Thinking healthier about Thanksgiving's bounty

FRANKFORD - November 27, 2013

It is a different kind of Thanksgiving for the thousands of people who have surgery every year to control their weight.

And it has to be, because the surgery is just the beginning.

So Monica Mason of Philadelphia is now sharing some advice for others.

Monica used to cook big at thanksgiving...enough to feed 15 to 20 people - for the whole weekend.

Then in 2006, weighing 321 pounds, she knew something had to change.

"I was not happy with me. I had high blood pressure. I was actually on 3 blood pressure meds. I was also suffering from depression," Monica says.

"I was borderline diabetic," she continued.

Diet & exercise alone weren't enough, so Monica had gastric bypass surgery.

The pounds came off, but when Thanksgiving rolled around, she just couldn't face the overload of food.

"Not being able to eat it was hard, because you wanted it - you made it," she says.

Dr. Ramsey Dallal, a bariatric surgeon with Einstein Healthcare, says gastric bypass patients need to make the most of meals, all year-round.

"Eat the healthy foods first. When you're full with the healthy foods, you may not feel so compelled to eat the unhealthy ones," says Dr. Dallal.

By Christmas of that year, Monica put the whole family on a healthier track -

First, by using a sugar substitute for her holiday baking.

She has also replaced soda with water.

And she uses smaller plates.

"7 inch paper plates, and you make sure you can still see the rim," she says.

At first, her daughters didn't buy into the changes.

However, two of them struggled with weight problems, too, so eventually, they came on board.

Two of them have now had surgery, too, to control their weight.

Airika was over 300 pounds and had serious knee problems at the time.

"It was either lose weight or have knee surgery," she says she was told.

She has now lost 162 pounds.

And Ainisha, who topped out at 247 pounds before her surgery, has lost 80, though she's holding steady while she awaits a baby.

Before the surgery, she recalls, " I had to catch my breath just to walk up the steps."

She says seeing her daughters' change is as rewarding as her own.

"To get a second opportunity to watch them blossom and transform is awesome," she says.

Monica says she's finally happy - and healthy.

"I have not taken a high blood pressure pill in 7 years! Didn't need it," she says with a wide grin.

She offered Action News more tips for healthier living:

* Learn what a proper portion size is, and only cook one portion per person. Don't make a lot of leftovers.

* Buy low-sugar cereal, put it in a plastic canister or keeper, and throw the box away.

("They (your family) will never know the difference," she says.)

* Cut down on bread.

("Buying bread in my house now is a complete waste. They won't even tough it.")

Monica now also gives advice to others trying to lose, or maintain their weight, on an Philly Hott Radio internet show called "Who is Simply Monica."

She also encourages *everyone to remember the FOCUS of the holiday should be on family instead of food.

Copyright © 2022 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.