Thanksgiving Digestive Tips
Is anyone looking forward to the 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat the typical American consumes on Thanksgiving day? I am, but this year I have a plan of attack.
I wish I could say Thanksgiving was all about the family, but let's be honest, it is also about the food. I love my family and I drive 8 hours to see them every year, but I really look forward to the food. Or maybe I am repeating this so much because I have to convince myself I love the food. Every year, I eat way too much and then hate the very food I could not wait to consume. Then I crawl into bed intoxicated and wish I could avoid the rest of the holidays and begin my New Years Resolutions the next day.
This year will be different. I am heading into the holidays with a new found knowledge; my digestive toolbox. Here are some Thanksgiving digestive tips I would like to share with you so that you can enjoy your family gatherings, enjoy the food, and not end up regretting the entire affair.
1. Digestion begins in the brain
Digestion can only occur if the body is in a parasympathetic state, which means not reacting to any stress. In order to produce the appropriate digestive enzymes we must relax, breathe and enjoy our food. All digestion ceases in a sympathetic, aka "fight or flight" state in order for the production of cortisone, adrenaline, or epinephrine as a priority of survival. This means your stomach knows about the stress in your mind. We need to relax and let the family disputes rest. If you feel your pulse elevate, your eyes alert, and your breathing shallow and fast, step away from the food and take 5 minutes to breathe deep.
2. Stop counting calories
Last week I wrote about the film "Fed Up" and one point I resonated with was that a calorie is not a calorie. This is why calorie counting programs do not last long term. Empty calories in soda and chips are far more harmful to the body than the calories in butter and real foods. If you are worried about over eating on Thanksgiving, do not skip breakfast and wait to gorge yourself. Make sure to eat a high protein breakfast which will keep your metabolism revving. Drink water for most of the day to make sure you are well hydrated and avoid any unnecessary sugar or simple carbs. Make a normal sized plate for dinner and focus on eating homemade real food. I can easily pass a store bought pie or boxed mashed potatoes, canned cranberries or stuffing from the package. But a home baked pumpkin pie or real mashed potatoes deserves a place on everyone's plate.
3. Take home leftovers
One of the best features of cooking this enormous meal is the amount of food leftover. You should not have to cook for the rest of the weekend. Many of the foods taste better once they have had a chance to allow the flavors to blend. If your turkey dinner included real food with real healthy fats, you should be full well before the end of the food. Simply tell your host or hostess you would love to take some of the dish you missed home to eat for lunch the next day. The point is you do not have to eat all of the food on Thanksgiving Day!
4. Gassy and bloated
Ok, so you overdid it and now you have a terrible belly ache. There are digestive enzymes that can help you digest the food. I hate to present these like the morning after pill as they are not an excuse to eat too much. They also can not be eaten by anyone taking an antacid which prevents you from digesting any food in the first place. Antacids cause inflammation along the entire digestive tract and enzymes may irritate your already irritated gut lining. Other than that, they are harmless, actually even beneficial to a sluggish system that fights bloating and gas after a meal. Look for natural enzymes such as Bromelain (pineapple) or Papain (papaya) in your local health food store and take 2 of them 30 minutes after your meal.
5. It is just one meal
Thanksgiving is not the time to talk about your lactose intolerance, your paleo or vegan views and your gluten free diet. It is one meal on one day of the year, so simply eat the foods you like and taste the dishes made for you. It is not going to kill you to take one bite, but stressing about the situation may. Stress is the worst toxin! Likewise, if you are cooking, you do not need to please everyone. Make the food you love and do not worry about what people like. If they hate everything, you may have enough leftovers to take a break from cooking for a few days and maybe someone else will volunteer for the following year.
I know these points are not life saving, but they can make your holiday more comfortable. My goal this year is to stop focusing on the food and pay more attention to the family I drove so far to see. I know I can eat a turkey dinner anytime of year, but I never know how much time I will have with those I love.
Think about what we are teaching our future generations when we drink endless bottles of wine, complain about the guests, and stress out over a meal. I know I want my children to be thankful this Thanksgiving, to slow down and appreciate the time spent together.