Friday, November 5, 2010

The Itis

You know when you eat a really big meal and get sleepy afterward? Yeah, that’s the itis. It’s that incomparable sleepy, satisfied, satiated, full feeling that only gluttony can cause. The itis is usually caused by consuming large amounts of fatty or fried foods, like a plate of bacon or ribs, or a one-pound burger smothered in cheese, topped with grilled onions, five strips of bacon, and sandwiched between two donuts. It always amazes me when people don’t know about the itis, and I feel that the word should be spread far and wide—especially to foodie circles. The official term is postprandial somnolence, but itis just sounds so much better.

It’s not in the dictionary, and Microsoft Word keeps thinking it’s a misspelling and changes it to “it is,” but I won’t rest until it’s a common word in the English language.

Urban Dictionary offers a few definitions. Here are the top five:

“The drowsy sleepy feeling you get after eating a large meal. Usual meals like big Sunday dinners, Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.”

“A naturally occurring drowsy feeling that is created when a person, normally of the African-American race (although it may affect peoples of all creeds), eats a large amount of fried, salty, or fatty foods...this feeling usually causes one to sip some purple drank and take a nap.”

“Drowsy or sleepy effect linked to digesting large meals, usually high in fat or salt content. 

Note: The digestive system uses roughly 60% of your energy while you idle about daily, so after eating large meals the digestive system takes energy from other areas of the body, allowing it to work faster, and bringing about a sleepy effect.”

“The feeling which one experiences after eating a large meal. Usually characterized by sluggish, drowsy, tired, or lethargic feelings.”

“That drowsy feelin u get after a big ass meal. U usually dont want to do anything or have lost the energy to do so.”

One of my favorite itis memories took place when I was living in China for a summer. Sichuan cuisine causes itis like whoa, and after a particularly large and filling meal a Chinese friend leaned back in his seat and said he was tired.

“Is there a word in English,” he asked, “to describe feeling sleepy after you eat?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed, thrilled at the opportunity to spread some knowledge. “It’s called the itis.”

“Itis?” he asked, sinking further into his chair. “Ah, I have got…the itis.” He was clearly satisfied and I was happy to have introduced the word to China.

Now, I’m not the only one spreading the word. The Boondocks, a cartoon based off of Aaron McGruder’s comic strip that features two young black kids growing up in the suburbs, created a whole episode based off the itis back in 2006. And it was wonderful.

It had such an impact, in fact, that the only entry for “itis” in Wikipedia is just a summary of the Boondocks episode. I’ll let this scene from the show speak for itself:

How can you be a foodie and survive without this word in your vocabulary? So the next time you eat big meal and feel a bit sleepy afterwards, don’t fight it—just give in, be satisfied, and get some good itis-induced sleep…


  1. yesssssss. after halloween unicorn partying, I ate "the perfect burger" from the Ithaca Ale House, with seasoned fries dipped in homemade herb-ranch dressing. Then I went to sleep.

  2. I just realized I've had the itis several times. I go back to several Sunday afternoon naps from over-zealous trips to the buffet in local NC restaurants. good ole' fried chicken, biscuits, and every kind of potato dish imaginable.