Over the lips and through the gums, look out, Stomach, here it comes! It’s the biggest eating marathon of the year. If you’re like me and you completely lack willpower (because it’s a total fairy tale), you’re likely to wind up sprawled on the floor, moaning, “I swear I’ll never eat this much ever again!” Let’s get real about it and plan the debauchery.
There are two pieces of information that really helped me on the path to losing 35 pounds. (That was 23% of my body weight).
These two things were far more helpful to me than anything else I learned about nutrition, keeping a food log, exercise, or weight loss. They’re also why I’m comfortable following the One Plate Rule.
The Hunger Scale is a subjective measurement of how hungry or full you are, on a scale of 1 to 10. A five is ‘just right.’ A one would be fainting from lack of food, while a ten would be like the infamous Mr. Creosote scene in the Monty Python movie, The Meaning of Life. Ideally, we would spend almost all our time between a 4 and a 6.
Me? I would routinely eat to a 7, an 8 at restaurants, a 9 on holidays, and definitely a 10 on Thanksgiving.
Since it takes about twenty minutes for the brain to receive a signal from the stomach, it’s easy to snarf down a huge amount of food before you even realize you’re full. Or too full. Or WAY too full.
Or, in my case, still too full to eat at noon the following day!
I’ve learned that a 7 on the Hunger Scale is physically uncomfortable. That’s already the level where I want to loosen my waistband. That’s the level where I might actually get a headache from overeating.
It’s also the level that Past Me would have taken as a signal to get seconds, and then a slice of pie.
This is where the knowledge about the volume capacity of the stomach comes in.
Thirty-two ounces is like a large drink cup. It’s possible to put more food than that on a single plate, sure. You can game it. The idea here is to do a favor to yourself, to make your own life easier, to enjoy yourself to the max without paying a price later.
The thing is, when there’s a huge amount of food available, there are also going to be leftovers. When I go to a restaurant, I can eat a fantastic dinner AND save half for lunch the next day. That more than doubles my pleasure. Two great meals, AND I don’t have to feel short of breath or leave big red welts around my waist from my tight pants. On Thanksgiving, my family is easily still eating leftovers on the third, maybe the fourth day.
I AM NOT MISSING OUT ON ANYTHING!
My dinner isn’t going to run away. Nobody is going to put all the food into a catapult and launch it over the neighbor’s roof. It’s not going to vanish into the 23rd dimension. It will still be there! Also, I have access to 1. All the recipes and 2. A 24-hour grocery store. If I really want to eat more of this stuff after the leftovers run out, I can make it whenever I want. I eat cranberry sauce all the time.
This is my deal. I can eat whatever I want, in whatever quantity, as long as it all fits on one plate. Then I can push my physical limits by eating a slice of pie about two hours later.
The more dishes there are, the more emotional this can be. Buffets are the worst. There are 47 dishes here and I want to try all of them! But if I only use one plate, I can only have a teaspoon of each one!!! I try to lean toward the vegetables and salads, being more selective about the denser stuff. I’m not fussy about various foods blending and touching each other, but I do think about whether the flavors sort of match. For instance, I probably wouldn’t choose both curry and pizza for the same plate, although I love them both.
First, I fill my plate. If I’m getting any kind of roll or bread, I choose one and stick it on the side. It has to fit on the plate without falling off the edge! In my experience, if I mix starches, it makes me really sleepy after the meal. It messes with my sleep all night, gives me cottonmouth, and tends to add a full pound to my weigh-in the next day. If there are breads, rice, pasta, and potatoes available, I choose just one of them.
Back to how rules work. These rules are my rules. I choose them. I choose them because when I break them, I experience negative side effects. Every time I wake up in the middle of the night because I overate, every time I give myself a headache or a bellyache from overeating, I am reminded of why I structure my eating behaviors.
I’m totally going to go crazy this weekend. I’m going on an epic food bender. I’m going to eat all sorts of stuff that I only eat once a year. I’m also going to plan around it, enjoying myself without making myself ill.
This is my eating-marathon schedule:
For the last several years, I’ve tended to LOSE WEIGHT over Thanksgiving weekend. That’s partly because I deep-clean my house a week in advance and spend three solid days cooking. I don’t eat while I cook because I’m hustling too fast. I also tend to lose weight over the holiday because I’m eating more vegetables and because I’m too full to snack like normal.
I’ve maintained my weight loss for nearly four years now. There’s no reason to scrimp and scrape on holidays or special occasions. There are no rules other than What Works For Me. I enjoy myself more now that I know how to eat everything I want, and I can do it without acting like a human garbage disposal.
Let’s savor the moment, taste at least a bite of everything, and have a great holiday without groaning afterward.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.