We all do it…tubs of chocolates, mountains of mince pies, chunks of cheese, and then there’s the big old turkey dinner with ALL the trimmings…yep I’m talking pigging out at Christmas.
It’s one of the things I love most about Christmas, other than the presents and family time obvs., because it’s the one time I feel absolutely zero guilt at not eating what I want, but also eating when I want. Chocolate for breakfast…? Yeah, it’s Christmas. Alcohol before midday…? Yep, it’s Christmas. Mid-morning and a mid-afternoon mince pie…? You get the idea! But the thing is, all that feasting can play havoc on the innards, and as more and more food gets put in, well it’s gotta go somewhere hasn’t it!?!
With the average person consuming up to 6000 calories (that’s triple what most of us need) on Christmas day, is it any wonder that many of us are left feeling bloated, sluggish and full of wind?
I’m not here to tell you that you can’t enjoy a few foodie treats at Christmas, but if you are someone who struggles to find your eating off switch and then suffer with the consequences afterwards, I’ve put together a few top tips to help beat the Christmas bloat.
Plan Your Outfit
Before I even start talking about the food let’s take a look at something that will really help make a difference…your outfit. It’s got to be said that these days I’m a big fan of staying in PJ’s on Christmas Day (my fanciest ones, naturally) and the great thing about it is that they offer lots of stretch and expansion for the inevitable food baby!
But obviously if you’re going out visiting family and friends, or if you’re having people over, it’s not really the done thing to serve up dinner in a onesie, which is why most people use it as an opportunity to dress up in something a bit special. If you are one for glamming up at Christmas, then do yourself a favour and think twice before pulling on the control pants, because if they feel restrictive now imagine what they’ll be like after you’ve eaten!
Chose comfy clothes that allow for movement and that have slight give around the waistline, so you can still wear a sparkly dress but opt for a looser flowing one rather than a tight fitting one. And don’t even think about putting on the Spanx… yes it might give you a flatter more streamlined appearance when you first put them on, but trust me come mid-afternoon you are gonna hate them! All that pressure being forced on your well fed tummy has got to go somewhere… need I say more!?!
Nobody wants to be eating lettuce leaves at Christmas, but on the other hand if all you eat is beige platter after beige platter, both your tummy and your thighs are hardly gonna thank you for it! Rather than going from one extreme to another, it’s all about making some sensible meal swaps, so that you can still enjoy a little bit of what you fancy without having a full on blow out.
If you’re a bit of a gassy gal, then you’re probs best off avoiding the sprouts and cabbage as that’s gonna turn you into a full on windy Wendy. Foods such as apples, pears and melons contain high levels of pectin and this can have a calming effect on the gut whilst also ensuring you have a good intake of fibre, which will certainly help keep things moving along nicely.
When it comes to the big turkey dinner, turkey isn’t actually the worst meat you could be eating, it’s low fat and contains selenium and other healthy nutrients, where the danger lurks is in all the trimmings. A good tip is to load your plate up with turkey and vegetables first so that then there is less room for the roast potatoes, stuffing, pigs in blankets, etc etc. And go easy on the salt, as anything with a high salt content will cause water retention giving you that puffed up feeling.
In terms of drinks, consider opting for mulled wine instead of eggnog, as it could save you a whopping 350 or so calories! And of course it goes without saying, steer clear of those fizzy drinks.
It’s natural to crave stodgier, carb heavy foods in the winter; it’s our body’s way of telling us to add on a bit of insulation for those cold days. So it’s all about getting clever with which carbs you eat and which ones you don’t go too crazy with. Slow energy releasing foods such as sweet potatoes, oats, nuts and fruit and veg are all great, so reach for those instead of the fat, sugar and heavily processed foods that are so readily available at this time of year.
Did you know that a big meal can stay in the stomach for up to two hours while the gastric juices try to break it down? That would explain all those gurgles coming from Uncle Frank’s tum!
Keep Your Calm
Christmas is fab, but it’s all kinds of stressful too and that can lead to bloating. I know it’s easy to say, but try and grab a moment to yourself every day over the holidays to help alleviate this. Factor in things like taking a bath, going for a walk, even something as simple as enjoying an undisturbed cuppa in bed first thing in the morning. Stress, feeling tired and anxiety are all contributing factors to stomach problems, as it can create excess acid in the stomach, giving us that churny uncomfortable feeling. The festive period is generally very busy and there’s lots of jobs to be done in amongst the fun, particularly if you’re the host or assigned to the role of cook. Don’t try and do everything, no one’s going to mind or think any less of you if you ask for help washing the dishes, stirring the gravy or setting the table and it’s the little things like that, which will help you keep your cool this Christmas and therefore help ease the bloat!
Most of us drink more than we usually would at Christmas, I know I certainly do. There’s the Bucks Fizz in the morning, the wine at lunch, the mid-afternoon Snowball, more wine with dinner, the after dinner Port and then there’s the Bailey’s nightcap – it’s a right old stomach churning concoction!
I’m not about to tell you that you can’t have a drink on Christmas Day (jeez nobody needs to hear that!) but if you want to avoid feeling like Father Christmas after he’s eaten ALL the pies, here’s a few handy tips:
- Hydrate – For every alcoholic drink you consume make sure you drink a glass of water. This will not only help keep you hydrated, but will also help flush those toxins out of your system and keep everything working smoothly.
- Protect – Although it might feel as if your head is suffering the most from your Christmas drinking, it’s actually your liver that’s bearing the brunt of it. Help protect your liver by ideally giving it a break for a couple of days after a heavy session (yes I know the best advice is not to have a heavy drinking session in the first place, but come on this is real life!) so that it has time to repair and refresh itself. You could also try taking milk thistle, which has been shown to help protect the liver from alcohol damage and will certainly help relieve those telltale symptoms of having gone overboard with the sherry!
