How to eat as much food as humanly possible this Thanksgiving

Every Thanksgiving, Americans gather to celebrate family, give thanks, and stuff our faces until we all feel sick. Tragically, filling up too fast on a good holiday meal means you won't manage to grab seconds or thirds of all the best dishes on the table. 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.

1. Prepare

Getting ready for the big meal is a matter of balance. To consume as much as possible, you'll need to start on an empty stomach. But if you're starving, you'll eat too quickly instead of pacing yourself.

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

Exercising earlier in the day is also a good idea. 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, it's 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).

2. Choose wisely

Once you've girded your loins for the overeating challenge, there's nothing to do but begin. The choices you make now will determine whether you fill your stomach to maximum capacity, or give up long before dessert. That's because certain types of food make you feel more full than others.

An over-full feeling isn't just caused by a stretched-to-capacity stomach. Your body also triggers feelings of fullness by releasing hormones and enzymes as you eat. For example, the more you chew, the fuller you will feel. (That said, do not chew less in an attempt to reduce fullness. It will increase your odds of choking, and death by asphyxiation is not a fun way to end a Thanksgiving meal.)

Check out these quick and easy sides:

12 Thanksgiving sides to make in (just!) 30 minutes
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Because of this, certain substances, such as the fats and proteins in turkey, will make you feel full sooner than others. "Once you start eating protein, the secretion of enzymes and hormones starts that satiety cascade," Bondi says, "and having fat as part of the meal triggers satiety. If you're trying not to over-consume, front-load with protein."

And if you are trying to over-consume?

"Potatoes, stuffing, rolls require minimal effort," Bonci says. "You can do maximal damage with those things because they layer nicely—you can pack in more without feeling too full."

So you start with the carbs, and only then load the turkey onto your plate. While you're at it, you should also delay your consumption of fiber-rich foods like veggies and whole grains. They fill you up faster because that 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 bowl of soup right away. That said, fluids will help food move through your stomach as you eat, so sip some water or other liquids throughout the meal.

3. Take a break

The human stomach is stretchy. If you cram food and drink into it, it will expand to a maximum volume of two to four liters—the equivalent of one or two 2-liter bottles of soda. Once you've filled your gut to capacity, the meal is over—right?

Not so. As fast as you put food into it, your stomach processes that content and starts moving it into the intestines. So when you feel like you can't eat another bite, press pause. If you've been loading up on simple carbohydrates, you're in luck: The stomach can empty itself of low-fiber carbs in a mere 30 to 90 minutes.

But veggies and whole grains will throw a wrench into the process. "Something with fiber takes longer to leave the stomach because the fiber holds fluids," Bonci says. Thirsty fiber not only makes you feel fuller faster, but also moves more slowly through your system, making that feeling of fullness last longer.

And protein like turkey sticks to your ribs for much longer: It will take closer to four hours to pass through your stomach.

Luckily, you don't have to wait for your stomach to empty out entirely before you go back to the buffet. Even a little reduction in food volume can help. Give yourself half an hour to recover, and you might find that you're ready to pack in more chow.

4. Recovery

At this point, you probably feel bloated and sick. All you want is to curl up on the sofa, holding your stomach and groaning. Ignore that instinct and get to your feet.

If you take yourself from a sitting to a standing position, you're going to move food more quickly.

"Part of the digestion of food is movement," Bonci says. "If you take yourself from a sitting to a standing position, you're going to move food more quickly and feel less uncomfortable sooner than if you just sit down."

You don't have to start running laps around the living room, but even a slow walk can make you feel better. The nerves around your stomach are the ones that complain to the brain about how full you are. Once your body pushes that food from your stomach into your intestines, the uncomfortably full feeling should ease up.

Adding liquid will also speed up this process. "Drinking will help to move things down," Bonci says, "instead of everything sitting there going nowhere like a traffic jam."

5. Dessert

Sweet foods don't make you feel full as quickly as savory ones do. So after the meal, dig in to some pumpkin pie—after all your hard eating, you've earned it.

