Thanksgiving: Time to stuff it in, cram it down, and generally make a pig of yourself wallowing in the food, right?
Not unless you want to set blimp-sized patterns for yourself, says Joyce Geer, a dietitian with Harbour Hospital Center.
The hospital is offering "Let's Talk Turkey," a class to help people reduce holiday overeating and poor eating habits, next month at the Glen Burnie Mall.
Studies show that most Americans gain an average of 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Jan. 1, says Ms. Geer, but they don't have to.
"We want people to realize they do not have to overeat. Nobody is making them," says the dietitian.
Holiday-goers this week should also keep in mind that "you can still eat, but you can also take regular foods and make them more healthy," Ms. Geer says. "For example, you can make pumpkin pie with egg substitutes and skim milk, and use graham cracker crumbs instead of pastry crust. That would take a lot of the fat out."
Teri Helms, a cardiac rehabilitation specialist with the hospital, will speak at the turkey class, and Ms. Geer will offer cooking demonstrations of how to lower the fat in high-fat foods.
The hospital also will hand out information packets that include holiday eating tips and healthy recipes.
"Turkey and stuffing don't really need a lot of changing to be healthy," said Ms. Geer. "For stuffing, you can just use broth instead of eggs, and we always tell people to eat turkey anyway. Just not the skin."
Sophie Dombroski, a senior citizen who walks regularly at the Glen Burnie Mall, said she welcomes the class as a way to keep tabs on her health.
"We're all interested to lose weight, that's why we're walking, and for our health," she said. Mrs. Dombroski, exercising with her friend Albina Haluch, said she walks at least three days a week.
"My son puts down everything I eat every day into a computer and tells me the amount of cholesterol I've eaten, or if I need iron," said the Brooklyn Park resident, pausing during her morning walk yesterday. "If I don't eat right, he hollers. I guess he wants to keep me around a while!"
Both women said they could use tips for holiday eating.
"Somebody told me there are 2,700 calories in a complete turkey dinner -- that's a lot," said Mrs. Dombroski. She said she tries to keep her intake to 1,200 or 1,300 calories a day. "I gained my extra pounds last Thanksgiving, and I'm still trying to work it off," she said.
Mrs. Haluch, 59, said she weighed 98 pounds until she turned 50. Now she weighs 118, and is determined to work off 10 pounds so she can fit into some favorite clothes.
Said Ms. Geer: "People need to tell themselves that they don't really need all the food and won't be happy with themselves later if they do eat it. Every individual has to work on themselves not to overeat."
She said the class will be helpful to cardiac patients who must pay strict attention to their diets. But it's also "a good healthy diet for anybody to follow", she said. "Pigging out does not have to be a holiday tradition."
A dietitian and a cardiac specialist will at the Glen Burnie Mall on Dec. 16 to conduct cooking demonstrations and offer advice. The class will be held from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. for the hospital's regular indoor mall hikers and open to the general public from 10 a.m. to noon.