Ready or not, here they come. Yep, the holidays are right around the corner. And, they will bring a storm of festive gatherings with endless amounts of decadent food. Do the holidays throw your nutrition off track every single year? Do they leave you feeling bloated? Uncomfortable? In need of a nap after every party because you ate a little more than you intended?
If this is you, you are not alone. But, you don’t have to fall into this trap year after year! It's possible to enjoy your favorite foods without feeling like your stomach might explode. Don’t let overindulgence leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Here are a few bloating remedies and tips to keep you feeling your best this holiday season.
1. Plan ahead.
Want to know the most important factor for getting healthier? It’s not exercising at least 6 days a week or including the newest “superfood” into your diet. Nope. It’s planning. With any strategy you put in place to improve your health, you will fail if you don’t plan ahead. Almost anyone you ask will say they want to try to improve their health in one way or another. Who doesn’t want to lose fat, build muscle, have less stress, have better sleep, or live longer? Here's the difference between those who achieve their health goals and those who don’t. Those who are successful don’t sit around wishing they could get healthier. They value their goals enough to put in the time needed to plan. You don’t have to spend several hours each day at the gym or prepping food to be healthier. But, you do have to make your wellness a priority.
2. Bring a healthier/lighter dish that you enjoy.
Every holiday meal doesn’t have to contain a gallon of butter or a full bag of cane sugar. A simple google search for “healthy holiday foods” will render hundreds of suggestions. You'll see that you can get the seasonal flavors you love without sacrificing flavor. Of course, you can count on there being casseroles and pies galore at your event. Bring something a little lighter as an alternative. Give yourself a bigger portion of the dish you bring. Enjoy the more decadent stuff in smaller quantities.
3. Don’t go to the event on an empty stomach.
Saving your hunger and your calories for a big event might sound like a good idea. But, going to a holiday party feeling ravenous can backfire. Think of hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is “so hungry you could eat your arm off” and 10 is “uncomfortably full." You want to eat until you reach a 3 or 4 and try to finish up around a 6 or 6.5. Both extremes are best avoided when possible. Waiting too long to eat can lead to poor judgement. So, you may make different food choices than you normally would. It also often leads to much faster eating, which usually leads to overeating.
4. Eat mindfully.
This may be the most important tip on this list. Many people go through life shoveling food into their mouth without thinking. They eat while on their phones, watching TV, driving, or thinking about a million other things.
When you eat at a healthy pace, your body sends signals to your brain that tell it to push back the plate. For example, it shuts off ghrelin, our primary hunger stimulating hormone. It releases leptin, the main appetite suppressing hormone. And, stretch receptors in your stomach send messages to your brain letting you know you’ve had your fill. When you eat too fast, your brain doesn’t have time to register these fullness signals. This leads you to eating well past fullness. Also, digestion begins in the mouth. Salivary amylase begins to break down the starches in our food. The more we break down food in our mouths, the easier it will be for our bodies to biochemically break down food. This leads to absorption of the nutrients we are taking in later in the digestive process. Overeating and under chewing are a recipe for feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
While you are eating, focus on eating. Chew your food. Don’t take another bite before you finish with the bite you are currently eating. Put your fork down between bites. Take time to actually enjoy the food you are consuming, and give your brain time to realize when you are full.
Mindfulness makes eating infinitely more enjoyable. It gives you time to enjoy and appreciate the flavors and textures of each bite you take. And, it allows you to better tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. So, no more feeling sluggish and foggy for the rest of the day.
5. Try adding enzymes.
When you eat more food/heavier foods than normal, take an enzyme supplement with your meal.
No matter how much you practice planning ahead or mindful eating, it is almost inevitable that you will still overindulge at some point. And, even if you don’t overindulge in the amount of food you eat, holiday foods are almost always heavier than the foods we eat every day.
Digestive enzymes are proteins that help us break down our food into their constituent parts, allowing our bodies to absorb the nutrients from the food.
Our bodies produce digestive enzymes. But, sometimes holiday eating can overwhelm your digestive tract. If you don’t have enough digestive enzymes, it can feel like your food is just sitting in your digestive tract. Taking digestive enzymes exogenously can help provide some relief from post-meal bloating. If you are using an enzyme, find one that is broad spectrum with guaranteed potency. This type of enzyme is important to achieve the desired result. We recommend Digest Gold from Enzymedica.
For more information on digestive enzymes, their importance, and how to know if you should supplement, check out this blog post.
6. Don’t beat yourself up.
After a big event where you overindulge, it can be easy to get down on yourself. These feelings of guilt and regret lead many people to think, “Well, I’ve already blown it. I should eat whatever I want now and get back on track in January.” This line of thinking is toxic to both your physical and mental health. We all have times where we overdo it and feel uncomfortable. But, giving up on your health and nutrition for a few months and then trying to overcompensate in January is not the answer.
Choose not to fall into that holiday food trap this year! Break that cycle of overindulging and then making up for what you ate during the holidays. This combination does not lead to long term health and well being. A balanced, well-planned diet is something that is attainable year round. If living a long, healthy life is important to you, remember to strive for balance and not perfection. No matter if it is December or July.