Summer is finally upon us, and that means patio parties, barbecues and other delicious family affairs. With so many tasty al fresco opportunities penciled into the calendar, a lot of us attempt to compensate by eating better all week long in anticipation of a weekend splurge. But you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
In the grand scheme of an overall balanced diet, mindfully enjoying a Friday night glass of sangria and juicy burger is no big deal. But spiraling into a "I blew my diet, I might as well eat it all now" mentality is where things tend to get messy. Next thing you know, you're a dozen deep into the mini sliders and have inhaled every last cupcake on the buffet spread. Hello, morning-after food hangover.
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It happens to us all. In most cases, overeating doesn't occur just because food tastes good. It happens because food tastes really, really good, and when you've been depriving yourself in the name of an eventual splurge, a cacophony of circumstances conspires against your ability to eat mindfully.
Don't greatly restrict yourself after the splurge either. If your instinct after that night of extravagant eating is to subsist on celery sticks and kale juice for the next few days, I've got a better way for you to get back on track, and this won't result in Burger Binge 2.0.
Here are 9 easy tips to help you get back on track after an indulgent summer party.
Healthy eating isn't about perfection. It's about doing what feels good. Giving yourself a massive guilt trip because you licked the icing off the leftover cake never feels nice. Your body is one smart cookie, and it will utilize a little extra occasional fuel here and there. Be kind and remind yourself that every day is a new opportunity to do your best—physically and emotionally.
We're talking about water this time. (You've likely already had your fill of the fun juice.) Overdoing it on refined carbs, alcohol, salt and greasy foods can cause uncomfortable constipation and bloating, both of which don't help you put your inner body-bashers to bed.
Staying hydrated is key to getting the bowels moving again and to flushing out some of the excess sodium from those salty margaritas and chips. Reach for a tall glass of water the next morning, and aim to get in a total of two liters during the day. If you find getting in your H2O au naturel is too difficult, boil some water and whip up a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea. Not only is this a tasty way to hydrate, but both varieties can also help relax gastric muscles, which may help improve digestion.
You may be exhausted from the festivities, but the acidity of coffee can cause mild inflammation in the gut. This inflammation can exacerbate bloating and may cause (or worsen) an upset stomach.
Still need a morning jolt? Try a cup of freshly brewed green tea. Not only does it offer antioxidants and a lower dose of caffeine, but green tea also acts as a mild diuretic to help you debloat. Try green tea plain or in this Matcha Green Tea Latte.
While skipping the morning meal may seem like a reasonable way to offset the calories from last night's splurge, starving yourself the next day is a recipe for a repeat binge. When we chronically cut calories below our body's needs, the moment we unknowingly let go of our inhibitions (like maybe after that second glass of sangria), we go hog wild. The best way to deal with a food hangover is by eating foods with fiber, protein and healthy fat, which will help stabilize your blood sugar and return you to normal. Reach for something light and well-balanced like a Thermos-Ready Smoothie, a slice of Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Frittata or one of these Blueberry-Oatmeal Cakes.
Your weight fluctuates from day to day, even hour to hour, depending on hydration, food intake and bowel movements. Since salt and carbs tend to cause water retention and bloating, you can expect the number on the scale to go up.
Don't worry; you didn't just gain five pounds of fat overnight from your second bowl of potato salad. Water is just surprisingly heavy. Some people do better avoiding the scale in general, but it can be especially important after an indulgent meal. This will help reduce anxiety and nip that splurge-crash diet cycle in the bud.
Exercise shouldn't be a punishment for an indulgent night out. In fact, guilt-induced exercise also tends to lead us back into that same restrict-binge cycle. Having said that, moving your body in ways that feel good can help alleviate constipation, bloating and other uncomfortable digestive issues. Exercise can also stabilize blood sugar levels and give you a boost of endorphins to get you out of that post-party slump. Avoid anything strenuous if you're feeling a little woozy, and go for gentle movements like yoga, Pilates, walking or barre instead.
If your tummy is still on the fritz, consider eating six mini meals rather than three large ones. This can help stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep your metabolism running strongly all day long.
Also, give a little consideration to what you put on your plate. Avoid classic gas-inducing foods like beans, broccoli, kale and cabbage, as well as bloat-inducing foods like soy sauce and processed deli meats. Instead, whip up a satiating salad with lots of water-rich veggies like this Tropical Cucumber Salad, a lean protein like this Moroccan Citrus Chicken or a high fiber, blood sugar-stabilizing whole-grain dish like this Quinoa Salad with Oranges, Beets & Pomegranate.
Getting in your produce is important any day of the week, but it's particularly key after a summer bender. Vegetables and fruit contain up to 95 percent water. That makes them a delicious way to fill up and to help reduce bloating.
They're also the best way to get in your 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day, and that necessary fiber can give you the push you need to get back to business as usual in the bathroom.
Dealing with the aftereffects of a food splurge doesn't feel so hot, but neither does restrictively cutting calories and stringently dieting in the days to follow. Take the day to reflect on your relationship with food, make a pact to try to start listening to your body's needs, and take the power away from any "forbidden" summer foods. When you strip foods of their moral meanings, you start to lose interest, so the next time you're faced with that platter of sliders, you can enjoy one or two mindfully and move on, food hangover (and guilt) free.