If you're reading this article right now, chances are you recently finished an enormous meal and you're feeling some intense physical discomfort. When you overeat, you may feel bloated and lethargic; you could even experience abdominal pain and cramping. No matter what symptoms may accompany feeling stuffed, this discomfort can put a damper on the rest of your day.
Of course, it's always easy to overeat when you've got a pile of delicious food in front of you—especially during food-centric holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. And while overeating like this is a super common experience and nothing to feel shame about whatsoever, it can often feel frustrating when that physical pain takes over and you start to regret that last bite of turkey or extra cookie you ate even when you knew you were already full.
If you've found yourself in a post-feast slump, there are healthy ways you can do some damage control and get back to feeling good for the rest of your weekend. To find out the best ways to do this, we consulted dietitians for advice.
Read on for eight dietitian-recommended tips to help you feel better after eating too much, and for more healthy eating tips, check out the 29 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Focus on fiber the next day.
There's nothing wrong with eating a bit too much of a meal you love, but overdoing it on certain foods can sometimes lead to constipation or stomach discomfort, especially if these foods are low in fiber. If you find yourself feeling uncomfortably full and bloated after overeating, you may want to consider eating some extra fiber the next day.
"Insoluble fiber adds bulk to the stool, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD. "After a big day of eating, adding more fiber (and water) to your day can get things moving through your system and help decrease additional bloating."
Get back on track with some vegetables.
According to Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT, and Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT, also known as The Nutrition Twins, eating some antioxidant-rich, fiber-packed greens in your next meal can help get your body back to feeling better.
"Fiber from the greens helps push waste and toxins out of the colon, helping to keep you regular so you can quickly spring back and feel lighter," the Nutrition Twins claim. "And the antioxidants in the green vegetables counteract some damage created from overindulging in inflammatory sugary, fatty, and highly-processed foods."
Start the next morning with a balanced breakfast.
One of the things you can do the day after you go a little overboard with eating is to make sure you're starting your day off with a healthy, balanced breakfast.
"The day after overeating, start with a protein and fiber-rich breakfast to get your blood sugar going in the right direction," says Goodson. "Eggs and oatmeal or whole grain toast with peanut butter and a side of Greek yogurt are great options. This will help with feeling better throughout the day."
Skip the Friday leftovers.
This one is specifically for those who overate during their Thanksgiving meal.
For some, half the fun of a holiday meal is seeing what they can throw together with the leftovers the next day. Perhaps a turkey and cranberry sandwich, a turkey salad, or a casserole using a mish-mash of the remaining food. While it can be nice to extend the holiday meal over the entire weekend, Goodson recommends giving yourself a break on Friday.
"While it's tempting to keep the Thanksgiving goodie goodness going, skip the leftovers on Friday and fill up on high-fiber, high-protein whole foods to help you feel better," she says. "Then, if you want to enjoy some leftovers, do it on Saturday in moderation."
This way, you're giving your body a break and can help keep everything moving by making sure there's enough fiber and protein in your system.
Cut back on the booze.
For those who love wine, beer, or a delicious cocktail, we understand that the perfect beverage to accompany your meal can be just as exciting as the food itself. We are certainly not here to say that you need to skip your favorite drink. But if you're worried about overdoing it on food and drinks, and then feeling the discomfort afterward, Goodson recommends monitoring your alcohol consumption when you can.
It can be all too tempting to keep enjoying the alcohol throughout the evening, especially if you're at a dinner party or celebrating a holiday, but the truth is, it just adds calories and might make you feel more bloated and lethargic the next day," she says. "Focus on water and other low-calorie beverages to hydrate."
As with any of these tips on our list, it's all about balance. Treat yourself to that glass of red wine, but check in with yourself throughout the night and if you're feeling uncomfortable full, it may be time to focus on water.
Go for a walk after your big meal.
One of the best things you can do for yourself to provide more immediate relief after eating too much and feeling overly full is to go for a walk after your meal.
"The walk will help clear your mind. And if you break a sweat, you can secrete some chemicals and small amounts of salt while also increasing blood flow to the brain," say the Nutrition Twins. "You'll burn a few extra calories while you're at it too, which will help to offset some of the extra calories you may have consumed."
If you're not in the mood for a walk, Goodson has some alternative suggestions for moving your body after a heavy meal.
"You can start a friendly game of football in the backyard with family," Goodson suggests. "Or if that doesn't work, maybe hit the gym the next morning, or park at the back of all the parking lots when you head out to run errands."
Keep your weekend exercise on the schedule.
This one isn't necessary, but if you have the time and energy to get moving, dietitians recommend sticking to your workout routine after a big meal. So if you overeat during your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, for example, find some ways to move around over the following couple of days.
"Taking a walk after a big meal is great, but the next day, get that heart rate up," says Goodson. "A little sweat at the gym or morning jog can help you shake off that bloated, sluggish feeling."
Again, this isn't something you have to do, and if your body needs to rest during the holiday season, by all means, enjoy yourself and don't worry about needing to meet any goals. But if you're feeling the physical discomfort after a big meal, "Some weekend exercise and hydration can help you feel better," says Goodson.
Make sure you're hydrating.
Eating foods higher in sodium "can contribute to feeling 'puffy' or bloated the next day," according to Goodson. That is why Goodson stresses the importance of making sure you stay hydrated before and after a big meal.
"One thing you can do is hydrate throughout the day with water infusions, like this Apple Cider Vinegar Lemon "Detox" Drink or this Cranberry Orange Ginger "Detox" Water," say The Nutrition Twins. "The fluid will help to restore normal hydration status as it flushes out the excess sodium, sugar, and water that's retained with them, alleviating bloat and heaviness."
A previous version of this story was originally published on November 24, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, as well as updated contextual links.