Ep. #109: How to Reduce Bloating with Intuitive Eating

How to reduce bloating

First off, Happy Thanksgiving! I am personally so excited to watch the Macy’s Day Parade, especially since it wasn’t aired in Switzerland when we lived there. You can imagine me all cuddled up on the couch, along with my boys. (It’s a pre-recorded event this year due to Covid, but I’m still excited to watch!) And since it’s the holiday season again, I thought it might be the perfect time to talk about how to reduce bloating with intuitive eating!

If you’ve had a tendency to spend previous Thanksgivings feeling super stuffed, gross, or overfilled, this is a great episode for you!

Intuitive Eating Over the Holidays

You’ve seen jokes about Thanksgiving-based overeating on all the American sitcoms. (You’ve possibly even experienced the discomfort yourself!) And maybe you’ve strategically worn your best stretchy pants to the meal, or fallen asleep shortly after dinner…

Holidays can be tricky, especially if you’re new to intuitive eating!

If you’ve been practicing intuitive eating for a while now, you probably struggle less with holiday overeating than before. (I know I do!) I love leftovers, and enjoying a delicious slice of pumpkin pie for breakfast the next day is way better (to me!) then eating an uncomfortable amount of dinner and pie all in one sitting. But – breakfast wasn’t always something I allowed myself, which meant I “had” to eat as much as possible the day of any holiday.

And that’s can be a real temptation when you have a strong dieting mentality you’re still working through! Since overeating can be a major contributor to bloat, you could potentially be pretty bloated tomorrow if you give in to the holiday binge today!

Honestly, no matter what stage you’re in, you could potentially be bloated any day of the week. Over the holidays you may be consuming more unusual foods and drinks, and at different times. In addition, most women experience bloat at various times of the month naturally. So let’s talk about bloat!

Reduce Bloating with Intuitive Eating

A restrictive diet would give you a list of foods you “should” eat, and those to “avoid”. These rules will tell you that if you do this magical thing, it will make it all better. Basically, do everything right, don’t mess up, and you won’t get bloated. But our bodies are complex, and there is so much more to consider on this topic! (And of course all the “health” companies are going to start pushing commercials that will tell you to do a juice cleanse to detox from the holidays – you don’t need that!)

Your body can naturally detox on its own – that’s what the liver and kidneys are for! (Claire Chewning and I talk more about on last year’s holiday themed intuitive eating interview!)

So let’s get this straight: there is more to bloating (and reducing bloating) than controlling the food we eat/don’t eat. Here are a few practical things to consider!

Reframe Your “Bloat” Mindset

The first part thing we’re going to address is the mindset you need to have when you are bloated.

Often, bloating sets off our inner critic – she’s immediately telling you you’ve done everything wrong, asking why you let yourself eat so much, blaming you for not having the willpower to just say no to the dessert…

And on and on and on. (It’s your inner mean girl!)

When this starts to happen, just remind yourself that bloating is a natural part of life. It literally happens to EVERYONE. Just because you are bloated today does not mean that you are a bad person, or that you did anything wrong. This is a chance to listen to your body’s signals, rather than shaming or blaming her.

Now that we’re listening (without judging!), we can get practical. What can we do about being bloated in a loving, non-restrictive way? How can we reduce discomfort from bloating with intuitive eating principles?

Tip #1

The first practical thing I want you to do when you’re bloated is to wear clothes that are comfortable.

Nothing is worse than being bloated while wearing pants that are too tight. Plus, a tight waistband puts even more pressure on your digestive system, which is already working hard!

I suggest you either have a pair of pants in a size up, especially for bloated days (every woman should have these already for that time of the month)!, or have some stretchy pants on hand. Another fun option? A flowing dress!

Note: These can be CUTE clothes! They should be things you love to wear, and will be excited to wear! Having clothes that comfortably accommodate your body is not a “punishment” for getting bloated. (Judith Gaton and I take this concept even further in our episode about fashion for every body.)

One of my clients bought a pair of pants that she absolutely loves in a size up. When’s she’s bloated, now she has something to look forward to wearing that she can’t wear otherwise! How cool is that? 

Tip #2

Next, ask yourself” “What food and drink sounds good right now and would allow me to feel the way I want to feel?”

