It’s the time of year when cookies and candy and calorie-laden side dishes seem to morph into their own special food groups.
After all, it’s a time for celebration, for family gathering, and for feasting on Nana’s killer meatloaf that always seems the size of a fuel tanker.
Along with all the chewing and chomping, we also tend to do lots of sipping and socializing. While there’s nothing wrong with some alcohol (see below), a lot of us can overdo it as we extend cocktail hour to cocktail month.
Even when times are festive, I do encourage you to stay away from a let-loose mentality, as you try to balance some of the joys of indulgence with your commitment to healthy eating. If you find yourself drinking a lot of alcohol during the holiday, perhaps one approach would be to make a commitment to really being aware of how much you’re drinking and ask how you can keep it in check.
Two strategies that I like:
- I give myself a time window for drinking. On days that I do have a cocktail (which are very rare these days), I allow myself only to drink between 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. That way, not only will I avoid overdoing it in the number of drinks I have, but I also know that alcohol won’t be disruptive to my sleep patterns if I stop early enough. Maybe I’ll start calling it intermittent boozing.
- My friend started something new this past year. He gave himself a goal for the number of days he could drink alcohol during the year. It was an aggressive goal for him, but he wanted to cut back. And so far, he’s on track for hitting the goal. It worked for him, because instead of just drinking mindlessly, he really had to focus on days he wanted to, so he could commit to his goal of not drinking a certain number of days. If this next month or so feels like party-every-day season, you could try the same tactic. Pick a certain number of days you won’t drink booze, and make it your mission to hit that number—thus forcing you to make good decisions. You can also do what my friend did and create a yearly goal starting January 1.
The point is that there is no one perfect way to cut back on alcohol, but you can build your own fences with personal guidelines that you’ll best follow to allow yourself to enjoy alcohol if you want without overdoing it.
I’ll drink to that.
Putting the Brakes on Booze
While there always seem to be mixed headlines on whether alcohol has any health benefit, here’s my general rule: If you don’t drink, don’t start. If you do drink, really work to keep it under moderate levels—that’s about two drinks a day for men and one for women.
Why? There’s a lot of research that shows that drinking more than moderate amounts can be linked to some cancers and weakened immune systems. And that’s not even including the effects that can lead to other problems, like poor sleep, overeating, and decision-making that leads to risky behaviors.
I don’t want to be a downer this time of year, and I want you to celebrate your blessings with your friends and family. I just think that an approach to moderation—if you have trouble with this habit—can be one of the greatest gifts that you can give to yourself.
Take the Edge Off
Another reason why the temptation to drink can increase this time of year is because of the earlier darkness during the winter months.
It gets dark, you’re done with your work for the day, you want to relax, and boom—that bottle of brown juice (or red or clear or whatever you like) looks awfully tempting.
One of the strategies I have in the winter is to try to do a very light workout (and sauna) right when I’m done with work. I sweat a bit, I get the endorphins going, I feel strong, and I immediately cut down on any urges I might have.
In fact, exercise is one of our greatest allies when it comes to fending off any unhealthy habits, and when you can use it consistently—and as a way to cut down on unhealthy temptations, well, that’s worth a major “cheers” from me to you.