The Power of Rest

Why sleep alone is not enough–and how to reset your body

Don't Stuff the Wrong Turkey

Stay awake and don't gain weight this Thanksgiving.

A New Way to do Thanksgiving 

This Thanksgiving you'll follow sensible advice - don't eat too much, don't drink too much?
Sure you will.
Here's another idea. Follow the way your body is built and you can minimize the damage and maximize the fun.
It's not strange you might want to stuff yourself - especially with your family. Human bodies are built for intermittent starvation - and feasting when we can. Yet you want to be completely alert for the pleasure filled time and not feel your gut catching your belt when you leave. So you might try these tips:

1. Think like an omnivore. You've got a 30 foot gut for a reason, and it's not merely to wolf down turkeys. Dogs have a six foot gut - but they're carnivores.
So eat a lot of those lovely side dishes - especially the vegetables. That's what your 30 foot gut is for. You can certainly eat the turkey and other meats with relish, but think about what that stuffing will do to you.
Starches and desserts really pack on pounds. Enjoy them by truly tasting them first.
You don't want to stuff the wrong turkey.

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2. As soon as you eat, move. It's a pretty simple human design rule for all occasions - food, activity, followed by rest. Going FAR means you won't get the glucose peaks after the meal, leading to the insulin peaks that help stack pounds in your gut - thereby creating an endocrine gland of abdominal fat you really do not want to enlarge. For one thing, that gland likes to make itself bigger and bigger, and produces many substances that don't do you much good.
To get moving you need not that much - just stroll around. Best of all, get the family to take a walk and talk about what you'll do come Black Friday (more on this soon.) If you're stuck inside during a snowstorm, try to get everybody together and dance. Dance to oldies, dance to things you never danced to before. Dancing is fun, good exercise, plus a way to get close to people you love.
Remember - it's a holiday. If you're worried about how you appear while dancing, just think about what your skin and belly will look like if you don't get off the couch and make some pleasant moves.


3. Enjoy your food fully - dine, don't feed. Take the time to taste. Taste every morsel. Try to identify all those wondrous things inside that make your taste buds happy.
Many times people hardly notice the food they're ingesting after the first few bites - a mistake. Taste everything, talk with others about everything, and if you can, ask the cooks how they managed it all. Food is celebration. Celebrate with each bite.


4. Get light, especially sunlight. Turkeys have tryptophan, which can make you snoozy. Add to that loads of calories and you might find yourself snoring on the couch way before bedtime.
One antidote is light - especially sunlight. Light does not just wake you up, it sets your body clocks and resets immunity, which can help you avoid winter colds. If the weather is bright, get outside after you eat. If it isn't, put on some bright lights around the home, or stay close to the windows as you converse with the people you care about. If you then add a little physical activity with light, you've got a much better chance of staying awake through the afternoon and evening.


5. Make Black Friday a family day and a chance to get your body rolling.
Need to hit six different sales? Deputize the family, one by one, to get the gifts you really want. As you stroll with the family immediately after the Thanksgiving dinner, create your Black Friday battle plan. Make sure everyone knows where they have to go, and what they need to do.
Then have everyone get to their stations under their own steam. Motion is lotion, particularly necessary after eating lots of food. If it's cold, walk the whole mall once major shopping is through. Remember - eat, then move. It will change your waistline and, if you walk enough, help create new brain cells for the next day.


6. Booze is liquid fat.  Visualize all those fat globules filling up your gut.  Then do what your ancestors did - lighten the load with water.
You may not want to water your favorite wine, but you can follow your glass with H2O. People who drink lots of water before a meal eat less - another thing to try before the great repast.


7. Don't skip breakfast - Thanksgiving or the Friday after. Your brain and red blood cells live on glucose. You're cutting up your muscles to make the stuff by the time you wake each morning.
And your baseline insulin is high in the morning. You metabolize food more efficiently in the morning. People who eat breakfast have a much easier time losing weight.
So listen to your body clocks - eat well each morning. It's the evening meals that really pack on pounds.

A True Holiday

Overall the answer is simple - have fun. That means using your body the way it's built. Feasting is fine, but better when it's the feast is truly celebrated amongst those you love. Talk, dine, dance, stroll, play. If you use your body as designed, engaging the simplest things in the world - conversation, light, food, walking - can give a time you'll really remember, and feel and look really well after.

 

 

Matthew Edlund, M.D. researches rest, sleep, performance, and public health; he is the author of Healthy Without Health Insurance and The Power of Rest.

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