RELATED: If you don't feel like cooking on Thursday, these restaurants have your back:

23 restaurants open on Thanksgiving 2016
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23 restaurants open on Thanksgiving 2016

1. Applebee's

Most locations will be open, but they generally close early. Call ahead for hours.

2. Black Angus Steakhouse

You can make reservations for Thanksgiving dinner at Black Angus Steakhouse, and all locations will open at 11 a.m.Dinner entails a choice of soup or salad, roasted turkey and sides, as well as pumpkin pie for dessert, all for $18.99 if you’re an adult, and $9.99 for kids.

3. Bob Evans

Bob Evans recently hosted its Sausage Selection Election for the 2016 Presidential Election. On Thanksgiving, the restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at select locations. Hours might vary.

4. Bonefish Grill

Bonefish Grill closes early on Thanksgiving 2016, at either 7 p.m. or 9 p.m., depending on the location.

5. Buca di Beppo

On Thanksgiving, Buca di Beppo opens at 11 a.m. Throughout the holiday season, the restaurant is open to parties and events, including catering as well as delivery.

6. Capital Grille

Capital Grille will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year, and offers quite a menu. For $38, adults get roasted turkey with brioche stuffing, French green beans with Marcona almonds and cranberry pear chutney, as well as mashed potatoes to share. Thanksgiving dinner for kids is just $15.

7. Claim Jumper

Claim Jumper is definitely open Thanksgiving 2016, and offers a diverse selection of entrees, including roasted turkey dinner for $24.99, ham dinner for $24.99, roasted tri-tip for $25.99, as well as prime rib and seafood meals. Call your location for hours, menu and reservations.

8. Country Cookin

Country Cookin is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. except for the Harrisonburg’s Valley Mall location, and will be featuring turkey with stuffing and gravy, or ham with baked, spiced apples. The good news: both Thanksgiving entrees come with all-you-can-eat servings of salads and sides.

9. Cracker Barrel

Cracker Barrel is open every day except for Christmas. On Thanksgiving Day, hours vary by location.

10. Denny's

Following their regular schedule and staying open 24 hours.

11. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Open for Thanksgiving this year for the first time ever, beginning at 11 a.m.

12. Golden Corral

Golden Corral will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Thanksgiving, and offers its signature Thanksgiving Day Buffet, featuring a vast menu of dishes.

13. IHOP

Most restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving, but hours vary by location.

14. Maggiano's Little Italy

Call your location for hours, prices and reservations.

15. Marie Callender's Restaurant

For hours and reservations, call ahead on Thanksgiving. Marie Callender's will feature five Thanksgiving feasts that you can order and reheat yourself. If you dine-in at the restaurant, adult Thanksgiving dinner costs $19.99 and kids dinner $8.99.

16. Mimi's Cafe

Mimi's Cafe is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and also offers a special Chef-Prepared-Take-Home Thanksgiving dinner.

17. Romano's Macaroni Grill

Open from 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., but times may vary by location.

18. Ruby Tuesday

Most locations open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., call ahead for details.

19. Ruth's Chris Steakhouse

Most will open at 12 p.m., but check your specific location. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse will feature a three course turkey dinner for $39.95 for adults, while the children’s menu costs $12.95.

20. Ted's Montana Grill

Select locations are open on Thanksgiving, so call ahead for hours, pricing and reservations. Ted’s Montana Grill has put together a classy Thanksgiving Day dinner menu, which includes roast turkey and gravy with garlic mashed potatoes, herb dressing, carrots, squash casserole and cranberry sauce, plus Ted’s famous Apple Pecan Crisp for $29. The restaurant also boasts featured wines on Thanksgiving.

21. T.G.I. Friday's

The restaurant will open at 5 p.m. in most cases, but call ahead to make sure.

22. Waffle House

All Waffle House locations are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including Thanksgiving 2016.

23. Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs has a race day program starting at 11:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Admission price is $38.00 per person, which includes a three-hour "Chef's Table" buffet with soft drinks.

Gates and the buffet service will open at 10 a.m.


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