What do I want most after returning from a holiday? No, not delousing (I haven’t been to France recently) or hiring help to unpack my luggage and do the laundry (although that is very tempting). It is the unloading of a different kind, the gastrointestinal kind.
You know how it is. You are excited to try new foods in a new place. And before you know it, you’ve grazed through the entire street. But why do many of us get into this situation when ordinarily at home, we know when to stop saying, “can I get one of these, please?”
“The excitement of a holiday is often accompanied by a wave of indulgence and for many of us, that means one thing: Overeating,” said Dr Alexander Yip, the head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Alexandra Hospital. “There’s a curious tendency to throw caution to the wind when we’re away from home.”
I suspect another thinking is at play here: Many assume they can easily remedy the over-eating with a touch of abstinence or detox. From colon cleansing, juicing to simply eating lighter or skipping the next meal, that’s all it takes for anyone who has gone a little overboard overseas to disgorge the caloric guilt accumulated, doesn’t it?
THERE’S REALLY NO NEED TO DETOX
As bloated as you feel, there’s no need to detox when you get home, said the experts I spoke to. There is even no requirement to “eat significantly lighter than usual or skip meals”, said Dr Yip.
“These practices are often unnecessary and could even be counterproductive” as “most detox diets are not supported by scientific evidence and can sometimes be restrictive, leading to nutrient deficiencies”, he said.
Your body already does its own internal housekeeping via your liver and kidneys, Dr Yip explained. And no, these organs do not need your help to make them even more efficient in sieving out toxins. You are not a human air purifier that needs its filter cleaned from time to time (my words, not his).
TOO LATE. I’D ALREADY OVER-ATE AND ALMOST COULDN’T WALK THROUGH THE AIRPORT GATES
Don’t beat yourself up over it. “Holidays are our time to unwind, mark special occasions and make unforgettable memories,” said Dr Yip. “Sharing a meal with loved ones becomes a ritual of togetherness, often involving a little extra on our plates. It’s essential to remember that occasional over-eating during a holiday is normal and not necessarily a cause for concern.”
Moreover, “travelling exposes us to new flavours, local delicacies and exciting dishes we may never encounter back home,” said Dr Yip. And it’s easy to do what many Singaporeans do: You give in to your “kiasu tendency” and “over-eat to make the best of our time and money spent on travel”, said Michael.
Whatever you do, there’s no need to detox, skip a meal or eat plain porridge for the next few days, said the experts. As for what you should eat to get back into the groove again, refer to the My Healthy Plate’s concept, said Michael, for the appropriate serving sizes and the various food groups. If you have a medical condition or have questions, check with your doctor or dietitian.
HOW DO I PREVENT THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN?
Prevention is better than cure, said Wong – well, maybe not in those exact words. “Exercise astuteness from the start, instead of returning from a holiday to a strict regime that may be difficult to maintain,” she said.
On your next holiday, “choose slowly, eat slowly and go for smaller quantities of different varieties of food”, Wong said. “When we are having meals with friends or family, enjoy their company and take the time to interact with them instead of chewing or eating continuously. This can, in turn, reduce the quantity of food we eventually ingest.”
Moderation and balance are key to enjoying food during holidays, said Dr Yip. “Listen to your body’s hunger cues and try to maintain a reasonable portion size to help prevent excessive over-eating while still allowing you to enjoy the culinary delights of your destination.”