There are plenty of healthy options on Christmas day and the traditional Christmas dinner has the potential to a very well-balance meal.
Well, one day of indulgence is obviously not going to throw you off your fitness track forever, so don’t worry about it TOO much. But, because we’re feeling really festive, we asked doctors and nutritionists exactly what’s going on as that turkey, chocolate and sherry makes it way through your system.
Roast Dinner It turns out that the ‘food coma’ we know so well (pictured above) has a technical name: ‘Postprandial somnolence’. Defined as a state of drowsiness or lethargy after a meal, it happens because there is so much food in your gut that blood is literally transported away from your brain and other organs just to deal with all the digestion going on.
You’re pretty much like those snakes that swallow a whole goat then can’t move for several days. If you really pile the roasties and stuffing down your throat, you might become familiar with: Diarrhoea Constipation Heartburn Flatulence Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert with Silentnight, told Metro.co.uk that when we eat, the stomach produces a hormone called gastrin that causes digestive juices to be secreted. As this happens, it leaves less blood for the rest of the body including the brain, which can cause some people to feel light-headed or sleepy. Why don’t we take a look at exactly what else your binge is doing?
Sugar Oh yes, it’s not just the waistline that suffers. All that sugar is going to take its toll on your teeth. As Eddie Coyle, clinical director at Bupa Dental Care, says: ‘Every time you chomp a chocolate or munch a mince pie it can take your mouth up to half an hour to get back to a healthy acidity level.
‘This constant bombardment means that saliva doesn’t have time to do one of its most important jobs, neutralise the decay-causing acid in your mouth. ‘My advice is to enjoy those festive goodies in one go. Eat them with your meal instead of reaching for them throughout the day.’ There’s one bonus, however. Cheese is apparently a ‘great tooth friendly snack, as it’s full of calcium and helps generate that all important acid-neutralising saliva.’ Always wanted an excuse to eat more cheese, so thanks Eddie.
‘Excessive alcohol over the Christmas period can have lots of undesirable effects on the gut, from causing acid reflux (as it relaxes the muscles which control reflux) to severe bloating due to high levels of sugars such as fructose,’ he said. ‘Also artificial sweeteners used as mixers contain difficult to digest carbohydrates that can make you feel unpleasant.’ Obviously, it can give you a hangover too – remember that if you’re having drinks on Christmas Eve or are one of those overly-active people who planned a walk first thing on Boxing Day.
Your skin Dr Firas Al-Niami, Group Medical Director at sk:n, said eating lots of rich food and dairy can have an effect on our skin too. He told Metro.co.uk that binge eating rich, fatty foods can affect hormones in the body such as insulin, which helps our bodies process sugar from food. This causes our blood sugars to spike, which then dries the skin out.
Links between diet and acne are still a subject of debate among scientists, but dermatolgist Dr Firas says he’s seen binge eating have an effect. And although cheese might be great for your teeth as we mentioned earlier, it may incur other penalties. ‘While dairy products have health benefits when consumed in moderation, over-indulging in the cheese board could lead to acne issues,’ he said. How can I mitigate all of this?
Well, obviously there is the option of only indulging in tap water and tangerines, watching everyone else collapse with indigestion while you sit poised like a monk in your sense of superiority. But that wouldn’t be too much fun. Instead, just try and take it easy. Eat slowly enough that your fullness doesn’t suddenly hit you like a truck. Try to match your protein and carbohydrates roughly evenly, so you don’t have a blood sugar spike. Drink a glass of water before you have Christmas dinner – this will stretch your stomach a bit, and also make sure you don’t confuse being thirsty with needing to eat double helpings.