The holidays are often filled with festive desserts and massive feasts. Unfortunately, many of us may take this as an opportunity to overindulge, leaving us feeling sick with upset stomachs. That doesn't mean you can't have more than one serving, if that's what you want. You just have to learn how to listen to your stomach, which means holding off a bit while you digest your food before knowing if you truly want more. According to experts, you should wait 15 to 20 minutes before going back for seconds. Keep reading to find out why this timeframe works best, and if your stomach is already hurting, This Is How to Tell If Your Upset Stomach Is COVID, Doctors Say.
"A good amount of time to wait prior to going back for a second helping is around 15 to 20 minutes," says Jenna Liphart Rhoads, PhD, a nurse and health educator for Nurse Together. "This amount of time gives your stomach enough time to signal to your brain that it is full."
Trista Best, MPH, an adjunct nutrition professor and a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, says that timeframe is based on the hormones that control appetite and hunger: leptin and ghrelin
According to Best, leptin is a hormone made in the small intestines that regulates our energy needs by signaling to our brain that our body has had enough calories in a particular amount of time. Ghrelin, however, is the opposite kind of hormone. It's a hunger hormone that signals to the body that it needs more calories.
"These two hormones work together, but they need approximately 20 minutes before their process is complete and can truly signal the body whether it is full or not," Best says.
It's not just that you'll feel sluggish after eating too much or not letting your body digest food first. According to Rhoads, eating too much food in one sitting can have a number of negative effects.
"Eating too much food in one sitting can literally stretch the stomach to its maximum capacity and feel incredibly painful, as well as cause heartburn and indigestion because the food and stomach acid [are] pressing upwards against the [upper esophageal] sphincter," she explains.
You can also help aid your body in digestion, says Alicia Harper, a nutritionist and creator of Probiotic Review Girl. She advises that people take a 20- to 30-minute slow walk after a large meal, as "walking after eating may aid in digestion and alleviate some symptoms like acid-reflux and bloating."
For more ways to help your body feel better during holiday meals, keep reading, and for a seasonal delicacy to avoid, Don't Eat This One Traditional Holiday Dish, Health Experts Warn.
Eat other meals throughout the day.
Many people try to skip meals throughout the day if they know they're going to be eating a large meal—like Christmas dinner—later on, as they think it helps regulate their caloric intake. Rhoads says this is the worst thing you can do, however. Skipping meals throughout the day will just cause you to eat even more when you do finally have your meal, leading to those unwanted feelings and side effects. You should continue to eat food throughout the day like you normally would, she says. And if you are serving food this year, The FDA Says "Please Do Not Eat" This Beloved Dessert Right Now.
Don't drink too much alcohol before your meal.
You may want to down a few glasses of wine to put you in the holiday spirit before dinner, but too much alcohol can just make things worse later on. Rhoads says people who are tipsy or drunk tend to overeat, which—combined with the alcohol—will leave them feeling worse at the end of the day. And if you are drinking, learn The Most Hated Holiday Drink, Survey Says.
Drink a glass of water before your meal.
If you're worried you're going to overeat, Rhoads says there is a way to counteract this. She recommends that you "have a glass of water about 15 to 20 minutes prior to the meal," as this will help your stomach feel less empty—which gives you the opportunity to eat less the first time around and go back for seconds without feeling too bad. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Make sure you're not eating too fast.
Rhoads says being mindful while you're eating is just as important as it is after you eat. "Continue to check in with your stomach throughout the meal rather than eating as much as you can as fast as you can," she recommends. And for more on holiday foods, discover The Most Hated Holiday Cookie, Survey Says.