Who indulged this holiday? Who’s still having tummy trouble after all the treats? Who learned a bit more about their body during the process?
Today I’m writing about a mish-mash of things, but that in real life, all go together. Keep in mind that each of these are complicated topics on their own. My point in this article is to help you understand how nutrition ‘stuff’ often comes in packages and how there is usually no ‘black-and-white’ fix. But the good news? There are people who are trained to help you sort through them, to find solutions that work within your unique story.
And as always, if you are experiencing any symptoms that worry you or that stop you from your usual day-to-day activities, please see your doctor.
Why you might be having bloating, constipation, gas or other tummy troubles during the holiday season:
- Routines are off! We’re busy, on holidays, travelling, running errands, out for visits or having people over, late nights with different wake-up times. This can mean being more rushed and less relaxed.
- Eating more than usual. Between having extra snacks, potluck or buffet-style meals, snacks everywhere, our bodies just have more food to deal with.
- Grazing. Appetizers and snacks through the day gives our gut constant work to do.
- All the ingredients of the season. Treats with refined sugar have been all over the place, richer and creamier. More specialty coffees or teas, more fruit juice, pop or carbonated drinks, less fibre … all adding up to gas, bloating and changes in bowel patterns.
- Less activity. Not only does activity give your body exercise, it also helps to reduce stress, keep people motivated to eat well and get bowels moving.
- Less meal planning. We often don’t know what food will be available at gatherings or we grab convenience foods between the holiday festivities because we’re busy, tired of cooking or busy prepping food for the next gathering.
- Sugar substitutes. Many of the sugar-free options have ingredients like sorbitol, mannitol or xylitol that are known to increase gas, especially if you eat too much of them.
- Moods and emotions of the season. These can range from sheer excitement to depression to anxiety and overall stress about fitting it all in or dealing with people or places we are not comfortable with. This may mean less sleep, tension and/ or what people often refer to as ‘stress eating’.
What you can do if you feel bloated or have constipation:
- drink more water or lukewarm herbal tea
- get moving, even if just stretching or walking
- if you’re going to add in extra fibre, do so slowly and just a little if you are having constipation; best to leave increasing fibre up to your goals until after the constipation has subsided
- apples, pears and prunes have a natural laxative effect, making stool softer and easier to pass
- keep your usual routine whenever possible and plan for meals at home that are filled with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes. A little planning can help you prepare foods ahead of time. This means you’ll have nutritious options on hand either in the fridge or freezer for those meals at home between holiday gatherings. It also means you’ll be grabbing less store-bought convenience foods and will be throwing out less fresh food that you just didn’t get time (or motivation) to prepare.
- use your favorite ways to relax and unwind, to ease tension
- try a homemade spread to help relieve constipation. Some people also know this as Fruit Lax.
Fruit and Fibre Mix Recipe
1 cup prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 cup dates
1/2 cup figs
1 cup orange juice
2/3 cup prune juice
1 cup wheat bran (optional)
Combine prunes, raisins, dates and figs. Add orange juice and prune juice and let mixture soak overnight. Blend in blender. You may need to blend 1/4 to 1/2 of the mixture at a time depending on your blender. Add wheat bran if desired.
How to Use:
Start by including 1 Tbsp each day and increase as desired. Spread on toast or add to hot cereal or plain yogurt.
Can be kept up to 2 weeks in the fridge or can be frozen.
Source: Dietitians of Canada.Constipated? How to Prevent and Manage your Symptoms. In: Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition [PEN]. 2013 Sept 20 [cited 2018 Dec 26]. Available from: https://www.pennutrition.com. Access only by subscription.
My most important tip …
Learn from this feeling.
Now that we are [almost] on the other side of the holidays, let’s take a look at what happened. Try to put any emotions you have about eating to the side. And take a moment to listen to your body, check in with the discomforts, review some of the specific foods or triggers that led to you feeling how you do now.
Think of this as an experiment. Once you are able to understand what happened and what the consequences were, you can understand how or what you might want to change next time.
Ask yourself questions and try to answer them without judgement. Questions such as:
- how often did I eat past a feeling of comfortably full
- why did I choose to do that
- did I select the treats I wanted to eat (with purpose)
- or did I take a little of everything, moving from one to another, hardly tasting any of them
- did I eat/drink more around certain people or in certain situations
- do those people or places make me feel anxious, uncomfortable or other negative emotion
- how was my eating the same or different to other times of the year
Really try to use this exercise to look at the things behind your food choices. How many of the reasons were because you actually felt hunger?
This year I have been traveling during this holiday season and many of these things have applied to me too … you are not alone! My choice to indulge this season has left me with a sore tummy more than once.
I know that doing more sitting around visiting, having more coffee, grabbing more sweets and nibbling all day long were definitely factors for me. With this knowledge, I could make a plan for the next time I’m faced with a week [ok, a month] of celebrations in order to lessen the tummy trouble … if that was something that I wanted to work toward changing.
But I also know that I chose each food with purpose. I made a point of really tasted every bite along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed having foods that only come around once-a-year, savouring the tradition of them. And I did so without guilt or negative feelings.
Through having these moments of discomfort, of being reminded of how I feel when I eat foods that taste good but don’t nourish my body, I can appreciate how good my body feels when I feed it well. I can appreciate the ‘treat’ of these special foods when they aren’t part of my daily eating patterns. And I appreciate that although my eating has been ‘off track’ for a bit, I’m confident I can get back on track … because it makes my body feel good, not because I feel I should.
As we approach another New Year, it’s tempting to start a list of resolutions, to start fresh with our health. Have you learned a few things about your eating patterns this holiday season and want to make some changes? Let’s talk! Book your free call with me to start working on a strategy: Free Q&A call
Angela Hubbard is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) with 10 years experience working in the field of nutrition. Her work focuses on empowering people with young minds and aging bodies as they enter their retirement years and beyond. In her off time she loves swapping recipes, creating and exploring Northern BC life with her young family.