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How to Get Back on Track After Your Big Holiday Meal

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author image The LIVESTRONG.COM Team
The LIVESTRONG.COM editorial team works hard to help you live stronger, healthier and happier. We are a team of editors working hard to bring you informative and engaging healthy lifestyle content.
How to Get Back on Track After Your Big Holiday Meal
Make sure you actually enjoy the big meal — without a side of guilt. Photo Credit KarpenkovDenis/iStock/Getty Images

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years' and endless holiday parties in between. You know how it usually goes down: free-for-all eating and drinking amidst family and friends. It’s likely you have an intense love-hate relationship with huge celebrations.

You love the food, occasions to celebrate and spending time with friends and family. But those warm, fuzzy feelings might devolve into guilt the next day.

Life is meant to be lived, and there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty after having an amazing meal. The only thing you should feel guilty about is not living life to the fullest, especially since you only live once.

Yes, we all overdo it sometimes. But let’s stop being so hard on ourselves! One day (or even a few days) of overindulging won’t derail your healthy habits the other 360-something days of the year. With that in mind, here are six practical tips to manage the day after.

1. Remember: It’s Not Indulging — It’s Living

Not to get all geeky on you, but the word indulge comes from the Latin word “indulgere,” which means “to take pleasure in.”

But in the modern world, indulging is often considered a no-no. That’s why you need to remember that enjoying a second helping of pumpkin pie or a big ol’ piece of birthday cake isn’t indulging — it’s living.

Nourishment isn’t just about the calories and nutrients; it’s also about the experience. The first step is to stop telling yourself that you’re bad or weak for thoroughly enjoying some french fries on vacation or an extra few glasses of wine with your best friend.

In doing so, your body and mind will have the space to do what they know how to do best — take care of you from the inside out. Going easier on yourself will lead to better digestion and a more efficient metabolic system because you won’t be so stressed out with unnecessary guilt.

Water is your best friend the day after a huge meal.
Water is your best friend the day after a huge meal. Photo Credit moodboard/moodboard/Getty Images

2. Drink Lots of Water

Yes, you bought that vegan protein powder, and you’re about to blend it with some ice and superfood greens from the Himalayas. But make sure you drink plenty of plain ol’ room-temperature water first.

Water is the oil in the car that is your body. You need it to keep your digestion and metabolism going. Furthermore, cold beverages — including cold water — can jolt and halt your digestive system.

Have at least three liters of room-temperature water the day after overindulging, regardless of how many bathroom breaks you need.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know to Stay Properly Hydrated

3. Don’t Starve Yourself

You might feel sufficiently stuffed, but your body needs food to function. Not eating will make your body think it’s starving, causing it to hold on to its fat stores.

Even if you don’t feel like it, force yourself to eat like a normal, happy person the day after a big feast. Start with cantaloupe and some black coffee or tea for breakfast. Have some vegetable soup for lunch; cooked vegetables are some of the easiest things for your body to digest. And, sure, go ahead and have turkey leftovers for dinner. Just make sure the leftovers come with a side of greens.

4. Get Out and Move

You’ve heard it over and over, but it bears repeating: Move! Even if you just take a walk around the block or bustle around the house finishing up chores, staying in motion is key.

If you have some more time, go for a run, jump in the pool, do some old-school jumping jacks or pop in a yoga DVD. And if you only have two minutes, try a few rounds of Sun Salutations (see the video below) to get your digestion and metabolism moving.

5. Take Deep Breaths

Breathing has an underestimated affect on digestion. The more you breathe and the deeper you breathe, the more oxygen your cells receive. The better oxygenated your cells are, the more efficiently they function.

Wherever you are, close your lips gently and take three to 10 breaths in and out through your nose. Don’t worry about closing your eyes if you don’t want to — just focus on your breath. If you don’t mind looking a little funny, try this RETOX breathing exercise to cleanse and fire up your liver, intestines and kidneys.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit in a chair with your fingertips on your hips or shoulders. Inhale. Then begin short, sharp breaths out of the nose, where the inhale is simply a reaction to the exhale. It should feel like a cross between a sneeze and blowing your nose. On each exhale, twist left and right. Continue for 30 to 60 seconds. End in the center. Relax your arms and breathe normally.

Life is short — live it well!
Life is short — live it well! Photo Credit shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

6. Enjoy Yourself and Be Thankful

Holidays and birthday celebrations don’t happen every day. Whichever holiday it is, you only get it once a year. So enjoy each one and be grateful that you have this opportunity to celebrate.

Close your eyes and say to yourself, “Thank you, Life.” Be thankful for being alive, for having food, for having friends nearby. Be thankful for everything you have. The mere act of acknowledging how lucky you are and giving thanks will plant a seed of positive energy in your body — one that will make you radiate inside and out.

Read more: Holiday Digital Detox Dare

So go back to the kitchen, warm up some leftovers, grab a slice of pecan pie and get your #RETOX on. After all, you only live once.

What Do YOU Think?

Have you ever felt guilty after a day of overindulging? What did you do? Did you find any of these tips helpful? What other tips would you add to the list? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!

About the Author

Lauren Imparato is the founder of I.AM.YOU., a lifestyle company and yoga studio in Manhattan, and the author of RETOX: Healthy Solutions for Real Life. She has been profiled on CNN, Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar UK, New York Magazine, the New York Times and many other publications. As a certified yoga instructor, Lauren’s yoga classes have been named "New York’s Best."

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