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In this edition:
- The Competitive Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving
- How Much Food Makes a Good Base for Booze?
- How to Make It to the Pie(s)
- The History of the Top Button on Your Pants
- In Case You Can’t Unbutton…
- Post-Dinner Digestion Exercises That Won’t Make You Barf
- What the Heck is a Digestif, Anyway?
- The Sad Story of EATR, the Man-Eating Robot
- How Much Bacon Would It Take to Wrap the Earth?
- Oh FAQ: How Do I Shave My Double Chin?
- Get to Know Your Body: Salivary Glands
1 – The Competitive Eater’s Guide to Thanksgiving
Talking turkey with Miki Sudo, six-time Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest winner and the female world-record setter for turkey eating (9 pounds in 10 minutes!)
“People have certain expectations that when they eat with a competitive eater — especially for Thanksgiving — that we’re going to dominate the table. But that just isn’t the case,” Sudo says. “I don’t typically overeat on a regular basis and for Thanksgiving I love to graze, because it’s just a whole assortment of different things to try. Of course, I do hear jokes like, ‘Hey, don’t eat that whole casserole,’ but it’s just my family having fun. I’m used to it.”
“On a normal day, I eat a lot of fresh produce, especially leafy greens. I like to snack on fruit, and I generally eat lean proteins. Of course, I love a great juicy burger or a rare steak every once in a while, but as long as your daily habits are good, it’s absolutely fine to indulge once in a while.”
“When it comes to competition though, that’s not necessarily eating. I just see it as a competition against other people, and this is the method by which we’re doing it. So I shut off everything — I don’t even consider it food at that point. I know that I need to consume as much as possible, so the adrenaline takes over.”
2 – How Much Food Makes a Good Base for Booze?
Eating before drinking is one of the best ways to avoid getting too messed up during a night of boozin’, but what’s the right amount?
First, it’s important to understand how a belly full of food can help prevent you from getting too drunk. “Alcohol is absorbed into the body primarily through the small intestine, [only] a small amount of alcohol is metabolized in the stomach,” explains George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “How quickly alcohol gets into the body depends on the rate of gastric emptying, or the movement of stomach contents into the small intestine. Having food in the stomach while drinking slows the emptying of alcohol into the small intestine, which slows the absorption of alcohol into the body and reduces the peak blood alcohol concentration.”
As for what kind of food is the best booze sponge, fats may slow gastric emptying more than other stuff, but Koob says that it’s simply more important to eat before — and while — drinking, regardless of what it is.
When it comes to how much food, the answer is equally vague. “A typical meal would suffice,” says Koob, adding though that anything is better than nothing. So your best bet is to go for a real meal — you know, one with some protein, carbs and veggies — as opposed to just those stale peanuts at the bar.
Though again, even those peanuts are better than drinking on a totally empty stomach.
3 – How to Make It to the Pie(s)
Avoiding the annual tragedy of stuffing yourself over dinner and ending up too full for dessert.
Prepare for the Wurst
While it’s a myth that starving yourself shrinks your stomach, crazy hunger results in overeating. That’s why food writer Greg Thilmont recommends, when heading into a big meal, have your previous meal be light, but don’t skip it entirely.
Pacing herself is the last thing competitive eater Miki Sudo worries about in competition, but she shares that the best advice she has on pacing oneself is, “the first bite tastes the same as the last one,” so remember that when you’re going for your fourth scoop of potatoes.
Curb the Carb Coma
Avoiding carbs on Thanksgiving is even more difficult than avoiding conversations with relatives who love to debate politics, but try not to overindulge in starches like bread, potatoes and corn, as they’ll fill you up the most. When deciding on seconds, go for that lean turkey meat instead.
Get Your Just Desserts
The reason why dessert so often makes you feel like crap is because — like the carbs — they’re full of simple carbohydrates that will inevitably lead to a blood sugar spike and crash. To blunt those effects, Herculean Meal Prep’s Ben Canary says, “by limiting the amount you consume, you can limit the effect on your body.” In other words, one slice of apple pie should suffice (okay, maybe two).
4 – The History of the Top Button on Your Pants
You’re done with dinner — time to release that groaning top button to let your belly loose and read up on how that button got there in the first place.
Buttons date back to at least 5,000 years ago, but they wouldn’t be common on men’s pants until the 1600s or so. Fashion historian Jennifer Grayer Moore explains that during this period, pants began to get longer, whereas previously, they were the length of shorts and worn over hose, all of which were usually tied, not buttoned.
When buttons began to appear on men’s lower garments, they could be found at the center waist, like today, but they were accompanied by a whole mess of other buttons, including some near the knee and others that created a “fall front” on men’s pants, which was basically a rectangular flap covering the groin area.
