People overeat on holidays for many reasons: out of a sense of comfort, tradition, habit, and, of course, because holiday food tastes so good! Unfortunately, while our bodies can distinguish between fats, carbs, and proteins, they don’t have an in-built control mechanism to tell us to stop eating, other than the discomfort of feeling full. By the time you’ve undone the top button of your pants to make room for your newly-expanded holiday belly, it’s too late. Too much food in your belly means your gastric juices won’t be able to digest fast enough. When that happens, the food you ate starts to ferment and rot, which creates gas, acid reflux, and pain.
In spite of that unpleasant picture, I’m going to guess many of you have already overeaten on the holidays and will again in the future. So what can you do? There’s really no way to completely avoid the pain of overeating once you’ve done it. And there’s a price to pay for putting this stress on your body. But here are some tips to help keep you in balance before, after, and during those big meals:
Before, During, and After the Big Holiday Meal
On the morning of your big meal, check in with yourself. Are you honestly trying to keep your health goals in check, or are you just going to go overboard with food today? If it’s the former, then I recommend eating small healthy meals throughout the day. Real food (nothing processed) in small portions at regular intervals can help keep your metabolism steady and lessen the desire to binger by the time you get to the big family table. If you know you’re going to consume a lot of food, then fast or eat very lightly in the hours leading up to the feast.
Either way, make sure you drink lots of water in the morning, and avoid drinking water during the meal. The body needs lots of water to get through any stress process (and big holiday meals definitely fall into this category). So you want to stay hydrated. On the other hand, you don’t want to combine water with your food. Why? Because water dilutes gastric juices when you eat, and you’ll need your digestion at its best.
During the meal take enzymes to support your organ processes. Complexes with lipase, amylase and proteinase will help you digest fats, carbs, and proteins. They’ll also mediate some of the discomfort you might otherwise feel. Remember, many symptoms of indigestion and reflux are actually indicators that you don’t have enough working stomach acid, not that you have too much. The enzymes will bring you closer to normal digestive function.
After the meal is over, and into the next day or two, optimize your organ health and energy levels by light fasting. It sounds obvious, but don’t try to solve your overeating issues by eating! Even healthy food can continue to stress the system. So the next day, give your body a little bit of a break by skipping a meal.
And make sure you move. Of course, you don’t want to do jumping jacks right after you eat a giant portion of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pie. But the next day, walk, hike, get moving. It will help your digestive tract and help burn off the surplus energy and calories.
Finally, support your liver. Whenever digestion is stressed, the liver works overtime producing bile to break down fats, collecting and eliminating toxins. Milk thistle is my suggested supplement for liver support, because multiple studies have shown it blocks the binding of toxins. While your liver is recovering from the stress of giant holiday meals, it can use all the help it can get.
All these strategies work best when practiced in the context of a healthy age management, fitness and lifestyle program, including a healthy diet. Optimize your health today by making an appointment at The Body Well.