Need another reason to hate Mondays? Tight postweekend waistbands. Unless you spent the past 2 days living like a monk, the cocktails, movie snacks, and dinners out can all add up to one thing: belly bloat. (That kind of eating can do a number on your GI tract, too. Here are 5 ways to stay tummy trouble-free.)
“If you wake up bloated on Monday morning, your weekend food choices are likely to blame,” explains Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “In fact, overindulging for two days straight can easily cause a gain of three pounds. Fortunately, this weight gain is usually temporary and easy to get rid of in less than a week.”
Feel flat again by Friday with these 9 easy tips:
1. Season food differently
You may be attracted to your saltshaker, but water is too. When you take in higher-than-usual amounts of the salty stuff, you’ll temporarily retain more fluid, contributing to that sluggish feeling, a puffy appearance, and extra water weight. Avoid salt, overprocessed foods, and salt-based seasonings. Gans suggests you also ditch the frozen microwaveable meals while you’re de-bloating—they’re packed with sodium. Instead, she recommends a simple turkey sandwich or a salad with chicken for lunch this week. And eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are packed with water.
Add zest to your dinner recipes with fresh herbs and salt-free seasoning blends such as the Original and Italian Medley Mrs. Dash.
2. Trim down carbs
Stay away from heavy carbs such as bagels and pasta. When you decrease the carbs in your diet, you temporarily train your body to access stored carbohydrates called glycogen and burn them off, while also eliminating excess stored fluids.
Trim back on your daily carbs by having eggs for breakfast, making your sandwich open-faced with only one slice of bread, and packing protein-rich snacks such as turkey slices, low-fat string cheese, seeds, and nuts.
3. Switch your starch
If your belly bulges after a high-carb meal like pasta, complex carbohydrate-rich foods may be the cause of your bloat, says Jackie Wolf, MD, author of A Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach. Most starches, including potatoes, corn, pasta, and wheat, produce gas as they are broken down in the large intestine. Rice is the only starch that doesn’t cause gas, so have a ½-cup serving of brown rice (which has more fiber) if you want carbs with dinners.
4. Stop milking it
If you’ve ever felt gassy, crampy, or bloated after dairy, you may be one of 30 to 50 million Americans with lactose intolerance. This occurs in people whose bodies lacks the ability to break down and digest the sugar in milk, resulting in digestive issues like gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Try lower-lactose foods (such as hard cheese or yogurt) or lactose-free dairy products (such as rice milk and almond milk), or take a lactase enzyme to help break down lactose. Dr. Wolf recommends soy milk as a dairy alternative but warns that some people experience gas and bloating from soybeans as well.
5. Make food swaps
Wolf recommends you eat fruits that are kinder on your belly. Berries, grapes, and citrus contain a near-equal ratio of the sugars fructose and glucose, making them easier to digest than fruits with more fructose, such as honeydew, apples, and pears. You can also eat canned fruits in natural juice or small portions of dried fruit, such as raisins and dried plums.
6. Hold the hot sauce
If you love four-alarm food, lay off the Tabasco, barbecue sauce, and garlic for a few days while de-bloating. Spicy foods stimulate the release of stomach acid, causing irritation. Give dishes a flavor boost with in-season fresh or dried herbs such as dill, basil, mint, sage, tarragon, and rosemary. You can also use curry powder or lemon or lime juice—all perfect with fish or chicken. Also, steer clear of black pepper, nutmeg, cloves, chili powder, onions, mustard, horseradish, and acidic foods such as catsup, tomato sauce, and vinegar.
7. Ditch diet foods
Avoid low-calorie or low-carb products containing sugar alcohols, which go by the names xylitol or maltitol and cause gas, bloating, and worst—diarrhea. And don’t reach for a stick of gum when you’re trying to quell that sugar craving. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth by using a little maple syrup on your morning oatmeal or yogurt snack.
8. Get on the wagon
Steer clear of alcohol for the next few days to maximize your body’s belly-flattening capabilities. Alcohol causes dehydration and may slow your body’s ability to eliminate that excess weekend waste, so if you had a little too much to drink this weekend, start chugging the H20. It’s best to eliminate that occasional glass of wine, beer, or hard alcohol this week while you’re on a skinny jeans crusade—all are high-acid beverages that can irritate your GI tract and cause swelling.
9. Do some activity every day
A study from Spain's Autonomous University of Barcelona suggests that mild physical activity clears gas and alleviates bloating. That's because increasing your heart rate and breathing stimulates the natural contractions of the intestinal muscles, helping to prevent constipation and gas buildup by expediting digestion. Take a short walk after meals or pedal lightly on a bike at the gym to help relieve bloat.