Nine months? Nah, it was more like nine minutes of going hog-wild at the all-you-can-eat buffet that led to the conception of that protruding, overstuffed belly that makes you look preggers. Here's what to expect when expecting...post-binge.
Your stomach can go from holding 50 milliliters (that's less than a shot glass) when empty to up to four liters (a little more than a gallon of milk) when full. But you'll usually top out at 1 to 1.5 liters, the point at which most people are comfortably satisfied. “Once you consume more than this, you really start stretching the stomach wall, which causes discomfort and distention that could last a few hours,” says Ed Levine, M.D., a Connecticut-based gastroenterologist. Keep consistently overstuffing yourself, and over time your belly will adapt, growing to accommodate more and more food and liquid. “If you eat 2 liters per meal regularly, you might feel miserable the first few times, but after several months, your stomach muscles will eventually stretch out," Levine says. And they won't shrink back to their normal size, meaning you'll need even more food to feel full. [Tweet this scary fact!] Obesity 101, folks.
Does your belly pop straight out and feel taut, like it's about to burst? Or is it soft and bulging at the sides, inflating the spare tire around your waist? The former may be gas, while the latter may indicate fluid retention from eating certain foods such as sodium-rich carbohydrates or the start a menstrual cycle, explains David Hudesman, M.D., director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. While the majority of food babies are gas-related, it's not always a result of overeating. You can eat a perfectly portioned meal and still become bloated, which happens when there is an increase in gas from either swallowed air or gut bacteria in the intestinal tract, Hudesman explains. Certain carbohydrates—such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beets, cabbage, apples, figs, plums, and peaches—are much more prone to bacterial breakdown that causes gas.
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Your protruding belly may look funny at first, but eventually it's going to start kicking—and you won't be laughing then. You may begin to experience cramping, signaling that you've overdone it and your body needs relief fast. Work through the discomfort like competitive eater Yasir Salem, the reigning cannoli champion (he ate almost 32 at Little Italy's Festa di San Gennaro Cannoli Eating Championship last year), who recommends that you imagine breathing into the cramp for one minute. “It usually goes away or becomes manageable,” he says. He also encourages taking a cue from the guys and letting out a belch. “A burp is just a bunch of gas that you've swallowed while eating or drinking. When you burp, you release the air in your stomach and open up space,” says Salem, who uses this technique when competing.
Hiccups are like a bratty preschooler: cute for a few seconds and then blood-boiling annoying. These breathing spasms arbitrarily occur when the diaphragm gets irritated from, say, a full stomach, but even more mortifying, a food baby may cause flatulence. Similar to bloating, farting can be triggered by overeating or simply consuming certain foods—largely carbohydrate—that don't mix well with your gut bacteria at the time.
Working out is probably one of the last things you want to do when you're recovering from a feast. And—for once—you do have a good excuse to skip your activity. “When you exercise, less blood flows to your digestive tract, which slows the speed of food moving through it, leading to nausea and bloating,” Hudesman explains. If you're going to do anything physical, make it a stroll. “Walking can increase intestinal motility, helping your stomach muscles grind up things faster and push food into your intestinal tract,” Levine says. Whatever you do, don't lay down right after you get up from the table. Stay sitting upright for at least half an hour to aid digestion, Hudesman recommends.
Much like actual childbirth, you will be in pain, specifically abdominal discomfort as your body works overtime to digest the obscene amount of food you just consumed. The fattier and more protein-heavy your meal, the more difficult it is to break down, so you could be facing a four- to five-hour stomach roller coaster, Levine warns. [Tweet this fact!] Some people encounter the added pleasure of heartburn, which occurs when the extra food in your stomach increases acid production and causes acid reflux, and there's also a chance of nausea, Levine adds—but without any morning sickness sympathy from others.
But you really shouldn't wait until the next day to pop an antacid. “One of the main effects of overeating is acid reflux, so you'll want an over-the-counter product, like Maalox, Mylanta, or Zantac, to help you right away,” Levine says. Usually by the next morning everything you ate will have made its way through to your colon. At that point, you're good to nosh again. Eat normally, Levine says, including your cup of tea or coffee, which can help move things out of your system.