First off, let's be clear about what we're talking about here.

Every holiday season, social media is inundated with lifters claiming to be "bloated" following their yearly holiday indulgence. Without fail, 99% of them have about as much bloat as the antenna on my car. For a long time practitioner of the bloating arts such as myself, I imagine I feel just like C.J. Murphy does watching the amateur drinkers on New Year's Eve. On second thought, since Murph rarely knows where or when he is, he probably just stands there wondering why his favorite bar is so crowded at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday and why all the drunks are wearing paper hats.

I'm getting off-topic. 

Just because you are "full" doesn't mean you are "bloated," and I can't sit idly by for yet another year and watch the same mistake being made over and over again. When you fill your car with gas, you tell people your car is "bloated" or "full"? Any amateur can keep eating until their stomach is full and distended, but only the real lifters know how to reach their full-faced potential.

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Here's a simple test to see if you are really bloated. Do you need a shirtless, full body shot to display your "bloat"? If so, you're doing it wrong. A good bloat will be noticeable from the neck up. A great bloat will be obvious from the eyes to mid-forehead. Otherwise, you're no more bloated than the typical fitness chick who eats half a sandwich at Panera, then Instagrams her "food baby" while 86 desperate dudes chime in with "Don't be silly, you're beautiful!" along with bug-eye emoticons and pictures of flowers.  

Thanksgiving table with roasted turkey, sliced ham and side dishes ©

The Art of Thanksgiving Eating

Although so many lifters seem to think a great bloat just magically appears after a big meal, there is an art to it. Here's what you need to know:


For starters, f*ck turkey. It's one of the worst bloating foods there is. Ever notice how cutting diets all include a shit-ton of lean poultry and bloating protocols never do? Exactly. For the holiday bloater, turkey is the Netflix in a "Netflix and chill" session. Sure, it's the pretense necessary for this all to take place, but nobody actually needs or wants it. Pretty much everything on the table, including the napkins, will do more for your bloat than the turkey will. 

Take one or two slices to be polite and move on.  


Gravy is the shit. Continuing with my N&C analogy, if turkey is the Netflix, gravy is the third glass of wine because "hey, it's Friday night right? And if you can't drive, don't sweat it, my roommate's out of town and you can totally just crash right here on the couch." Gravy is the glue that holds the bloat together. Pour it liberally over everything, including the pie. Not only does it contain valuable sodium, but it will help everything slide down your gullet and on to victory. 

Yams, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Casserole

All in a tie for second just behind gravy, but beating turkey by a mile. These staples should be the majority of your plate and you should have at least three helpings each with a liberal pouring of gravy.

Jello Mold

Seriously, what is up with this stuff? I never know if this is supposed to be a dessert, side dish, garnish, or what. Why is this stuff a tradition, and does anyone actually look forward to it? Still, it does contain valuable sugar, so rather than try to make sense of it over dinner, I just get to the house early when my mother-in-law is just putting this stuff in the refrigerator, then sneak up and drink it all while it's still liquid.

Word to the wise: If you go this way, don't forget about it and freak out when you drop your next deuce. Because if you show up at the emergency room thinking you're about to die, and suddenly realize you drank a whole jello mold six hours ago, the ER staff, already pissed they're working the holiday will not have an ounce of sympathy, and will probably schedule a colonoscopy just to be dicks. 

Cranberry Sauce

Eh, makes dry turkey taste less like crap, so use it as you wish, but only in addition to, NOT instead of gravy.


What could possibly go wrong with pie, aside from convincing white chicks everywhere that pumpkin spice is actually a thing to be desired? Load up on as much pie as you can, preferably doing that old cartoon move where you cut a small piece out of a full pie, then take the majority of the pie for yourself, leaving only the small piece. Note: Don't really do that, everyone will hate you, especially if you've already drunk the jello mold.

Logistical Concerns

As with all facets of training, those who pay attention to the little details of their competition misses are most likely to enjoy the greatest reward. 

The Day Before

You might think the best approach is to eat lightly the days leading up to the big show, but this might be the worst approach you can take because it will shrink your stomach up something awful, making it nearly impossible to eat to full capacity. Instead, eat like a Viking the days leading up to the big meal, then chug a gallon of water before bed, just to make sure you're good and ready to fill'er up. You'll sleep like crap with all the bathroom trips, but since it's a national holiday, you can sleep late and hit the table like a runaway train.

Abdominal Distress

Let's face it, you are about to go to war, and with war comes casualties. Sometimes, the casualty is laying a nasty ass-blast at the Thanksgiving dinner table. This is a tricky one, but I've found the best solution is to make up a "blame list" well in advance of dinner. That way, when I release a vicious SBD between shovels of stuffing, I already know who else to shoot the disapproving glance to. The key here is to pick on those that can't defend themselves. Pets work great, as do babies, or old, senile relatives. The aged tend to fart often and audibly anyway, so your best bet here is to hold it until you hear them release the hounds, then quickly sneak one out right on its tail. It's the perfect crime. 


Everyone is familiar with the unbuttoning of the pants following a big meal. This to me is nothing but a sign of poor preparation. What were you doing with your pants buttoned to begin with? By the time it takes you to realize your pants are too tight, you've probably already restricted the intake of food by a few valuable ounces. Elastic is the only way to fly if you even bother with pants at all. I prefer to dress from head to toe in Under Armor. I can't really say if this offends anyone or not, but by this point, everyone is already pissed and giving me the silent treatment for accusing grandma of cutting the cheese. 


What better tradition than the All-American game of football to go with this most All-American holiday? But in order to continue your gastric march to greatness, you need to be careful about how you watch, because if done improperly, the simple act of watching the game can have a disastrous effect on your bloat for a multitude of reasons.

First off, you'll probably want to watch the game from a comfy chair with a beer. This means you'll be nodding off like a narcoleptic within minutes. No good, as long as there is food in the house. You should be awake and eating! Do you want this or not? Another reason to stay away from the TV is that watching football might actually make you want to play football, and right now this is the worst idea ever. Not only is vomiting a 100% certainty sitting in a chair for the last three hours, but you're also tighter than usual and you WILL pull something.

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On the flip side, the game can be the biggest bloat fuel there is because the worst time to watch football is when you're at your absolute unfittest, which you now should be. At this low point in your life, the last thing you want to watch is a bunch of 26-year-old millionaires in their physical prime perform skills that are now a distant memory. Even if you were NEVER athletic, you will for some reason invent an alternate universe in your head where you were a stud, just you can lament the loss of your "abilities."

For an example of this phenomenon, just observe the dads at any little league game. This whole situation will lead to a mild depression, which is exactly what you want, because how do most people deal with depression? OVEREATING! The trick is to get just depressed enough for that fourth helping of pie, but not enough for that third Vicodin. 

The next day it will be time to put that bloat to work. I highly recommend geared squatting or benching so that you can best take advantage of your new awesomer leverages. This is where all the discomfort of the previous day pays off. 

Author of Gear: The Ultimate Guide to Equipped Powerlifting, Dave competed in powerlifting from 1997 to 2020. As a competitive powerlifter, his best total was 2061, weighing 181 pounds. Dave totaled 11x times his bodyweight in two weight classes and benched 3x his bodyweight in four weight classes (all in full meets). He retired in 2020 at the WPO Semi Finals at the Arnold Expo.

Dave was born in NYC. He resides in Connecticut with his wife and son.