So, it’s the day after a big holiday (in today’s cause, that’s the 4th of July), and you’re feeling guilty about all the “nutritional debauchery” you engaged in yesterday.
You feel bloated.
You feel like you gained 5 lbs overnight.
You feel bad because you overate, and feel like you have to do something to “make up for it.”
Perhaps your first thought is to restrict your diet and go straight to the gym, and while a sweat session is a great remedy, it’s important to remember a couple of important things:
- One meal (no matter how big) won’t make you gain weight, just like one healthy meal won’t make you lose it.
- You didn’t gain a bunch of weight overnight–that’s impossible. You feel heavier and more bloated because 1) you likely consumed quite a bit of sodium; and 2) you likely consumed quite a few carbs which also cause you to retain water
- Restriction and deprivation only give you the impression of being in control; what they really do is set you up for a binge because they deplete all out willpower.
- Eating a super-strict diet is probably what got you to the point where you felt compelled to overeat in the first place!
It’s one thing to read the above and say, “Yes, of course that makes sense,” but in this moment, all that matters is doing something–anything!–to feel less bloated and regretful.
If you could go back to yesterday morning, you probably would! Unfortunately though, time travel is not yet possible, so we have no choice but to deal with where we are right now.
The good news is that there is a healthy and safe way to de-bloat after an indulgent meal that doesn’t involve any extremes, and that doesn’t cost anything.
So forget what you’ve read or heard, and instead follow this simple list of De-bloat Dos and Don’ts to safely and effectively get back to your baseline and feel like yourself again!
- Don’t: Step on the scale!
Bad, bad idea! This could really mess with your head because after a big meal, our scale weight can fluctuate dramatically–sometimes as much as 7 lbs!
This doesn’t mean that you’ve gained 7 lbs of fat–like I mention above, that’s impossible after a single meal. All it means is that the body is processing all those extra calories.
Chemical processes like digestion produce by-products that often cause bloating and water retention, and can have a dramatic effect on the number on the scale.
- Don’t: Do a detox!
I can completely relate to what it feels like to want to bring your eating back under control by restricting and depriving.
The desire to try and “reverse the damage” is very hard to resist.
However, no irreparable damage has been done. One big (even huge) meal doesn’t undo all our progress, just like one detox won’t magically give us our dream body–or at least not one that we can sustain!
A juice cleanse, a steady diet of water pills, or something marketed as a “detoxifier” isn’t going to do anything that our own bodies won’t do on their own.
They will, however, reinforce a negative relationship with food and our bodies, which will have a far worse effect on our ability to lose weight and keep it off over the long term.
- Don’t: Hit the gym for a marathon cardio session!
A sweat session is a great remedy after an indulgent meal, but hitting the cardio hard–and exclusively–isn’t doing you any favors.
In fact, long-duration cardio will likely exacerbate appetite, making it harder to avoid overeating again.
This begins the cycle anew instead of helping us learn from the experience and become more mindful about or behaviors, so that we gain a better understanding of what lead to overeating in the first place.
- Do: Drink water!
Hydration is key to help you de-bloat naturally. Although it sounds counter intuitive to drink water when you’re trying to shed it, hydration plays a key role in the internal “flushing out” process.
The more water you drink, the more fluid there is inside to take up those by products mentioned above and remove them from the body.
At the risk of sounding off-color, the more you pee, the more your body is working to detoxify.
Water helps the process along, but drinking it isn’t the only way to get and stay hydrated…
- Do: Fill up on high-water-content veggies and fruits and lean protein!
Certain veggies (off the top of my head: celery, kale, spinach, squash, cucumber) have a very high water content per volume, and are therefore great for helping in the de-bloat process.
I would avoid certain “roughage” like broccoli and cauliflower because they can cause gas and bloating despite how good they are for us.
When it comes to protein, look for lean, low-sodium options to stay fuller, longer on less calories and avoid excessive hunger.
Remember that the purpose here is not to deprive, but rather give ourselves a little hormonal reset and get our cravings back in check.
- Do: Avoid foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners that could exacerbate gastrointestinal upset!
That means no/limited diet soda, flavored waters (unless they’re natural flavors like seltzer), protein bars, etc.
This is probably the hardest aspect for me because my diet relies pretty heavily on convenience foods that often contain sugar alcohol and/or Stevia, but sticking to mostly “whole” foods is going to help move the de-bloat process along as quickly as possible.
- Do: Lift weights and do metabolic work!
I can’t stress enough the importance of getting in a good training session, post-indulgence!
Often times after a big meal, we feel one of two ways: 1) like we *should* either run a marathon to undo the damage; or 2) like we don’t want to move and have to fight to get out of bed. Lethargy can set in pretty hard after a big night out!
It’s critical for our mindset as well as the physical process of de-bloating to get over that initial hurdle and get our sweat on! Lifting weights has incredible benefits all the time, but especially after a big meal.
For instance, I’ve had some of my best training sessions after indulgences! It would be a shame not to take advantage of that surplus muscle glycogen for gainz 🙂
Adding in some metabolic work (fast-moving circuits with resistance, resting as little as possible to get the heart rate up and sweat, sweat, sweat!) helps too because 1) like pee, sweat detoxifies and removes those impurities from the body; and 2) the mental boost we get from breathing heavy, getting burn-y, and sweating like mofos is unlike any other to lift our mood and confidence!
- Do: Hit the sauna!
This isn’t necessary, but it can be helpful post-workout to sit in the sauna for a few minutes and just let the sweat out.
If you sweat a lot naturally, this won’t be super-helpful to you, but if you struggle to break a sweat during your training sessions, hitting the sauna could help you feel lighter and less bloated.
- Do: Relax & sleep!
Rest and relaxation are key if you’re feeling bloated and lethargic post-heavy meal. If you can’t manage to sleep in the following day, try to reduce your caffeine intake and instead take a few cat naps (20 or so minutes) a couple of times a day.
I would also recommend 5-10 minute meditations throughout the day. This doesn’t have to mean anything other than sitting quietly without any distractions (i.e. phone on silent, no tv, etc.), maybe accompanied by some relaxing music.
Performing a few stretches or restorative yoga poses could be considered meditative, also!
- Do: Laugh a little (or a lot!)!
Hit up a comedy show. Watch your favorite sitcom on tv. Listen to your favorite comedian’s stand up special on Netflix. Watch a funny movie. Call your funniest friend.
Whatever makes you crack up, seek it out! Laugher cures all, even bloating!