Sunday, November 20, 2011

How not to stuff yourself on Thanksgiving

Do you heart Turkey Day?  I sure do.  What’s not to love?  It’s the only time of year where it is acceptable to cover what would otherwise be a perfectly legitimate vegetable with miniature marshmallows*. 20 Nov 2011.

I will never  become one of those people that prattles on about how the average person consumes a billion calories in one dinner alone.  That’s not the point.  The point is to enjoy a beautiful meal in the company of the people you love (and, ok, probably some of the people you hate).  Not that I ever advocate “going on a diet,” but Thanksgiving especially is no time for food restriction.  If, like me, you wait all year to have your piece of dark meat turkey (crispy skin and all), then shouldn’t you enjoy it?
But let me ask you this: is it enjoyable to eat till the point of bursting?  To have indigestion for the next two days?  If you are so bold, is it enjoyable to step on the scale the next morning and see that you’ve gained 20 pounds (thus beginning the “oh well, I already blew it” downward spiral into the holiday season)?  No, friends.  It is not.
Our culture would have you believe that it’s impossible to have a good Thanksgiving without having to change into elastic-waist pants midway through dinner.  Stop the madness!  Not only is it possible, but with these easy tips to avoid overdoing it, our nation’s only most famous culinary holiday will be even better.
1.     If you can, exercise in the morning.  Not only will this give you a pre-emptive calorie burn; it will also put you into a healthy mindset for the rest of the day.  Plus, exercise feels good.
2.     Eat something before dinner.  Year after year, so many of you refuse to eat anything all day before dinner is served.  This is setting yourself up for disaster!  When you deprive your body of fuel, you become so hungry that when the food is finally on the table, your animal brain takes over and you obey an evolutionarily-embedded command to eat everything in sight.  This is not a lack of willpower; it’s a physiological mechanism to protect you from famine in the land.  Only thing is, there's no famine.  So, eat a small breakfast, and 3-4 hours before dinner, eat a snack or small meal.  Try a couple whole grain crackers with reduced fat cheese and an apple, or a cup of low-fat yogurt with ¼ cup of granola and half a banana.  The idea is to roll up to the table feeling moderately hungry, not famished and/or faint.
3.     Leave some space on your plate.  You’re probably eating off of the good china anyway; why not appreciate it?  Take a portion of everything you want; just make sure that you can still see some of the plate underneath.  Your portions will be smaller this way; this is good.  You can always take more later if you are still truly hungry.
4.     Drink water as you eat.  Water takes up space in your stomach, thus expediting satiety (“I’m full”) signals.  I’m going to be honest here: this is like the blind leading the blind.  When I have a choice between water and wine, guess which one I choose?  (I never said I was a perfect eater!)  If you figure out how to do this, please let me know.  My liver will very much apreesh.
5.     Focus more on the conversation and less on the food.  Yes, we are thankful for the food, but we are not only thankful for the food.  We are also thankful for the amazing anecdotes about cousin Lisa’s poor life decisions .
6.     Stop when you begin to feel full.  This may happen before dessert or even second helpings.  That’s OK.  This is not the last meal you will ever eat.  In fact, you’ll probably be eating the same meal for the next 3 nights in a row.  If, for some reason, it looks like the pies will not live to see the morning, choose one or two and take a small bite of each.  I don’t want you regretting that you didn’t get to taste something that you wanted to.
7.     Slow down.  Savor each bite.  You are not a plow, and your fork is not a shovel.  Take small bites and chew thoroughly.  Converse.  Sip some wine water.  Look at you, so civilized!

        After all this, you might be the only one of your relatives to not pass out 30 minutes into the game from a food coma, top two buttons undone, Rolaids on the coffee table.  I give you permission to feel righteous about this.

Friendsgiving 2010

*God Bless America.


  1. Interesting point about leaving space on the plate. My school is transitioning to "tray-less" dining in an effort to minimize the amount of food students take and thus minimize food waste (and possibly overeating). I'll have a beer before dinner. That fills you up a little, right?

  2. Great tips! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving!!