The Dangers of Overeating on Thanksgiving

Healthy Eating

Nov 15, 2023


Although it’s a well-known goal to eat as much as you possibly can at Thanksgiving dinner, the dangers of overeating are serious and warn you against it. We know that you’ve waited all year to indulge in a bountiful spread of roasted or fried turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, cranberry sauce, and pies of all sorts with your loved ones — but if you decide to overeat, you may experience more than just the inevitable “food coma.” 

Is it bad to overeat on Thanksgiving?

To put it simply, yes. With all of the delicious food options in front of you, it can be very easy to get carried away at dinner and lose track of what you’ve eaten. We do want you to enjoy your holiday meal and not feel like you have to restrict yourself, but overindulgence during Thanksgiving can pose several dangers to your health and you should be aware of the risks.  

The stress of the holiday season paired with Thanksgiving’s traditional, high-fat dishes create a perfect storm for overeating to take place. It’s not uncommon for Americans to eat far more than their daily suggested calorie intake for the day on Thanksgiving, and while you don’t always have to eat within your suggested calorie intake, eating large amounts of food at once can make it harder for your body to digest all that stuffing and cornbread. 

In minor cases, you may just experience fatigue after overeating (also known as the food coma), but in more serious cases, you can become physically ill.

Keep reading: What happens when you eat too much sugar

Can you get sick from eating too much?

One of the main dangers of overeating is that you can get physically ill after too large of a meal. When you start to reach the limit of your stomach’s capacity, which is different for every person, your stomach will start to look for ways to relieve pressure which can result in vomiting. 

The most common overeating side effects include:

The truth is that no one ever feels great after overeating, so it’s best to avoid it in the first place to avoid experiencing these unpleasant symptoms. There are even some cases where you could end up with food poisoning if food is not cooked or prepared properly.* As you fix your plate, be sure to inspect each dish before consuming and stop eating if you begin to feel ill. 

*Keep reading: How to avoid food poisoning

How do you not overeat on Thanksgiving?

Now that we’ve covered the dangers of overeating on Thanksgiving, are there things you can do to avoid it? Is it really possible to resist all of that delicious food? You don’t have to resist or avoid the festive food at all — you just have to be smart about how you consume it and your habits the day of. 

1. Practice portion control

Portion control is not about restricting what you eat, rather it focuses on eating a healthy amount of each dish that you want to enjoy! If done correctly, portion control can help facilitate healthy eating habits and help you feel full and satisfied after you eat. For example, eating a large portion of vegetables, a medium portion of turkey, and a small portion of dessert is going to leave you feeling better than if you ate a large portion of dessert, a medium portion of turkey, and a carrot. 

Not only does practicing portion control mean you can more easily avoid the dangers of overeating, but you can also have more leftovers to enjoy later! Practicing portion control can help you avoid slipping into a food coma as well as avoid the overeating side effects we mentioned earlier. 

2. Wait 20-30 minutes before grabbing seconds

Many of us have eyes that are bigger than our stomachs. We’ll finish our first plate, take a look at the dishes still remaining on the counter, and decide we need a second round even if we’re full. Before getting up to grab seconds, wait 20-30 minutes after your first plate of food. If you’re still hungry, drink some water, and then proceed to get a bit more food. But remember, there’s always dessert to look forward to!

3. Stay hydrated throughout the day

Many people tend to overeat on Thanksgiving after they’ve had a few glasses of wine or a cup or two of festive cider. Because alcohol can make you feel hungry even when you’re not, it’s best to hydrate your body in between drinks or switch to water a few hours before your meal. Drinking water before, during, and after your meal can help you feel satisfied after you eat and not feel the strong urge to go back for a third helping. You should also add hydrating vegetables to your Thanksgiving plate such as lettuce and squash! It’s all about balance. 

4. Don’t skip meals

Some people believe that skipping breakfast or lunch will allow them to eat more on Thanksgiving, but the results can backfire. Fasting and skipping meals can lead to extreme hunger, causing you to eat more than you would if you had eaten regular meals throughout the day. Or, in some cases, you may only be able to eat a little before feeling full too quickly. If you want to actually enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, don’t skip the other ones in preparation. 

What to do if you overeat

If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve eaten too much and are experiencing severe discomfort or unusual symptoms, it’s best to remain calm as it may not be an emergency. In most cases, time, rest, drinking water or herbal teas, and gentle activities such as walking can help your body digest the excess food. 

However, if you experience severe pain, persistent vomiting, difficulty breathing, or any other alarming symptoms, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical help as soon as you can. Head to your nearest emergency room for treatment and be sure to let them know of any preexisting medical conditions you may have that could exacerbate your symptoms. It’s always best to air on the side of caution when it comes to your health and seek help.

Complete Care can help you overcome the dangers of overeating this Thanksgiving

To enjoy Thanksgiving and avoid the dangers of overeating, practice portion control, stay hydrated, wait 20-30 minutes before getting seconds, avoid skipping meals, and, most importantly, embrace moderation. Thanksgiving isn’t just about eating a bunch of food (although that’s certainly the fun part) it’s also about enjoying the company of your loved ones. 

If you do find yourself in need of emergency services, you’ll be thankful to know that we are open 24/7, especially on Thanksgiving day. We have multiple locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs and are here to help you with whatever Thanksgiving-related emergencies you may face. We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season!

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