News, Culture & Society

How to fight the post-Christmas bloat

Tamara Duker Freuman, a New York-based nutritionist and author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer, explains the classic culprits of bloating, and why listening to your body – instead of trying fad diets – is the way to go

As ever, Cher summed up how many are feeling in a tweet today.

‘I’m sure I put on 500 lbs / In the last 2 days,’ the 72-year-old, hyper-fit performer declared. 

No matter how active or healthy you may be or feel, the tradition of Christmas – to pile up on stuffing, wine, eggnog, and morsels of candy round the clock – can derail that feeling entirely. 

Come December 26, it’s common to feel a sudden thud of guilt (not helped by the hangover) about indulging so readily, and a heavy feeling of indigestion.  

The good news is: it’s impossible to gain a significant amount of weight from one sitting.

So it’s not actual weight gain you’re feeling – it’s more likely just a bloating sensation; your body’s reaction to indulgence or something you’ve consumed. 

The downside is: bloating is a complicated thing, and what works for one person may not work for another.

It can be caused by stress, jet lag, sleeplessness, anxiety, food, drink, lack of exercise – the list goes on. For a minority, it may even be down to a medical condition. 

Enter Tamara Duker Freuman, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Bloated Belly Whisperer, whose newly-released book breaks down what fuels bloating and how to treat it. 

Freuman, a New York-based registered dietitian, spoke to to clarify the main misconceptions and offer some clear, helpful advice for our readers post-Christmas. 


Bloating is a catch-all term for a feeling of swelling and being full, often to the point of discomfort. 

There isn’t a technical definition of bloating, but more often than not it is caused by food or drink. 

When we consume substances, it is up to our digestive system to handle them, move them along, break them down, absorb useful bits, and discard the rest. 

Some things are easier to handle than others.

And it’s different for everyone. Some people’s nerves are more sensitive to sugars or fibers or certain proteins. 

Indeed, a 2016 study by Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science showed that some people’s guts are built to thrive off ice cream, while others should stick to plain rice or kale. 

It was a major advance in gut research showing those who prescribe to popular diets may not be meeting their gut’s individualized needs.  

But it’s near impossible to work out which camp you fall into – and why. Your gut bacteria is affected by everything – from how well you sleep to how often you have sex to what you eat to whether you were born via C-section or not. 


It can seem like a million-dollar question, sending scores of us on wild goose chases to find and try new supplements, fad diets, exercises, and probiotics. 

It’s something Freuman sees all the time. 

According to Freuman (pictured), there are two waves of high activity in her practice. The first is the weight loss group at the beginning of January, with scores of people feeling they overdid it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they want to make a fresh start. The second is at the end of January - with those suffering the consequences of a fad diet

According to Freuman (pictured), there are two waves of high activity in her practice. The first is the weight loss group at the beginning of January, with scores of people feeling they overdid it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they want to make a fresh start. The second is at the end of January – with those suffering the consequences of a fad diet


Freuman does not promote one-size-fits-all diets, but from experience she says that these are the places that seem to be tolerable for most of her patients:

SUSHI – thanks to its finely cut ingredients, good quality fish, fermented soy, and fewer of the typically gassy ingredients (garlic, broccoli) that you see in other cuisines

STEAKHOUSES – with plenty of simply cooked foods, low in garnishes and complex sauces

DINERS – because omelets can be dynamic, nutritious and well-tolerated 

‘If you don’t know what’s actually wrong then you fall victim to quick-fix supplements, products and probiotics and if you still feel bad it will feel like you’ve tried everything. It becomes despairing.’  

Usually, she says, it is more simple than you think. 

‘Probably 98 percent of the bloating I see if caused by one of the 10 things I describe in this book. For most, it can be treated fully and completely with diet,’ she explains. 

It could be alcohol, it could be over-indulgence, it could be sugars, it could be carbs, it could be a medical condition.

But most importantly, there is a very strong chance your bloating issues are not the same as your best friend’s or your favorite wellness star’s.  



According to Freuman, there are two waves of high activity in her practice. 

The first is the weight loss group at the beginning of January, with scores of people feeling they overdid it at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and they want to make a fresh start.

The second is at the end of January – with those suffering the consequences of a fad diet.

‘These are the people who adopted an extreme diet in January and after a couple of weeks feel really bloated and they don’t know why. Maybe they tried the Whole30 or keto or paleo. They thought they were doing the right thing, a good thing – why do they feel worse than when they were eating burgers and fries?’  


