It seems like any meal you call a feast is bound to cause dread in dieters everywhere. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we changed the name to “Thanksgiving Light Evening Snack With Family and Friends.” There might be less indigestion, but I doubt a name that cumbersome is likely to catch on. And overeating at Thanksgiving is a tradition in this country. Just like going back and eating more leftovers even though you’re still totally full from the night before.
Overeating is weird, if you think about it. If I offered people a delicious dinner under the condition that got to punch them in the stomach when they’re done eating it, I wonder how many takers I’d get? But to me, that’s exactly what it feels like when I eat too much. Except whoever punched me didn’t take their fist away for a few hours.
In order to combat this very real pain in my gut when I over eat, a few years ago I started using some of the habits that my clients and I work on during Thanksgiving and have found some really helpful tips to avoid that “punched in the stomach” feeling after the meal.
1. REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE EATING
You’re likely not trying to maximize your caloric intake or win an officially sanctioned competitive eating contest. So why are you eating? Enjoy some delicious foods that you remember from growing up? Trying something new? Whatever your goal, just remember the words of Grant Achatz, Executive Chef of Alinea (the best restaurant in the world): “You taste the first 3 bites. After that, it’s eating.”
2. USE A SMALLER PLATE
Yes, this works. Dr. Brian Wansink of the Cornell Food Lab has shown over and over again that if you use a smaller plate, you eat less food without even noticing. Even if you go back for seconds! It works so well that he formed a non-profit to promote smaller plate sizes called “The Small Plate Movement.” So grab a dessert plate and remember Dr. Wansink’s advice: “The best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on.”
3. COVER YOUR PLATE WHEN YOU’RE DONE
It’s not the first bites that get you, it’s the last bites that put you over the top. So cover your plate with your napkin when you’re done. Putting a barrier between you and the food is a great way to avoid mindlessly nibbling, and it’s a nice ritual to separate “eating time” from “digesting time.”
4. INTERRUPT YOUR BITES
On an embarrassing personal note, I went to manners class when I was 8 years old. Other than learning what all the forks are for (turns out, they’re all for eating things), our super scary teacher also taught us to put down our silverware between each bite and chew facing forward while listening to other people talk. This is a great trick to make 8 year olds slow the heck down and at least give the appearance that they are listening to what you say. So it’s not just a great way to slow down your eating, but focus on what Thanksgiving is really about: pretending to listen to people while you eat.