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Re-framing 12 Common Diet Tips for Eating When You Have GI Troubles

Disclaimer: Briefly searching “diet tips” online is rather frightening. Please refrain from doing that, and if you feel you must, comment below so I can let you know which search results to actually look at and which to avoid.

However, there are some common dieting tips/suggestions that actually make good sense when you’re trying to eat more mindfully and perhaps manage a gastrointestinal or other health condition. Let’s take a look at 12 dieting tips I’ve re-framed with the goal not to lose weight, but to feel good after eating:

1. Choose a Low-carb/Low-fat/Low-protein Diet

Depending on your health condition, you may actually tolerate certain macronutrients better than others. That said, if fried chicken wings (fat) hurt your stomach, you don’t necessarily need to avoid avocados or nut butters (also fat). Pay attention to trends in which foods bother you and then create your own diet around your specific food triggers rather than trying to eliminate entire categories of food.

2. Measure Your Food

By all means, there is no reason to measure or weigh your food. It doesn’t really matter the exact amount of macro or micronutrients in your food, but sometimes (often) we overestimate a portion size. Eating too much at once is uncomfortable for just about everyone, but for those of us with GI issues, it can be downright painful. Try to be realistic about your serving sizes; you can always go back for more.

3. Stop When You’re 80% Full

This is some good mindfulness training for you. You don’t have to sit and calculate when you’re exactly 80% full, but being aware of your hunger and fullness before, during, and after meals can help you to not get overly hungry and over-eat or over-eat because you didn’t realize you were full, both potentially leading to excruciating pain afterwards.

4. Eliminate Sugar

Granted, you may be someone who cannot tolerate sugar. If that’s you, skip to number 5. Otherwise, have sugar in moderation just like everything else. If certain sweets bother you, choose other ones. However, don’t opt for artificial sweeteners or products made with sugar alcohols because they can lead to bloating, gas, cramps, and diarrhea. You likely don’t need any more of that!

5. Let the World Know You’re on a Diet

In reality, no one cares about your diet, but if there are certain foods you’re avoiding or allergic to, by all means let those around you know so you can avoid uncomfortable (or dangerous) situations in the future. It will also potentially ease some of the anxiety regarding parties, get-togethers, and other situations that involve food.

6. Fill up on Water

Water is great for just about everything, but drinking water instead of food isn’t going to nourish your body. Drink water to quench your thirst and to stay hydrated. It’s especially important to drink water when you consume large amounts of fiber or protein. Another great use for water: tea! When your stomach is hurting, many teas such as ginger, peppermint, and fennel can work wonders to alleviate that discomfort.

7. Keep Tempting Foods Out

Your pantry shouldn’t be devoid of all pleasurable foods, but it’s a good idea to keep foods you can’t tolerate out of the house so you don’t have to see them daily. If it’s there, you may just decide that today is the day that maybe you can tolerate that ice cream, but nope, if you really have a problem with a food, it’s not going to go away just because you want it to.

8. Eat from a Plate, Not The Bag

When you’re just reaching into a bag of chips or cookies, it’s easy to lose track of how much you were eating and it’s easy to eat past the point of fullness, leading to those uncomfortable feelings. When you put food on a plate (preferably at a table with no other distractions), you can be more attuned to what you’re eating and how it’s making you feel.

9. Put Your Fork Down Between Bites

Another mindful eating technique and one which you may not be able to practice all the time. By setting an intention to put your fork down more often, you can slow your pace of eating which allows you to eat more mindfully. Pus, eating too quickly can lead to trapped air which leads to bloating, abdominal discomfort, and gas.

10. Keep a Food Journal

If you still can’t figure out what your food triggers are, a food journal can be a great tool for discovering which foods or other stressors are causing your symptoms. In addition to the food and portion, pay attention to the time of day, where you ate, what you were feeling, your hunger/fullness, and how you felt afterwards.

11. Don’t Eat After 6PM

Some people with conditions such as reflux may find they can manage their symptoms better when they don’t eat past a certain time of night. If you determine you need to stop eating a few hours before you lay down to go to sleep, go for it. If you ate too much and now you want to go to bed, but your stomach is killing you, try stretching it out with a little yoga, taking a gentle walk around the house, or drinking herbal tea.

12. Eat Small, Frequent Meals

This is a good tip for anyone, but especially for those of us who can’t handle too much volume at once or who don’t feel hungry. If need be, set alarms to remind yourself to have a snack during the day, schedule lunch dates with friends, or cook dinner with your roommates. It can sometimes feel easier to just skip meals when you don’t feel well, but eating is important to maintain strength and to remind your gut you’re going to feed it no matter what.

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