If you haven't heard already, the holiday season is upon us. It's a season of compassion, of giving, and of family, but also the season of too much food, the season of running around frantically to buy gifts, the season of stress, the season of weight gain for most people.
You have probably read hundreds of guides giving you tips on how to avoid overeating during the holidays. Honestly, they don’t really work (at least not for me). That post-Thanksgiving (and post-Christmas) meal food coma is part of the experience of holiday dinners.
First of all, let me tell you that it is our body’s natural instinct to opt for richer, heartier meals during the darker, colder months. Our ancestors moved and hunted minimally to preserve energy, while eating preserved meats and root vegetables to survive the harsh winters. In the modern days, we have warm shelters and plenty of food so that we don’t need to worry about our survival, but that primal instinct of being more sedentary and consuming foods higher in fats and carbohydrates is still within us. And it is that primal instinct that causes us to eat a little (or a lot) more than we probably should. Furthermore, seeing that everyone is eating, eating, and eating subconsciously cues us to continue consuming even when we’re past our comfort levels.
I’m not going to tell you to opt for the steamed green beans instead of the sweet potato casserole, or the white meat instead of the dark (in fact, I love the juiciness of dark meat!), or skip out on dessert and have some fruits instead.
No, how boring would that be! And further yet, how miserable!
However, I AM going to tell you what you CAN DO in between your feasts and after to help with your digestion. Refreshing, huh?
THE DO'S OF HOLIDAY EATING
1. Drink warm teas like ginger, mint, or chamomile in between meals for digestion. Nothing beats a warm mug of tea after a meal. Ginger is a naturally heating food that can help stimulate digestion, while mint and chamomile are soothing if you experience indigestion or heartburn. You can either buy tea bags or the spices and herbs to make the tea.
2. Invite your friends and family to join you for a walk. Unless it’s absolutely snowing up a storm outside, enjoying a short walk after a meal with your friends and family can be a great way to bond. Walking helps promote digestion and shake off the sluggishness after a big meal.
3. Practice restorative yoga poses to relieve stress. It can be overstimulating and stressful to be with people 24/7 during the holiday season, not to mention the stress from prepping meals and buying presents. Seated virasana (hero’s pose) can help with digestion right after a meal. Apanasana and a simple supine twist can be practiced a few hours after a meal to keep the digestive system moving.
4. Take a breath and see your food before each bite. Sometimes we get carried away with conversations that we don’t pay too much attention to what we’re eating. Digestion begins with the brain acknowledging fully that we are eating so that it can command the digestive organs to start working and send more blood flow to the necessary organs. If our mind is not present to the act of eating, the energy required for our digestive organs are diverted. I’m not saying to not talk to anybody while you’re eating, but at the very least, pause, take a breath, see the food on your plate before each bite.
5. Offer to help prepare and clean up. Cooking and cleaning up require quite some effort! I see cooking sometimes almost as an exercise, from bending down to the oven, reaching overhead for pots/pans/utensils, to mixing and kneading and flipping. The act of cleaning up requires arm strength to wipe tables, scrub dishes, mopping, and carrying stacks of dinnerware. You can thank me for this exercise hack later ;)
6. See that there is an abundance of food, and that you won’t starve by having a smaller portion or not having the second serving. Ok, so this is my ONLY advice on overeating. Sometimes I see people shove food into their mouths as if the world is going to end or the food supply will suddenly be cut off tomorrow. It’s not. We live in a world with plenty of food (albeit distributed disproportionately). That being said, be grateful of the abundance, give thanks, and enjoy every bite.