Overindulged? 10 ways to get back on track
Partied a little too much last weekend? It happens to everyone. What not to do is let it set you on a self-sabotaging behavior path of more bad behavior. What to do? Follow our dietitian approved steps to getting back on track, with a bonus 3-day menu plan!
It’s the day after. The day after you ate, drank and were a little too merry. And by merry, I mean fully in denial of how many calories or cocktails your body can actually handle at one time. Whether you've had bariatric surgery, gastric balloon or are on medical weight loss plan, at times like this it can be tempting to crawl back into bed and surrender to a lifetime of elastic waistbands. But I’m here to tell you it’s never too late to turn things around. Here are 10 things you can do to help you bounce back (plus a 3-Day Back-On-Track Menu plan to get you there!).
- Let it go. Food can be very emotionally charged and even one occasion of overindulging may bring feelings of guilt, shame, or self-loathing to the surface. Acknowledge these emotions, even examine them for a little while if you wish, but don’t spend too much time dwelling on things that can’t be changed. We can’t alter the past, only make better choices going forward. Write down a simple goal you can realistically accomplish in the next 24 hours. Something pertaining to exercise, food choices or self-care is a good place to start. Be specific in your wording so you know exactly what you’re working on, and focus on positive language, not negative. “Today after breakfast I’m going to go for an hourlong walk at the park down the street” is way more motivating and realistic than saying “for the next 2 weeks I won’t eat anything bad for me.”
- Practice moderation. It’s tempting to go one of two ways after a day (or two or three) of eating with reckless abandon. On one hand, it may feel justifiable to continue throwing caution to the wind. As in, “I’ve already eaten half the plate of cookies, and the damage has been done, so why not just finish it off?” Sound familiar? On the other hand, it’s tempting to go the deprivation route and starve yourself all day to “make up” for overdoing it. The correct choice? Middle ground, reasonable choices, moderation. Remember these? Keep reading for some tips on how to get reacquainted.
- Make a plan. Spend a few minutes thinking about what you will eat and drink instead of what’s off limits only. Better yet, write it down. The goal is to stabilize blood sugars and rebalance an overworked digestive system. For the next 1-3 days choose foods lower in fat and sugar and high in intact fiber along with moderate amounts of lean protein. Veggie-packed soups or smoothies can be great choices since they also help hydrate the body and are easier to digest. Our 3-day recipe guide below takes the guesswork away.
- Tighten your belt. Or at least get out of those sweatpants. As tempting as it might be to spend the day after a binge in loose, stretchy clothes, studies suggest a more form-fitting outfit will inspire you to eat more mindfully the next day. Just avoid anything too tight or restrictive as this could aggravate heartburn and impede digestion. Think a favorite pair of jeans or pants with a button and a comfy shirt.
- Show temptation the door. Or the freezer. Or the garbage. Just don’t let tempting or trigger foods hang around longer than absolutely necessary. If you’ve hosted a party or holiday, send goody bags home with your guests. Save and wash plastic containers when you get take-out for an easy way to give away leftovers. Keep only what you know you will use up in moderation such as lean proteins, vegetables and whole-grain side dishes. Take it a step further and portion out your healthy leftovers into single-serving containers and freeze for future meals. If all else fails, throw things away. I know it’s really hard to do and if your upbringing was anything like mine, you’ve had the guilt of “wasting” food drilled into you. But forcing yourself to overeat offers no benefit whatsoever to the less fortunate in need of food.
- Replenish STAT. While restoring the body’s depleted stores as quickly as possible won’t negate or cancel out the overindulgence, it will help you feel more energetic and get you back on track more quickly. Rehydrating thirsty cells is a great place to start. Choose decaffeinated and unsweetened beverages such as water with lemon, sparkling water or freshly brewed tea. Take sips throughout the day and aim for about 64 ounces or more of hydrating fluids. Unless you’re truly dehydrated from multiple bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, resist the urge to drink electrolyte enriched beverages which usually come with a hefty dose of sugar. If you’ve overdone it on the cocktails, you should know that alcohol depletes folate, a B-vitamin necessary for many metabolic and nervous system processes, among other things. Include several servings of spinach, other green veggies and beans in your day to restore levels. Finally, be sure to get adequate shut-eye. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep. You’ll feel more energized and better equipped to make smart food choices, not to mention dealing with whatever else gets thrown your way.
