How to Beat the Holiday Bloat (Without Restricting Yourself)

One of the best part of the holidays is the food, am I right?! I imagine you want to indulge a bit (or maybe a lot) without feeling overly bloated or uncomfortable. Rather than telling you not to eat anything out of the norm over the holidays as that would just be hypocritical, I propose eating with intention (I promise I have tools) and not beating yourself up over it as this often leads to restriction and binging. Of course, I also have some helpful remedies up my nutritionist sleeves to help ease digestion and reduce bloating if you do overdo it a bit.

Practice mindful eating

Days on end of decadent multi-course meals and alcohol is kind of just the reality of the holidays for many of us. But what you want to be conscious of is the over-consuming and overindulging just because the food is there, that ultimately leads to the bloating and indigestion. It sounds a bit obvious but the first thing you want to do is become more mindful of your eating.

Mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware and in the moment. All too often, especially when it comes to eating, your thoughts wander somewhere other than what you’re eating. Before you know it you’ve had 5 cookies and have gone back and finished your seconds, leaving you bloated and maybe a little guilty. Mindful eating encourages you to notice these preoccupations, and then to gently make more intentional decisions around food. It can help you enjoy the experience of eating with moderation and restraint.

Below are some things you can try to practice more mindful eating. Not all of them will work for you, but give them a try to see how you feel:

  1. Reflect on how you’re feeling before each meal. Is there an emotion like stress or boredom that you’re trying to cover up or are you actually hungry? If you’re genuinely hungry, eat.
  2. Eat and drink what you really love and skip the dishes you’re not excited about.
  3. Serve out your portions on a plate rather than eating out of a box, bag or off a platter, which can lead to mindless overeating.
  4. Chew every bite 20-30 times. This helps slow you down, forces you to eat more consciously and actually helps with digestion so you experience less bloating.
  5. Put your fork down between each bite.
  6. Turn off your tv and stay off your phone when you’re eating, which can encourage mindless eating.
  7. Wait at least 10 minutes after finishing a dish before going back for seconds.

Don’t starve yourself

It can be really tempting to starve yourself all morning to make up for a big meal you had the night before or in anticipation of a big dinner, but all this does is perpetuate an unhealthy relationship with food and feed this 'all or nothing" mentality. On a physiological level, it creates blood sugar imbalances that lead to cravings, weight gain and a tendency to overeat.

Instead, eat based off how you feel and make your meals slightly lighter but still satisfying. Incorporating good quality protein like some eggs, chicken, fish or beans and some healthy fats (i.e. olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds) will help balance your blood sugar levels. Eating lots of veggies, especially greens, will help ensure you have consistent digestion.

Start your day with a gentle detox

Starting your day with a large glass of water with fresh squeezed lemon juice is a great way to stimulate digestion and support your liver in the morning. If you find you need something extra and either you are prone to constipation over the holidays or you simply ate a bit too much the night before, adding 1-2 tablespoons of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a large glass of water can take it a step further.

Move, daily

Keeping up with your exercise routine will help reduce bloating, boost your metabolism and give you a nice endorphin boost over the holidays that will help with your energy levels. Sweating also promotes detoxification if, for example, you have a few too many rum and eggnogs. The reality though is that if you’re travelling for the holidays, outside of your routine or just want to relax, it can be difficult to fit in a workout. Just making time to get moving, by going for a walk outside can actually reduce bloating, increase happiness and boosts energy in 90% of people. Try to do it earlier in the day before other commitments get in the way.

Stimulate digestion before meals to avoid bloating

Stimulating your digestion before large meals helps to essentially “prime” your digestive system and prevent bloating. Apple cider vinegar helps with this but if you really don’t like the taste or you’d like something stronger, I like to use St. Francis Herb Farm digestive bitters. It’s made of digestive bitters that help stimulate stomach acid secretion. Stomach acid helps to stimulate the rest of the digestive process and contrary to popular belief, it’s actually low stomach acid that often leads to heartburn and acid reflux. Digestive bitters are also helpful after meals if you feel like you’ve gone a bit overboard.

Drink herbal teas

Certain herbal teas can help stimulate digestion and relieve upset stomachs. Peppermint tea can be soothing on an upset stomach if you’re experiencing indigestion and gas, but avoid it if you have acid reflux or heartburn as it can be irritating. If that’s the case, try some ginger tea or hot water steeped with ginger and lemon. You can also try chamomile tea which is a bitter green that helps stimulate digestion (and helps make you sleepy), and dandelion tea stimulates digestion and supports the liver.

Written by: Natalia Bragagnolo, RHN

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