Thanksgiving was last week, and most Americans gorged themselves on delectable dinners of turkey, various rich vegetable sides, and sugary pies. While holidays like Thanksgiving are wonderful occasions to bond with families and friends over delicious meals, many people quickly find themselves regretting how much they indulged on food. Even though one day of gluttony is not enough to pose serious concerns to a generally healthy person, the ‘food coma’ feeling of being stuffed to the point of extreme tiredness and intense stomach discomfort is something everyone would like to avoid.
Overeating on the holidays is largely psychological: when you see huge amounts of food before you and are surrounded by people eating, it can be hard to tell yourself to stop. You don’t realize how full your stomach is getting until it’s too late, at which point you feel terrible. Although the past can’t be changed, these are some suggestions for making sure your next holiday festivities don’t end in painful regret:
- Don’t starve yourself beforehand! The growling in your stomach will only cause you to lose all self-control once the food is served. It’s especially important to eat breakfast to stimulate your metabolism, so that your body burns calories leading up to the meal.
- Remember leftovers: the food isn’t going to disappear if you don’t immediately eat it. If there are really enough people partaking in your meal that leftovers aren’t guaranteed, then remember a) that this is not a fight for survival, you don’t have to take all you can get, b) that it’s an annual holiday, there’s always next year to enjoy basically the same food, and c) to be courteous of everyone else – don’t take it all for yourself!
- Consider all of your options: if everything looks delicious, take small portions of everything, rather than loading up on one or two things with the intent of adding more later on. In fact, you’ll get more pleasure from a diverse plate of flavors than from a huge portion of one food.
- Drink water, rather than calorie-laden beverages. This will also help your digestion.
- Not all vegetables are light. Casseroles, for instance, are typically packed with fats and starches that will feel like lead in your stomach. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t eat them, just that you shouldn’t trick yourself into thinking that these can be enjoyed in larger portions because they’re vegetables. Guiltless options would be leafy greens with minimal dressing.
- Watch your condiments. Sauces can be packed with sugar, salt, and fat, so prioritize getting full on real food over filling yourself with add-ons.
- Don’t eat quickly. Savor the flavor of every bite, drink, talk to the people around you, and, most importantly, give your body time to notice that it’s getting full.
- Pause before taking seconds! Your brain can take up to half an hour to register the stomach’s fullness, so don’t assume that you can keep piling it in.
- Don’t forget dessert! Even if it isn’t on the table immediately, or no one is eating it yet, dessert is coming, and chances are you’re going to want some. Don’t get full on dinner if you have a sweet tooth. That being said, don’t let yourself go and undo all of your hard work once dessert starts, either.
In case you still end up in the dreaded ‘food coma’:
- Drink water or herbal tea to calm your stomach and flush your system.
- Go for a walk, rather than sitting down and letting all of the food settle at the bottom of your stomach. Light stretches, like raising your arms above your head and leaning side to side, will also help your stomach feel less weighed-down.
- If you really feel unwell, lie down and apply heat to your stomach to relieve bloating. A warm towel or heating pad across your abdomen feels incredibly soothing on an aching stomach.
With all this in mind, be grateful that you had the opportunity to eat all of that delicious food. These tips should help you to enjoy your meal and foster fond holiday memories (rather than binge-remorse).