How to Enjoy Thanksgiving Without the (Over) Stuffing

cornucopiaThe big day is coming! How will you feast this Thanksgiving? Did you know you it’s possible to enjoy this meal without overstuffing yourself?

Sure it’s fine to take one day out of the year and indulge. But we all know Thanksgiving is the gateway feast, and once we start, we don’t stop feasting until 2019 rolls around. Leading to a sluggish and guilt-ridden start to a new year.

So why not pace yourself to enjoy the entire holiday season rather than gobbling your way through it?

Here are some of my favorite feasting tips for enjoying food, family and friends without overdoing it.

1.  Days before the feast, make sure you are eating healthy, satisfying, warm and well-balanced meals, sticking to mostly (if not completely) vegetarian, whole foods and healthy fats.

This will help to: 

–Strengthen your digestion. Heavy foods like meat, cold foods (like ice cream and yogurt) and deep fried foods will weaken agni, your digestive fire. We want to keep that fire stoked so it can more easily digest the feast you eat later.

–Prevent you from overeating at the feast. Starving ourselves before a feast is a big mistake. We’ll come to the meal feeling deprived and compensate by eating everything in sight. Your digestive system can only handle so much at one time. And if you give it more than it can handle, that food won’t get properly digested, which is what leads to digestive disorders, feeling sluggish and mental fog in the following hours or days.

2.  Days before the feast, make sure you are hydrating with warm water. Drinking warm or hot water also helps our digestive fire to stay strong. Cold or iced water puts out that fire in our bellies. Make sure you’re drinking warm water throughout the day and don’t drink a lot of water just before you eat. Water in the stomach makes digestion tough.

3.  Eliminate snacking and space your daily meals at least 4-6 hours apart, taking at least 12.5 hours (preferably more) between dinner and breakfast.

This goes back to the idea that our digestive system can only handle so much food at a time. If we are constantly bombarding the belly with food, it’s not able to completely and effectively digest anything. Agni needs time to properly digest AND it also needs time to rest and restore. Without that rest period, agni weakens and does not properly digest all food.

4.  Start with smaller amounts. The temptation with Thanksgiving is to pile it all on to a large plate. And if it’s in front of us, there’s not much stopping us from trying to eat it all. Instead, start with smaller amounts of everything. Make sure you can still see lots of space on your plate. Ignore comments from everyone else. Once you’ve eaten all that’s on your plate, take a few breaths and ask yourself, do I really want or need more? What will eating more feel like tomorrow? This allows you to make a more conscious decision. Even if that decision is to eat more, at least you’ve made it consciously rather than devouring mindlessly.

5.  Slow down and chew your food. Twenty percent of digestion happens in the mouth. If we don’t take the time to slow down and allow the enzymes in our mouth to break down the food, we make agni’s job harder and consequently, dampen its mighty fire.

6.  Make sure the mind is calm. If we’re agitated, distracted or upset, agni (digestive fire) weakens. Give yourself the space to come into a relaxed and more present state of mind before eating. This may mean excusing yourself and enjoying a few quiet minutes outside in nature. Or simply taking some deep breaths, presencing your body and giving thanks for this amazing food you’re about to eat.

7.  Stop eating by 6pm. I know, this is a tough one that may be harder to work on during the holidays. But agni is naturally slowing down around 6pm, so if we’re eating much later than that, there’s a good chance our food isn’t get properly digested. If you can’t stop by 6pm, choose another cut-off time that is more doable and stick with it. This will be more helpful than nibbling all night long.

And if you’re hungry later or tempted to eat something beyond your cut-off time, choose to have some warm water or herbal tea instead. A recent study claimed that 80% of the time we think we’re hungry, we’re actually just thirsty.

Try these out and let me know how they work for you! And have a fantastic holiday!

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