It’s the holiday season! Whether you’re a fan of winter or summer, most can agree that this time of year is filled with joy and togetherness. The home is lively with friends and family, holiday movie marathons are unbeatable, and houses are covered in bright and colorful lights! And the food, well, it’s just as decked out and decadent as the rest of this season.
Holiday food is traditionally some of the yummiest food of the entire year and it can be hard to practice healthy eating habits with your favorite treats and meals at your fingertips. This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your wellbeing and health though. At its core, wellness is all about balance. You don’t have to deprive yourself or put foods you look forward to all year on the “no” list, you simply need to keep the ‘m’ word in mind, moderation. We are talking about enjoying your favorite foods and embracing the season of joy in a healthy way. Enjoying a scoop of mashed potatoes or eating a delicious homemade gingerbread cookie for dessert isn’t going to hurt you, especially if you look for awesome healthy recipes for your holiday favorites!
You can find amazing recipes for almost any treat that is healthier and fits your diet! Unfortunately, this helpful tip does not eliminate the other issue with this tasty holiday food, and that is the food coma. Just because the sugar cookies are gluten free doesn’t mean you can eat a ton of them in one go. The food coma is sometimes thought of as a myth or a mindset, but it is a real condition called postprandial somnolence. Before you let the scary name get you, let’s learn more about this food hangover, what causes it, and how to prevent it!
Postprandial somnolence is a condition that occurs when you eat too much in a short amount of time. The effects can last for several hours, leaving you drowsy and bloated and feeling heavy and tight.
There are several different theories for the cause of postprandial somnolence, the greatest being the fairly obvious: consumption of large meals that are high in fat or calories in a short period of time. The feeling of food in your belly might be enough to strap you to the couch, but there are other ideas as to why a food coma can hit hard.
The Tryptophan Slow Jam: Many dairy and meat products contain an amino acid called tryptophan. When mixed with carbs, tryptophan enters the brain where it produces serotonin. This neurotransmitter is responsible for decreasing arousal. The two together are also important in the production of melatonin, which prepares you for sleep. Thus, making you feel tired and sluggish.
Blood Shift: Some health experts also say that the food coma can be explained by a shift in the blood in the body from the brain to the digestive system. When a large meal is consumed, the digestive system needs all the help it can get, this is another possible cause for the symptoms of postprandial somnolence.
So, what about the solution then?
The first solution that might come to mind would be to hop on the couch and sleep the lethargic stage off for a couple hours. This is not a miracle cure, though, the sluggishness, tightness and bloating can remain, and the calories definitely will remain. So what then? How does one embrace and enjoy the holiday season without the physical symptoms of the food coma, or remorse?
Whether it’s one of these causes, or a mix or all of them, practicing healthy eating habits can keep you feeling your best! There are several methods to avoid the crash and they start with portion control and mindful eating.
Be Mindful: Have you ever worked through your lunch, typing away while you slammed your sandwich. Most of us have. And, what happens? As your mind is wrapped up in your work you don’t really enjoy your food or realize how much you have consumed, not a good combo. Practicing mindful eating will help you enjoy your meal and maintain healthy portions. The Japanese term ‘Hara Hachi Bu’ is the practice of eating until you are “80% full.” To achieve this more easily, the Blue Zones Project recommends eating slower, focusing on your food, and using a smaller plate. Eating until you are completely full typically means eating more than you truly need and quickly. Cutting off intake before you are 100% full can help you to avoid unnecessary calories and binge eating habits that leave you feeling sluggish.
Move It, Move It: As much as you might want to avoid this tactic at all costs after a slice of pumpkin pie, exercising is another great way to ward off that food coma! A short walk, some stretching or light activity, is just enough to get your heart pumping, helping to increase circulation and stimulation, and, not to mention, burn some calories too!
A Good Night’s Sleep: A nap on the couch doesn’t leave you feeling well rested and alive making it important to stick to a healthy and comprehensive sleep schedule. Practicing a routine for sleep not only helps with postprandial somnolence, but also helps you to engage and be energized throughout every other challenge of the day. Plus, sleeping right after a meal does not ensure the dishes get cleaned in a timely manner and we all know what happens when the dishes are not done…havoc.
Balance Macronutrients: Making sure you have a moderate and healthy intake of lean proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats can help you to ensure energy and wellness during this holiday season, and after it.
Pro Tip—Digestive Enzymes: Adding Enzymes to your meal can help to unlock the potential of the healthy macronutrients in your meal. These handy little helpers support your body when it assimilates and absorbs the food you consume. They help you avoid the lull after a normal meal, and avoid the food coma after a holiday meal! Many of the foods during this time of year have a lot to offer when it comes to nutrients, especially when you substitute healthy recipes, so take advantage of what your fuel has to offer.
The holiday season is meant to be a time of joy and gratefulness. It’s a time to enjoy your family, friends, blessings, and life! Don’t let unhealthy foods and unhealthy amounts of it keep you from enjoying all these things!
Live the New Earth Life
The #NewEarthLife is based on doing well while doing good, and what better way to fully appreciate all this good, then to be your best self while doing so. Let’s make the most of this holiday season, and be our best while entering into the New Year.