One Professional Eater's Strategy For Conquering The Buffet

If you've ever been to an all-you-can-eat buffet, chances are one certain thought has crossed your mind: "Would it be possible to eat everything in this restaurant?" While such a thought is reminiscent of the actions of one Homer Simpson, one has to wonder how a restaurant that operates on the idea of all-you-can-eat for a relatively cheap one-time fee can operate successfully, considering that just about anyone could theoretically take gross advantage of the offer.

According to Business Insider, many all-you-can-eat restaurants and buffets usually pull in a profit from certain rules and tricks designed around keeping the customer both satisfied and willing to return. A buffet, for example, could offer smaller plates or bigger cups for drinks while offering a variety of new menu items and cheaper foods. This way, a customer comes in, pays their fee and fills their plate with entrees and sides, and is usually full after the first or second plate. In the event of a "super-eater," or someone who can put away more than a few plates and still have room for dessert, the restaurant is still able to milk money off them, such as charging drinks separately (via The Motley Fool) or offering cheap foods in bulk to save on food costs (per Psychology Today).

But is there a happy medium? How can you get the most out of your trip to the buffet without undereating or being taken advantage of by the management at your local buffet?

Prioritize your dining options

The idea of "all-you-can-eat" is a seductive one. Almost immediately you're thinking that you can load up on everything from carved turkey to macaroni and cheese to endless bowls of soft-serve and the management will be none the wiser. But, according to legendary competitive eater Matt "Megatoad" Stonie, you should actually plan ahead before you go pig out.

As Stonie explains to Thrillist, the biggest mistake some buffet eaters make is to go and fill up on the heavy stuff first, such as meats or carbs. This makes them feel full much faster than they usually would, thus ending their time at the buffet early. The smart thing to do, Stonie explains, is to focus on lighter fare first like soups or salads, since the higher water content helps them settle in your stomach easier instead of sitting in there like a heavy chunk of beef or dinner rolls. This way, when you're ready for the main course, you don't feel as full or as tired.

Stonie's point about soup being a lighter, less filling affair applies to the debate about whether soup can be considered more of a light appetizer than anything resembling a full meal (via The Takeout). While soup is delicious and can be used as a "warm-up" before you gorge yourself at the buffet, it's not exactly what one would consider an incredibly filling meal the same way slices of thickly carved ham would be.

Be sure to pace yourself

This may sound odd coming from a competitive eater like Matt Stonie, but another key piece of advice he gives is to pace yourself. Don't try to gorge yourself as fast as possible — instead, take it easy, get small portions, and keep to what you're comfortable with. You want to enjoy your time at the buffet, but you don't want to go home with a stomachache or worse.

What exactly happens if you overeat? While you would obviously get a stomachache, Gastrova explains that you'll also feel extremely lethargic, suffer from heartburn, and your heart rate goes up. You'll find yourself being a mix of sick, exhausted, and bloated. Unlike Stonie, who has trained to be a competitive eater, chances are that you probably wouldn't be able to handle such an enormous amount of food in such a short time.

Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to keep yourself from overeating.  According to Houston Methodist Medicine, you can help to reduce overeating by staying hydrated as you eat; understanding the limits of what you're comfortable eating (do you really think you can eat all of that food or is it just your stomach talking?), and avoid skipping meals in anticipation of the buffet. 

If you keep these tips in mind and remember to skip the rule of overloading on starches if possible, you'll find your trip to the buffet a very filling and fulfilling venture.