It’s that time of year again—time for the post-holiday “bloating” to set in. From Thanksgiving through New Year's Day, overindulgence is the theme of most seasonal festivities. Gather, eat, repeat—from late November through early January, that’s typically the pattern. But all this merriment doesn't go unnoticed by the belly.
The Calorie Control Council estimates that the average holiday meal contains 4,500 calories, which breaks down into a 3,000-calorie main course with an extra 1,500 calories from the snacking and drinking before and after.
That results in an average weight gain of one pound for every meal! While that doesn’t sound like a lot, if you have a number of feasts to go to over the course of the six-week holiday period, that can really add up.
Now that we’re wrapping up the year and beginning anew, it’s a good time for a fresh start. And that means getting back to healthy foods and healthy routines again. Here’s tips for an effective post-holiday detox that can help you rebound, physically and mentally.
Raise a glass... of water
The best way to start detoxing is by refueling with good ol’ plain water. Water keeps the body healthy, bringing oxygen and nutrients to all the cells and organs. Water also helps fill up the stomach without adding any extra calories, providing a feeling of satiation without eating any more food. It also helps by:
- Regulating digestion. Water helps to break down and transport waste as it leaves the body, which can prevent constipation after a large meal.
- Keeping the kidneys healthy. The kidneys are a large component of the detox process. They remove excess waste and fluids from the body, while also regulating levels of sodium and potassium. In other words, kidneys are hard at work after holiday meals. Water keeps them functioning properly so the body can properly eliminate what it does not need for nourishment.
- Helping the body absorb vitamins. Certain fatty foods, like dairy and meat (see the platter of butter, milk, turkey, and holiday roasts), all contain B vitamins, which are water-soluble. Drinking more water helps the body pull every last vitamin out of that big meal.
If water doesn’t quite cut it, look for other beverages to help with the detoxing process. From milk to juice, to smoothies or a refreshing tonic, staying hydrated keeps the body working to cleanse itself of the holiday excess.
You can also kickstart the recovery process in an exercise class, or simply commit to walking every day. Research shows that even a short walk can increase bone density and cardiorespiratory fitness (the term for measuring how well the heart and lungs transport and use oxygen). Not only will you literally sweat out any lingering toxins in your cells, but physical activity is the key to shedding extra LBs that may have packed on over the holidays.
The new year is just as good a time as any to try a new workout routine, too. If you don’t want to join a gym, you can also get in sessions at home. Use your own stairs as a climber machine, check out instructor-led videos on our YouTube channel, or try a medicine ball workout to improve strength and put core muscles to work. The Bent-Knee Crunch with a Twist in particular may be just the move you need if you’re still feeling full.
Sleep it off
Getting enough sleep is also important. A lack of sleep can cause the body undue stress and slow down metabolism, so getting the right amount of shut-eye is vital to helping recuperate from the holidays. If you need some ideas for ways to help get to sleep earlier, try limiting caffeine intake, adjusting the temperature in the bedroom, or exercising before bed.
Indulge in healthy foods
Another key step in helping rid the body of holiday toxins is loading up on healthy foods and minerals—you don’t have to deprive yourself as long as you make good food choices. A body’s mechanics only work as well as the fuel put into it, so giving it all the tools it needs to recover depends on what you eat. Here are some suggestions for how to fill up your daily meals as you begin the post-holiday comedown.
Getting enough protein is vital. WebMD reports that protein helps the body by:
- Regulating the amounts of hormones and enzymes that are sent out to the various systems that need them
- Building and repairing tissue—key for any kind of injury
- Forming and maintaining skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle, which is important because building more muscle mass can actually help you burn fat quicker
Eggs are a good source of protein, offering 11 percent of a person’s daily recommended intake. Lean meats like poultry and fish are also a good option. But if you’re a plant-based eater, you can get protein from legumes and veggie protein powder. Making a protein shake before your next workout class is ideal to give you the fuel needed to complete it while still filling you up and providing key nutrients.
Iron’s job is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, which in turn leads to feeling more energized (important if you want to get to the gym before work in the morning). Seek out natural sources of iron to eat, such as:
You can also use supplements to add to your dietary intake.
Zinc is a trace element with a huge range of positive health benefits, including supporting the immune system, increasing metabolism, and leading to more energy—all important when you want to get back into tip-top shape. Eating foods with more zinc may be especially helpful to detox from holiday overindulgence, but are also great to take in year-round, so start establishing the habit now. Here are some of the foods with the greatest levels of zinc:
Another benefit of zinc is that it helps to synthesize protein and puts it to work. In other words, if more protein gives the body additional building blocks to recover from the fatigue of large, unhealthy meals, zinc is the controlling the boards and placing those blocks where they are needed most. They work in tandem to keep everything running smoothly.
So how do you incorporate all these good foods?
Eat breakfast like a champion
The holiday bloat is no match for breakfast. Eating breakfast can help set up the rest of the day so it’s a healthy success. Here’s how:
- Boosting metabolism, which may lead to burning more calories throughout the day
- Introducing protein earlier in the day, letting the body build and maintain muscle better at peak times
- Preventing overeating later in the day by providing enough calories for the body to feel satisfied all morning. Of course, getting metabolism and hunger back under control after the holiday rush can be a challenge, but breakfast helps by giving a boost of calories upfront.
Limit nighttime eating strictly to dinner
The problem with nighttime eating doesn’t come from having a big dinner—it comes from all the snacks before and after dinner, when you are at home and have easy access to your fridge and pantry.
Mindless snacking quickly leads to eating more calories than the body needs. Grabbing something small while making dinner, having a bit of dessert, and getting in that last nighttime snack before bed all leads up to a surplus of calories. In fact, just making this one adjustment can significantly help you shed the extra weight gain.
By consciously limiting nighttime eating to dinner, it helps to overturn the behavior of overeating, which is so frequently encouraged during the holidays. The rule of thumb is to eat just what the body needs—and not everything the eye wants—to help detox from all the festive overindulging.
Let the detox begin
Huge holiday dinners might leave you feeling bloated, sleepy, and unmotivated, but the right detox can wipe the slate clean.
Readjusting to normal eating habits after the holidays can take a little effort, but with the right tools—like water, iron, protein, sleep, and exercise—it’s not an impossible task. Reducing calories, increasing vital nutrients, and getting all the rest the body needs will help you bounce back from overdoing it during the holiday season.
Looking for some recipes to help with the post-holiday detox? Here are some tasty and healthy options to try:
Offering iron and protein, this delicious meal brings the hearty combo of eggs and spinach to a whole new level. Baked to the perfect consistency, the eggs will provide fuel for a filling breakfast—or even a satisfying dinner.
Like most vegetables, zucchini contains a healthy dose of water, making this a great post-holiday dish for staying hydrated. The fresh herbs and mozzarella cheese amp it up, making this dish as tasty as it is healthy.
Chewy and moist, this delightful Paleo bread can be a great choice as a snack or as part of a meal. Whether it’s used for toast, sandwiches, or just smeared with a little jam, you can still enjoy a slice while keeping it clean.
With iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and fiber, poke is a raw fish salad that’s sure to jump start the detox process. Bright and flavorful grapefruit adds a citrusy twist to this dish, making it a light alternative to any holiday leftovers still sitting around. It’s also easy to make, so there’s plenty of time left in the evening for a detoxifying workout or for getting to bed early.