Most people think that if you overate and over-drank on New Year’s Eve, you did the night right. And to some extent, that’s fair. NYE is all about celebrating, and you’re entitled to enjoy yourself. But what kind of damage are you doing when you order that late-night takeout or polish off your fifth flute of champagne?
Good news: “One big meal isn’t what causes people to be overweight,” says Holly Wyatt, MD, who runs the metabolism and obesity clinic at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center. That said, eating and drinking more than you’re used to can throw your body off. There’s a ripple effect…but they shouldn’t last through the rest of 2018. Here, experts explain what an indulgent New Year’s will and won’t do to your body.
Excess food and booze will cause you to store more fat…
When you drink alcohol, your body’s furnace switches gears so it can start metabolizing the liquid you just sipped. “The body has nowhere to store the alcohol because it would become toxic if it stayed in the system, so it has to burn it off immediately,” explains Dr. Wyatt. As a result, the calories from all those pigs in a blanket you ate while you were downing bubbly get stored as fat.
Of course, this also happens if you overeat without drinking. “Whenever you’re in that positive energy balance where you’ve eaten more food than you need, the body goes into a physiological state of storing extra calories,” says Dr. Wyatt. With no need to metabolize excess carbohydrates or fats for fuel, the body simply saves them for later.
…But it won’t change your body for good
It’s normal to see your weight go up after you eat and drink heavily. How much it spikes depends on how seriously you decided to #treatyourself. “The amount of damage you do in terms of weight and fat gain really depends on how many calories you consumed,” says Dr. Wyatt.
Keep in mind that the new number you see on the scale on January 1 is mostly water weight gain, which your body held onto if you downed foods with lots of sodium or carbs, both of which cause water retention. But this water weight tends to go away as quickly as it came on. According to Dr. Wyatt, “One night doesn’t really cause anyone to gain much weight. It’s when that night becomes a week or two that you start to have a problem.”
It will mess with your workout schedule…
“The worst part of a big night out is that it can put you out of commission for a day or two when it comes to exercise, and that lost time can delay your post-holiday reset,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color. Think about it: You get home late, fall asleep in the wee hours, spend half the day sleeping off the festivities, then feel sluggish and blah thanks to next-day bloat and maybe a hangover. By the time you’ve recovered, you’ll likely be back at work and too busy to focus on that resolution to hit the gym more. Womp womp.
…But you can help yourself get back on track fast
“As long as you’re not drinking to the point of passing out, your body will detox itself naturally afterwards,” says Largeman-Roth. To help your system along and feel better faster, come up with a post-party plan.
“Start hydrating right away when you get home,” advises Largeman-Roth. A small snack like a banana can also be a good idea before bed. “It’s loaded with potassium, which helps counteract the bloating that comes with eating and drinking salty foods and beverages.”
Stock your fridge with healthy foods ahead of time so you don’t dive into a greasy hangover brunch at the last minute. “Try making a detox smoothie using 1 cup chopped celery, 2 cups fresh pineapple, 1 tablespoon fresh mint, 1 kiwi, juice of 1 lime, and 1 cup coconut water,” suggests Largeman-Roth. The celery and pineapple both have natural diuretic effects, thereby reducing bloat. Coconut water helps replenish electrolytes post-binge, while vitamin C–rich kiwi beefs up your immune system, which cna take a hit after a night of partying. (Last thing you need is an early January cold, right?)
Don’t rely on excess exercise to cancel out everything you ate or drank. Instead of torturing yourself trying to burn off the 3,000 extra calories you took in via party eats and cocktails, go for a brisk walk or do some yoga. Moving your body, burning some calories, and feeling more like yourself will help you ease back into your usual routine, says Dr. Wyatt.
And no matter what, don’t dwell on how much you strayed from your typical healthy eating and workout habits the night before. “Feel good about having what you wanted on New Year’s Eve—and empowered that you already have plan for how you’ll get back on track afterward,” says Dr. Wyatt. Onwards.