The Mighty Logo

10 Ways I Manage My Health as a Black Man This Holiday Season

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor's Note

Join the Bipolar 1 Support Group to connect with other Mighties who understand hypomania, rapid-cycling, depression and more.

We’re setting the table for a tiny holiday feast. It’s just us this year, as we’re taking extra precautions due to the pandemic. I notice my stomach feels uneasy because I’ve already eaten so much today, yesterday and pretty much as soon as it was acceptable to begin playing holiday music. This moment isn’t unique. I experience this every year– overindulging on carbs and sweets.

What’s worse than how disgusting my body feels is the fact that my blood sugar has spiked for the past week. It’s a scary sight for someone who was diagnosed with diabetes a year ago. Growing up in a Black family where it seemed like all my aunties and uncles had diabetes, hypertension or other common illness in the Black community, I convinced myself it’d never be me. I’d do better and make them proud.

Truth is, they’re all still proud of me, but I beat myself up when I fall back into unhealthy eating habits, which doesn’t help a thing. The other day a close friend invited me to show myself a little more grace. They shared how a lot of people indulge heavily during the holiday season, and that like all seasons, this too would pass. I felt like I could breathe a little easier. Still, this has all been a wake up call, as I can make changes for my health. Ever since becoming a parent, my purpose and life’s focus have shifted, and I know I’m not just living for me. It took my toddler asking to share my chips with me, to remind me that she’s always watching. While a few chips isn’t a big deal, she’ll most likely pick up several of my habits, healthy and unhealthy.

So, I’ve decided to take time to reflect and reset as the year comes to an end, and as sugar cookies keep coming out of the oven. 

Here are 10 ways I’m managing my health as a Black man this holiday season:

1. Facing reality

As much as I wish I could eat like other people, I can’t. It’s been challenging to accept this, and it may continue to be, but viewing my diabetes as an opportunity to eat healthier, rather than a barrier, I feel less limited and able to be more creative.

2. Doing daily checks

Since I’m predisposed to hypertension and have been diagnosed with pre-hypertension, I’ve been checking my blood pressure on a daily basis right after I check my weight and blood sugar. It’s been a good way to start my day, and set goals for what I want to put into my body.

3. Tracking my food intake

I’ve been using the MyNetDiary app lately, and it’s been a simple way to track my food and water intake. The dashboard allows me to take a peek at my blood sugar, nutrient analysis, and any other pertinent information I’m needing.

4. Going for morning walks

Okay, this one has been hard because all I want to do is have a few extra hours of sleep. But, my doctor told me there’s a lot of benefits to walking each day (lowering my blood sugar, weight management, boosting my mood, etc.). This is especially helpful since a lot of the work I do is sedentary.

5. Taking more breaks

There have been times that I’m so tied up in work meetings that I forget to drink water or stretch. So, lately, I’ve gotten better about leaving my work desk as soon as a meeting is over, or stretching before I jump back into emails.

6. Meditating at night

I’ve committed to meditating for at least 10 minutes each night when I get into bed. I have to get plenty of sleep since I live with bipolar disorder, and sleep helps with weight management.

7. Seeking accountability

I check in with my wife often about how I’m feeling, what’s challenging about staying healthy during the holidays, and what support I’m needing. She’s my biggest advocate, and has given me gentle nudges when I’m hesitant to go for a walk or take a break. I’ve also been proactive about scheduling meetings with my therapist. I’ve found that when I’m less stressed, I don’t stress eat or binge eat late at night.

8. Practicing gratitude

The Shine app provides a simple way to check in each day about the things bringing me joy. It puts me in a hopeful space which is necessary, because I actually want to enjoy this season of joy.

9. Doing “grace checks”

Whenever I notice that I’m going too hard on myself, I ask “Is this how I’d speak to a friend who’s struggling?” When I listen back to the negative messages I’m telling myself, I feel compelled to shift the narrative, and extend more kindness to myself.

10. Jumping into the holiday season

This is me pumping up my favorite holiday playlist and jamming out with my family. It’s watching heartfelt movies. And it’s going out of my way to be in service with others.

There’s a slice of pumpkin pie and a plate of leftover macaroni and cheese calling my name. Part of me just wants to throw everything in the fridge away. Part of me wants to pile as much on my plate as I can. Fortunately, I’m aware that there’s a middle road, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The holiday season brings forth different challenges for everyone. For some it is changes in mood due to the weather, for others it is grieving loved ones who won’t be sharing in holiday traditions. No matter what, I invite all of us to slow down for a second and notice that we’re doing the best we can, even when it’s hard.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

Originally published: December 11, 2020
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home