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Slow approach best for post-holiday dieting
By Zhang Qian

Throughout history, Chinese people have celebrated festivals and holidays by feasting. Spring Festival, the most important holiday in the country, is no exception. 

Pork, fish, beef, chicken, mutton, duck and wine… many families even today are keen to serve up as many foods as possible during the holiday, in hopes that a rich spread of dishes will augur well for the coming year. 

Despite growing concern about over-eating during the holidays, many indulged a little too much in hearty home-cooking and delicious restaurant food with family and friends. For this reason, gastrointestinal dysfunctions are quite common during and after the festival period. And many women especially become worried about holiday weight gain. 

As festival-feasters shift back into their normal routines, experts say slow changes in eating and dieting are best when it comes to getting back on track. Skipping meals, avoiding meat, and taking dieting pills are among the most popular tactics to shedding the holiday pounds. 

Yet for those experiencing digestive discomfort, such drastic steps may do more harm than good, according to Jiang Zaifeng, a registered Traditional Chinese Medicine physician based in Hong Kong. Consuming excessive amounts of food and drink can enlarge the stomach and increase gastric acid production.

Suddenly cutting back on food intake can leave the stomach lining vulnerable to this acid, causing peptic ulcers and other problems. Moreover, a sharp reduction in food consumption may also lead to hypoglycemia or constipation.

And diet pills containing cathartic ingredients, in most cases, will disrupt regular bowel movements if used over prolonged periods. “Rome was not built in a day. And diet adjustments will only benefit your health when adopted step by step,” says Jiang. 

“Rome was not built in a day. And diet adjustments will only benefit your health when adopted step by step,” says Jiang. As for changes in diet after the Spring Festival, Jiang offered some suggestions. Firstly, eat three meals at regular intervals and skip unnecessary snacks.

Gradually reduce the size of each meal, and stop eating when you are no longer hungry. Secondly, replace heavy festival fare with lighter, milder food. This means cutting back on foods featuring high amounts of protein and fat; adding more coarse grains like millet, oats, corn and beans as staple foods; and eating more vegetables and fruits.

The rich fibers in coarse grains and vegetables can help get rid of fat in the digestive system and help move bowels. But it is not advised to have only high-fiber foods at meal time, according to Jiang. “Too much insoluble coarse fiber in the digestive system may delay gastric emptying, and lead to discomfort like abdominal distension, indigestion and poor appetite,” says Jiang.

“And that may have a negative influence on your next meal.” Dr Jiang also advises people to eat slowly and chew carefully as this will help relieve strain on the digestive system, and help people leave the table before eating too much. Drinking more water or tea and doing exercise can help boost metabolism, while foods with herbal ingredients can also help relieve digestive problems while supporting diet adjustment after the festival. 




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