Believe it or not, the holidays are here! If you are like any other American, you are probably inundated with a million things to do, places to go, and delicious foods to eat. It seems that everywhere I turn there is a new sugary delight or fantastic new coffee drink that seduces me into believing it will bring me eternal bliss and satisfaction. Rarely do I find that to be the case, but I am tricked more than once every holiday season.
Despite the wonderment that comes along with the holidays, there is also significant stress that joins it, and with that stress our appetites seem to increase, making the problem a vicious one. Those extra calories slowly compound over the weeks, then months and feeling the “pudge” is not uncommon. To add to it, our ability to hide that extra weight gets easier with fluffy sweaters, stretchy pants and scarfs, so it’s quite easy to pack on a few pounds over the holiday season and not even realize it.
While I believe that enjoying a few holiday goodies is good for the spirit, over indulgence can actually add to the stress and inflammation inside the body leaving us tired, cranky and bloated. In honor of moderating our intake and making choices that prevent that holiday bloat, I have listed my 5 favorite tips for helping you feel your best and fighting off the bloat.
1. Sip on warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Most of us are pretty dehydrated after sleeping for 7-9 hours and water is the thing to drink when we need to replenish our H2O. Adding fresh lemon helps to activate our liver into releasing toxins and help cleanse the body of “junk” we may have eaten the day or week before. Lemon water has been used in many ancient practices to help alleviate digestive distress, support detox, normalize your gut and reduce bloating. To get the most bang for your buck, squeeze half a lemon (fresh is always better) into some warm filtered water and drink on an empty stomach.
2. Munch on prebiotics to feed the “good” bugs in the gut. Most of us have heard of PRObiotics to help with digestive health. In fact, some of you might even be taking a probiotic in the form of a supplement, yogurt, raw sauerkraut or other. What most of us don’t realize that we have to continue to feed the good bacteria we cultivate in the system when we consume probiotics. PREbiotics are, in the simplest terms, the food for the probiotics (gut friendly bacteria) and vitally important in establishing a good colony of helpful bugs. Examples of prebiotics include garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes and bananas to name a few. Eating those foods along with your probiotics like sauerkraut, kimchi, greek yogurt and kefir and you’ll be sure to blow that bloat out the window.
3. Get your sweat on. Nothing beats stress like some good, ol’ fashioned sweatin’. I have to say, when I am most stressed, I either need 1.) some down-ward facing dog or 2.) a 20 minute jog around the park. Either way, letting the sweat happen seems to do the trick in most situations. Exercise and sweating helps to detoxify the body by circulating lymph (part of the immune system) and blood around in the system, leaving us oxygenated, refreshed and invigorated. You really don’t need to work out an hour per day to get the benefits either– just 20-30 minutes will do the trick! I could get more nerdy on this one, but I’ll keep it simple cause I know you have a busy schedule…
4. Switch out good fats in holiday recipes. I don’t know how many recipes I see that call for highly processed vegetable oils during the holiday season, but there are a LOT. If you come across a recipe that calls for corn, soy, vegetable or canola oil, don’t be afraid to switch it out with something better. Industrial seed oils (aforementioned), wreak havoc on our bodies and lead to an imbalanced ratio of Omega-6’s to Omega-3’s in the body. My favorite fat substitute is expeller-pressed coconut oil or grass-fed butter/ghee. You literally can just sub it out 1:1 in recipes. Extra virgin olive oil is also wonderful but better used for cold recipes or low-heat cooking because it is prone to a nasty process called “oxidation”. All four are traditional fats that have been used for 1000’s of years without adverse health effects, opposed to the former oils that are highly processed and unbalanced in Omega-6’s which are linked to inflammation and chronic disease. If nothing else, at least avoid margarine and crisco as they seem to fair the worst in terms of our health.
5. Lastly, SLOW DOWN and find gratitude in your food dude!. If you have read nothing else in this post, I hope you take the time to read at least this… Eating more slowly is probably one of the BEST things you can do to prevent bloat and upset stomach. Even if you decide to have that second piece of pecan pie, if you eat is slowly, you give you body the chance to digest it to it’s fullest potential. Digestion starts in your mouth where sugar and fat begin to break down (protein digestion starts in the stomach). The longer you chew, the better the opportunity to break down your food (more surface area) so it is more easily handled down the line. Some say you should try to chew 20 times before swallowing. Personally, I think that’s nearly impossible for every bite, so try to aim for 10-15 times and see if you notice any changes! Being grateful for the food on your plate is just something you can practice while you chew those tasty morsels. Gratitude reduces tension and stress in the body, leading to less inflammation, and ultimately, less puffiness around your midsection.
Cheers to you and yours this holiday season. Please leave comments below for any comments or additional ideas on how to prevent holiday bloat this season!