So You Overindulged Over the 4th of July? Here’s How to Support Your Body Now

You just had a holiday that was one for the books, with one caveat: You parked it poolside with bottomless drink in hand, worked your way through bags (yes, plural) of popcorn and pretzels alongside said drinks, and had the works at a BBQ—burger, hot dogs, chips, ice cream, you name it. Translation: You woke up the day after the 4th of July feeling hungover, drained, and bloated, not to mention guilty for overindulging (whether or not we care to admit it, we’ve all been there). Your first instinct may be to make a beeline to the store to stock up on a juice cleanse, swear off anything “bad,” and sign up for a HIIT class pronto, but you don’t need to detox, no matter how much you think you “overindulged.”

Ahead, why it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing when it comes to your eating and drinking habits and tried-and-true ways to give your body some extra TLC after a weekend of excess. Spoiler: There’s no dieting in sight. 

If you feel guilty about “overindulging,” here’s why you shouldn’t:

Your body naturally detoxifies itself

It bears repeating: No matter what or how much you’ve noshed on or knocked back, a whole-body cleanse to eliminate “toxins” is not necessary. Why? The body has its own natural detox system and process and can repair itself from the occasional overindulgence. It processes and digests all of it: the countless helpings of BBQ fare you consumed, the one too many cocktails you imbibed, the number of s’mores or ice cream cones you lost count enjoying.

Your digestive tract, liver, kidneys, and skin all work together to make the body well-equipped to “detox” every day. Everything from the saliva in the mouth to the enzymes in the stomach is meant to break down toxins, digest food, get the nourishment it needs from that food, and then get rid of excess through your urine, stool, and sweat. A healthy body is built to identify, process, and eliminate substances that are either unnecessary or harmful all on its own (no extreme diet or cleanse required). 

A healthy, well-balanced diet also includes foods you love 

Eating “healthy” is confusing AF. Thanks to the conflicting food and nutrition information at our fingertips, there’s a lot of debate about what a “healthy diet” really means. That’s because a healthy diet is never one-size-fits-all; it looks different to every single person. But it boils down to this: following your body’s hunger cues and listening to cravings (that goes for your favorite foods too!) and making intuitive choices with whatever is available. In other words, if your body needs a burger with all the trimmings, honor it. And when you do, it doesn’t mean you’ve “fallen off the wagon” or “cheated.” A healthy diet includes foods that bring you joy and celebrate special occasions without judgment (that in itself is cause for celebration!). There’s room for all foods—including indulgences—in a healthy diet.

“The body is meant to process and digest all of it: the countless helpings of BBQ fare, one too many cocktails, s’mores or ice cream cones…”

Restrictions can lead to unhealthy behaviors 

Post-indulgence remorse can be a b*tch and leave you feeling like you have to punish yourself for your “bad” decisions—whether it be a sweat-drenching workout or limiting yourself to what you can and can’t eat. But depriving yourself of certain foods or food groups can backfire and result in disordered eating, like binge-eating, skipping meals, or fasting—all of which can do a number on not only your mental health, but also your physical well-being (think: metabolism and hormones). Food is not the enemy, but rather a source of nutrients and energy to fuel our bodies to do the things we love to do. Instead of restricting foods and suppressing cravings, listen to your body’s hunger and satiety signals, eat nourishing foods whenever you’re hungry, and savor the less nutrient-dense provisions (read: the chips, ice cream, booze) shame and guilt-free. 

Joy is a key nutrient 

Nutrition is more than just fueling your body with what’s on your plate. While food is at the forefront of nurturing our bodies, the people we spend our time with, the activities we engage in, and the content we take in (i.e. social media, the news, shows) also feed us. Just like we need protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, and minerals to function optimally, we need joy for our overall health and wellness. We often put so much time, thought, and energy into what we eat (or shouldn’t), but we’re missing a key piece of the puzzle: that joy nutrient is just as important as protein and fiber. And sometimes, joy looks like an ice cream cone on a summer day, a burger at a family barbecue, or spicy margaritas by the pool with your besties. You’re still nourishing yourself, even if it’s not nutritionally.

“Sometimes joy looks like an ice cream cone on a summer day or spicy margaritas by the pool with your besties. You’re still nourishing yourself, even if it’s not nutritionally.”

Instead of dieting, here’s how to support your body RN:

Do gentle, twisting movements

Despite what diet culture tells you, a grueling workout is not going to cancel out or make up for what you ate last night or over the course of a long weekend, nor does it need to. Resist the urge to try to “erase” or burn off the calories you’ve ingested by overdoing it in the exercise department. Instead, try sitting or lying on the floor for some simple twisting motions for an effective way to debloat, like seated half spinal stretch, mermaid side stretch, or supine spinal twist. Many of the organs we use to digest food are in the abdomen (think: the small and large intestines), and twisting stretches can support their function, helping move things along the intestinal tract and release tension and excess gas.

