How to Bounce Back from Holiday Overeating
By Katalin Russek, MS, RD, Registered Dietitian—Virtua Nutrition
Holidays are often filled with family, friends and fun. But along with the laughs and good times, you may have indulged in wine, cookies and rich desserts, and extravagant meals. While you might have enjoyed the indulgence in the moment, you may feel lousy now—physically and emotionally.
You CAN recover from the effects of holiday overeating, but you’ll have to do a little work to get your eating back on track. With these tips, you’ll start feeling better pretty quickly.
The effects of unhealthy eating
If you indulged in a few days of eating unhealthy foods, you’re probably feeling certain signs of discomfort, including:
Constipation: Foods high in fat and carbohydrates and low in dietary fiber may lead to constipation (difficulty with bowel movements). The biggest culprits are cheese, red meats, and processed foods like cookies and crackers that have lots of fat and little to no fiber.
Bloating: Cheese, soups, sauces, and processed foods like potato chips and salad dressings are some foods that are notoriously high in salt. But, even bread can be high in sodium. These salty foods can make you retain water, leading to a bloated feeling. Higher-fat foods may also take longer to digest and contribute to bloating as well.
Emotional effects: If you’ve been eating a healthy, nourishing diet and then overeat high-fat or high-sugar holiday foods, it’s normal to feel as though you’ve sabotaged your efforts. You may feel disappointed with yourself. Or, you might have problems concentrating and sleeping due to the physical discomfort.
How do you overcome the effects of overeating unhealthy foods?
While you may think you should skip a meal or two, that’s actually the worst thing you can do. You need to return to regular healthy eating as soon as possible. Try to eat a balance of healthy foods, including:
- Whole grains
- Varied fruits and vegetables
- Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils
- Yogurt or low-fat dairy
- Protein such as lean meat, poultry, fish, and nuts
- At least 6-8 glasses of water a day
You’ll find that having a healthy eating plan in place before the holiday can help you when you're at parties and dinners and faced with sugary, salty, and high-fat options.
Don’t arrive starving or think: “I’ll skip breakfast/lunch so I can eat more later.” Eat your regular healthy meals, then go to the party and eat the quantity you would normally eat.
But, be mindful of what you’re eating, choose the foods you most want, and eat them slowly—enjoying every bite.
Will extra workouts burn the excess calories?
Some research shows that regular exercise during a period of overeating could protect people from negative metabolism changes. Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training are recommended, especially for weight loss and maintenance. Just be careful not to overdo a workout thinking it will help you burn the excess calories you consumed.
Are you trying to eat healthier and need help?
A Virtua Health registered dietitian can help you develop a healthy, well-balanced eating plan, or work with you on sports nutrition, weight loss, or diabetes or heart disease management.Find a Virtua Nutrition location near you and schedule an appointment online today.
Updated November 22, 2022