- Don’t skip your workout. While it’s okay to reduce the intensity or choose a lower-impact activity, it’s not a good idea to forgo it completely. Breaking a little sweat may help reduce feelings of bloat and give you an endorphin inspired boost of post-workout energy. If a slower, gentler routine seems like a better fit, take a brisk walk or a yoga class to focus on breathing and stretching. If you’re looking to break more of a sweat, consider a cardio session and some weight training to really fire up the muscles. Anything is better than nothing!
- Skip the scale. While I’m normally a fan of regular weigh-ins to keep informed about changes in weight, there are certain times when stepping on a scale is just not a good idea. Immediately following excessive food, alcohol or both is definitely one of them. A few too many cocktails or meals high in salt, sugar and fat can cause bloating and fluid imbalances. Any increase (or decrease) in weight from the day or two before is almost certainly due to water retention or dehydration. If you’re an avid scale-watcher, seeing a higher number, even if you know it’s probably water weight, may encourage even more self-sabotaging behavior. Before you get on the scale you’ll want to see Tip #9.
- Banish bloat. Rings too tight? Face looking puffy? Pants suddenly won’t zip? If none of these things were issues yesterday then water retention and bloating due to gas may be to blame. Fluid balance is a complicated process involving many bodily systems, hormones, nutrients and even external factors such as exercise and medications. From a nutrition standpoint, the primary offenders are excessive amounts of sodium and sugar, the dehydrating and vitamin-depleting effects of alcohol and the diuretic impact of too much caffeine. Even mild dehydration combined with a gassy, overloaded digestive system can make for some uncomfortable bathroom visits. Or in some cases, none at all. In the absence of a serious medical condition, the body will eventually sort things out and fluids will rebalance. But if you prefer to fit into your pants sooner than later, you can help things along by drinking about half your weight in hydrating fluids per day. (For someone weighing 150 pounds this would be about 75 ounces or 9 cups). Water with lemon or cucumber and decaffeinated unsweetened tea are the best choices. To get things moving better in the bathroom choose foods high in "intact" natural fiber like dark leafy greens, beans, seeds and (truly) whole grains. Also include foods to replenish B vitamins and potassium such as low-fat dairy, bananas, avocados, walnuts and potatoes.
- Don’t feel the burn. Heartburn, reflux and indigestion….all ways to refer to the uncomfortable sensation of pressure or heat felt in the throat or chest. Sometimes accompanied by belching or hiccupping, these conditions can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous. If you suffer from any of these symptoms with regularity, it is best to consult with your doctor to determine if regular treatment and monitoring is required. However, if you only notice the discomfort on occasion, particularly on the heels of an overload, a few simple tips will help put out the fire quickly. Avoid carbonated and acidic foods and beverages along with spicy foods until symptoms subside. Stay away from alcohol (though that should be a given at this point), coffee, soda, tomato sauce, pepper and “hot” spices. For some, drinking a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar diluted in a cup of water before a meal can help with digestion and prevent worsening of symptoms. It’s also best to avoid anything else you notice that triggers your individual symptoms. Finally, plan to stop eating and drinking 2-3 hours before going to bed. Water is the only exception.
Arm yourself with these tips for bouncing back because, let’s face it, indulging a bit too much happens sometimes. But remember the best prevention is always moderation.
Your 3-Day Back-on-Track Food Plan
DAY 1 - BREAKFAST
Protein Berry Smoothie
Yield: 1 serving
½ cup plain lowfat Greek yogurt
½ cup low fat milk, water, or unsweetened almond milk
1 cup frozen berries
½ medium banana
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 tablespoon chia seeds or ground flaxseed
- Combine all ingredients in blender or bullet and process until very smooth. Add more liquid as needed to achieve desired consistency.
DAY 1 - LUNCH
Avocado Egg Salad
Yield: 1 serving
2 hard-boiled eggs
2 tsp low fat mayonnaise
2 Tbsp minced chives
- In a mixing bowl, mash eggs with a fork (may chop if desired). Add avocado, mayo, chives and mix to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Spread on cucumber slices.
