Say Goodbye to That Second Slice of Pie If you're planning to sit down to a big Thanksgiving meal, are you also ready for all those calories? Health and fitness guru Ravenna Brock talks about ways to keep your appetite in check and your calories low. Joining in are Beverly Arnold — a grandmother in Detroit who cooks a Thanksgiving meal she can't even eat — and Astrid Chinn, a new mother in Washington, D.C., who is determined to stay on the straight and narrow path to pre-pregnancy weight.
NPR logo

Say Goodbye to That Second Slice of Pie

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Say Goodbye to That Second Slice of Pie

Say Goodbye to That Second Slice of Pie

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Thanksgiving is about family, but for many folks it's also about feasting. So go ahead, keep your plates packed and glasses full. If you want to eat, drink and be merry today, be ready to pay the prize tomorrow though. If you're on a strict diet that grand Thanksgiving spread can cause some serious temptation. How do you figure out what's really good for you at the dinner table, and what's just the delicious diet buster?

Here to help us sort it all out is Rovenia Brock, NEWS & NOTES health and fitness guru also known as Dr. Ro. And here to speak for the struggling masses is Beverly Arnold of Detroit. Beverly makes Thanksgiving dinner every year, but for health reasons, she doesn't eat very much of it. Also with us is Astrid Chinn. Astrid had her second child a little over a year ago. For several months now, she's been working with Dr. Ro to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight and maintain a healthy diet.

Welcome ladies.

Dr. ROVENIA BROCK (Nutritionist): It's a pleasure to be with you, Farai.

Ms. ASTRID CHINN: Thank you. Thank you.

Ms. BEVERLY ARNOLD (Resident, Detroit): Yes. Thank you for this opportunity to share.

CHIDEYA: Well, Beverly, let's start with you because you cook a big spread every Thanksgiving for your extended family, but for health reasons you can't enjoy the food like everyone else. Tell us about the decision that you made.

Ms. ARNOLD: The decision that I made I know with my body that there are certain foods that I just cannot eat. So I tried to limit, no, I tried it where our stomach only holds so much so I would try to get a little tinny bit of this, a little - just to give me a taste of everything.

But even that was too much for me. So I had to get it in my mind to do a little preplanning and determine the main thing that I was happy to have, I'd eat turkey. I like the white meat so that's no problem. I eat the green vegetables, then I might be able to have just a teaspoon of some of the other goodies, and that's basically about it. All the total I cannot even eat like a salad bowl, a salad dish, I couldn't even eat that much.

CHIDEYA: So how do you feel when you are at a table that's loaded up, a groaning board that you have set up, and yet you can't kind of get up to your elbows in food the way most people do?

Ms. ARNOLD: The first year was really a struggle, but I had just had the surgery. So that was really a struggle. I almost had to - we eat in a dining room. I had to go in the kitchen. I had to go in a kitchen, take my plate and go in the kitchen. That first year was really a struggle.

There were so many foods that my body had not been used to eating and accustomed to because after the surgery they have what is called a new stomach. So my body was still getting accustomed to having different foods in my system. So that first year was really - that was really hard. But now I've gotten to the point where I know the things that I can and cannot eat well.

CHIDEYA: Dr. Ro, having surgery is one very specific and often very successful way to lose weight and keep from overindulging. For people who have not gone through surgery, though, what keeps you in line? What advice can you give people?

Dr. BROCK: I think the first thing is you've got to go - come to the table with the mindset that you are going to stick to your plan no matter how many times aunts - whomever - you know, pushes an extra roll or encourages you to have three or four servings of sweet potatoes.

Ms. ARNOLD: Right.

Dr. BROCK: You have to come to the table with the mindset that it's okay to sample, as Beverly said, sample a little bit of your - and I would say pick your three top things, okay? We know that there are staples on everyone's table that which might be - might include the turkey, the stuffing, a vegetable, like greens or green beans or something, and another vegetable. So -but apart from that, there are so many accoutrement, if you will…

Ms. ARNOLD: Right.

BROCK: …goes with this spread. And what you've got to do is really figure out what are my three favorite things and then just try to sample about three of those things, but small portions of those.

CHIDEYA: Astrid, you are working with Dr. Ro on your health and nutrition. I understand you're trying to get back to your pre-pregnancy weight?

Ms. CHINN: Yes, correct. I gained 50 pounds with my second child. He's now 16 months. And since March, I've been working with Dr. Ro, and I've lost 35 pounds; I have 15 pounds to go.


CHIDEYA: Congratulations.

