MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – You might as well get out the sweatpants right now, because we all know we’re throwing moderation out the door for Thanksgiving.

The average person consumes about 4,000 calories on Thanksgiving, or twice what we eat on a daily basis.

So, what happens to our bodies when we eat too much?

Good Question.

“All that food goes into your stomach and it expands,” Mark Blegen, Chair of the Nutrition and Exercise Sciences Department at St. Catherine University, said.

Our stomachs usually hold a liter of food. That’s about four cups, or the size of a burrito.

When we get too full, our stomach presses against the other organs around it, which causes the discomfort.

“When you drink something, milk, water, anything else, there’s air with that and that further extends the stomach,” Blegen said.

That air takes up more volume than the liquid, so our bodies need to get rid of that gas.

“That’s where the burping comes in,” Blegen said.

When we’re full, our hormones will usually tell our brains to stop eating.

But, on Thanksgiving, there are a couple of psychological factors that will override those signals.

The first one is tradition. People usually eat all kinds of foods at Thanksgiving and want to eat what’s served.

“You want the cook to know she did a good job,” one woman awaiting the big meal said.

The second phenomenon is what’s called the smorgasbord effect.

“It tells us that the variety we perceive, the more we want to eat and we want to try everything and that actually short-circuits the signals from our stomach to our brain saying stop,” Blegen said

And, why are we so tired after a big meal?

There’s a common misconception that has to do with an excess of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin, in turkey. But, it turns out turkey has no more tryptophan than most other kinds of poultry.

“All the blood flow goes to your stomach and there’s a little bit of a lack of blood flow to your brain and you become a little tired,” Blegen said.

Which is exactly what naps are for.

Heather Brown

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