Get back on track—mentally and physically—with these simple strategies.  

By Jenny McCoy
Updated: January 09, 2019
Credit: PhotoAlto/Alix Minde/Getty

The deliciousness of party food and the pain of overeating often go hand in hand. What tastes great in the moment—indulgent appetizers here, an extra cookie there—can feel awful the next day, if consumed in excess.

“The day after an overindulgence may make you feel tired or bloated and your system may feel sluggish,” says Susan Bowerman, registered dietitian at Herbalife Nutrition. “You might also be feeling as if you’ve lost your way or that you won’t be able to get yourself back on track.”

Yet in reality, one night of overindulgence is just one night of overindulgence—and it needn’t morph into more. Here, Bowerman and three other experts share simple things you can do the day after a big feast to feel refreshed and energized, both physically and mentally.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Your first order of business after rousing from that food coma? Drink plenty of water. The liquid will be absorbed by any soluble fiber in your system and act like a gel to push last night’s meal through the digestive tract, says Angela Onsgard, R.D. and resident nutritionist at Miraval Arizona. In other words, it will reduce a bloated belly by helping you poop.

Down a detox elixir.

In additional to guzzling plain old H2O, you can get your insides feeling better with a simple water-based detox elixir. Simply warm a mug of water and add slices of fresh ginger, lemon zest, and a splash of raw apple cider vinegar, suggests Annessa Chumbley, registered dietitian and nutrition consultant to Premier Protein. The ginger can tame a gurgly stomach, the lemon zest delivers a good source of antioxidants, and the raw apple cider vinegar brings probiotics to your gut, which may help combat post-feast bloating.

Maintain perspective.

On the mental front, a common response after a big night of eating is to severely restrict your food intake and/or over-exercise to “make up for” yesterday’s overindulgence. Yet this black-or-white frame of mind often backfires, leading to bingeing, explains Dr. Ariane Machin, psychologist and co-founder of the Conscious Coaching Collective, which includes a program called The Food Shift that helps individuals with their mindset around emotional eating.

So though you may feel bloated, over-sugared, and otherwise unhealthy in the minutes and hours after a large meal, remind yourself that “one day of enjoying special occasion food is not going to derail all health habits or significantly impact weight gain,” explains Machin.

A more productive mental approach is to adopt a positive mindset that places the perceived overindulgence on a continuum. “Even though [you] did not really eat like [you] had wanted, today is a new day and [you] can make different choices,” says Machin. These choices aren’t centered on restriction, but rather on taking care of both your body and mind. Think about the foods and activities that naturally energize you, and act accordingly.

 Sip a healthy smoothie.

Once you’re properly hydrated and ready for breakfast, opt for something healthy and light-yet-filling, like a smoothie with fresh greens (think baby spinach or baby kale), fruit (like mango, orange or pineapple), fresh or powdered ginger, protein powder, and coconut water, suggests Bowerman. The ginger will soothe your digestive system; the fruits, veggies and coconut water will help you rehydrate; and the protein powder will help keep you full until your next meal. What’s more, starting your day off with this good-for-you meal will help you feel like you’re mentally back on track, she adds.

Craving something more solid? Make a bowl of oatmeal with berries, nuts, and seeds, suggests Onsgard. In general, it’s ok to go lighter at meals in the wake of a day of overindulgence, she adds, just as long as you’re not skipping meals. As explained above, that could trigger another bout of bingeing.

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Take a walk.

Follow your healthy breakfast with a brisk 30 to 45 minute walk, says Bowerman. This physical activity will help stimulate the smooth muscles in your lower digestive tract and thus encourage your GI system to run smoothly and regularly (AKA more pooping). The fresh air and sunlight can raise your energy levels, and you’ll also likely feel better knowing you are taking literal steps forward with your health.

Incorporate produce.

Throughout the day, aim to eat at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal, says Bower, as produce is low in calories and high in potassium and water. “Fluids and potassium help your body get rid of excess sodium, which can help you feel less bloated,” she explains. On top of that, vegetables are rich in fiber, which will help keep you regular, and antioxidants, which can help repair some of the free radical damage caused by overindulging, adds Onsgard.

Get fishy.

Have a serving of fish, like tuna flaked over a green salad for lunch, or grilled salmon for dinner, says Bowerman. Why? Fish is an excellent source of B-complex vitamins, which your body uses to turn the foods you eat into energy, and also helps you metabolize alcohol, she explains.  

Change your vocabulary.

Rather than believing your night of merriment has set you down a path on which it will be difficult to backtrack, use the words 'shift' or 'pivot' and visualize yourself making a turn in your eating and movement habits, says Machin. This simple change in vocabulary can help you accept the fact that you both enjoyed the evening of eating and that you can enjoy the next day by making different choices.

That said, if you find yourself feeling negative emotions in response to your indulgence—whether that be guilt, shame, regret, annoyance, or any other feeling(s)—embrace them, says Machin. Examine these feelings to understand what might have triggered them, she explains, and then wield that analysis to better manage your response to a similar situation in the future.

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