Around this time of year, you might hear lots of self-deprecating jokes about wearing elastic pants, gaining weight, and "being bad," because — you guessed it! — Thanksgiving dinner is a larger-than-usual meal. It shouldn't be that shocking, but alas, people get all kinds of freaked out about how they're going to protect their waistlines from expanding during the holidays.
Bloating after eating is not a sign of a health concern, it's a sign that your basic anatomy is doing its thing, Hazel Galon Veloso, MD, faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology told Refinery29. When you eat large servings of vegetables — like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and kale — then you may experience even more bloating. Lots of people assume that when their stomach is full, it's means that they're eating the "wrong foods," but most of the time it's just a sign that your stomach is expanding, as it should be while you're eating, Dr. Veloso said. While this could be uncomfortable, it's not dangerous or bad for you.
Of course, the obsession with bloating is really indicative of our larger fears surrounding fat and holiday weight gain (which, by the way, is a myth). Bloating often gets demonized simply because it makes your stomach appear larger, which people associate with "looking fat," as intuitive eating coach Christy Harrison, MPH, RD, wrote for Refinery29. "In reality, having a belly that sticks out is nothing to be ashamed of," she wrote.
Going into this holiday, however, it's important to remember that Thanksgiving is just another dinner — albeit a large one. Society tells us that we have to make a big deal about the special dishes, and take advantage of the enlarged portions. But you can still listen to your hunger cues and stop when you're full and satisfied on Thanksgiving — even if that means saying "no" to the third and fourth servings of the fluffy potatoes your aunt spent hours mashing.
However, if you decide to eat so much that your stomach happens to feel or appear bloated, just let it be. Maybe do some very light stretches that make you feel more comfortable enough to make it through the night. But if anything, you should be thankful for your body and the delicious meal you just got to share with loved ones. After all, isn't that what Thanksgiving's really all about anyways?
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741. On Thanksgiving, NEDA will also be offering support via Twitter (from 10 am - 2 pm EST) using the hashtag #Thx4Support.