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“…Relax – Cut yourself some slack. If your pants are a little tighter after a holiday get-together, don’t beat yourself up about enjoying those moments…”
  • Liz Keller

Ten Natural Ways to Avoid Holiday Bloat

While it’s common to feel bloated at any time of the year, the holidays make bloating a common occurrence for most. Bloating occurs when there is an uncomfortable feeling of having trapped gas or increased pressure in your gut, with the visible enlargement of your waist. Water retention occurs when your body is holding on to more water than usual due to high salt intake, high carbohydrate intake, or insufficient potassium or magnesium. Dehydration can also lead to water retention. Water retention is sometimes referred to as bloating but will be apparent in areas of your body other than your waist, like your finger and ankles.

What typically causes bloating?

● Certain foods
● Food intolerances
● Swallowing excess air
● Constipation
● Gut imbalances

What typically causes water retention?

● Consuming too much salt
● Sitting or standing for long periods
● Traveling on an airplane
● Certain medications and medical conditions
● Menstrual cycles & hormone fluctuations

Many of these causes are inevitable regarding big holiday meals, traditions, shopping, parties, etc. So what can you do?

Ways to prevent or deal with bloating and water retention:

1. Portions – Consume small amounts of foods known to cause bloating. This includes certain cruciferous vegetables and beans. Also, onions and garlic are high FODMAP foods and can cause digestive issues for some people. Raw onions and garlic can be harder to digest, so if you have these, make sure they are cooked.

2. Potassium – Increase potassium intake. While avoiding sodium is difficult, trying to balance out the excess sodium with more potassium can help combat water retention. High-potassium foods include sweet potatoes, avocados, winter squash, and dried fruit.

3. Fiber – Eat enough fiber. This doesn’t necessarily need to occur during the big holiday meal, but ensuring you’re eating enough fiber throughout the day can make you feel full, preventing you from overeating. Make sure your body is used to the amount of fiber you are eating; consuming more than you are used to can cause the exact digestive distress and bloating we are trying to prevent.

4. Probiotics – Take a probiotic and eat fermented foods to increase the healthy bacteria that can help balance your gut microbiome. Keep in mind this will not work instantly like antacids but can help with digestion when they are a part of your daily routine. (Incentives sells Dr. Permutter’s custom brand, which is very good.)

5. Water – Drink more water! While at a party, enjoy your adult beverages in moderation and drink at least 2-3 liters of water throughout your day. However, just like the fiber, don’t overdo it. Drinking too much water can throw off your sodium-potassium balance, leading to water retention.

6. Move – Exercising on the day of the big meal is a great way to offset some of the calories. To help with bloating, move around after you eat. Combat the bloated feeling by walking after the meal. If visiting family and walking isn’t an option, try dynamic stretching or finding somewhere private to do a few body-weight squats or lunges.

7. Tea – Try drinking some herbal tea. Camomile, ginger, and peppermint tea have been shown to help aid digestion and can also help prevent you from going for seconds on those holiday desserts.

8. Pace yourself – Slow down the speed of your meals. Being distracted by the speed at which other people are eating their meals or having a conversation can lead to larger amounts of food needing to be digested. Eating too quickly can also cause you to swallow more air, leading to bloat. In the days leading up to your holiday meals, practice slower eating and thoroughly chewing your food so it won’t feel forced when the holidays arrive.

9. Digestive enzymes – Digestive enzymes are healthier for you than a traditional antacid. Antacids can help with short-term relief, but by decreasing the acid in your stomach, you are altering how your body absorbs nutrients. Long-term antacid use has also been linked to constipation, diarrhea, and higher risks for osteoporosis. (I like the papaya enzymes sold at the Incentives Spa.)

10. Relax – Cut yourself some slack. If your pants are a little tighter after a holiday get-together, don’t beat yourself up about enjoying those moments. If you decide to go on the scale, know that to gain actual weight (not water), you have to eat a lot of excess calories. One pound of weight equals 3500 extra calories than what you burn. So if you usually burn 2000 calories daily, you would have to eat 5500 calories during that day to gain just one pound. Water weight can fluctuate from 2 to 4 pounds on a typical day. So skip the scale the day after and focus on moving, drinking water, and returning to your regular routine.

Don’t Get Crazy

Whatever you do, don’t take too extreme an approach. While avoiding your favorite foods and drinking only water might seem like a good idea, it’s not. Such a severe approach creates an unhealthy relationship with food (not to mention your friends and family!). It should be your goal to find a balance between enjoying the foods you love and not being so bloated that it ruins your night. Try following these tips, and stick to mindful eating throughout the holidays, to prevent digestive stress from spoiling the party!

For a personalized approach to your diet, send me an email at or text to ‪(240) 803-3438

About the Author

Liz Keller

Liz Keller

Liz Keller is a personal trainer, nutritionist, group fitness instructor, and health coach. She runs the Eat Smart program at Fitness Incentive.

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