Family and friends gather around the table and its centerpiece, a giant turkey overflowing with stuffing, ready to be slathered with gravy or cranberry sauce, accompanied by sweet potatoes, and washed down with beer and wine. As the food is passed around and the green bean casserole stays mysteriously intact, the conversation begins: “I told you we needed the extra leaves in the table!” “No, Grandma, I’m not proposing to Ashley, the life-ruiner…” “Anyone know how to get red wine out of white wool?” “My job search? It’s…hey! Did you know that a group of cats is called a clowder?”
Thanksgiving can bring out the best or worst, a time of stress or happiness, catching up or attempting to avoid certain topics. All of this can alter your eating and drinking patterns, and on a day when most people consume more than 3000 calories, your body is already struggling to keep up.
Consider someone stressed out and emotionally run down: people often drink more and eat more–and higher-calorie–food during these times because stress increases your desire to seek rewards that you find pleasurable, and emotional exhaustion results in weakened willpower. But researchers have also found that you probably won’t actually enjoy that stress-induced fourth glass of wine or third plate of stuffing. Instead, consider taking a walk after the meal to take a break from Uncle Joe’s questions and alleviate some of the stress.
When your body is full of pinot noir and pumpkin pie, what does it do? Your body reacts by flooding your blood with insulin to counter all of the sugar you have just consumed. But the body can overestimate how much insulin is needed, resulting in low blood sugar, leaving you tired and feeling like you need to eat more to bring your blood sugar back to normal. Yes, we hear the siren song of the pecan pie, too.
And what about the beer and wine? Alcohol will be absorbed into the body and then metabolized by the liver. Alcohol absorption is directly affected by whatever else you’re consuming, and the more fat, protein, and carbohydrates you eat while you drink, the slower your absorption rate will be, maybe even up to three times slower than drinking on an empty stomach. Keep in mind that as alcohol is metabolized, broken down so that it is no longer toxic to the body, its components also inhibit your liver from metabolizing sugars. So all of the stuffing, potatoes, and pie sticks around, making it harder for your body to absorb the next glass of wine, keeping your blood alcohol concentration up. If you’re one to “eat and run” and get pulled over, your body might be busy absorbing the alcohol; a breath test conducted in the absorptive phase could provide an incorrect reading. Because breathalyzers are programmed to assume that a person’s body has absorbed everything ingested, studies show that a test taken while the body is still absorbing alcohol can produce an alleged alcohol concentration that is artificially inflated by 40-50%!
When you’re gathering together on Thursday, we sincerely hope you will have a great day. With so much excess, be sure to take care of everyone you’re with. Last year, there were 372 DUI arrests in Arizona over the Thanksgiving weekend, and although there were fewer in 2014 than in 2013, the average blood alcohol concentration was higher. If you or your guests will be imbibing, make sure that you have a plan to get everyone home safely so that you can enjoy all of those leftovers!
We wish you all a happy, safe, and delectable Thanksgiving!