The WANT in this question is key. If you aren’t feeling great in your body, it’s easy to turn to foods that will keep you feeling that way. But reminding yourself that you have a choice to feel better can help you make a different decision.

Maybe that means a smoothie instead of a pastry, or eating breakfast a little later because you are still feeling full. (But not skipping it! You still need to eat!). Maybe that means oatmeal instead of cereal because the extra fiber might help your digestion. Maybe it means eating some protein, like eggs, will feel the best right now. Or maybe it’s increasing your water intake to flush out some of the salt you ate, or to rehydrate you after drinking too much alcohol.

It might mean drinking a little extra coffee because that helps your digestive system! Or adding more veggies and protein into the day if you ate more carb-heavy yesterday.

I don’t know what helps you feel better. Only you can know that, and it comes from listening to your body! I’m not going to tell you what to eat, but I would encourage you to take the time to ask your body what would make you feel good.

Tip #3

Next, think about movement. Is there a type of movement you could do at some point today that would help you feel better in your body? (Again, this is not about “punishment”! This is about loving your body and reducing bloat with intuitive eating principles.)

If you’re feeling really sluggish, maybe a walk or some light stretching would be best. If you feel like a good sweat would help, maybe try a higher intensity workout (that you would enjoy). And if you feel like you are bloated due to slowed digestion, maybe some twisting yoga postures might be helpful to you. The movement you do should NOT be punishment for feeling bloated! Remind yourself that your body loves to move, and you should respect that wish. 

Tip #4

Next I want you to think about your stress level.

Bloating is so often caused by stress…but everyone wants to blame it on the food! Is there anything causing you extra stress or anxiety at the moment? If so, what can you do to help ease that?

Bring out those self-care tools – journaling, meditation, breathing exercises, talking to someone. All these things can help ease your body and mind, which can help release whatever it is you are holding onto. (You can find TONS of self-care tips from my first 100 episodes in the self-care celebration episode!)

Tip #5

Think about your sleep habits in the last week or two. Have you had enough shut eye lately? Could it be that you simply need to go to bed super early tonight? Is there a way to fit in a long nap and restore your body? Allow yourself to do that if your body and mind need it!

(And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you have kids. As this airs, I’m home with a toddler and an infant. I’m guessing I’ll know all about lack of sleep! Even though I’m not in the ideal time of life for naps and restful nights….I’m going to do my best to get sleep when I can. No guilt here!)

When you sleep, your body releases hormones that help it repair and restore. And when you don’t sleep enough, your body and mood (and digestive system) really start to feel the impact!

Tip #6

Finally, do you have some favorite supplements that might help you through the bloat? Maybe a probiotic or a fiber supplement? Possibly some ginger or peppermint tea? I love to try tea first; I enjoy drinking it anyways, AND it’s extra hydrating. Two wins, and no downside!

Reflect on Your Body’s Signals

Throughout the day, keep checking in with yourself. See how you’re feeling, and try to take note of which things seemed to really help. That way you can start there next time as you work to reduce bloating with intuitive eating.

If I wake up bloated, the things that help me are to first throw on comfy and cute clothes. Then I’m intentional about adding more water to my day, plus more protein and veggies. (Because those things make me feel good!)

I also go out of my to schedule in time for whatever kind of movement I’m in the mood for, as well as some extra self-care, like journaling or meditation.

At the end the day, I like to wind down with herbal tea. Usually a day like that will reduce my bloating immediately (and gently). No juice cleansing or fasting required!!!

And a note for my intuitive eating newbies:

You might experience more bloating than you usually do when you first start intuitive eating. Usually this happens while your body is getting used to you eating a wider variety of foods. Don’t get discouraged, it will get better! (Or if it doesn’t, really try to take notice of which foods might be causing the bloat so you can reduce them out of love for your body). 

For anyone with extreme or continued bloating, please reach out to your doctor or a registered dietician. There might be something bigger going on, and they will be the best people to help you!

And for those of you that just get bloated every once in a while and want to feel better quicker, try these tips out and see how it goes! I hope you can reduce bloating with intuitive eating!

Have a happy Thanksgiving, and I’ll be back next week with a special guest!

PS – Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude! Last year I went in-depth on some of my favorite gratitude practices. You can check that episode out here!

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