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We all know that a big part of the holiday season is about food. (Who are we kidding? Food is the star of the show!) And while eating more than usual over the holidays is totally common, no one wants to feel sick while celebrating, either.
Well, the Chief of Gastroenterology at Penn Medicine Princeton Health, Dr. Anish Sheth, is here to help us find a happy medium.
"We want to enjoy food, it's a big part of the holidays," he says. "But we want to do it within reason." (We know what you're thinking — but we'll thank him later!)
"When our stomachs are empty," the doc explains, "[they're] about the size of a closed fist."
When we eat a normal-sized meal, we fill our stomachs with about one liter of food and liquid. A holiday meal, on the other hand, contains usually about three liters of food and liquid.
"You can imagine how this can press on organs and surrounding structures in the body [and] make us feel uncomfortable," Dr. Sheth says.
"It's why we feel tired, and it actually puts a lot of stress on our body," he continues. "Organs have to work overtime — the liver, the pancreas, even the heart has to work overtime for many hours just to process this."
So, here's what the doc says we can we do while eating to avoid this (while still enjoying ourselves) — and what can we do after if we went a little overboard. (Hey, it happens!)
5 TRICKS TO AVOID OVEREATING
- Use a contrasting color plate to the food you're eating. (In other words, don't eat pumpkin pie on an orange plate!) "[Research shows] you'll actually eat less," the doctor explains.
- Eat more slowly. Put your fork down between bites and enjoy conversation to give your stomach time to tell you it's full. "It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to realize when our stomach is full," the doc says.
- Drink water before the meal and before every course. "It fills you up," he says.
- Have a high-fiber salad before the main course. "High-fiber foods [will make you feel full], so you'll actually end up eating less," Dr. Sheth explains.
- Avoid elastic waistbands! Your everyday clothes can help you manage how much you're eating, the doc says.
HOW DO I FEEL BETTER IF I OVERATE?
- Take a 15- to 20-minute walk.
- Drink peppermint tea. "It relaxes the GI tract [and] helps us to eliminate gas, which makes us feel less bloated," the doc says.
- Ate too much salt? Eat foods high in potassium — like avocado, banana or spinach — later in the day or the next day. "They help your body get rid of excess salt," Dr. Sheth explains.
- Ate too much fat? "The perfect home remedy [is] hot water, a little bit of honey and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar," the doctor says. "[It] helps digest the fat."
- Ate too much sugar? Eat high-fiber and high-protein foods — like celery and hummus, pistachios or eggs — to counteract sugar, Dr. Sheth recommends.
- Do yoga. "You don't want to do poses where you're lying flat on your back with a full stomach," he explains. "You want to stick to seated positions." Watch the video above to see Dr. Sheth demonstrate an ideal yoga position.