How to Avoid Getting Stuffed on Thanksgiving

It seems like any meal we call a feast is bound to cause dread in the hearts of anyone trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.  This is the time of year when overeating is not only part of the tradition, but it’s almost a crazy expectation.

Overeating is weird, if you think about it.  We create an amazing, delicious dinner for our loved ones, and then we all leave the table completely stuffed, bloated and feeling miserable for several hours, if not days, afterwards.

I vote that we change our perspective this year.  Let’s do a little switch in how we view the Thanksgiving dinner.  Rather than an all-out glutinous feast, let’s think of this occasion as a “Thanksgiving Light Evening Snack with Family and Friends.”   If we shift our thinking about the entire eating experience, we can start to modify our past behaviors to more reasonable eating and leave that table feeling satisfied and happy, not just over-stuffed and miserable.

Once you re-frame your thinking about the Thanksgiving dinner, it becomes a smidge easier to maintain some control while still enjoying the festivities.  Some of the following tips should also help you to combat the tendency to over-eat and walk away from the holiday weekend feeling satisfied rather than remorseful.


The reason for the season of feasting is really all about being thankful.  Thankful for being able to provide an abundance of food, thankful for the relationships with friends and family, thankful for every day to be alive – we all have so much to be thankful for.  Dinner is the time we gather together to openly express our thanks while celebrating with a good meal.  Enjoy the entire experience – it is about so much more than just the food.


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-sized plate instead of the full-size dinner plate and head to that buffet table confident you will feel better when you’re done.


Executive chefs from all over the world will agree on one thing when it comes to food:  the first 3 bites are when you really taste the flavors.  After that, it is just eating.

We all have certain foods we love but only seem to have during the holidays.  We look forward to them every year, and then end up eating too much every single time.  The trick here is to acknowledge that you really only taste those first three bites!  Slow down and really savor each and every bite of your favorite deliciousness – I think you will find that you don’t need to eat as much of it this year.  Once you REALLY stop to savor the flavors, you enjoy the experience more completely, and it only takes a few bites to ‘get your fill’ of that special treat.


From a very young age, I was taught the importance of conversation.  My parents hosted a lot of dinner parties, and my father continues to be quite the social coordinator today – everyone always loves his parties.  It’s not just because of the good food (which is always in abundance), but more importantly, because of the good conversation and fun had by all in attendance.

Sitting at the dinner table should not be just about shoveling food into your mouth.  It’s more about enjoying the entire experience – the family/friends, the food, the drink, the conversation, the laughter.  This year, put down your fork after every couple of bites and engage your table mates in conversation.

It takes about 20 minutes after eating for your mind to register that your stomach is full.  If we eat too quickly, it is very easy to completely miss those signals until it is too late and you are stuffed.

By slowing down your pace, and chatting up your dinner companions, you will be more aware of your body’s fullness signals, and less likely to over-eat in general.  And you’re more likely to leave that table with a feeling of satisfaction and contentment, too.


It’s not the first bites that get you, it’s the last bites that put you over the top.  Once you start feeling about 80% full, cover your plate with your napkin.  Don’t feel guilty if there is still food on the plate – it’s likely that your eyes were bigger than your stomach, and no one is going to fault you for not eating those last few bites.  Putting a barrier between you and the food is a good visual way to avoid mindless nibbling.  And it’s a good strategy for separating “eating time” from “digesting time.”

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, everyone!



Certified Personal Trainer, Nutritionist, Physique Coach

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