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Things to do before & after holiday meals to combat fatigue and fullness

holiday meals fatigue and fullness eaten pie
Photo credit: Say-Cheese/Getty Images

As Americans, we love to indulge, especially around the holidays. In fact, the average American will consume 3,000 calories in the average holiday meal, according to the Calorie Control Council. No wonder most of us are in need of new pants and a nap at the end of the night.

On top of that, University Hospitals Medical Group reports the majority of us are stressed during the holidays, and 74 percent of people say they cope with the holiday stress by — can you guess? — eating unhealthy snacks.

Luckily, there are a few tips to combat fatigue and fullness this holiday season that will leave you free to indulge with, hopefully, less nausea and guilt by the time the festivities are over.

Get a good night’s sleep before your holiday meal

Preferably 7-8 hours of sleep. There is probably no better self-care, especially during the holidays, than good-quality snoozing. Not only does it allow your body to recover from the emotional and physical stresses of the day, but it can actually regulate how much you eat. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports people who undersleep each night eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day. Sleep aids in the balance of two major hormones, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and leptin decreases it.

Your appetite can definitely go into overdrive when you haven’t slept much. So what should be done? Turn your electronics off up to an hour before bed, read a boring book, listen to ocean waves — whatever it takes to get 7-9 hours of sleep so you can keep your holiday portions in check and your tummy happy!

MORE: 11 Unique Thanksgiving side dishes to add to your menu

Move those legs, especially after your meal

Any chance you can get for some fresh air, take that opportunity. Not only does walking provide a mental break from occasional family drama, it’s also great for your digestive system. Walking speeds up the rate at which food moves through your stomach. Research reveals that walking for 15 minutes post-dinner can regulate your level of blood sugar. This is great news, because without that spiky rise and fall of your blood sugar after a holiday meal, you’ll be less likely to go back for seconds when you return from your walk.

Drink water, water, water!

Holiday food can be high in sodium. Some of the usual suspects include mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, glazed ham, even plant-based options, too. You don’t have to skip your holiday favorites; however, you should drink lots of water while consuming these foods. Drinking water is perhaps the last thing you want to do, especially if your belly resembles a balloon, but downing several glasses of water a day will restore the sodium balance. Water will flush your system and keep your digestive tract moving.

Your goal should be a minimum of 8–10 cups of water spread throughout the day. Skip the sodas and other carbonated beverages that add gas to your system — they will only add to your feeling of being bloated. If you just can’t get into drinking that much water in the day, then challenge yourself to consume hydrating fruits and vegetables that comprise mostly water. Watermelon, cucumber, grapefruit, tomatoes, bell peppers and strawberries are all great water alternatives. Of course, straight from the source is always preferable.

Overcome your fullness by stretching

With a combination of deep breathing, a number of stretches can target your abdominal organs. Take the time to do certain moves that help to twist and massage the colon (a vital organ for keeping you regular). Your back and core muscles can tighten past the point of being comfortable when organs like the small and large intestines expand. Thus, stretching significantly helps to open up your hips and loosen your thoracic spine. You don’t have to be a yogi/guru at all in order to do these simple stretch poses.

MORE: Make easy & healthy holiday food swaps using our cheat sheet

Here are my favorite poses for gut discomfort:

Knees to your chest pose. Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest, hugging them with both arms. This pose helps especially with constipation. Keep your lower back and tailbone as close to the mat as possible.

Drop your knees to one side into a spinal twist pose. Lie on your back. Reach your arms out to a “T,” and keep your knees and hips in line with each other as you lean both knees in the same direction toward the floor.

Seated forward bend pose. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched. With your back straight, gradually hinge forward from your hips and lower your torso close to your legs.

Focus on the things this season that will bring you good cheer. One over-the-top holiday meal won’t make you fat. It might make your body bloated and uncomfortable in the short-term, but remember these suggestions. Each will help lower your holiday stress, increase your energy, and keep your body comfortable. Make this time in your life more enjoyable. ‘Tis the season!

Combat holiday fatigue with a surprisingly nutritious and easy-to-make side dish this holiday season. Learn about local gourmet mushrooms below.

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