We've written a lot about how to get rid of bloating here on Byrdie. We've written about teas, spices, and essential oil recipes promised to flatten your belly within hours; we've written about drinks that cause an influx of gas and foods to avoid if you don't want excess bubbles trapped in your guts. We've covered it all, and that's for two simple reasons: We all deal with bloating, and it totally sucks.
But recently, I noticed there was one category of de-bloating advice missing from Byrdie's catalog: How to mentally deal with feeling puffy and gross, instead of how to physically deal. Because here's the thing: Yes, drinking ginger tea, avoiding soda, and slathering black pepper oil all over your body might help you get rid of excess gas and water, but sometimes, for whatever reason, these methods don't do the trick, and then you loathe yourself even more because you've tried your darndest to detox and still feel like a hot-air balloon. I know I've had experiences of feeling so swollen after a couple days of too much drinking and inflammatory foods that I feel completely out of control of my body, that everyone thinks I look like a Pacific sea mammal, and that I need to just stay in my house, drink lemon water, and not eat for a week.
But that, as our rational brains might tell us, is not healthy. "De-bloating" overnight is not realistic, and nobody ever notices you're bloated except you. With a condition like bloating, it's important to put your body into perspective, not into overnight detox. That's why I've found that adjusting my mental perception of my shape when I'm bloated puts me significantly more at ease than engaging in some sort of physical quick fix. So in the name of being decent to your body (and mind), here are five steps to take when you feel ickier than usual that don't involve dieting, detoxing, or hating yourself.
1. Don't weigh yourself
In the past, I've tried weighing myself while bloated to "assess the damage"—but nutritionists unanimously agree this is a poor choice. "So many women have a complicated relationship with the scale, and part of that is because it is complex," certified nutritionist Dana James told us last year, adding that more often than not weighing ourselves does nothing but wreck our self-esteem. Not to mention, because the scale just tells you a single number and no details about where that number is coming from (for example, maybe it's real fat, but maybe it's just water, the time of day, or the fact that you haven't gone to the bathroom in a while), it's usually not even a helpful metric anyway. Do yourself a favor and don't go near the scale. When it comes to treating your bloat, focus on how you feel, not on what the number says.
2. Put on your "feel good" outfit
When your feelings about your body are already on the rocks, it's a good idea to do everything in your power to go easy on yourself—to cut yourself some slack. And that might mean not wearing the outfit you planned to wear the day you woke up feeling gross. When your body feels uncomfortable, usually so do your tight and restrictive clothes. It doesn't mean they'll never fit ever again, it just means they don't feel good right now. So screw them. Instead, on the day you feel icky, put on the one outfit that makes you feel comfortable. For me, that's my Madewell Summer Jeans ($98), a white T-shirt, and my leather jacket; or, if I'm just chilling at home, my Sudara robe (which is ethically made, beautiful, and always makes me feel like a queen).
3. Go for a walk
True—when you feel your yuckiest, sometimes the last thing you want to do is get up and walk around in public, but this one is here for two reasons: First of all, from a meditative perspective, leaving the house, popping your headphones on with some good music, and focusing on something other than yourself can be really good for your mental health. But also walking aids digestion, so bloating-wise, you'll be glad you did it later.
If you're feeling up to it, combine cardio and yoga to alleviate bloat. Exercise will help to strengthen your stomach muscles and stimulate the passage of gas through your digestive tract.
4. When you inevitably get hungry, put something healthy in there
Feeling bloated and hungry at the same time is kind of the worst, but don't worry: I'll help you through it. When you inevitably start to feel grumbly, don't feel the need to eat the "perfect" detox meal of peppermint tea and pineapple (or whatever the hell you're supposed to eat while bloated). Instead, just make sure you don't sabotage yourself with something wildly inflammatory (mac and cheese, a six pack of beer), and opt for something fun, delicious, and clean, like a blueberry banana smoothie with some Moon Juice Sex Dust in it (didn't I say fun?) or some Greek yogurt with granola and cinnamon.
5. Remember you're not alone
This always helps me: Remember that literally everyone from Meryl Streep to Emily Ratajkowski feels bloated and gross sometimes. Treat yourself as nicely as you would treat either of them, or better yet, your closest friend, and the day you suddenly don't feel like crap anymore, you'll be glad you didn't waste all that time beating yourself up.
Kim YS, Song BK, Oh JS, Woo SS. Aerobic exercise improves gastrointestinal motility in psychiatric inpatients. World J Gastroenterol. 2014;20(30):10577-10584. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i30.10577
Cleveland Clinic. Gas: care and treatment. Updated September 11, 2020.