Three kinds of people celebrate Thanksgiving.
The first kind sees it as a celebration unrelated to nutrition. They plan their menu and never count the cost. They may be folks who never think about nutrition anyway, or they may be pretty careful most of the time, but enjoy a food-centered holiday when the time is right.
People in Group One enjoy their dinner, especially if they gather with like-minded family and friends. They glory in the taste, texture and color of foods without ever mentioning calories or fat.
The second group sees Thanksgiving as a time to celebrate, but enjoys modifying the classic meal to meet chosen or health-imposed restrictions. They try to reduce fat, sodium or calories or increase fiber, beta carotene and vitamin C, or they may be planning a vegetarian feast.
Group Two people will also enjoy their dinner when they gather with their own kind. They can discuss fat-cutting strategies and high- nutrition veggies, and how well they've adapted to healthier eating habits.
Party animals (Group One) and modifiers (Group Two) can even celebrate together successfully if they live and let live. That means no conversion tactics, and no rude remarks about one another's food.
Folks in the third group haven't quite found their niche yet. They face the holiday with fear, agonize through the entire day, then end up feeling guilty or deprived.
Many are watching their weight, and fear that tempting foods will lure them into a bout of overeating that will never end.
Some have been counting fat grams and panic over eating foods that don't come with a label.
Others have a very restrictive eating style, yet long for the once-a-year indulgences unique to Thanksgiving.
If you're a Group Three person, here are some things you can do to join the festivities and then face Friday guilt-free.
* Remember, one day does not make or break a diet or a lifestyle.
* Eat breakfast, and lunch, too, if dinner will be in the evening. Don't arrive starving and out of control.
* Let your body guide your food choices. Enjoy the foods that really appeal to you.
* Serve yourself small portions. Enjoy small second helpings of the best-tasting dishes, but only if you're still hungry.
* Eat while you're hungry and food looks, tastes and smells good. Stop eating when you're comfortable, not stuffed.
* Save dessert for later or tomorrow if you're full.
* Focus on family and friends instead of being preoccupied with avoiding food.
* Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, then return to your daily eating style on Friday.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.