Thanksgiving is great, because it's the one time of year when all of your favorite foods are sitting on a single table, just waiting for you to dive right in with reckless abandon. But before you do, consider your stomach for a second. There are ways to prevent a stomach ache on Thanksgiving, and you're going to be happy that you read up on them when, for possibly the first year ever, you don't find yourself draped over a couch, unable to move from everything you just consumed.
Granted, it's hard to resist dessert after your third helping of mashed potatoes, especially if it's pumpkin pie, since eating pumpkin pie outside of the months of November and December just isn't seen as "normal" in our sad, seasonally-based world. While you've probably learned how to listen to your body in ways like "I should drink a ton of water to cure this massive hangover" and "well, it probably wasn't smart to eat all that Taco Bell before a three hour road trip," you should remember that taking cues during the big feast is equally important. While taking a post-tryptophan nap on your aunt's couch probably sounds like a swell idea, you don't want to ruin your entire night with a huge stomach ache.
Here are a few ways to tell when you are actually full on Thanksgiving, and remind yourself that your eyes are definitely bigger than your stomach.
1. Pace yourself during the meal.
I have yet to attend a Thanksgiving gathering that ran out of food midway through. This is the season for potlucks and leftovers, remember? So don't rush to eat an entire plate the second you sit down at the table. By participating in some conversation, taking smaller bites, and remembering that Thanksgiving isn't a food race, your brain will be able to signal to your stomach that it's time to slow down. According to SFGate's Healthy Eating column, it'll take about 20 minutes for the "I'm full!" message to reach you. This message is based on a chemical reaction that occurs based on the food you eat, because the human body is a truly amazing thing.
2. Start the meal with a glass of water.
Yeah, it sounds somewhat boring, especially when there's wine on the table, but a drink of water before the meal will help jumpstart the entire eating process. NBCNews reports that the stomach can hold about one, to one and a half liters of food — so, roughly between four and six cups. If you start your meal in a ravenous rage, that can add up pretty quickly. The water will help give you the "full" feeling, and prevent your stomach from feeling like it's about to burst at any moment (which is a super rare, but — not to scare you — is something that could technically happen).
3. Get ready to move between dinner and dessert.
It's a foolish move to stay seated once the desserts come out. Separate yourself from the table between courses, and keep yourself occupied by focusing on some helpful tasks, like boxing up leftovers and cleaning some of the dishes. Not only will you be a fantastic guest (or a truly on-the-mark host, if the festivities are happening at your house), but you'll give yourself time to process the big meal. While digestion usually takes between six to eight hours, refocusing will allow your body to properly assess everything that's inside.
Being as active as possible will also make you feel better. Obviously nobody is expecting you to run a marathon post-turkey, but letting yourself burn a little of the energy you just consumed will make you think a bit more rationally about the pie that's in your near future.
4. When in doubt, get some peppermint.
If you're susceptible to overeating, or aren't sure whether or not you're truly full, a peppermint candy will help. If your home is hard candy-free, a cup of peppermint tea will also do the trick. Peppermint has been known to help out with nausea and bloating after a big meal, and can serve as an emergency brake if you're worried about taking things too far. Plus, if you're enjoying a hard candy, it's a good excuse to not load up another plate of turkey — your mouth is already busy doing something a little more productive.
In general, the most important aspect of figuring out fullness is time. Taking smaller bites, chewing slowly, and really allowing yourself to enjoy the flavors of the meal will help make sure that you don't have any post-Thanksgiving regrets. Plus, chances are that you'll be eating turkey sandwiches and sipping on some homemade turkey soup for weeks to come, eventually leading you to wonder why you even thought about hauling it in your maw within that one night.
For more Thanksgiving ideas, check out Bustle on YouTube.
Images: Twentieth Century Fox; Giphy (4)