Pants like you see today began to appear in the mid-1800s, when many clothing styles began to simplify. Instead of a big flap to release all of your junk, a few buttons would appear vertically at the groin area with a flap — or “fly” — to disguise things. A few decades into the 20th century, the zipper began to replace the button fly (once they were deemed safe to be near your nether regions). This left only the one solitary button on most casual men’s pants, the sole survivor of a proud history of buttons and the eternal gatekeeper to comfort on Thanksgiving.
5 – In Case You Can’t Unbutton…
As far as we’re concerned, you should be able to let out your top button on any occasion, but if you’re in polite company on Thanksgiving, try these alternatives.
Dress for Excess
While fashion historian Jennifer Grayer Moore shudders at the idea of pull-on pants, there are some out there that can pass for more official-looking attire. For example, some “jogger” jeans might look the part. If this is a bridge too far for you however, at the very least you can wear your loosest pair of nice pants and a belt that’ll go up a size.
Water Your Hole
Competitive eater Miki Sudo tells us that she always relies on drinking lots of water, as it moves along digestion more quickly. This will hopefully relieve some of that tension around your waist, or hurry things up so you can make room for more.
Stand In Room Only
We know, you’d love to sit down and let that tryptophan take you off to lala-land, but nutritionist Sean Salazar explains that standing up will help your digestive tract by lining things up better and using gravity to your advantage.
Waste Not, Want Not
While blowing up someone’s bathroom may not be ideal for polite company either, Salazar explains that taking a nice big bowel movement after a meal will make you feel a bit relieved around your belt, as any sort of abdominal tension is going to further your discomfort. As for the smell, well, you’re on your own with that one.
6 – Post-Dinner Digestion Exercises That Won’t Make You Barf
If you’ve got an hour to kill between dinner and dessert and you’re looking to move that turkey gut-bomb along, try these gentle moves.
“There’s something called N.E.A.T., which stands for ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis,’” explains Anywhere Gym’s Sean Salazar. “Basically, it’s anything we do that’s non-exercise activity.” For example, when you count your steps for the day, you’re measuring your N.E.A.T. activity. So, Slazar advises you to up your N.E.A.T.-ness by going for a walk or doing something — anything — to keep yourself moving in a non-strenuous way.
Salazar says if you want to do more than walk, make sure you warmup beforehand, otherwise that full belly will cramp you up for sure. After that, go for something low impact that isn’t super core-heavy, like lunges or squats, both of which activate your core, but won’t engage it to the point where you’ll have to clean up afterwards.
Yo Mama’s So Wrong…
Not to insult your mother or anything, but that advice about not swimming for 30 minutes after you eat is total BS. Dana Hunnes, dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, explains, “Light activity after a meal, including walking and swimming, is good for digestion and helps to move food through the digestive tract.” Wading in a pool is actually great for a full stomach, though you might want to refrain from doing belly flops.
7 – What the Heck is a Digestif, Anyway?
And should we all be drinking them? We asked Adam Teeter, co-founder and CEO of VinePair, a media company about wine, beer and spirits.
Light the World on Firewater
While “digestif” is French for “‘digestive,” Teeter explains that nearly all cultures have some sort of traditional after-dinner drink. In Europe, you have Italy’s Amaro and France’s Cognac. In Mexico, you have a Carajillo, and Colombia has the Aguardiente. There are even drinks that you may not realize are digestifs — Jägermeister, for example, is a German digestif.
A Cure For What Ales Ya
Digestifs purportedly help you digest your food, but is this true, or just an excuse to drink more? Teeter explains that generally, digestifs do aid in digestion because of what’s in the drinks besides alcohol. “A lot of herbs that are widely recognized as aiding in digestion are present in digestifs. Things like ginseng or turmeric have been in these drinks for centuries, and they help move things along. Now, if you drink more than one — like you decide to finish off a bottle of Amaro — then you’ll probably get super drunk and not feel good the next morning,” Teeter warns.
Leggo My Amaro
While it’s intended to follow a meal, it’s not like you’d have them after your morning’s frozen waffles. Instead, Teeter explains that a good digestif is intended for special occasions and holidays, like Thanksgiving. Just don’t drink so much that you pass out before the pie.
8 – The Sad Story of EATR, the Man-Eating Robot
In the spirit of our gluttony-themed issue, let’s take a minute to tell the tale of the robot who supposedly feasted on human flesh.
In 2009, Americans read headlines like “Upcoming Military Robot Could Feed on Dead Bodies” and “Contractor Working On Horrifying Corpse-Eating Robots.” All of this was about EATR, a robot developed by Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI).
