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Concerned You’ll Be Eating Too Much This Chinese New Year? Here’s What to Do

Celebrations during Chinese New Year are always a happy time but it can sometimes lead to you eating too much. Here’s how you can indulge a little more wisely and why you should watch what you eat.

Extended family enjoys a Chinese New Year dinner together at home.

Malaysians are known for their love of eating, especially during major holidays like Chinese New Year. With many different cultures under one national roof, we have a weakness when it comes to indulging in delicious food. But this also means we are a nation that can end up eating too much. At nearly 50% of us being overweight, 15% obese, and 19% diabetic, we do have some work to do when it comes to portion control.

Let’s explore the effects of overeating and how to address them with the help of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Holiday Hacks to Avoid Overeating 

Here are some ways you can enjoy Chinese New Year dinner gatherings minus the guilt.

Mindful eating 

Mindful eating involves redirecting your focus on the food you’re consuming rather than mindlessly putting it in your mouth. Smelling and savouring each flavour, being thankful for the bounty, and slowing down your pace are all considered part of mindful eating.

Researchers at Harvard noted that the practice of mindful eating helps prevent overeating. A literature review of 68 studies indicated that those who practised mindfulness while eating were able to recognise feeling full sooner and ended up eating less. Another study found that obese people who also engaged in mindfulness practices were able to decrease their consumption of sweets and maintain their fasting blood glucose within safe levels compared to those who did not. 

Ingredient swaps  

Consider hosting the gathering yourself. You can decide on minimising overly rich ingredients like oil, animal fat, sugar, and salt. Better yet, try these TCM ingredients that are both nutrient-dense and filling: 

  • Red dates (da zao, 大枣): A low-glycemic and high-fibre sweet fruit. Add to soups and desserts. 
  • Coix seeds (yi yi ren, 薏苡仁): High in protein and fibre that’s nourishing to the Spleen and stomach. Serve as a dessert, tea or serve cooked to replace starchy high-carb elements of a dish such as white rice. 
  • Chinese yam (huai shan, 淮山): Another nutrient-dense low-carb alternative to help prevent eating too much rice or potatoes.  
  • Almonds (xing ren, 杏仁): Almonds have been used for hundreds of years to help relieve coughing as well as promote healthy bowel movement. Slice and bake to sprinkle over main dishes for an extra nutritious crunch. 
  • Red beans (hong dou, 红豆): This legume is not only high in protein but also a natural diuretic that helps remove excess fluid. Add it to stews or serve it as part of a delicious dessert. 
  • Black sesame (hei zhi ma, 黑芝麻): This variety of sesame seeds packs more flavour and nutrients compared to its white cousins. Sprinkle the seeds over main dishes or as a main ingredient in desserts such as black sesame ice cream. 

What to Do If You’ve “Slipped” 

Despite your best intentions and planning, you may still slip. Rather than blame yourself, have a “plan B”. TCM also offers many healing modalities to help mitigate the consequences of overindulgence.

Relieve discomfort 

First and foremost, relieve the discomfort. Consider TCM formulations such as Si Jun Zi Tang (四君子汤) for acid reflux and heartburn symptoms. Research has found this formula to be effective in relieving these symptoms, but also improves gastrointestinal function.

Drink healing herbal tea

On a grey placemat there is a bowl of fresh hawthorn berries, a pot of hawthorn berry tea, a cup of tea, spoon with two hawthorn berries on it
Hawthorn berry tea is an excellent remedy in case you “slipped” and overindulged this Chinese New Year.

To help reduce the burden that you’ve put on your digestive system, TCM Physician Ng Teck Xian recommends a tea prepared with tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮) and hawthorn berries (shan zha, 山楂). This tea is generally suitable for all body constitutions. 

Keep moving 

Once your stomach feels less bloated and you can sit and stand without feeling discomfort, keep your body moving. This helps keep the qi circulating to restart your exhausted digestive system. Don’t engage in anything overly taxing. A calming easy walk after dinner can already help.

Try acupressure and acupuncture 

Consider booking an acupuncture appointment to reset your system. While waiting, you can already work on the acupoints below to help relieve symptoms. Press on the points for a minute or two, about three to five times to relieve constipation and abdominal discomfort.

This Chinese New Year, instead of eating too much, aim to eat better. But remember, taking care of your body doesn’t mean having to give up on having a good time. After all, Chinese New Year is about celebrating prosperity and wellness for many years to come.

References

  1. Statista.com. 2021. Prevalence of obesity in the ASEAN region in 2019, by country. [online] Available at: <https://www.statista.com/statistics/1179519/asean-obesity-prevalence-by-country/> [Accessed on 10 December 2022]
  2. International Diabetes Federation. 2021. Malaysia Diabetes Report 2000-2045. [online] Available at: <https://diabetesatlas.org/data/en/country/120/my.html> [Accessed on 10 December 2022].
  3. MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas. 2018. What happens when you overeat? [online] Available at: <https://www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/What-happens-when-you-overeat.h23Z1592202.html> [Accessed on 10 December 2022]
  4. Cleveland Clinic. 2019. Ruled by Food? 5 Strategies to Break the Cycle of Overeating. [online] Available at: <https://health.clevelandclinic.org/ruled-by-food-5-strategies-to-break-the-cycle-of-overeating/> [Accessed on 10 December 2022]
  5. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Mindful Eating. [online]. Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/> [Accessed on 10 December 2022]
  6. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014. Si-Jun-Zi Decoction Treatment Promotes the Restoration of Intestinal Function after Obstruction by Regulating Intestinal Homeostasis. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4020469/> [Accessed on 10 December 2022]
  7. Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2016. The Effect of Common Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna Jacq.) Syrup on Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Symptoms. Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343064428_The_Effect_of_Common_Hawthorn_Crataegus_monogyna_Jacq_Syrup_on_Gastroesophageal_Reflux_Disease_Symptoms> [Accessed on 10 December 2022]

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