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How to Deal With Over Eating

DrSugar Answers: I Over Indulged — What Now?

DrSugar is in the house! And she's answering your health-related questions.

Dear DrSugar,
Last weekend I went to a party hosted by foodies, and oh boy was the food good. And oh boy did I overeat. I have been dieting for 6 months now and am so close to my goal weight, so the pigging out freaked me out. I was wondering what the body does when you seriously over eat and what I can do in this situation to right my wrongs? Do the excess calories turn into fat immediately? Should I skip my next meal? Will exercising a lot the following day help?
— Freaking on Food

This is a great question, since the holiday season is going to be kicking off soon with Thanksgiving, which is right around the corner! But, there is nothing new about overindulging at a party, a friend’s birthday dinner, or a holiday meal. We’ve all done it and in all likelihood, most of us will do it again at some point in the future. Before I get started on answering your question, I'd like to make one comment. What’s done is done. There is no use in beating yourself up or feeling guilty about overindulging. Although they are normal feelings to have after overindulging, realize you overdid it and recognize that you are human and move on! To learn more about what you should do after you overindulge in food, keep reading!

What happens to the body when you seriously overindulge in food is basically the same when you normally eat . . . except that your body has to produce extra amounts of insulin to regulate increased amount of sugars and starches that were in your meal. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar, when the sugar enters the bloodstream after a meal. Glucose is a source of fuel for the body and insulin moves the glucose from the bloodstream into muscles, fat, and liver cells, where it can be used as fuel. According to Wikipedia, insulin also stops the body from using fat as an energy source. After the glucose has been moved into these tissues, any sugar not used as fuel, or stored as a "storage sugar" called glycogen in the liver, will be stored as fat.

Now that we’ve discussed the basics, let’s discuss some of the ways you can move forward after your indulgence in order to get yourself back on your healthy track. WebMD has a great advice article about what to do when you overindulge in food. The first one is something I touched on earlier. Stop beating yourself up for your overindulgence! Focus on the positive and getting yourself back on track. The next thing to do is to relax and reset your healthy course. Even if you overindulged, you can’t have gained more than a couple of pounds. Some of the weight gain is likely to be water-retention from all the salt that is in super-yummy foods.

The article recommends a smart plan for losing the weight you’ve gained from the overindulgence, instead of punishing yourself by restricting or omitting meals and overexercising. If you restrict calories or skip meals, this will only further lower your metabolism and make your weight loss more difficult. Also, you are more likely to overeat again if you severely restrict your intake. Both of these will ultimately lead you to ineffective weight loss and possibly more weight gain. Instead, they recommend modestly cutting off calories by cutting down on portion sizes. If you were on a healthy diet plan prior to the indulgence, you can just return to the plan that was helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Finally, don’t punish yourself by overexercising! If you overexercise and restrict your meals, you are again setting yourself up for possible overeating. Return to your normal exercise plan, as physical activity burns calories and boosts metabolism! Exercising a lot just on the day after your indulgence will burn extra calories, but what is more important is maintaining a routine and stable exercise program which will over the long-term be the most beneficial at continuing or maintaining your weight loss.

The holidays are right around the corner and we’re all going to be faced with the temptation to overindulge in foods that taste amazing and make you feel happy. However, if you do overindulge, remember the things we’ve discussed here so that you can get back on your healthy track! And please, don’t be too down on yourself or feel too guilty if you do overindulge, remember . . . we’re all human!

Have a question for DrSugar? You can send it to me via private message here, and I will forward it to the good doctor.

DrSugar's posts are for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment recommendations. Click here for more details.

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