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Family drinking coffee during the holidays

Enjoy the holidays without alcohol

It’s easy to overdo it with adult beverages during the holidays, but cutting back on alcohol can help you feel better mentally and physically.

“The holidays are full of so many fun and tasty traditions we look forward to every year,” says Jody Malleo, RDN, LD, CDE, a Piedmont dietitian and nutritionist. “The season gives us permission to overindulge in both food and alcohol, but at what cost? For years, I gained 10 pounds every winter, just to have to struggle to take it back off every spring.”

By drinking less or avoiding alcohol altogether, you may find yourself enjoying the holiday season even more.

Set yourself up for success in the New Year

“Take a look at where you are with your weight and overall health. Where do you want to be?” she says. “Make an effort to maintain your weight during the holidays. You may find it challenging to lose weight during the season, but you can avoid gaining weight you have to lose again in the New Year.”

Get better sleep

The holidays can be stressful and you may be tempted to have an extra drink or two to take the edge off. But alcohol can make things worse.

Drinking too much can cause fatigue,” she says. “While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it won’t help you stay asleep and will wake you up a few hours later.”

Lack of sleep stresses the body and causes it to produce more cortisol, the stress hormone. Increased cortisol can lead to weight gain.

Have more energy and a better mood

“Being hungover or fatigued also makes it harder to deal with the stress associated with planning, hosting, shopping, organizing and finishing work projects before the end of the year,” says Malleo. “When we aren’t energized because we are hungover or not sleeping enough, it makes it harder to do these tasks.”

How to cut back on drinking during the holidays

Here are some ideas to curb drinking and stay healthy during the season:

  • Plan festive activities that don’t involve alcohol, such as watching holiday movies, baking cookies, volunteering, driving around to look at Christmas lights, decorating your home, hosting a breakfast, going to a play or the ballet, or meeting a friend for coffee.

  • Set a limit on the number of drinks you have or the amount of cash you bring with you to bars or restaurants.

  • Skip sugary mocktails in favor of club soda with lime or lemon.

  • Pay attention to how often your host refills your glass. 

  • Renew your mindset to focus more on conversations and quality time with loved ones, rather than on food and alcohol.

“We often forget the reason we have parties in the first place is to see people and catch up,” she says. “Celebrations don’t have to be tied only to eating and drinking.”

Signs you may be drinking too much

“If you are having more hangover days, not committing to plans because you think you will be hungover, missing work, not able to do daily activities, not remembering what you said or did, or have a large credit card bill at the end of the month, these are some signs you may be drinking too much,” says Malleo.

If you are concerned you have a problem with alcohol, talk to your primary care provider.

Registered dietitians/nutritionists are uniquely trained to help people struggling with weight in identifying barriers and obstacles to success. If you are interested in talking to a nutritionist, consider reaching out to Piedmont’s Nutrition and Wellness Services at 404-605-3823.

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