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How You Can Eat as Much 
as Humanly Possible This Thanksgiving, According 
to Science

True fact! One way to express gratitude for your meal is to stuff yourself.

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Every Thanksgiving, Americans gather to celebrate family, give thanks—and stuff our faces until we feel sick. Tragically, filling up too fast means you won’t manage to grab seconds or thirds of all the best dishes. To do so, you need to maximize your food intake. Here’s how.

Note: This advice is not conducive to a healthy everyday diet. But then again, neither is Thanksgiving. (Don’t believe these myths about Thanksgiving.)

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Prepare

To consume as much as possible, start on an empty stomach. But don’t starve yourself, lest you eat too much too quickly instead of pacing yourself.

“Fasting is typically not a good idea,” says registered dietitian Leslie Bonci. Instead, she recommends that you follow your regular meal schedule but stop eating four to six hours before the main event.

Exercising early in the day is a good idea, however. Physical exertion can stimulate the appetite. And a brisk walk or run helps move food through your digestive system and empty out your stomach in preparation.

Finally, you may find it easier to eat a lot if you’re relaxed. So immediately before the meal, take some deep breaths, think calm thoughts, and avoid confronting your ornery uncle (you can argue with him after you’ve defeated your turkey).

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Choose wisely

Once you’ve girded your loins for the overeating challenge, start with the simple carbs. “Potatoes, stuffing, and rolls require minimal effort,” Bonci says. “You can pack in more without feeling too full.” Also, the stomach can empty itself of low-fiber carbs in a mere 30 to 90 minutes. Veggies, whole grains, and protein, such as turkey, move more slowly and will take more time to pass through your stomach.

There are other reasons to delay the meat course. “Once you start eating protein, the secretion of enzymes and hormones starts that satiety cascade,” Bonci says. In other words, it will make you feel full sooner. Fiber-rich foods such as those veggies and whole grains fill you up, too—the fiber soaks up water and takes up more room.

Liquids also occupy precious stomach real estate, so don’t consume a large glass of juice or any other beverage. That said, fluids will help food move through your stomach as you eat, so sip some water or other liquid throughout the meal. “Drinking will help to move things down,” Bonci says, “instead of having everything sitting there going nowhere like a traffic jam.” These crafts will keep kids entertained at the dinner table. 

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Take a break

Your stomach will expand to a maximum volume of four ­liters. But as fast as you put food into it, your stomach processes it and starts moving it into the intestines. So when you feel as if you can’t eat another bite, press pause.

Luckily, you don’t have to wait for your stomach to empty out entirely before you go back to the buffet. Give yourself half an hour to recover, and you might find that you’re ready to pack in more chow.

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Move around

At the point that all you want to do is curl up on the sofa while holding your stomach and groaning, ignore that instinct and get to your feet!

“Part of the digestion of food is movement,” Bonci says. Instead of sitting, go chase after your little nephew; this will help push food through your digestive tract and ease the discomfort of feeling stuffed. Need some ideas? Try some of these Thanksgiving games for kids.

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Enjoy Dessert

Sweet foods don’t make you feel full as quickly as savory ones do. So after the meal, dig into some pumpkin pie. After all your hard eating, you’ve earned a sweet reward. (Just make sure you haven’t made any of these dumb Thanksgiving mistakes on the journey to dessert.)

These foods were probably eaten at the first Thanksgiving. 

Originally Published in Reader's Digest