EATR’s intended applications were wide-ranging: In addition to supporting U.S. troops, it had agricultural capabilities and there was interest from the Forest Service in using it to detect invasive species of plants. EATR stood for Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot and, as developer Robert Finkelstein explains, “The system obtained energy by foraging. It found, ingested and extracted energy from biomass in the environment.”
When plans for EATR were publicized, some news outlets praised its environmentally-friendly fuel source — others, however, called it an artificially-intelligent death machine fueled by human corpses, which terrified the public. RTI issued a press release explaining that EATR was “purely vegetarian,” and some news outlets even printed retractions, but the damage was done: EATR was known as a MAN-EATR.
Soon, the project was dead. While Finkelstein says it’s hard to measure the impact of bad press, it certainly didn’t help. Things were made worse with the economic downturn, as Greece was forced to cancel plans to have EATRs clean its landfills.
But a decade after its cancellation, Finkelstein remains optimistic about EATR’s eventual revival. For now, though, EATR sits on the shelf at RTI, hungry for some biomass and a second chance.
9 – How Much Bacon Would It Take to Wrap the Earth?
‘Tis the season for wrapping everything in bacon, so we tried to take it to its obvious conclusion with a little help from a celebrity chef and a mathematician.
To get started, The Brisket Chronicles author Steven Raichlen explains that to cover a large area, you’d want to create a bacon weave — basically a bacon square latticed like a quilt. You can probably get 16 strips to a weave, which — with shrinkage — measures approximately eight inches by eight inches (and weighs about 0.8 pounds).
Next, we turned to mathematician James Hind, who figured out that with Earth’s surface area being 79 quadrillion [a one with 15 zeros after it] square inches, it’d require 1.2 quadrillion weaves or 19.7 quadrillion strips of bacon to cover Earth.
The next question, naturally, is how long it’d take competitive eater Miki Sudo to eat that. Now, she once ate eight pounds of bacon in 10 minutes, so if she never stopped eating, at that rate it would take her 141 billion years to devour all 988 trillion pounds covering Earth.
Here’s the problem, though: Pigs create about 20 pounds of bacon each, so you’d need around 50 trillion pigs to get the necessary amount. Unfortunately, there are only 767.6 million pigs worldwide. Sure, we could use boars and other relatives, but the obvious solution is going to be some kind of space-pig, and aliens will definitely be hoarding these for their own delicious space-bacon — attempting to take them may plunge us into an epic space war for which we are grossly underprepared.
And if you’re thinking about turkey bacon, just forget it.
10 – Oh FAQ: How Do I Shave My Double Chin?
Our in-house barber Asia Jackson explains how to shave the spare chin you’ve developed over Thanksgiving.
Step #1: If you have a double chin and want a beard, the ideal look is going to be a full, lumberjack-style beard so it hides the crease. Also, definitely avoid the chinstrap beard.
Step #2: For a clean shave, you’re going to want to start with a hot towel and Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter as this will help ensure a soft, smooth shave.
Step #3:For shaving itself, the trick is stretching the skin; you can go with the grain or against, just know that the latter is more likely to give you ingrown hairs.
Step #4: To shave above the jawline, put your non-shaving hand on your neck and pull downwards, stretching the face-skin as you shave.
Step #5:When shaving below the jawline, put your non-shaving hand on your cheek and pull up, stretching your neck skin as you shave.
Step #6: Once you’ve got everything, wipe yourself clean and admire both those beautiful chins in the mirror.
11 – Get to Know Your Body: Salivary Glands
As your mouth waters over the smell of roasting turkey, educate yourself on what’s wetting your beak.
Ear, nose and throat doctor Jennifer Villwock explains that there are three types of major salivary glands: the sublingual glands (above the chin); the submandibular glands (near the lower jaw); and the parotid glands (near the ear) — the latter two create most of your spit. While saliva is always being made, there’s not much in reserve, as Villwock estimates that there’s only about five milliliters — or a single teaspoon — of spit in your duct system at any given time. For an entire day, you create anywhere from two to four liters total.
Saliva isn’t just an alert system for turkey-detection, it also has a ton of other functions. Villwock explains, “Saliva helps to regulate the acidity in the mouth, which is important for dental health. While it’s mostly water, it also contains specific proteins, like amylase and lipase, which begin the process of digesting foods. It also helps to maintain moisture and coats the mouth and back of the throat to prevent irritation, or food sticking there.”
Within Spitting Distance
Both llamas and camels are known for their spitting, but which one spits the farthest? While a llama can get up to about 15 feet, camels have been recorded at spitting over 20 feet, so the camel wins easily — polite camels, however, use a napkin.
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