- Anyone for a Cuppa? – Although you might think sticking the kettle on for a refreshing cup of tea or coffee is a good thing, it can actually make bloating matters worse. Both are diuretics, which basically means they make you wee more frequently, and because of that the body tries to cling on to any available water it can get it’s hands (and tummies) on. Coffee can also trigger the production of gas in the digestive tract and both these factors will see you swelling up like a balloon in no time.
- Eating and Drinking – You think you’re helping matters by drinking lots of water with your meal, I mean it helps fill up and therefore prevents you overeating, right? The thing is what you’re actually doing is diluting your food making it harder for the body to absorb all those important nutrients. Plus, you are filling yourself up on liquid that’s going to sit in your belly sloshing around and making you feel incredibly uncomfortable and not at all satisfied. The key is to sip your drink with your meal and keep it to just one glass per course.
- Healthier Drinks – Of course there are some drinks that are healthier to drink than others and things like fizzy, sugary and full fat creamy cocktails are way more likely to make you feel bloated. Check out these recipes for Healthier Christmas Cocktails to help reduce the calories without reducing the taste.
- Moderation – Yep there’s that sensible word again. It’s not rocket science people, do everything in moderation and all will be well in the world… simples.
Mindfulness. We’re being told to be mindful in literally every aspect of our lives it feels like, and to be honest I personally take it with a pinch of salt; I know I should be doing it, but well there’s a million and one other things I should also be doing that I don’t. The one thing I do advocate being mindful of however, is eating. Whether you want to associate eating with the mindful label or not, essentially it’s all about slowing down, chewing, appreciating and actually tasting your food, plus also recognising the signs of feeling full. All of these elements go hand in hand and also help reduce the risk of bloating and other digestive problems. I know for a fact that I eat too quickly (seriously it’s the most unladylike thing ever watching me eat, I’m like a rabid wolf that hasn’t eaten for a month), but what it does mean is that 1) my food doesn’t get chewed properly, therefore forcing my stomach to work harder to break down the bigger chunks, and 2) I haven’t given my brain enough time to figure out whether I’m full, so I therefore end up usually eating more than I need to and end up feeling absolutely stuffed. If this sounds like you, have a go at putting your cutlery down in between mouthfuls to help slow the eating process down, and perhaps start off with a smaller plate so that you can trick your brain into thinking you’ve still eaten the same, but giving it time to work out whether you do actually need seconds.
Mindful eating isn’t just about slowing down though, it’s also about paying attention and being present, without the distraction of say a phone or a TV screen. As a family we’re really good at never having the TV on whilst we’re sat at the table eating meals (hey we still do the TV dinner thing, but only on a Saturday night when Strictly’s on and Sunday evening when it’s eat all the picky leftovers for living room picnic time – hey we’re only human!). If you’re multi tasking whilst eating, it means the stronger focus is likely to be on the other thing, which means less focus is on the digestive process and therefore the chances of bloating and discomfort are increased. Make it a rule that phones, screens, books and toys are banned from the table and enjoy the simple pleasure of eating and talking – just make sure you aren’t talking with your mouth full!
Don’t Talk With Your Mouth Full!
I’m sure you’ll all remember being told as a child not to talk with your mouth full, so why now that we’re adults do we feel it’s acceptable? Firstly, no one needs to see your masticated turkey, and secondly every single time you talk with food in your mouth you are also taking in a whole heap of air. Our stomachs are exactly the same as a balloon; fill it with air and it inflates, which is exactly what you’re doing every time you natter whilst nibbling. If you’ve got something to say, finish your mouthful, then say it. Not only will the other person thank you, but so will your tummy.
Go For A Walk
The best thing to beat the bloat, other than over eating in the first place of course, is to get up off of your backside and head outside for some fresh air. Going for a walk is a great way to burn off some of those excess calories, get the body moving and hopefully help things get *aherm* ‘moving’. Exercise stimulates the movement of waste so once you get in from your walk make sure you head to the loo pronto!
With the colder weather, darker evenings and just generally feeling more sluggish it’s easy to reduce, or even stop, your usual exercise routine over the festive period. This however, only contributes to how bad you feel and it becomes a vicious cycle of not feeling as if you have enough energy, lacking in motivation and just general ‘can’t be botheredness’. Try not to change your usual routine too much in the lead up to Christmas. Yes you may need to juggle things around a bit and no you might not fit in quite as many sessions as you usually would, so use it as an opportunity to mix things up a bit. Not keen on the cold weather? Do some yoga in your living room. Can’t face going for that run? Head on out for a walk with the family instead? There’s a million different ways you can keep active, you just need to get creative, make it fun and well… wherever you be, let the wind blow free!
No Nightime Nibbling
You’ve been stuffing yourself all day, you’re not even hungry, yet those After Eight chocolates are totally giving you the eye…. Late night eating is never a good idea, especially if it’s sitting on top of a massive mountain of undigested food. Going to bed with an overly full stomach is not only going to make it harder to get to sleep, but purely the simple fact that you’re lying down and therefore forcing your body to work harder to try and digest all that food, is likely to cause acid reflux and leave you in all kinds of pain. If you’re going to be strict about one thing, then make it this. Try to stop eating after 7pm and allow your body the time it needs to rest and reset itself before the inevitable feasting starts all over again.
Weight gain over Christmas is pretty much a guarantee and it’s really nothing to worry about as come January when we all get back into the routine of things, it’ll soon sort itself out again. Ultimately though it’s not about the weight gain, it’s about feeling healthy and comfortable and not as if you could fart your way around England with the amount of gas you’ve got accumulating in that tummy of yours!