A ‘healthy’ diet of grains and leaves may not provide instant relief to everyone.

For many, a kale-quinoa salad is actually the perfect storm for bloating because it is so fibrous that it can make them gassy.  

‘Not everyone can eat salads. Some can eat salads but not kale. Some can, but only if it’s a small side salad,’ Freuman explains. 

‘The words “healthy” and “tolerable” are not the same. Healthy food is nutritious. That says nothing about what feels good in your body. 

‘What works for one person might not work for you – but there are plenty of healthy foods out there, you need to find the one that works for you.’ 


‘Saying “should I take a probiotic” is like asking “should I take a vitamin?” If you’ve got a B12 deficiency then vitamin D isn’t going to help you, is it?

‘For the general population, a probiotic is probably not going to be a quick fix. 

‘Your gut ecosystem is so incredibly large and complex. This idea that you could take one strain that a manufacturer was able to culture and somehow it’s going to magically transform your microbiome… there’s no evidence to support that.’


Above all, Freuman says, just listen to your body.

‘I think everyone will do better for themselves if we can step back from dietary dogmatism,’ she says. 

‘There’s not one right way for everybody to eat. We don’t all need to eat the same way. 

‘Let go of what other people are saying and respect the fact that certain foods feel good for you. 

‘What do you enjoy? And what feels good?’ 

  • THE BLOATED BELLY WHISPERER: See Results Within a Week and Tame Digestive Distress Once and For All (St. Martin’s Press) by Tamara Duker Freuman is available at bookstores everywhere as of December 24, 2018



Makes about 1½ cups 

This traditional Greek yogurt-based dip is often made with loads of garlic. 

My version uses the digestion-friendly green onions in its place, making the dip easier on those with acid reflux and suitable for those managing bloating with a low FODMAP diet. 

Use this tzatziki to accompany grilled meats, chicken or fish, or as a dip for broccoli steamed until soft. 

It is easy to grate the cucumber with a food processor.  


  1. ½ English hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded coarsely grated or finely chopped 
  2. 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt (you may substitute plain lactose free yogurt if lactose intolerant) 
  3. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  4. 2 tablespoons minced green tops (green part only) 
  5. Salt and freshly ground pepper 


  1. Place the grated cucumber in a strainer and squeeze to remove excess liquid
  2. Transfer the cucumber to a small bowl 
  3. Mix in the yogurt, olive oil, and scallions
  4. Season to taste with salt and a little pepper

(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate)


Serves four 

This comforting Mediterranean dish flavored with lemon and olives satisfies without fear of reflux from garlic. Thighs rather than breasts keep the chicken moist in its flavorful juices. 


  1. 1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  2. 1½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs, extra fat trimmed
  3. Salt and freshly ground pepper 
  4. ¼ red onion, finely chopped 
  5. ⅓ cup pitted Kalamata olives 
  6. 4 strips lemon peel, removed from lemon with vegetable peeler 
  7. 1½ teaspoons dried marjoram or oregano 
  8. ½ cup dry white wine 
  9. ½ cup chicken broth 
  10. 1 cup of ½-inch wide strips roasted red bell peppers, cut from drained jarred roasted red bell peppers (from 12 or 16 oz jar) 
  11. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 
  12. Green Onion Tzatziki (see recipe, optional) 
  13. Freshly cooked white basmati or jasmine rice or soft pita bread 


  1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. 
  2. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and a little pepper and add to the skillet. 
  3. Cook until white on the outside, about 4 minutes on each side. 
  4. Transfer the chicken to a plate. 
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion to the skillet and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. 
  6. Return the chicken and any juices to the skillet. 
  7. Add the olives, lemon peel strips, and 1 teaspoon of the marjoram or oregano. 
  8. Stir until the mixture is aromatic, about 2 minutes. 
  9. Add the wine and boil for 2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. 
  10. Add the chicken broth and pepper strips. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the chicken is tender and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°F, turning occasionally, about 30 minutes. 
  11. Uncover the skillet, add the lemon juice and remaining ½ teaspoons marjoram or oregano and boil to reduce the liquid only slightly, 1-2 minutes. 
  12. Season to taste with salt and a little pepper. 
  13. Spoon the chicken, sauce, olives and bell peppers onto plates. 
  14. Accompany with tzatziki, if desired, and rice or soft pita bread. 

Copyright © 2018 by Tamara Duker Freuman MS, RD, CDN in The Bloated Belly Whisperer and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press



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