You and I both know how indulgent time the holidays can be. I get more complaints of bloating and indigestion from my clients after the holidays caused by the sheer amount of food that seems to follow us around. What can we do?
In this blog post, I will share my top strategies inspired by Ayurveda, Yoga, and otherwise, to help you get through the holidays and hopefully avoid the belly blahs in the first place.
Strong Agni for Strong Digestion and Detoxification
In Ayurveda, strong digestion, or Agni, is thought of as a fire burning in our digestive system. This fire is important because it is responsible for breaking down our food into the nutrients that we will eventually absorb and assimilate into our bodies. These nutrients support our bodily tissues, our mind, and our ability to resist disease (Ojas). It also helps us detoxify by burning up the metabolic waste, or Ama, that can otherwise wreak havoc and cause disease if left unchecked. A strong digestion needs to burn strongly so it can do its job. If it doesn’t, it can’t.
Like any fire, Agni requires tending. It needs to be fed, but not too much, or it will be smothered and burn too low and slow. There are times when it needs fuel and times when it doesn’t. It needs to be hot, but not too hot. If too hot, we can get burned. Our Agni never stops working for us so we always tend a little flame and never let it go out completely. It is also the eternal flame that lives not just in our gut but also in our spirit, it illuminates the mind, and keeps us strong (disease-free). Tending your Agni can be a practice as it takes time to get to know it and how to feed it properly.
Healthy Digestion Is More Than What You Eat
Healthy digestion depends on not just the quality of the foods you eat but also how you eat them. Other than good food choices, the best way to tend the fire of your Agni is to use good eating habits. You can eat high-quality foods but if you eat too much of them or too late at night you might not feel that great. Even if you don’t feel anything, Ama is being created regardless. When Agni is unhappy, most likely you may be making more Ama.
Overeating Causes Indigestion & Inflammation
The main problem for our Agni during the holidays is that we tend to overindulge. Overeating severely impairs the Agni’s ability to digest our food well and get rid of toxins. Then, we experience more indigestion, discomfort, and the accumulation of Ama, which can set the stage for inflammation and disease.
This seasonal overeating seems like an accepted cultural norm that leaves so many people feeling pretty blah. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to avoid that you can put good eating habits into place even when we may not make the best food choices.
Tip #1 Eat before special events or meals. Don’t go hungry because this may cause you to overeat. Even if it’s just a snack, make sure there’s something in your belly especially if the event starts with cocktails.
Tip #2 Drink lightly before and during meals. Too much sipping before we eat can cause our digestion to get overwhelmed and not handle food too well. The same goes for eating during meals. You can put out our digestive fire this way. Opt for something warm and soothing to drink like hot apple cider.
Tip #3 Have alcoholic drinks with food whenever possible, not on an empty stomach. This tip comes from my time in Europe when a glass of wine was always accompanied by a little dish or snack. The alcohol will go “straight to your head” and you may feel too tipsy too soon.
Tip #4 Use the smallest plate you can find. You’ll get a more reasonable portion this way. I always opt for the appetizer or salad plate at the buffet to ensure I don’t take too much food. Dinner plates these days are super-sized, especially for holidays and it’s way more than our stomachs can handle.
Tip #5 Eat until you’re nearly full. You’re most likely already full at this point. It might be painful to go past this point. Remember it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full. 20 minutes!
Tip #6 Eat something sweet first if it’s an option. This is a fun piece of Ayurvedic advice. Getting a little sweet taste first can help you feel more content and you may not indulge as much in the following courses.
Tip #7 Skip the dessert course or take it to go (I know this is a hard one). Just assume you’re already probably full by the time the dessert course comes so just opt to take it with you. It’s better that you digest your meal first before you take on more food. Now you have a little snack for later!
Tip #8 It’s okay to say no (thank you). Your best defense against overeating and indigestion is simply saying no, which is an act of kindness to yourself.
Listen to the full podcast, coming soon.
What Does Yoga Have To Say About Overeating?
In Yogic philosophy, overeating is seen as a hurtful act. Sometimes framing good eating habits with the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence, can be helpful because it reminds us that when we overeat we can make ourselves uncomfortable or even cause pain. Remember that when you say no to avoid harm you can pat yourself on the back for practicing yoga. Kudos!
These tips are not just for healthy digestion for the holidays, they call for a compassionate approach to food so we get only as much as we need and no more because it can be a waste and hurtful.
Get Her Well Being’s Happy Belly Guide For More Ayurvedic Tips
Happy Belly is my new digestive wellness program coming in January 2024. When you sign up for the waitlist, you’ll get my Happy Belly Guide: The Don’ts so you can keep working with these and more tips in time for the holiday season.
Plus, you’ll get discounts for the Happy Belly program and a Power Hour with me to personalize your approach.
Those who sign up for Happy Belly will also get the Happy Belly Guide: The Do’s, 6 weeks of practitioner guidance, the Happy Belly webinar, Q&A sessions, and so much more 🙂
Heather R. Burkart
Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner
Founder, Her Well Being Ayurveda & Yoga
Please be advised that the content on this website is for education and information purposes only and does not replace advice from a medical professional.