Indulging in a big meal with family and friends is one of the best parts of the holiday season, or any special occasion, really. Your favorite dishes are usually on the table, there are sweets galore, and the wine (or insert beverage of choice) is flowing. A delicious spread can hopefully ease any family tensions or awkward dinner conversations during the holidays. Just loudly ask someone to pass the mashed potatoes to interrupt any introduction of politics or family drama at the table.
If you're reading this after a big gathering, you might be feeling uncomfortable, like you need to unbutton your pants or find a bed stat because of the impending food coma. Now what?
Well, first, don't stress too much about the fact that you've indulged in that big meal. We're all about balance here at THE/THIRTY, and you shouldn't feel bad about not sticking to your healthy eating plan or "clean eating" once in a while. The next step is to figure out how your body is feeling after eating three helpings of your grandma's legendary mac and cheese.
"Do you have a happy belly, or do you have an unhappy belly?" asks Robin Foroutan, MD, RDN, HHC, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "If you have happy belly, then there's nothing to do."
But for those of us with unhappy stomachs, read on for Foroutan's tips below on what to do immediately after overindulging and in the days after.
1. Don't Go to Sleep
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This goes for people with happy bellies, too. After a big meal, Foroutan suggests avoiding lying down since it won't help with acid reflux and heartburn. Take a walk (doesn't have to be strenuous) since this could aid with digestion.
The heavy meal might also be causing your eyes to droop, but don't curl up in bed just yet. Foroutan says if you can wait two hours to let your body digest a bit, you're good. And if you do need to pass out, do it sitting up, she advises.
"If you've overeaten and now you're really feeling it, I think the best thing to do is to get a digestive enzyme and take it. That feels really good," Foroutan suggests. "The other thing you can do is get aromatic bitters, and that can be like Swedish bitters—there are so many different kinds." If you've ended up at a bar for an after-dinner drink, Foroutan says you can ask for bitters in a club soda or glass of water, which can help with an upset stomach.
Stay hydrated after the meal and the next day, too. This can help with digestion and also is a major must if you've had a couple of drinks
4. Consume Fiber
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Load up on fiber-rich foods for your next meals after the big one. In addition, Foroutan suggests easily digested foods like soups, smoothies, and cooked foods (which might be easier to digest than raw foods for some people). "Cruciferous vegetables; high-fiber fruits like berries and pomegranate that are high in antioxidants; lentils like whole grains; water; green tea; green juices; lemon water—all of this is going to alkalize you and help you feel better," she says.
5. Update Your Leftovers
Don't shy away from leftovers, but Foroutan says if you have a food sensitivity that you've decided to be lax on for the big meal, you might not want to have it again. "Leftovers are great for a couple of reasons," she explains. "One, we don't like food waste, right? And then the other thing is that it's a great way to remember that you don't have to eat it all at that one meal. If there's something really yummy and you're stuffed, take some home and have some the next day rather than making yourself sick."
When it comes to the leftovers, you can add some healthier things into the mix instead of just reheating them as is. "Add vegetables, fiber, and, in this case, herbs and spices," she suggests. "Because herbs and spices are really flavorful, but they're all really potent natural antioxidants. It's actually a really great way to use nutrition and flavor."
This can help with detoxing a couple of days post-party. "You can eat foods that support the liver in a really specific way. Cruciferous vegetables do that, and so does green tea and turmeric," Foroutan says. "And then of course kidney function is a big way of how we eliminate toxins—so making sure that you're well-hydrated is a really important way to detox. The lymphatic system depends on hydration, so if you're drinking a lot for kidney health, you're also helping your lymphatic system."
It might be worth it to try supplements to help recover. "If you're on a lot of medication, or you have a serious health condition, you should definitely check in with your health practitioner first," Foroutan advises. "Milk thistle is a great liver-supportive herb and very safe. And then there's NAC, which stands for N-acetyl cysteine, and that is a precursor to an enzyme in our bodies called glutathione, which is our master detoxifier and a really potent anti-inflammatory. So that can give our body a boost."
This is another good option to try in the couple of days after overindulging. "We also detox through our pores in sweat," Foroutan says. "Sweating from either exercise, using a steam room or sauna, or even an Epsom salt bath—these are all great ways to help your body detoxify."
Any kind of exercise, like yoga, a run, or a walk, can help drain the lymphatic system, which helps with detox, Foroutan adds.
"Your digestive tract is obviously the biggest way to detoxify by going number two, so it's important to not get constipated," Foroutan says. "Probiotics can help with that, and if you need to, a magnesium supplement can really help to do that to keep you regular."
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.