Think of this as the calm after the holiday storm.
Maryland Athletic Club and Wellness Center in Timonium opens its doors at 5:30 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving - and by 11 o'clock 497 members and 29 guests have braved the falling rain and checked in.
Sounds impressive. But those numbers are about 30 percent below normal.
"The weather is very conducive to sleeping in and going to the mall," says Dawn Eamon, a fat-free MAC instructor who is about to put eight women through a no-excuses step aerobics class and whose biggest Thanksgiving transgression was a pumpkin-flavored mini-muffin.
Two kinds of patrons show up at a health club on the day after Thanksgiving: saints and sinners. The former come to do their regularly scheduled workouts. They are commendable role models, worthy of an extra serving of praise. They are members like 68-year-old Carl Schleunes of Cockeysville (who contributed an apple pie to his family's Thanksgiving dinner but never touched a forkful of it) and Kathleen Sergi of Towson (who passed on the cookies and pumpkin pie in favor of having a Weight Watchers snack bar).
But you can't feel morally superior to ascetics, to those dedicated fitness souls who might actually consider eating just the shells on their M&M candies and throwing away the chocolate.
It's, therefore, much more fun to hear about the fallen angels, about high tides of gluttony capable of eroding the entire South Beach Diet coastline, about the true, lick-your-plate-clean-and-come-back-for-more meaning of Thanksgiving.
A round of applause, please, for Andrea Brock of Parkton. She ate Thanksgiving dinner not once, but twice. Turkey, stuffing, green beans, potatoes, biscuits, cranberry sauce, salad and an apple-pie-and-ice-cream doubleheader for dessert. Brock does her penance by attending a grueling spinning class, but is not weighed down by a heavy heart. "I just say it's the one day to not worry," she explains. "It's my favorite holiday: no gifts, no stress."
Thanksgiving officially kicks off the Overindulgence Season. With 26 chomping days left till Christmas, more and more folks will be turning to Diana Moskowitz for holiday help and forgiveness. She's a staff dietician at Maryland Athletic Club.
Business ramps up considerably between now and New Year's for Moskowitz, then goes gangbusters in January as some MAC members come to terms with the fact they can no longer squeeze into their favorite clothes, and possibly not the front door of their house.
"What I tell people is it's all about overeating," says Moskowitz. "You don't need to have huge servings of everything."
Easy for Moskowitz to say. She is a master of "portion control" and restraint. One drawer of her office filing cabinet is stuffed with sensible snacks like soy beans and Kashi cereal. She admits to a weakness for Ben and Jerry's Peanut Butter Me Up ice cream, but only allows herself to have sweets once a week.
Diana Moskowitz did not overeat on Thanksgiving.
Not everyone is Diana Moskowitz.
Constantine Lanzi, a retired insurance executive from Timonium, had a second helping of turkey, topped off by hunks of both pumpkin and cashew pie. He must have sensed trouble ahead, having ridden a stationary bike at the MAC for a half hour on Thanksgiving morning.
"I had hoped not to eat a lot," says Lanzi, "but I'm weak."
In fact, as soon as the pretzels and cheese appetizers materialized at his house, he knew he was a goner.
Back in the men's locker room, David Sutor, 43, and Ken Carey, 75, aren't talking about Thanksgiving football games. They are playing Friday morning quarterback, analyzing their own holiday eating performances.
Sweet potatoes are a killer, notes Sutor. "Everything else isn't too bad for you," he adds. "Turkey isn't bad till you put the gravy on it."
Sutor must have reached for the gravy boat. He made a point of running an extra mile on the treadmill yesterday.
Carey, meanwhile, insists his wife "makes the best pecan pie in America." He dutifully had a slice and a half, garnished with whipped cream ... plus two glasses of wine ("at about 150 calories a glass") ... and an extra scoop of mashed potatoes. Carey felt compelled to put in an extra eight minutes on the elliptical trainer.
The two sinners admit to being consumed by guilt, but not regret. Intemperance has its rewards.
"I dunno," says Sutor, as he packs up his sweaty gym clothes. "I'd rather be doing this than shopping."