Healthy Habits – Holidays and Beyond

by Maggie Davenport

With the Holiday season in full swing, physical activity has likely slowed way down and celebrating with family and friends is a regular occurrence. During this three to four-month period (from Halloween through New Year’s), the average person will gain between two (2) and 10 pounds. With the weight-loss and fitness
industry racking up profits in the billions, large numbers of the population are seeking help and it’s not just during the holidays.

Long before first Lady Michele Obama’s shout out for us to ‘keep it moving!’, it was a known reality that intake and output are what determines weight: If you eat (‘intake’) a meal that provides more calories (energy) than your body needs to maintain its normal functioning without burning the extra energy (‘output’), weight
gain will happen; if on the other hand ‘intake’ is less, then weight loss results. Our goal is to work toward a lifestyle that focuses on mindful eating plus finding a way to ‘move it’ that works for you.

No matter where you are in your healthy lifestyle journey, progress is within reach– even during the holidays. A good first step is being mindful of your actions, taking time to carefully consider the kinds and variety of food taken in and the amount that is needed to support a particular lifestyle. Secondly, an understanding of the kind and amount of nutrition that is needed helps to keep the focus on the ‘intake-output’ equation.


The experts all agreed that a well-balanced diet and activity are the foundation of good physical (and mental!) health. The US Department of Health and Human Services has set physical activity guidelines and recommendations for all age groups; the Department also suggests ways to adjust activity for a number of health conditions – like asthma and arthritis. Also, diet and activity help prevent ‘the big three’ diseases that large numbers of African Americans experience more often than other Americans: heart disease, diabetes and stroke. In addition to providing a social outlet for all ages, exercise also helps with the following:


Making sure to eat foods with good nutritional value is tough, the fast-food industry and ‘laid back’ lifestyles (code for low physical activity!) make it even harder. Knowing daily calorie (energy) requirements is helpful. The numbers range from 1,000 for a newborn to 3,200 for an adult male. To get some idea of the number of calories needed for your age, gender and lifestyle, go to ‘’ and enter the required information. This information will make reading and interpreting product labels more meaningful.
Take a look at the label below, use the right side as a guide:

Additionally, many minority and ethnic communities prefer traditionally prepared food,
especially around the holidays; many times, these foods are not nutritionally balanced and are
heavy in salt and fat. The National Institutes of Health provides substitutions that are based on
the ways that minority and ethnic groups prepare food. Keep in mind that genetics play a
huge part and many times, a family history of disease can mean that exercise and diet alone
are not enough to improve health conditions. Be sure to consult your physician as needed.

Make A Plan!

The next step is to make a plan for eating and movement that will become part of your regular routine behaviors during the holiday season and beyond. Mindfulness involves developing the habit of thinking about and planning what you eat and what you do and being aware or ‘present’ while you are doing it. The SMART goal-setting approach helps maintain this focus and can be applied to help achieve any outcome. Here are the steps:

S-Specific: Set specific actions that you will take.

M-Measurable: Make sure that the actions are measurable. This could be in time, distance, amount or any other measurable quantity (like 1 serving of a food item).

A-Attainable: Be sure that your goal is ‘doable’ and can reached.

R-Realistic: (or relevant): Set a goal that is realistic to and for your purposes.

T-Time: Set a time-frame within which you want to achieve your goals. Make this the holiday season that you get the jump on extra weight gain- take control of your health!


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