It’s happened to the best of us—you wind up so in love with a meal or food that you simply don’t want to stop eating and only do so when you feel like you’ll explode. Or you get too distracted and overeat because you didn’t realize how much food you were shoveling into your mouth until it’s after the fact.
And it’s never like you ate too many plates of steamed vegetables, right? Regardless of why or how you overeaten, no one throws back piles of simple carbs and sugar-filled treats and feels great afterward. It’s just not the fuel our bodies are designed to work with.
You can, however, mitigate the effects of an indulgent meal (or day…) by taking a few small steps that involve putting aside the past and focusing on optimizing the future.
Here’s an action plan to move on after a major food indulgence. We’re not giving you permission to go crazy, though; we just understand accidents happen and we’d rather you skip the self-loathing and go straight to doing some healthy damage control! And if you want to stop the problem before it starts, make sure you skip loading your plate with foods that make you hungrier!
Stop Once You’ve Realized You Overate
The number one rule is to not continue overeating. “It’s very common for people to think ‘I’ve ruined everything; might as well keep eating,’” says Cher Pastore, RDN, CDE. “This is the most important thing not to do. It’s much easier to manage your weight if you overeat at one meal or even one day than if you continue this cycle.” Pastore suggests thinking about calories like money. If you spend $1, you will be fine, but if you spend $100—over and over—you will be broke.
Mentally Move On
The best thing you can do after you overeat is to move on and not treat it like you’re scarred for life. “Instead of having the ‘I just blew it’ attitude, acknowledge your humanity and just try to eat better and less at the next meal by focusing on protein- and fiber-rich foods—and smaller portions,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN.
Take A Walk
If you know you’ve overdone it on the food front, take a 10-15 minute walk. “Not only can walking post meal give you some fresh air and work to help clear your mind, it can support healthy digestion and improve blood sugar levels,” says Zied. When you vegetate on the couch after a large meal, the glucose in your bloodstream will circulate longer; if you take a walk, that sugar starts to get used instead of being stored.
Change the Color of Your Plates
If you don’t own any smaller plates or bowls, Zied says there can be a great benefit in investing in some for future meals—especially when you anticipate being tempted to eat more than you should. A Journal of Consumer Research study has also shown that people tend to eat less if there is a higher contrast in colors between the plate and the food. So, if for example, you’re eating pasta with tomato sauce, you’ll likely eat less off of a blue plate than you would a red or white one.
Sip on an Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic
Nikki Ostrower, nutritionist and owner of NAO Wellness, suggests drinking a combination of one tablespoon of Braggs apple cider vinegar and one cup of water. “The apple cider vinegar aids in digestion and it’s a wonderful liver cleanser; it also contains beneficial probiotics that help to restore the gut.”
Try Peppermint Tea
Another step in doing damage control after you’ve overeaten is to pull out your essential oils or peppermint scented and flavored items. “I often tell my clients to mix two drops of peppermint oil in one glass of water to help their digestion,” says Ostrower. “You can also place one drop on your temples if you’re experiencing brain fog, headache, and fatigue.” Peppermint tea is also a great option. “Peppermint can help suppress appetite and control cravings,” says Pastore.
Plan Out Meals in Advance
Instead of obsessing about what is already in the past, Ostrower recommends being proactive. “Take a few minutes and plan out clean meals you can enjoy for the next few days. Then, you can create a shopping list and have fun in the kitchen.” You’ll want to focus on foods with lots of fresh produce and fiber. “Fat-burning soup is a great way to eat fewer calories without feeling deprived because it takes up a lot of space in the stomach and is satisfying—especially vegetable or other broth-based soups,” Pastore says.
Be Diligent Tomorrow
The next day after overeating, you should avoid processed foods altogether. “Processed foods are the easiest foods to overeat because they’re refined and require little work from the body to digest,” says Pastore. “They also tend to contain large amounts of sodium and sugar, which trick your brain into wanting to eat more.” So, instead of setting yourself up to fail again, just don’t go down that road in the first place—especially after just doing so!
Take A Cardio Class
If you can’t do this the same day as overeating, sign yourself up for a class first thing in the morning. Taking a spinning class, dance class, or any kind of body movement class that will help boost your feel-good endorphins while doing something positive for your body. “Let’s face it: After overeating, you’re feeling down in the dumps physically and emotionally, so it’s best to get lost in the music and sweat it out,” Ostrower says. And by taking a class, you’re not leaving the sweat session entirely up to your own motivation and willpower; you walk in and follow someone else’s lead, which will be a great one.
Being active is a good move but experts also recommend taking a moment to actively turn your focus inward—but in a positive way like through meditation. “Download a meditation app like HeadSpace,” says Ostrower. “By going within and getting quiet with yourself, it will help you to release the worry and fear associated with the guilt, remorse, and shame you may feel. It will also help to prevent future occurrences.”
Try Some Turmeric
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice that’s also antibacterial and full of antioxidants. “The compound curcumin can fight the inflammation caused by overeating, and turmeric also supports brain health,” says Ostrower, who suggests adding it to some hot water and lemon. You can also add it to your food preparations in the days to come to continuously help detox your body. It can be added to anything from smoothies to pancakes.
Hydrate With Water
When you’re full and bloated, the last thing you’ll feel like doing is adding more bulk with water—but that’s exactly what you need to do to help clear your system. “Drinking water will help flush out some of the sodium and will help increase your metabolism,” says Pastore.
Sip On a Spicy Lemonade Detox
Speaking of things you should sip: Ostrower recommends squeezing half of a lemon into one cup of water and adding a pinch of cayenne. “Lemon and cayenne have a cocktail of vitamins and minerals that help stimulate the liver in order to detox your body from any harmful substances like sugar and alcohol,” Ostrower says. She also notes that this combination is a powerful digestive aid and that it can soothe stomach ache, gas, bloating, and acid reflux.
Sweat it Out in an Infrared Sauna
Infrared saunas are all rage at the moment. Here’s how it works: Unlike a regular sauna, which heats the air, an infrared sauna heats your body directly and only 20 percent of the heat is heating the air. This means you’re not just sweating from heat—the heat is actually penetrating your skin. “It loosens up your lymph tissue where many toxins are stored,” explains Ostrower. “It then promotes sweating as if you’re taking a shower. Sweating is a wonderful way to purge toxins and burn calories.”
Take an Epsom Salt Bath
“Epsom salt contains magnesium, which is a mineral that most folks are deficient in,” says Ostrower. “Magnesium plays an important role in many of our bodily functions, one being helping our body eliminate toxins. It also helps to soothe muscles and pain, not to mention the salt helps to draw out impurities.” You can also load up on magnesium-rich foods, which will work to control blood sugar. Examples include dark leafy greens (like spinach), black beans, nuts (like almonds) and soy products (like edamame). Plus, that bath will help you destress, which is crucial to any long-term weight loss goal.