The delicious smell of pumpkin pie and coffee fill the air as I look around at the stunning floral centerpieces on the Thanksgiving dinner table. I lean back in my chair and a moan escapes my lips; I can barely breathe I ate so much. I unbutton my pants and hope no one notices.
For some of us, it’s nearly impossible not to overeat during the holidays. But huge meals can cause real stress on the body, making us nauseated, uncomfortable, and tired.
Why is Overeating So Uncomfortable?
The stomach can comfortably hold a little over 32 ounces of food and beverage. But it can stretch two or three times more as you keep shoving food in your mouth. The immediate, uncomfortable feeling after you engorge is from your stomach expanding and pushing against other organs, most notably, your lungs.
That poor, bulging stomach crowds your lungs so you can’t breathe as deep. Your oxygen level drops which slows down your metabolism and digestion, making you feel uncomfortably full for the rest of the day.
Shallow breathing also makes you feel tired. No, it’s not the “tryptophan in the turkey” as some would protest. Digestion takes a lot of energy and blood flow, then when you slow your system down by not breathing deeply, your body devotes all its energy to the digestive system and your brain takes a nap.
As you lay there in half a coma watching football, your stomach pumps out more and more acid to try to break down all that food. You can see what’s coming: heartburn. Acid builds up, splashes into the esophagus, causing the burning feeling right in the middle of the chest.
When food enters your intestines, your body sends signals to your brain that you’re full. But, the food keeps coming, and more and more of these signals to our brain cause queasiness and nausea.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Because it’s so dang delicious!
But WAIT – believe it or not, we can have our pumpkin pie and eat it too. And maybe even have seconds while everyone else is in a coma.
5 Easy Tips to Enjoy Thanksgiving Dinner – Without Overeating!
Don’t skip breakfast
Holiday gatherings don’t follow the regular pattern of a day’s eating. Most holidays meals are linner, that time between lunch and dinner. We gear up for one massive meal in the early afternoon. A lot of us skip breakfast.
Well, don’t. When you go too many hours without eating, the body responds with extra hormones and signals to the brain that can seriously mess with your body’s ability to feel satisfied when you finally do eat.
And if you start the festivities with a cocktail on an empty stomach, you get tipsy even faster. Which brings me to my next point.
Go easy on the alcohol and appetizers
Have you ever sat down to your Thanksgiving dinner and realized you’re not even hungry? It’s super easy with drinks and appetizers to eat a full meal’s worth of calories before you even sit down at the table! Especially if you skipped breakfast. But of course, you can’t be rude. So you eat more even though you’re already full.
Alcohol might make it easier to handle Uncle Don, but it also allows you to ignore your body’s signals and keep reaching for the cheese ball.
Studies show the brain on alcohol reacts more strongly to food and smells, making it even harder to quit the appetizers or the second and third helping of mashed potatoes and corn.
Alcohol also slows digestion, making you feel like you’re going to pop for the rest of the day with little relief.
The appetizers might be tasty, but they are nowhere near as delicious as the dessert. Have a taste, then save yourself. If you need extra motivation, ask your host if you can see the post-meal sweets. Keep your eye on the prize, as they say.
Start with the stuff you really love
This is my favorite trick to avoid overeating. Take small portions of the food you love first. Finish those off, and you might already be full! You’ve cleaned your plate, you had a great meal, and there’s no need to feel guilty.
No one’s paying attention to what’s on your plate anyway. Unless you have one of those family members.
Say “No” to food pushers
If you have someone who pushes you to eat more than you want, practice your polite refusal before you get to the table.
“Dear, have some more sweet potato pie, it’s your favorite.”
“Oh, no thank you! I’m stuffed, everything was delicious!”
“I made it just for you; you only had a little bit.”
“Oh my gosh, I would love to eat more of everything, but I just can’t right now. I’m so full! I’ll have some later.”
If they are relentless, just pick simple replies and repeat them.
“But it’s Thanksgiving dinner; you can have a little bit more.”
“No thank you.”
“You need to eat more; you need meat on those bones!”
“I’ve had plenty, thank you.”
“I only make this for you once a year!”
“Thank you, but no thank you.”
***If you are that family member, STOP! You might not even realize you’re doing it. At Thanksgiving dinner last year, I noticed several people trying to be polite – “Did you have enough? Are you sure? Really, you don’t want any more?”
Please remember this can feel like pressure to guests and make them feel like they are rude if they don’t eat more. My rule: you may ask once, then leave them alone!
Add physical activity
Some smart folk like to play football after Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve never done it, but I’ve seen it in the movies.
Turns out physical activity after the meal can curb overeating. If you’re expected to move around after dinner, you won’t allow yourself to eat as much.
This is also an excellent excuse for the food pushers. “No thanks, I have to kick your butt in football later!”
Physical activity after the meal can speed up digestion, alleviating that full feeling if you do overeat. But physical activity before a meal might also curb overeating. A walk around the block with your cousin or grandma will help balance hormones in your body, allowing your brain to be more receptive to those fullness signals when you’ve had enough to eat.
The bottom line: if your ideal Thanksgiving involves lying uncomfortably in pain on the couch watching football until you can’t keep your eyes open, then by all means – stuff your face.
If you want to be energetic, mentally sharp, and fully satisfied when you finish your meal, then follow these tips and listen to your body. You may even have that extra piece of pumpkin pie while everyone else is napping, and still keep those pants buttoned!