Everyone has experienced it at least once, and for most of us, it is part of the holiday experience that we have come to expect. I am talking about that sleepy, bloated, stuffed feeling that you get after engorging yourself on your Thanksgiving dinner. So why do we get bloated and how can we avoid it?
Many people will tell you that it comes from this weird-sounding substance in turkey called tryptophan, and that it is inevitable when you eat turkey. If that was the case then everyone who eats a turkey sandwich for lunch during the work week would be walking around with droopy eyes and all productivity would plummet after 12 o’clock every day. Thankfully that is not the case, yet tryptophan is unjustifiably blamed year after year.
Holiday dinners have become feasts with assortments of foods and desserts. More often than not, if you glance around the dining room table you will notice that it is probably covered with mostly carbohydrate-rich foods. We hear all the time that carbs are responsible for the greatest gains in weight, so often in prepping for Thanksgiving dinner people will not eat all day so they can justify pigging out on dinner. Is this a good strategy to combat the Thanksgiving bloat?… In short NO!
One of the most common traps that people fall into during the holidays is starving themselves throughout the day so they can indulge in one big dinner meal. Talk about a holiday recipe for disaster from both a health and weight-loss perspective. You are setting yourself up for a big weight gain and bloated evening with this one. When you starve yourself of food, your body is trying to find energy, but since no food is coming, it stores whatever it can in a primitive reaction trying to ration energy for later on the off chance that food stays scarce. This will put your metabolism in slow motion. Then once you engorge yourself at dinner, your body reacts as if it needs to make this meal last because it may have a long period of starvation ahead again.
So now you have finished your Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey and all the other carbohydrate-heavy foods that were passed across your plate. Your body takes carbohydrates and breaks them down into smaller portions to give you energy, and while small amounts of carbohydrates will give you an inefficient amount of some energy, too many carbohydrates will leave you uncomfortable and bloated. When you eat carbohydrates, your body can’t use them all for energy, so it will store them for energy to potentially use later. The caveat is that your body will store 3 grams of water with every 1 gram of carbohydrates. This means your body is retaining water to store the carbohydrates you have been eating. Along with this, as your body is trying to digest the carbohydrates, chances are that you will not have enough enzymes to completely digest all them. The undigested carbohydrates will mix with the bacteria in your small intestines and form hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane gasses making you feel more bloated, gassy, and uncomfortable.
Instead, try eating small meals and snacks during the day. This will keep your metabolism moving and probably protect you for the desire to over eat at dinner. Then when you are ready to sit down and have Thanksgiving dinner, aim for proper portioning of food. Have vegetables that grow above ground (as opposed to root vegetables) make up the largest portion of your plate, not necessarily the largest portion of your calories; just the large portion of your plate. Above-ground vegetables are a source of fiber rich carbohydrates that are easier to digest, in contrast to vegetables that grow below ground, like potatoes which are high in starch and have a high glycemic index. The rest of your plate should be taken up by protein and some healthy fats. Then you can portion a small area for the other forms of carbohydrates and sweets. This way you know if you finish your plate, you are keeping a good healthy balance of food intake. Your body will be more able to digest the food you have eaten, and you hopefully will have eaten less at the meal since you have been eating small meals throughout the day. You should also stop eating when you were satisfied and not when you were stuffed. This way you won’t consume large amounts of starchy, refined carbohydrates and sugars at dinner.
Hopefully you can follow these principles and enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner without the bloat and uncomfortable feeling. If you are successful, you should use these principles in everyday eating to improve your health and wellness.
TELL US: What are your strategies to avoid Thanksgiving bloat?