Ms. ARNOLD: Good.

Ms. CHINN: And I'm doing it the old-fashioned way with lots of sweat, work and tears.

CHIDEYA: So, when you think about eating at holidays, like Thanksgiving, do you think of that as sweat, work and tears just to stay away from the food?

Ms. CHINN: Yes. This year, I am going to have smaller portions, and I have also told some of the chefs in the family about Dr. Ro's book and some recipes where she substitutes better nutritious things out for you. Instead of using the pork and the greens, she uses a liquid smoke for the same taste and flavor. So, I'm hoping that they are going to incorporate it. They have the information, and I've asked over and over again for them to do that for us, but they'll probably have two different pots of it.


CHIDEYA: They'll have the fat pot and the not-so-fat pot.

What's been the hardest thing for you about staying focused because it's clear that you have dedication?

Ms. CHINN: Just getting up and saying no and making sure that the people who are supporting me understand how hard it is. And I also have two children, and I'm trying to make sure that they are going to follow healthy eating lifestyle.

CHIDEYA: Now, Dr. Ro, you have a book that includes these recipes and these - you and I have talked about things, like look for bright foods, look for the vegetables that have bright colors. What - which one of your favorites ways - you've got this idea of using liquid smoke instead of meat in the greens, is there anything else that comes to mind that might be really appropriate for the holidays?

Dr. BROCK: I think sweet potatoes. You know, usually, we - one of the staples of a holiday meal like Thanksgiving might include candied sweet potatoes. But instead of using the loaded up sugar, why not try doing some mashed sweet potatoes with a little orange juice, a sprinkle of brown sugar. You could add skim milk if you want that, and reduced trans fat-free margarine. Or you could even bake a casserole, tossing cubes of potatoes in with Granny Smith apples and raisins and unsweetened apple juice for flavor, you know? And you can drizzle a little black strap molasses over that, throw in some cinnamon, all spice and nutmeg; bake it for a nutritious guilt-free side dish.

Ms. ARNOLD: That sounds delicious.

Dr. Brock: See? I'm giving you ideas how not…

Ms. ARNOLD: Yeah.

CHIDEYA: Beverly, it sounds like you've got a new…

Ms. ARNOLD: I've got to get that book for one thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: So, Beverly, when you think about the influence of your health on your self-esteem, you've obviously given some things up. You've given up being able to eat a few things here, a few things there, or maybe more than a few, but what have you gained?

Ms. ARNOLD: Oh, I can tell you, I was an embarrassment. I had became so withdrawn, I didn't like to go out, I didn't get around very well. I ended up having to have a knee replacement, So this is big difference for me. I've come through, I lost weight. I went through the knee replacement. I have - before I gained so much weight, I loved to wear heels because I'm short. And after the knee replacement, I'm back in my heels, but not those tall ones that they're wearing. But I'm back in my heels and the main thing is my self-esteem is gradually - it's getting much better because I've gotten to a point it's - and it was a horrible habit that I'm still having a problem with when I was overweight - extremely overweight - I didn't even weigh myself. I didn't even look in the mirror at myself. So those are some things that I'm still struggling with, and I'd still see myself as a fat person.

So a lot of these weight gain is physical, but then it's a mental thing also because I still see myself fat; sometimes I'd still go in the fat stores, and I can't wear the clothes from there.

CHIDEYA: So you - by losing a hundred pounds, you have changed your health, but you still have a little bit of the mindset that you don't allow yourself to feel…

Ms. ARNOLD: Yes, I do.

CHIDEYA: …that you've lost that weight.

Ms. ARNOLD: Exactly. And I'm still trying - it's still a struggle, but I'm still dealing with that now. But there was a time I didn't like to get up in front of people to speak, to do anything. I was self-conscious even about sitting in the chair. Oh, is this chair going to hold me - all kind of things. But now, it's such a difference because I've got grandchildren. And to be able to play with my 4-year-old granddaughter, to - and you know what's the best thing is that when I was struggling and couldn't get around well, my mother and my sister helped me all the time. My mother's 81. Now, I can help her, and that's the best feeling in the world; to be able to grab her arm and say, here, mom, pull up on my arm. Let me help you until she started to tell me, you don't have to help me so much.

CHIDEYA: Well, Beverly, that is an amazing amount of dedication. We want you to stay with us, all three of you. We're going to take a break.

Ms. ARNOLD: All right.

CHIDEYA: When we get back, more on health in the holidays with Beverly Arnold, NEWS & NOTES nutritionist Rovenia Brock and her client, Astrid Chinn.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.