By: Sarity Gervais
Who among us can claim that they have the self- discipline required to avoid overstuffing themselves during festive meals? I surely can’t, and must sheepishly admit, that I’ve been known to practically fall asleep, semi-conscious from food overload, right at the table. Even a full Shabbat meal can knock me out, when it contains my beloved Cholent, preceded by appetizer and completed by dessert.
Shabbat is famous for the vast amount of calorie dense foods we pack in at one sitting. Three thousand calories is not the aberration, but in fact, the average consumption: Meats with stuffing, coleslaw, schnitzel, kugel, cholent, dessert and the list goes on.
What gives? Why do we feel so tired after consuming masses of heavy food? What happens to our bodies to induce this ‘food coma’? And finally, what to do to avoid the pain, while still having the pleasure?
1. Why does a huge meal make us tired?
Most of our energy goes to our stomach to digest the enormous feast. Because our bodies work so hard we get depleted and tired. After the customary high fat, high carb and high sugar content hits our small intestines our brain triggers hormonal shifts, in the form of a neural response. It tells our Para systemic nervous systems to slow the body down and focus mainly on digestion. This is the prime reason for the famous ‘food coma’, laying us on sofas, with very low blood sugar levels. The body rebels by craving "just one more piece "of pie, starting the cycle all over again.
2. Why do we feel funny after eating a ton?
Aside from being tired, we often feel a bit sick, with an aching tummy, heartburn and bloating. The stomach is naturally about the size of a fist. To accommodate all the food we gobble down, it must stretch to massive proportions. The vastly enlarged stomach presses against other organs, making us feel like we are pregnant with food. This including the usual aches and discomfort of pregnancy, heartburn and nausea.
3. What happens inside our bodies?
According to ‘Scientific American’, high fat, high carb and high sugar foods, make our body pump insulin, the hormone to regulate glucose (sugar). Some of it gets shuttled to the liver and muscles to be stored as energy, in the form of glycogen. If we eat a huge heavy meal, the majority ends up in the fat cells or the bloodstream, flooding the body with triglycerides. The more of it we store, the more we crave extra food, chronically unsatisfied, binging to satisfy the craving. One huge meal may begin a cycle of serious binging and weight gain.
4. Why do we keep repeating the same experience, despite the unpleasant after-effects?
When we are faced with a beautifully presented table laden with delicacies, we tend to rationalize. Common sense and rational judgement literally whites-out unpleasant memories. Self-control flies out the window and we do what seems like the most natural thing: Eat. After all it’s a special occasion we’ll fast tomorrow, spend hours at the gym and so on. It feels so good, the smells and sights are enticing, the taste of the offerings delightful. We want more, crave crave more and more. Our brain provides no help. It releases the ‘feel-good’ hormone, dopamine, which blocks self-control. The more sugar and fat we consume, the more dopamine we release. If we have alcohol with our meal, the ability to resist is lowered even further. Naturally we act on the cravings that are not dissimilar to a physical addiction. Dopamine surges feel awesome and the more we eat and drink, the more of it we manufacture. That is until the above-mentioned symptoms set in and we fall asleep, face inside the dessert plate.
5. Tell me you never experienced this and I’ll tell you that you are very unusual.
You can avoid the cycle and not feel deprived. There is a solution I found to work for me and it may work for you. Hydrate with lots of water prior to eating. It will fill you up and prevent food/alcohol intoxication. You’ll be less likely to binge. Taste a little of everything you adore, but don’t pile your plate like there’s no tomorrow. Also, stay away from the desserts.
Enjoy the beauty of the settings, the colours and scents, but use your head before you partake.