Have you ever finished a meal and felt like you overdid it a bit? Perhaps the food was so delicious that you had to eat every. last. bite. Or maybe you were out with friends and in enjoying the company, you ate more than you were hungry for. Or perhaps, you were stressed about work/relationships/finances, aka life, and you mindlessly ate your stress away.
Whatever the reason, you're not alone. We've all walked away from the table at one time or another feeling uncomfortably stuffed.
But if your inclination is to overcorrect your "mistake" with a detox or cleanse, we're here to let you know there are healthier (both physically and mentally) approaches you can take to feel better and get back on track. Here are five to try.
1. Stop the Negative Self-Talk
Have you ever heard the saying, "You are your own worst enemy?" Negative self-talk is a prime example. Self-talk means the thoughts that are constantly running through your head, and those thoughts can either be positive or negative. According to the Mayo Clinic, engaging in the latter — with thoughts like, "I can't believe I did this again," or "I'm so weak" and so on — may have a negative affect on your health and stress levels.
Instead, give your thoughts a "PR makeover" by reframing them with a positive spin (think: "I'm glad I got to experience that delicious meal," or "I had a great time catching up with my friends"). Another way to look at it: Ask yourself if this is the way you would talk to a friend or loved one. (The answer is likely no.) Practicing gratitude and being gentle with yourself also helps promote positive self-talk.
2. Drink Lots of Water
OK, so you're likely already feeling stuffed to the max, but drinking water after a large meal can actually help to speed things along digestion-wise. According to the National Health Service, drinking fluids with a meal helps to keep things moving through your GI tract and may help prevent constipation, especially if your meal included high-fiber foods.
Caffeinated and carbonated drinks aren't recommended because they could make things worse — so stick to water.
3. Take a Walk
While we're taught not to exercise after eating — and for good reason — have you ever taken a walk post-meal and noticed that it actually feels good? Taking a leisurely stroll after you nosh may help you feel a little less stuffed sooner.
Indeed, even a slow walk (2.5 miles per hour) can increase the speed of digestion, or how quickly food leaves the stomach, according to an old but well-referenced March 2008 study in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases.
What didn't improve the situation was common post-meal traditions like drinking espresso or digestifs — the researchers concluded that these did not accelerate digestion.
4. Plan to Eat More Fiber at Your Next Meal
Once you've digested your large meal (and drank some water and quieted the negative self-talk) and are ready for your next one, focus on getting in fiber. This nutrient helps your body naturally "detox," which is why you don't actually need to go on one of those extreme detox diets.
A November 2016 study published in Advances in Nutrition determined that fiber helps our liver and kidneys to do one of their primary jobs — filter and remove waste from our body. When we eat fiber, it has a positive effect on our gut, one of which includes helping "good" bacteria grow. These good bacteria help improve the gut barrier function, which in turn protects our liver and kidneys from bad bacteria, so they are able to focus on their other priorities.
5. Take a Yoga Class
OK, so don't do this immediately following a meal, but getting in a yoga session soon after could help ease bloating and indigestion. Yoga may also be used as a preventative measure since it's been shown to help decrease stress levels and binge eating, which often go hand in hand.
An August 2009 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that following a 12-week yoga program reduced binge eating in those who have the disorder. Yoga has also been shown to reduce cortisol levels, a marker for stress, as reflected in a three-month trial published July 2013 in Indian Journal of Psychiatry.
Here's Why You Don't Need to 'Detox'
Overeating at a meal, or over the weekend, or over the course of a week or so, like on a vacation or over the holidays, doesn't call for a detox, "reset" or cleanse. Oftentimes, people equate detoxing with weight loss, or as a way to correct any "wrongdoing" or to get quick results.
But our bodies are natural detoxifiers. We remove waste and toxins every single day through sweat, bowel movements and urine. We can help our body by limiting what we're putting into it, but this doesn't call for a juice cleanse or a combo of water, lemon juice, cayenne and a dash of maple syrup.
Instead, plan healthy meals that focus on whole foods, especially fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Eating fiber-filled foods help your liver and kidneys focus on their roles — filtering and removing waste and toxins from your body.
- Mayo Clinic: "Positive Thinking: Stop Negative Self-Talk to Reduce Stress"
- National Health Service: "Good Foods to Help Your Digestion"
- Advances in Nutrition: "Impact of Dietary Fibers on Nutrient Management and Detoxification Organs: Gut, Liver, and Kidneys"
- Journal of Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases: "Postprandial Walking but not Consumption of Alcoholic Digestifs or Espresso Accelerates Gastric Emptying in Healthy Volunteers"
- Complementary Therapies in Medicine: "Yoga as a Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder: A Preliminary Study"
- Indian Journal of Psychiatry: "Cortisol and Antidepressant Effects of Yoga"