Preparing For Large Meals
While some cultures have already been tucking into huge feasts over the past couple of months, many people all over the world will be preparing for Christmas and New Years. Did you remember everything? Got all the presents? Sent out all your cards? Bought in all the huge amounts of food?
You probably didn't think about it, but some people are worried about the coming avalanche. Like me, they may have trouble with getting full too quick and are too polite to say no to that extra piece of turkey or mince pie. Fear not! I have looked into and compiled advice and tips that will help make the meal more enjoyable, and help you eat better.
Before I begin, I would like to state that I love food. Despite finding myself full while everyone else is still munching away, I just want more, tasty edibles coming my way. Sometimes I have no problems eating twice as much as others, which I can only assume is because I am carrying out some of the tips, in this article, without realizing it. It's not good to bank on maybe getting it right, so I took some time to research how other people prepare for large meals.
You would think that the obvious answer would be to not eat anything that day (or longer), but you'd be wrong. While you torture yourself by staying hungry, your stomach will not be prepared for lots of food. In fact, it expects there to be less food and contracts! If you're going to do this properly, then you have to look at the extreme cases.
Competitive EatingCompetitive eaters will not fast in the days before a competition, in fact they do the complete opposite! Their task, eating large amounts of food in a short period of time, requires them to expand their stomachs as much as they can, hence they drink large quantities of water and eat heavily. juggler-ga's answer to "How to prepare for an eating contest", over on Google Answers, cites several sources where competitive eaters state that fasting is a rookie mistake, and that drinking water is common help in expanding your stomach. Eating well is also recommended. However, you're just an average person looking to enjoy a meal as fully as possible. Don't worry, you don't have to go to the extremes that competitive eaters do, but listen to their advice and make small changes accordingly in the days running up to your grand meal.
Controversial to this, an article on Chow states you should be starving and torturing yourself when preparing for a meal. Like the competitive eaters, I disagree with this and advise you do not fast, but eat regularly. Torturing yourself may prepare you psychologically for a meal and make you want it more, but if your body is not ready then you can forget about getting the most out of your meal.
Breakfast & MetabolismLet's start with the first meal of the day: breakfast. A little know fact to those beyond my immediate friends and family is that I rarely eat breakfast. It's not that I am not hungry, I just don't feel like eating anything in particular. In my case, this is my biggest issue to deal with. Breakfast, derived from "breaking the fast" while sleeping at night, starts your metabolism which deals with the break down of food and conversion of substances in the body. This includes the transformation of energy for use by the body. If your metabolism isn't going then your body is not prepared for processing what you eat. There is a reason breakfast is dubbed "the most important meal of the day", so don't skip it! In relation to preparing for a large meal, ensure you have breakfast the morning of the meal, if not the days before as well.
Another thing to help your metabolism is to exercise. Ideally, we should all be doing a little exercising everyday to keep in shape, but I'm not here to judge (I don't exercise much myself!). Just do some simple exercises to build up an appetite and keep your metabolism going, you may find you want to do it everyday.
Continue EatingMaintaining your metabolism is all well and good, and starting the day with a good breakfast is great too, but what about the hours left until the meal? Should you be eating and drinking at all? Yes, you should. Stick to your regular meals and drink plenty of water. It may help to downsize your meals a little, so as not to over do it and find yourself too full.
You should also focus on what it is you are eating and drinking in the run up to the meal. Fatty foods are obvious to avoid, try to eat healthier than you usually would if you do not already do so. Drinks like milk and pop/soda are not recommended as they are likely to cause problems during the meal, so stick with water. Caffeine is also to be avoided, as it slows gastric emptying.
Issues with Certain FoodstuffsWhile thinking about what to eat before the meal, think about what is to be had during the meal. You've probably already alerted the host about any allergies, but you may not have thought to ask about what else will be on offer. Some people have issues with eating certain foods, they just don't go down well and make you feel bloated quickly. If you can, see if you can avoid these foods as they will hinder your appetite. While they might not necessarily make you sick, you will be stopped in your tracks if they make you feel full too soon.
Dress for ComfortMake sure the clothes you wear keep you comfortable as you eat. Refrain from wearing tight clothing, make sure you have some extra give and that you don't feel restrained by your clothes. At events where you have to dress smartly this may be an issue, but at things like family gatherings you have a little leeway. I am personally fond of slightly baggy jeans, with a belt that I can easily adjusted once I have sat down.
At The TableFinally, you are sat down with various dishes of food before you. As you pick up your plate and reach for that large piece of chicken, stop and think. If you eat that big bit of chicken it will leave less room for everything else, and you know there will be some left by the time you have cleared your plate. Just because there is food before you doesn't mean you have to take it all then and there. Break down your helpings of each foodstuff into smaller portions, which will fill up your plate and give you a chance to savour a bit of everything. As you require more, go back and get some.
Of course, the above is only applicable to "help yourself" meals. If you are given a set plate, then try to split it up into smaller portions and work your way through each. I have found this method to be most effective when enjoying all aspects of a plateful of food.
Now tuck in, but note this: the slower you eat, the faster you will feel full up. However, if you eat too fast you'll make yourself sick, which would really ruin the meal for everyone. Find a comfortable pace, not too slow and not too fast. Consume your small portions at a rate that suits you and if things are going well you can have some more.
AftermathWhen the meal is over, just relax. Don't work too hard, just sit on the sofa and watch the TV with a light drink. You are full, you have hopefully enjoyed the food and have found yourself able to eat the extra you previously struggled with. If you didn't, try extending the period of preparation by a couple of days and try again. If this fails then maybe you are just not built to deal with large quantities of food. Don't be alarmed! If you are really worried you can have your doctor look into it at your next check-up, but it's likely you just don't have the stomach for large meals. This is completely fine, your peers should understand for future meals and you can eat what is best for you.
Do you have some recommendations or success stories? Let me know in the comments! Happy eating :)