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This time of year tends to be filled with more amounts and unhealthy types of food than any other. In an ideal world, we’d enjoy a few of our favorites while also staying on course with our healthy-eating plan  — but that’s usually not always the reality. If you do veer from your plan, the question then becomes, “now what?”

My best response to overindulgence is two-fold: First, I want address any negative emotions that may come up. Second, I want to help you take care of yourself physically so you can feel better and continue with your healthy-eating routine.

Here are the six recommendations I offer my clients at times when they feel like they’ve overeaten.

1. Own it and move on. 

First things first: Resist the instinct to indulge in guilt. Accept that you made the choice you did at the time — and that’s OK — and then make a healthier selection at your next meal or snack.

I always tell my clients that you can’t be perfect all the time. None of us are. During this time of year especially, you’re going to have opportunities that take you off your typical eating routine.

There’s no sense in letting an unintentional slip set the tone for the rest of your day or even week. Too many of us let it ruin our mood or fall into the mindset of “the day is already spoiled,” often leading to an extended chain of off-plan decisions. Reaffirm your healthy intentions and focus on the fact that if you can make healthy choices 80 percent of the time, then you’re doing pretty great.

2. Take some enzymes. 

Digestive enzymes are a supplement I commonly recommend for my clients who have reoccurring digestive issues and discomfort. Taking supplemental enzymes can help aid in the digestion process, making it easier and quicker for your body to break down the food you take in and offering relief for symptoms such as bloating.

Although our bodies produce a certain amount of enzymes on their own, we often don’t make enough to combat the amount of stomach acid released when we eat a large meal, which can lead to heartburn and indigestion.

3. Walk it off.

After a heavy meal, your first instinct may be to lie down on the couch and relax (especially if your body is going through a blood-sugar crash). Lying down, however, can actually contribute to indigestion or heartburn.

Stay vertical and go for a walk to help get things moving through the digestive process, prevent or ease any adverse symptoms, and send your body a signal to utilize the energy it just consumed. Avoid anything too vigorous right after a meal, as that could make things worse — and even make you sick. However, getting in a good cardio session the following day would be beneficial to plan for.

4. Drink up.

Upping your fluid intake can help your body digest the meal faster and decrease any bloat. Drinking plenty of water can also help prevent the constipation that can stem from a heavy meal. Although it might not feel great to drink a ton of water after a large meal, keeping up with regular hydration throughout the day will help you feel better. Too much fluid during mealtime can also interfere with optimal digestion, so your best strategy is to drink most of your water outside of that time.

Peppermint tea can also be a great post-meal tool, as peppermint is known to aid in our digestive health. If you’re experiencing unsettledness or stomach pains, try sipping some tea (which, as a bonus, counts as part of your total fluid intake for the day) to help remedy stomach discomfort.

5. Stretch it out.

Stretching your body can be an effective remedy for the so-called food hangover, as it promotes your digestive process while also helping to reduce any bloating or gas pain. This could include some simple dynamic stretches (e.g. stretching your hands to your feet and holding), or even a full yoga sequence that gets your full body moving — and maybe even works up a light sweat. In many cases, yoga in particular has been known to help relieve bloating and constipation.

6. Simplify your next meal.

If it’s early enough in the day that you’ll consume another meal before bed, plan for something light and simple to digest to round out your day.

A favorite option of mine is a protein shake. Shakes are great because they’re not only convenient for providing ample nutrition, but they’re literally already broken-down nutrients that are easy for your body to digest. If planned well, a shake can also be helpful to have prior to a meal at which you know you’ll be tempted to overeat. If you aren’t a fan of shakes, some other good options include fruit and cottage cheese, or some scrambled eggs.

Then, make a point to eat as clean as possible the next day, limiting processed foods and sugar as best you can.

Keep the conversation going.

Leave a comment, ask a question, or see what others are talking about in the Life Time Health Facebook group.

Anika Christ, RD, CPT

Anika Christ is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, and the senior director of nutrition and weight loss at Life Time. She’s known to many as “Coach Anika,” and is one of the original virtual coaches who continues to lead a number of digital programs each year. She started at Life Time in 2008 and has spent her entire career helping build Life Time’s nutrition and fat-loss programs. When she’s not at work, she enjoys reading, lifting weights with her husband, and playing with her two daughters.

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