Gather gifts, not pounds

Gather gifts, not pounds

Are you hungry or just celebrating?  Answer that question before you take a bite and you just may get through the holidays without needing to stock up on sweatpants to wear in January.

holiday eatingThe holiday season is ripe with parties, bigger than normal meals, as well as extra drinks and desserts.  It’s easy to hop from party to party and think it’s time to eat again. Consuming alcohol may also lessen your resolve when making food choices. By becoming aware of how long food stays in the digestive system, it can help you make informed decisions about what, and how much, to eat.

Digestion times vary and are based on several factors, such as food combinations, food content, timing and stress levels. The general rule of thumb is that it takes about six to eight hours for food to pass through your stomach and small intestine. Food then enters your large intestine (colon) for further digestion, absorption of water and the elimination of undigested food.

It is ideal to have an empty stomach for at least an hour before eating and/or sleeping.  Hormonal balance is essential for fat burning & an empty stomach before meals or sleep allows hormones, like insulin, to balance.  This aids in fat burning, but also energizes, promotes good skin, building muscle, restful sleep and overall health.

Wondering about average digestion times? (Times shown are estimates of how long it takes for the food to pass through the small intestine into the large intestine.)  For healthy adults, digestion of foods usually takes between 24-72 hours before elimination from the body.

Here are some estimates, if consumed on an empty stomach:

Raw juices – 15 minutes

Fruits high in water content, ie: grapefruit, apples, oranges – 30 minutes

Leafy greens like kale, spinach and lettuces – 1 hour

Holiday favorites starchy vegetables, potatoes, carrots, yams – 2-3 hours

Coconut, avocado, olives and other fatty fruits – 3-3 1/2 hours

Cooked grains like rice, quinoa and bread products – 3-4 hours

Seeds and nuts – 4 hours

Dairy, eggs and beans – 4+ hours

Red meats – 6-8 hours

Then we have alcohol, which is not digested like other foods.  Alcohol heads straight down into the stomach and small intestine, avoiding the normal digestive process.  From the stomach, alcohol goes right into the bloodstream, where roughly 20% is absorbed in the stomach, and about 80% is absorbed in the small intestine.  Once in the blood, alcohol is carried throughout the body. The alcohol diffuses into tissues and fluids according to their water content.

Most alcohol is metabolized, or burned, in a manner similar to food. A small portion of alcohol is excreted, such as through the breath, leaving the body just as it entered, as alcohol.  (This is how breath alcohol testing can be accurately performed.)

It is hard to pinpoint how quickly alcohol is processed in one’s body because there are many variables.  Eating food with your drinks, alcohol type and quantity of beverage, weight, sex, body fat composition, and more all play a part in how long it will take you to digest that eggnog or martini.

(Please note, this list is an estimation of digestion times.  Food can stay in your system for up to 3 days.)

The good news is, while it seems we tend to gain a lot of weight in the holiday season, the average weight gain is only about 1 pound!  Individuals already overweight tend to gain more. One study found that overweight people gain, on average, 5 lbs. or more during the holidays.

The key is to realize that the extra food remains in our system for up to 3 days.  During that time, it is important to get back to your normal, or a slightly lighter than normal, eating pattern to prevent additional, more permanent weight gain.

Enjoy your holidays, then get right back on track and you won’t need those sweatpants after all!

Tip:  Try drinking sparkling mineral water before, during and after your meals. It helps me feel full and satisfied, tastes great, has no calories or sugar, provides calcium, magnesium, potassium and more. I love it with a lemon twist!  I also like that it comes in glass bottles, so no BPA worries!  Here’s my favorite, if you can’t find it in your area, Amazon will deliver it to you.




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Clinical Hypnotherapist specializing in weight loss, confidence, fears, confidence in dating & relationships, public speaking.


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