The holidays are a season of celebration, often characterized by, among other things, a 6-week food and drink bender that kicks-off on Thanksgiving and ends on New Years Day – often with a headache and a bloated belly full of regret. In this season of too much to do, too much to eat and way too much to drink, you can never go wrong by cutting the holiday excess down to size, particularly when it comes to alcohol. In a perfect world, none of us would drink more than the occasional glass of wine with dinner, we all know that most holiday gatherings are anything but alcohol-free. And while I do not endorse alcohol use – it’s a depressant that wreaks havoc on your gut, blood sugar and a host of essential functions – I do encourage those who do imbibe to do it as smartly – and as little – as possible.
That said, if the prospect of seasonal socializing without a drink in hand makes you anything but jolly, here’s a healthier holiday plan to help you maintain control so you can welcome the New Year with no regrets – and a lot less work to do to get back on track:
But he started it!
If every Thanksgiving dinner ends with you or a relative in an alcohol-enhanced snit, it’s a pretty good indicator that you’ve got to set some boundaries. For example, try limiting your drinking to the cocktail hour or dinner only, so you’re not mindlessly drinking at Mom and Dad’s for hours on end. Like it or not, alcohol tends to loosen tongues, which can stir-up petty annoyances and open old wounds, so even during the meal, drink far more water than wine to help keep the peace.
Get into mindful drinking
Mindfulness is a practice that can be applied to virtually any behavior and it’s particularly helpful for the ones we need to pay more attention to. So if you’re drinking alcohol this season, do so mindfully. It’s all about awareness, being conscious of what you’re doing, so sip and savor your drinks and always avoid the straight-down-the-gullet ‘shots’ altogether – they’re the alcoholic opposite of mindful drinking. Consciously set your drinking pace to s-l-o-w. You may want to reinforce your mindful pace with a timer on your phone to let you know when it’s OK to have another round. Though tolerance varies, for most of us, one drink an hour is plenty.
Play a mind-game with yourself
Drink what you don’t like. Sounds a bit odd, but you’ll be a lot less likely to over-indulge drinking an alcoholic beverage you’re not especially fond of. For example, if you loathe whiskey, you’d be surprised how long you can nurse a shot of it over ice at a cocktail party. Prefer red wine to white? Then order the less appealing white and sip s-l-o-w-l-y. Also skip those tasty, super-sugary mixers that mask alcohol’s taste. Instead, dilute alcohol with soda water or seltzer so you actually taste the alcohol. You might just find you don’t like the taste enough to over-do it.
Know when to fold ‘em
Set a ‘last call’ alarm on your phone to remind you that the alcohol portion of the party is over for you and it’s time to switch to non-alcoholic beverages for the remainder of the evening. Cutting yourself off at an early and reasonable hour will allow you to ward off any potentially bad behavior and give yourself time to rehydrate and sober up before bed. (Look, ma, no spins!) Better yet, an early cut-off will make greeting the morning a much more pleasant experience.
Keep the lampshade off your head at the holiday party
Like it or not, people will judge you on how well you do or don’t hold your liquor. And yes, your boss is making mental notes, so if you’re dancing on the tables or slurring your words at the office holiday party, you may be torpedoing your professional image. So play it safe and brush up on your under-drinking skills. Better yet, bypass the bar at the holiday office party altogether.
One last thought: If you do have more than one or two drinks, hand the car keys your host and let a taxi or an Uber take you home so you, your family and everyone on the road can have a safe and truly happy holiday.