, , ,

I love food. But Thanksgiving to me is about FAMILY and quality time. For the past few years, I’ve had 3 Thanksgiving dinners (2 in one day!)

For the hosts it’s a culinary festival and there’s a lot of love put into each dish. Less disappoint the cook I eat…and eat….and eat. Then everyone falls into a food-induced coma.

No one wants to end up like this….

Or this….

This year, I’m taking a non nonsense approach to my turkey time. I’ll tell you WHY and HOW below.

WHY I’m Taking Back Control of Turkey Time:

I subscribe to Women’s Health magazine (I highly recommend it for any woman) and their November issue has a fascinating article about how your body responds to Thanksgiving feasts.

In the first minute…

  • Your taste buds are atwitter and send pleasure signals to the brain. The message? “More please!”
  • As you chew, enzymes in your saliva break down the sugars and starches in the stuffing you’ve gobbled.

Within five minutes…

  • Your stomach is frantically working to dissolve food and shuttle it to the small intestine, which will ferry nutrients like fat and protein into your bloodstream.

Within 15 minutes…

  • Both your stomach and small intestine alert your brain – via hormones such as peptide YY – that they are beyond capacity. But if you hoovered your meal, your brain won’t get the memo until after you’ve helped yourself to seconds.

Within the first hour…

  • Post-apple pie, your insulin levels have spiked in am attempt to control the sugar that’s coursing through your bloodstream.
  • Within 30 minutes of eating a salty meal, your blood vessels may become slightly less supple. If your diet is always packed with salty foods, you may develop stiff blood vessels, a heart-disease risk factor.

After one hours…

  • Feeling drowsy? Don’t blame the bird. Yes, turkey contains tryptophan – an amino acid the body converts into sleep-promoting serotonin – but your fatigue is really the result of your stuffed stomach. It sent a “rest and digest” signal to your brain, which, in turn, directed all available energy toward digestation.
  • Your stomach is stretched like a ballon and is pushing against surrounding organs, possibly leaving you achy and nauseated.

After one to two hours…

  • Your liver has converted the food into nutrients that your organs can absorb. If you’re lucky – and your carb reserves aren’t already full – most of the fat and calories you ingested have been converted into short term energy. (Had you worked out before bingeing, you’d have more room in that storehouse.)
  • Chances are, though, you’ve shoveled in twice as much as your body needs, which meant the excess is converted into layaway triglycerides and may be packed into fat cells around your thighs, but and belly.

After two hours…

  • Whew – your stomach has emptied and your blood vessels are back to normal.

HOW I’m Taking Back Control of Turkey Time:

  1. Break a sweat. Working out early in the day will deplete my reserves so the food I eat goes to replenish my body, not line it with an extra layer of booty stuffing (if you know what I mean!) It also keeps me from feeling exhausted afterwards. Besides, what better way to manage holiday anxiety and stress than a good run?
  2. Just say no. I look forward all year to sweet potato casserole and my special sandwich concoction of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy on a homemade roll. YUM! But there are some dishes that I don’t care for. So this year, I’m eating what I really want and passing on what I don’t and I’m not going to let myself feel guilty about it.
  3. Portions please. There is a reason why they call Thanksgiving the Superbowl of all meals. Start adding up all the varieties of dishes and you’ve got enough players for an offense, defense and special teams! To keep from looking like a linebacker, I’m starting with just small scoops of my favorites. If I want more, trust and believe – there is more waiting. This way I won’t load down on too much and feel bad for not cleaning my plate.
  4. Hold the dessert. I’m a salty/savory kinda girl so desserts never really appeal to me. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings – it’s just not my thing.
  5. Water me down. With all this food comes lots of sodium, so to keep from feeling puffy and groggy, I’m chugging water ALL DAY LONG. I do the “ring rule.” I can tell by my wedding band if my fingers are swollen or not. Once they get a little swollen, it’s time to down some more water.

In all seriousness, the reason Thanksgiving can be a problem is because it isn’t the way we all usually consume food and it can get us off balance. A couple of days of “no big deal – eat what I what b/c it’s thanksgiving!” turns into a habit that’s even more difficult to tame when holiday parties roll around. Plus, it gets bitter cold and who wants to work out in that weather? Decrease your activity, increase your food intake and you’ve found those 10 lbs. you lost this summer. So much hard work to waste it all away!

To me, the holiday is all about time with family and friends – not food.  I’m sure that is really what the pilgrims had in mind after all.