Making Thanksgiving Healthy: Is One Day of Overeating Really a Big Deal?

Many families see Thanksgiving as a time to consume more food and drink than the body can handle. Dietary principles, like food combining, often go right out the door.

When we eat too many carbohydrates and not enough non-starchy veggies, this can contribute to digestive pain and swollen joints the next day.


A typical Thanksgiving meal is loaded full of carbs and sugar. Do yourself a favor this Thanksgiving: Keep Assist Full Spectrum digestive enzymes on hand and practice Body Ecology principles so you can enjoy your meal without overindulging.

A holiday feeding frenzy isn’t just common, it’s encouraged. Most of us see Thanksgiving as a time to loosen our belts and eat as much as we can — it is a holiday, after all. This may be the reason that Thanksgiving ranks as America’s second favorite holiday, right after Christmas. On this festive day, 88 percent of us will be eating turkey, according to the latest survey from the National Turkey Federation.1 When you put turkey in the context of a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, the Calorie Control Council estimates that the average American will eat more than 4500 calories and 229 grams of fat in a typical holiday meal, including the inevitable grazing all day long.2

For those of us trying to watch our waistline and our health while still enjoying the holidays, it takes more than sheer willpower to overcome this pressure to overeat.

How Overeating Affects the Body

What happens when we eat too much? Many of us literally feel the effects of overindulgence:

  • Bloating
  • Congested sinuses
  • Fatigue, sleepiness, or lethargy
  • Gas
  • Grogginess or brain fog
  • Heartburn
  • Stiff and sore joints

When we eat too much food, our digestive tracts can become overburdened. When this happens, oftentimes food doesn’t move quickly enough through the intestines, and it ferments. Bacteria and other microorganisms feed on stagnant food and generate gases. When these gasses are trapped, we feel bloated. Or, these gases are released. Sometimes, these same gases can even contribute to either bouts of constipation or diarrhea.

When we eat sweet and sugary foods, or when we eat too many carbohydrates and not enough non-starchy veggies, this can also contribute to digestive pain and swollen joints the next day.

Food toxins and allergens, parasites, bacterial overgrowth, and the daily stress of living can all take their toll on the digestive system. This is why even one day of feasting can lead to weeks or months of trouble ahead. When researchers weighed in on how overeating on a holiday can affect the body, the consensus was clear: Overindulging through the holiday season can contribute to weight gain and compromise health.

Based on the results of an NIH study, University of Missouri dietitians recommend sticking to a healthy diet and exercise plan year-round, considering that the average one pound holiday weight gain may never come off. This compounded yearly weight gain can add up and increase the risk of obesity and related disease.3 In a 2015 report published in The FASEB Journal, researchers went so far as to say that even one unhealthy binge, in a meal or snack, could create signs of metabolic disease.4 If you do overindulge on a holiday, all hope is not lost completely. Daily exercise can still help to counter some of the harmful physiological effects of short-term overeating — meaning, it’s better to get moving after a big Thanksgiving meal than to sleep off the turkey on the couch.5

3 Quick and Healthy Thanksgiving Tips for a Happier Holiday

While there are many wonderful treats during the holiday season, using Body Ecology principles while you still enjoy food will keep your digestive system healthy and your immune system strong:

  1. Practice 80/20. This foundational Body Ecology principle encourages you to only eat until you are 80 percent full to support your body’s natural digestive process. Leave your stomach 20 percent empty. Then rest and digest. You can also apply this rule to Thanksgiving dinner — fill 80 percent of your plate with non-starchy veggies and seaweeds and the remaining 20 percent with an animal protein, Body Ecology grain-like seeds, or starchy vegetables. (According to the food combining principle below, grains and proteins should not be eaten at the same meal.)
  2. Practice proper food combining. Food combining can be your best friend at a crowded Thanksgiving feast with plenty of options. Since digestion requires a lot of your body’s energy, the purpose of food combining is to make digestion easier to increase your “digestive fire.” Eat fruits alone and on an empty stomach; eat proteins with non-starchy vegetables and/or ocean vegetables; eat grains and starchy vegetables with non-starchy and/or ocean vegetables.
  3. Try to avoid sugar. When eating sweets, choose something naturally sweet, like berries, and eat these alone or with a glass of probiotic, like Body Ecology Passion Fruit Biotic. Drinking a probiotic or eating fermented foods, both rich in beneficial bacteria, can naturally curb a craving for sweets.

What else?

As you prepare for the holiday season, remember how blessed and rich your own life is. Look around you and realize how much opportunity and greatness surrounds you and others. You may find that these simple moments of gratitude actually take away your desire to eat more than you can handle during family festivities.

Even the act of feasting, if done consciously, can deeply nourish the body rather than give you heartburn and gas.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be all about overeating. It can be a time of family and togetherness to eat mindfully and focus on what you are truly thankful for.

When you overeat, you put a burden on your digestive system. If food doesn’t move quickly enough through the intestines, it will ferment and feed pathogenic bacteria to cause gas, constipation, or even diarrhea. Overeating sugary foods and carbohydrates can cause digestive problems and contribute to swollen joints.

This holiday season, focus on the principles of Body Ecology to enjoy delicious food and protect your digestive health at the same time:

  • Eat only until you are 80 percent full, and remember to eat 80 percent non-starchy vegetables and seaweeds at every meal.
  • Skip dessert and enjoy a naturally sweet fruit like berries, best eaten alone or with a glass of Passion Fruit Biotic, or use zero-calorie Stevia or Lakanto as a healthy sugar substitute.
  • Having digestive enzymes and fermented foods on hand this Thanksgiving will help to soothe your digestion so that you can truly enjoy the time you spend with family and friends.
  • And when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em — bring your own nourishing Body Ecology holiday dish to have a healthy feast without sacrificing flavor.
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  1. “Turkey History & Trivia.” National Turkey Federation.
  2. “Stuff the Bird, Not Yourself: How to Deal with the 3,000 Calorie Thanksgiving Meal.” Calorie Control Council.
  3. University of Missouri-Columbia. “Happy, feel-good holiday seasons start with healthy choices at Thanksgiving, nutrition experts say.” ScienceDaily.
  4. F. M. Kardinaal, M. J. van Erk, A. E. Dutman, J. H. M. Stroeve, E. van de Steeg, S. Bijlsma, T. Kooistra, B. van Ommen, S. Wopereis. Quantifying phenotypic flexibility as the response to a high-fat challenge test in different states of metabolic health. The FASEB Journal, 2015; 29 (11): 4600 DOI: 10.1096/fj.14-269852.
  5. Walhin JP, Richardson J, Betts J and Thompson D. Exercise counteracts the effects of short-term overfeeding and reduced physical activity independent of energy imbalance in healthy young men. The Journal of Physiology, December 2013.
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