I don’t know about you, but I’ve been spending an awful lot of time lately thinking about potatoes.
Not just potatoes, but squash too, and casseroles, and thick hearty stews, and pie. I’m starting to think about my Great-Aunt’s gingerbread cake, and roasted turkey, and all those wonderful late Autumn, Holiday foods.
But I’m also thinking that I’d like to still be able to wear these jeans come Spring, and I know that all that rich food can wreak havoc on my digestive system.
So the question is: How do I find the balance?
Step One: Know Thyself
Some people have a weakness for sugar, others for fat, still others carbs. Some of us want all of that and more. But knowing where you’re likely to be tempted and being prepared can really help.
If you’re craving sugary treats, take a little bit of Gymnema before a meal or party to reduce that craving. If you want to go ahead and have dessert, take Cinnamon immediately afterward to help stabilize the potential sugar spike in your bloodstream.
If meat and fatty foods are your thing, Ginger and Turmeric both help us digest heavy foods and especially fats and oils. If you like spicy foods, hot sauce (cayenne) and black pepper can help as well.
For carbs (my beloved mashed potatoes!) and more baked goods than you’re used to, you can reduce bloating and sluggish digestion with Ginger and Fennel. Fennel is a specific for that awful, bloated, gassy feeling so familiar to many of us after a big meal.
And for everyone, as a general digestive tonic to keep things (ahem!) running smoothly, I must recommend Triphala. This balanced digestive formula from India has been used for centuries and is sage and effective for all sorts of digestive distress. When in doubt, take Triphala!
Step Two: Enough is Enough
Rather than gorging on empty calories, have just a little bit and enjoy it! Eat slowly, savor the treat! During this time of temptation, it’s especially important that your regular meals are nutrient-rich and easy on your digestion. Remember, the more satisfied you are with your food in general, the less likely you are to want to over-indulge. If you really struggle with eating more than you mean to, fill up before you go! A light meal of veggies and lean protein, or even a couple of glasses of water can fill up your stomach and make you less likely to over-eat. My personal favorite is to have a scoop of flax meal in warm water; the fiber fills me up and helps my digestion later on.
Step Three: De-Stress
Hey, let’s not beat around the bush: the holidays can be stressful. Stress can make us eat, and especially make us want to eat all those sweets and fats and carbs that we’re trying to avoid. So let’s find some ways to unwind.
A little quiet time: Ten or fifteen minutes, once or twice a day, find someplace you can be alone. Turn off your devices, make it clear that you’ll be unavailable to friends, family, & co-workers, and just BREATHE. If you can find somewhere beautiful, serene, soothing, great! If it has to be your bedroom closet, so be it. Breathe slowly and gently, with a slightly longer exhalation than inhalation, and let it all go…
A little extra exercise: Especially if you struggle with frustration or the blues, getting the blood pumping can really help. If you usually work out three times a week, see if you can manage four. It needs to be at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (you’re a bit out of breath but can still talk) to be fully effective. Working off that stress with exercise is a healthy, natural way to get your body to relax.
A little help from our (plant) friends: Lots of herbs can help with stress, and I think I’ve tried them all! But for stress and eating, hands-down my favorite herb for the job is Holy Basil. This lovely little plant, a relative of the basil in your pesto, has been shown to reduce the stress hormone Cortisol, which is a contributing factor in stubborn belly fat. Holy Basil, or Tulsi, as it is known in its native India, also helps stabilize blood sugar and boosts memory and concentration. I absolutely love this plant!
I love the holidays. I love the changing seasons, the traditions, the rich food, the roaring fire in the fireplace. But I don’t want stress and guilt to spoil my fun. These techniques help me get through the season without losing track of myself, hopefully they’ll do the same for you.