Eating is one of the great pleasures in life, but when you overdo it, you face the consequences. Overeating hurts your stomach and digestive system in the short run and can lead to serious health issues down the line if practiced frequently. In fact, it turns out it's even possible to eat yourself to death. Actually killing yourself with food takes effort and a perfect storm of conditions, but there are a few real cases of it in recorded history.
How does death by gluttony actually work? Do your arteries clog? Do you simply get so tired that you fall asleep and never wake up? While those are certainly possible outcomes of overeating, here's the harsh reality: in general, death from overeating is caused by the stomach actually ripping apart inside your body. If you're wondering what that horrifying sensation is like or how that possibly can happen, you've come to the right place.
So put away those chips (this gets a little graphic) and prepare to learn about a kind of death you probably didn't know was possible. But beware: some of this is hard to swallow.
In order to eat yourself to death, you have to start by having a huge appetite. And this isn't just your average Thanksgiving hunger here, either.
Overeating is fairly common around the holidays or other special occasions, but in order for you to actually die, you need to have a desire to keep eating even when your brain is telling you to stop. In fact, your brain will start sending you signals to tell you you're full (unless you have Prader-Willi syndrome, a disorder that causes feelings of constant, ravenous hunger). So if you're able to keep eating over the sounds of your screaming brain, you're off to a good start.
So, just how much food is too much? Generally, your body tries to tell you "please, for all that is holy, stop eating" after only one or two liters of food or liquid. It may even expel (as in, force you to throw up) the contents of your stomach if there's too much coming in.
However, your body is actually capable of eating between two and four liters of food before the strain gets to be too much for your stomach. When that fifth liter of food comes into play is when it's curtains for your tummy. Bur that won't be an easy task.
When your body realizes you're trying to completely stuff it with food to the point where things get uncomfortable, it's going to try to save you from yourself. This occurs with a little help from your gag reflex, which is the part of your body that causes you to puke. When you have too much food in you, your gag reflex is activated, and then you vomit.
But people who successfully eat themselves to death either have a malfunctioning gag reflex or they simply ignore the nausea. Part of this is because...
People who eat themselves to death usually have some medical history that makes them more vulnerable to overeating. It's possible that they have a medical condition that prevents their gag reflex from working properly or causes the part of the brain that says "stop" to not work (or convey only a weak signal). Bulimics, for example, tend to be at higher risk for death by overeating because they have weaker stomach linings and a less reactive gag reflex.
Another thing that makes this possible is a regular habit of overeating. When you overeat a lot, your body gets somewhat used to it, which means that the swelling and nausea don't cause alarm. In other words, you don't notice that your own body is freaking out.