I don’t know anyone who doesn’t over-indulge — even a little bit — during the holidays. Lasting well over a month, this joyful time of year can wreak havoc with your weight and how you feel. I asked a leading digestive health expert — Dr. Tarek Hassanein of the Southern California GI and Liver Center — how to stop from over-indulging, starting with the Big One — Thanksgiving Dinner!

Here are his best tips . . .

Moderation is key. Overeating is common during the holidays, but definitely not recommended. When you overeat proteins that are rich in certain amino acids, like tryptophan which are found in animal proteins (yep, like turkey), they can cause fatigue and sleepiness, particularly in individuals with liver disease. Your body has trouble digesting animal fats and proteins, so eat these in moderation. There is no limit, however, on how many fruits and vegetables you can eat during the meal, so dig in.

Watch the Clock: The duration of eating is also important – events like Thanksgiving should be more extended, and not rushed. Take your time, chew every bite, and talk throughout the meal. Make the social event it was designed to be. People can wolf down their whole plate in ten minutes but doing so will put a lot of pressure on the digestive system. The stomach does not digest all foods the same way, so make this high caloric meal last at least an hour.

Stay Awake: It can take up to SIX hours to fully digest a meal, especially a hefty one like Thanksgiving. You want to give at least 5 hours in between the meal and going to bed. Dinner should start early, giving at least 4-6 hours minimum between eating and sleeping. Don’t fall asleep on the couch! In fact, a better option is to take a fast-paced walk, and bring the rest of the guests with you!

Stay on your schedule: The body has been customized to dealing with food at certain times that your own routine has created. For example, if you always eats around 5:00, then don’t make your Thanksgiving dinner at 7:00. If possible, stay within the time that you typically have dinner, and it will keep everything on track.

Mind the ratio: Don’t let turkey be the star of the Thanksgiving plate! Pile it high with vegetables and add a much smaller amount of animal protein. Vegetables and fruit are high in fiber, which allows them to be digested easily. Turkey and other animal fats and proteins are what really make your whole system go into overdrive. Thanksgiving is usually a vacation day for you, right? So, think about your hard-working digestive system,  and don’t make it work too hard.


Looking for science-backed tips to look, feel and be amazing at every age? Check out my award-winning book, Love Your Age: The Small-Step Solution to a Better, Longer, Happier Life, published by National Geographic!

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