That variety puts our appetite center into overdrive on Thanksgiving would not be a problem, if the highly processed modern food supply weren't already doing the same thing the other 364 days of the year! Remember the "Betcha' can't eat just one!" ad? They weren't kidding!
The net effect of all this appetite stimulation is that it takes more total eating to feel full, and leaves us all with a simple, unpleasant choice: be heavy, or be hungry.
But you can opt out altogether by using some skill power to create a third choice: filling up on fewer calories. Here's a short list of tips for turning sensory specific satiety from adversary to ally:
Base your diet predominantly on simple, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grain products.
Restrict the variety of foods and flavors consumed during any given snack, meal or day to a moderate level.
Select foods in various categories (e.g., snack foods, cereals, baked goods, sauces, etc.) that are limited in the number and variety of ingredients; favor simple over highly processed foods.
Avoid letting dessert be a reward for eating a larger rather than a smaller meal.
Avoid buffets and buffet-style eating.
Limit evening snacking to only one type of food, or avoid it entirely.
Determine the timing and options for dessert in advance rather than when faced with tempting choices.
Limit the variety of foods kept in the house at any given time.
Indulge the occasional craving.
As for the holiday, make your indulgence more about quality, than quantity. Whatever your personal, traditional favorites -- from turkey with gravy to tiramisu -- by all means enjoy those. But forgo the more mundane items you can have any time that tend to come along, such as chips, crackers, and cheese. A one ounce slice of gouda cheese adds 100 calories; five Ritz crackers add another 100.
Just because something is sitting out in a bowl or on a platter does not mean you have to eat it.
Avoid an excessive variety of choices. Look over the entire buffet, and identify those items that interest you most. Limit the variety of foods you put on your plate at any one time. Just as a shopping list prevents a trip to the supermarket from wandering off course, a few minutes to plan your approach to the buffet table will maximize the ratio of pleasure to calories. Choose wisely.
Of course, the best advice for Thanksgiving is just to give in, and live it up! It's a holiday after all. Make prudent diet choices all year long, and you can do just that on the holidays with no harm done.
We do know why there is always room for dessert, and that knowledge can help you master your appetite. Some insight into your hypothalamus can help you do what folklore about nonexistent hollow legs cannot: fill up on fewer calories! I apply this knowledge to good effect every day.
But for whatever it's worth, I intend to stuff myself on Thanksgiving!
Dr. David Katz is director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine and medical contributor to ABC News. His book, Dr. David Katz's Flavor-Full Diet explores further the connection between satiety and weight control.
Visit Dr. Katz's Web site at www.davidkatzmd.com.