Take a cold shower

As unpleasant as this may sound, hear me out: Turning the cold dial up can help lower inflammation, give you a boost of energy (bye, sluggishness), and improve your sense of well-being. Immersing yourself in cold water also causes your lymph vessels to contract, triggering your lymphatic system to pump lymphatic fluid throughout your body and flushing waste out. Go about your regular hot shower, or consider starting with lukewarm water, then try slowly decreasing the temperature to end your session with cold water. Start with short durations (about 30 seconds), making the temperature as cold as you can tolerate, and gradually increase to two to five minutes as you become more accustomed.

Try a lymphatic drainage massage

Speaking of your lymphatic system, you can lend it a helping hand further (literally) by getting a professional lymphatic drainage massage or DIY-ing it at home. “Lymphatic drainage massages can help get rid of excess fluid in the body,” Karena Wu, PT, DPT, the owner and clinical director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, told Women’s Health. The technique targets anywhere where there’s excessive edema (swelling) by manipulating specific areas of your body to encourage the drainage of lymphatic fluid toward the lymph nodes where it’s filtered and fed back into the bloodstream. By helping reduce any swelling, bloating, or fluid retention that’s stopping your body from performing and feeling its best, lymphatic drainage plays an important role in supporting the body’s detoxification system. To learn everything you need to try lymphatic drainage at home, check out this how-to guide.

Keep the hydration coming

Your reusable water bottle will always be the “it” wellness accessory to have on you at all times. After all, staying hydrated is essential for our skin, digestion, hormone balance, sleep quality, and mood. If you’ve been sipping on aperitifs and munching on sodium-laden snacks all weekend, you’re especially going to want to listen up. Aside from keeping your water tumbler on hand, reach for water-rich foods (think: cucumber, lettuce, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, and strawberries), add electrolytes to your H2O to replenish essential minerals, and counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol intake by increasing your water consumption. And while you’re at it, give your hydration goals (and digestive system) a leg up by swapping your morning cup of joe with a tall glass of warm lemon water. 

Soak in Epsom salt

Epsom salt (or magnesium sulfate) supports the body’s natural detoxification process, helping the body get rid of toxins and fluid retention when its absorbed through the skin. “Epsom salt is a great detoxifier,” Julie Williams, a medical herbalist and founder of Leaf People, told Real Simple. “It helps clear the body by removing various types of stagnation by promoting lymphatic flow. When your lymphatic fluid is flowing, then you retain less water.” The Epsom Salt Council recommends pouring 1-2 cups of Epsom salt into a bath with warm water and soaking in it for at least 10 minutes to reap the potential benefits. Don’t have a bathtub or taking baths not your thing? Use a magnesium spray or oil you can massage into your skin topically; it can bypass the digestive system, and therefore, be directly absorbed into the bloodstream by the lower layer of skin. 



Fill your plate with veggies 

Rather than harping on what not to eat, focus on what you can add to your plate and eating habits. Vegetables like dark leafy greens provide high-fiber content that gives your gut a healthy boost. They’re also rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals to aid your body in reducing inflammation. On the other hand, the sugary and fatty munchies you’ve been snacking on the past few days lack the fiber and protein that keep your blood sugar levels stabilized and your hunger at bay. The good news? You can get your fill of veggies by incorporating them into each meal. Get creative by sneaking them into omelets, veggie sauces, and baked goods, blending ’em into smoothies, or making a rice or pizza crust out of them. The world is your zucchini/cauliflower/sweet potato!

Catch up on rest 

If there’s ever a good excuse to take a catnap, it’s after a long weekend of indulgences when you’ve likely skimped on sleep. Insufficient sleep can influence your taste buds and increase cravings for unhealthy foods. But when you get solid shut-eye, your body gets to work to reset itself. “So many different processes happen while we sleep that keep us healthy (rest, recovery, repair, rejuvenation),” explained Dr. Whitney Roban, PhD, a sleep specialist and founder of Solve Our Sleep. “Your brain and body release toxins which lead to stronger brain health and overall physical health, your body restores energy, and the muscles and cells in your body repair and grow.” If your body is nudging you to get some Zzzs, do yourself a favor and have an afternoon siesta and aim for a solid 7-9 hours of sleep at night. 

Be kind to yourself

You might have felt carefree as you indulged poolside (and you should!), but now you may be feeling bleh and stressed and guilty after overeating. But there’s no good in berating yourself for the food coma you’re experiencing. Stress can impede proper digestion, robbing you of nutrients that aid in detoxification, and it’s also linked to changes in gut bacteria. That is to say, stress and guilt will do more harm to your body than the hot dog and slice of pie could ever do, so show yourself compassion if you’re feeling the regret creep in. Try to let any negativity around your food choices go, and do what works for you to reframe your mindset and move forward. Maybe that looks like resuming your routine of meal prepping and scheduling your workouts for the week, DIY-ing a lymphatic drainage massage, practicing affirmations, or doing breathing exercises. At the end of the day, our thoughts, which affect our feelings, behaviors, and choices, are the only thing that need a helping hand in detoxing. 

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