Nothing brings out an attitude of gratitude like Thanksgiving. But it’s hard to be thankful for how our bodies react to eating all the things—leaving us bloated, sluggish, and with a digestion system that’s completely out of whack. From yoga poses to meal spacing, we have four tried-and-true ways to calm your hunger hormones, get your digestive system and metabolism going, and help you feel your best.
1. Water with lemon, ginger, or cucumber
To beat bloat, heat a mug of water first thing in the a.m. Add a little lemon and ginger root. Keep up the H20 intake throughout the day, but, after that first cup, make it room temperature rather than hot or cold. (Ice slows down digestion, which can leave you feeling even more bloated.)
If you get tired of plain water, go for flavor: slice up lemon and cucumber. Remember how Mom used to put cucumbers on her lids to help with under-eye bags? Well, she was right; there’s something to it. Cucumbers have vitamin C, caffeic acid (an antioxidant), and potassium. But most importantly for bloat? They have silica, a natural diuretic that helps calm puffiness.
Staying hydrated is also helpful to your hormones. Dehydration increases stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine, which can contribute to weight gain (and other symptoms) over time.
2. Chew more times per bite
Okay, so we’ve all scarfed down food before. (Especially when work’s crazy or small kids are running around.) But aim to slow down—both at the Thanksgiving table and the next day. Racing through eating means you’re taking in extra air, a surefire way to get a distended feeling in your belly.
Because digestion starts in your mouth, aim to chew mindfully. It helps ward off extra gas and burps. It also breaks down the enzymes in food, so your digestive track isn’t stuck doing all the work. Plus, increasing the number of times you chew per bite influences satiety hormones. You’ll feel fuller faster and eat less.
3. Fit in a walk or yoga
It’s no secret working out can get your digestion system moving. According to Manhattan Gastroenterology, exercise treats constipation and promotes healthy digestion. Getting some light physical activity on turkey day is a great idea. Go for a walk (it’s a perfect way to catch up with visitors or get some time alone). Also, work a little yoga into your day—especially postures that stimulate digestion. Here are two you can do at home.
Apanasana translates to wind-relieving pose. (Need we say more?) Recline onto your back, so you’re stretched out on the floor or mat. Draw both knees into the chest, and wrap your arms around your legs, holding around the front of the shins. (If you have knee problems, bring the hands to the back of the thighs instead.) Keeping the right knee into the chest, release the left foot to the floor and straighten the leg, so it’s resting on the mat. Hold for five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
If you have hypothyroidism and no neck issues, add some gentle thyroid stimulation to this posture. Once you are fully in the posture, lift the back of the head off the floor slightly. Keep the chin slightly tucked into the chest, so your nose points toward the ceiling.
To get into janu sirshasana, sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Bend the right knee. Let the right knee fall open the side, and bring the sole of the foot to the inside of the left thigh. Inhale the arms overhead and gently fold forward over the extended leg. Bring the hands to the outside of the calf or all the way to the foot—whatever allows you to feel a gentle stretch but is still comfortable.
Pregnant? Don’t fold all the way forward over the extended leg; leave room for your belly. Reach with the left arm toward the left foot. Let the right arm extend in the air alongside the ear. Repeat on the other side.
4. Skip snacks but not meals
Fasting isn’t always so great for hormones, and it can also backfire in another way: becoming hangry. Along with making us downright angry, over-hungry usually means we overeat. Why? In an effort to fill our bellies fast, we miss cues that tell us we’re full. Our bodies need time to produce and recognize leptin, the satiety hormone. So, aim for small, light, healthy meals leading up to your Thanksgiving feast—and the day after. Don’t let yourself get too hungry, but skip the snacks if you can. Putting three to four hours between meals gives your body time to digest, which will help you feel better.