DAY 1 - SNACK
- ¼ cup unsalted nuts, 1 cup apple slices
DAY 1 - DINNER
Black Bean and Lentil Soup Recipe
Yield: 6 servings (serving about 2 cups)
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 large celery stalks
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dried brown lentils
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes
Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large pot medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Drain the can of black beans and add to the pot along with dried lentils, chili powder, cumin, pepper. Finally add vegetable broth and diced tomatoes with juices and stir to combine.
- Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender.
- Add small amount of sea salt for taste.
- Serve with side salad of chopped cucumber and tomato topped with drizzle of olive oil and squeeze of fresh lemon.
DAY 2 - BREAKFAST
Yield: 1-2 servings
1 Tbs ground flaxseed mixed with 1 Tbs warm water
½ cup low fat cottage cheese
½ cup old fashioned oats (not instant)
1 tsp cinammon
½ cup fruit
- In a bowl, whisk together eggs and flax-water mixture. Add remaining ingredients and whisk to combine.
- Meanwhile, heat large skillet over medium heat and coat lightly with cooking spray or oil.
- Using small measuring cup or scoop, drop oats mixture onto hot pan. Cook until set, turning once. Optional: Top with ½ cup fruit and chopped nuts.
DAY 2 - LUNCH
- Leftover soup, 1 cup raw veggies or 1 piece of fruit
DAY 2 - SNACK
- Celery slices spread with 2 Tbs natural peanut or almond butter
DAY 2 - DINNER
Salmon with Mango Salsa
Yield: 4 servings
5 skinless salmon fillets (about 4 oz each)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ medium red onion
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
2 medium ripe mangos, peeled, diced
2 tbsp cilantro
3 tbsp lime juice
1 small cucumber, diced
1 cup avocado, diced
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush olive oil on salmon fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place fillets on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until salmon just flakes. Reserve 1 salmon fillet for tomorrow's lunch.
- In a medium bowl, combine onion, jalapeno, mangos, cilantro, lime juice, cucumber and avocado. Place salsa over remaining salmon fillets. Serve with a green side salad.
DAY 3 - BREAKFAST
Yield: 12 egg muffins
12 large eggs
1 cup Skim Plus or Skim Milk
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp minced chives or 1 tsp dried herb of choice
1 cup low-fat shredded cheese (optional)
Chopped vegetables (for example spinach, peppers, onions)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray standard muffin tray with non-stick spray. Beat eggs, milk and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Add cheese and chopped veggies and mix. Pour into 12 greased muffin cup tins. Bake in oven until set (15-20 minutes).
- Make sure to cool on a rack. After muffins are cooled, you may put them in freezer bags and keep in the freezer.
- Serve with 1 slice toasted whole-grain thin-sliced bread or 3/4 cup fresh berries.
DAY 3 - LUNCH
Yield: 1 serving
1 cooked skinned salmon fillet, about 1 cup flaked (from previous night’s dinner)
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1-2 Tbs. low fat mayo (just enough to moisten)
¼ cup diced bell pepper
¼ cup diced cucumber
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 1 Tbs fresh dill finely chopped, avocado or tomato slices, lettuce or spinach leaves
1 whole wheat pita, sliced halfway around
In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients from salmon through lemon juice. Mix with a fork to combine and season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. If using fresh dill, add and mix again. Spread salmon mixture inside pita and layer any optional additions on top. Serve with cucumber slices if desired.
DAY 3 - SNACK
- 1 cup raw veggies (cucumber, celery, carrots, peppers) with ¼ cup hummus
DAY 3 - DINNER
Strawberry, Feta, Spinach Salad with Grilled Chicken
Yield: 2 servings
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
1-6oz package fresh baby spinach
1 cups sliced strawberries
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup crumbled feta cheese or ¼ avocado, sliced
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp Honey
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp poppy seeds
- Spray 10-inch skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in skillet until chicken is browned, no longer pink in the center, and the juice has nearly evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken and let cool. Cut up chicken into cubes once cooled.
- Place the spinach in a bowl. Add chicken, strawberries, feta or avocado and chopped walnuts over the spinach. Divide salad between 2 dinner plates.
- In a blender or shaker bottle combine all dressing ingredients. Divide dressing evenly over 2 salads. Serve with half a baked sweet potato if desired.