, coaxing the body to relax the GI so that your gut motility is better.
What Not To Do After Overeating - 30 Minutes Later
If you do go for a walk, don’t have poor posture doing it, sticking your stomach out and straining your back while you’re at it. If you do decide to sit on the royal porcelain throne really do your best not to strain, as this can lead to hemorrhoids, which are no good either. Also, we do not recommend taking a nap. When we sleep our body conserves energy and tries to relax which can unintentionally slow the digestive process even further, making those negative feelings last even longer.
What To Do After Overeating - 1 to 2 Hours Later
Light stretching or laying on your left side (but not sleeping) can be pretty beneficial to the body here if you’re still hurting from your binder. Try to breathe deeply into the lower lobe of the lungs, as shallow breathing can limit the amount of oxygen you take in, as well as increase your heart rate. Try laying on your back and bringing your knees to your chest, or laying in happy baby where you bring the knees to the side of the body and hold the bottom of the feet.
What To Do After Overeating - The Rest Of The Day
The rest of the day and the next day might feel a little full and odd to eat again. However, it is really important that you eat and drink food, and absolutely do not restrict yourself from food, just because you overate. When we restrict, we also can talk quite poorly to ourselves about our behaviors and actions. Things like deprivation post overeating only emphasize the things that diet culture teaches us, like restriction, guilt, shame, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
What To Do After Overeating: Takeaway
Understanding overeating as a normal(ish) behavior allows us grace. Recognize that it isn’t something we want to do to ourselves because of how we feel and learn from it. That can help liberate us from potentially slipping into the same behavior or habit again in the future. However, if you do find yourself overeating or binging often, and restricting or self-condemning often, you may want to consult a coach, therapist, or friend that you can process the behavior with and dig into the origins to understand where this behavior and self-sabotage are coming from. All in all, though, overeating occasionally isn’t the end of the world, and everyone does it. Be kind to yourself, learn from it, and move on.
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