After I shared the low-down on the 4 "healthiest" things to drink at the bar, a reader (hi, Laura!) posed a fantastic question in response. Though she's already making the relatively low-sugar, low-calorie choices of "liquor + club soda + lime" when she's out, drinking alcohol "feels like the one 'unhealthy' habit left when eating well and exercising. It feels like two steps forward, one step back!"
She's totally not alone in this dilemma (raises hand in solidarity), and even if you're not out getting crazy or stumbling home at 2am every night, just catching up with friends or getting dinner after work so often involves drinking that some of us can't remember the last time we didn't have a drink.
As we head into the holiday season, monitoring your alcohol consumption so you remain healthy becomes even harder. Here's how to curb a habit that might not feel excessive in the moment, but that can often lead to weight creep, groggy mornings, or a potential addiction later down the line.
Image: Bachmont via FlickrKeep Your Reasons Where You Can See Them
Whatever your reasons for cutting back on alcohol may be, those reasons will fade away on Friday night or at a holiday party, especially when your friend just bought a round and it feels too rude to say no. So before making the switch, think hard about what you have to gain from limiting your drinks, such as:
- Security and peace of mind from having more money in the bank
- Confidence from that beer-belly-free bod you're working on
- Calmness and control from a quiet morning ritual (rather than a stressful, hungover rush to work)
And WRITE THAT SHIT DOWN. Keep your reasons where you can't miss them. Post-its in the cash pocket of my wallet and in front of my credit card do wonders for me, but you might get the same benefit from setting your list of reasons as the background of your phone, or tattooing them on the insides of your eyelids.Keep a Daily Record
What gets tracked, gets done. Without daily records, I wouldn't get anything done. And since it's the 21st century, keeping a record of anything you need is a breeze: hello, generic "Notes" app on your phone. I use that thing to track my weekly expenses, my workouts, and pretty much every other trackable thing imaginable.
Keeping a record of your drinking habits is as simple.
Just write down
- number of drinks
- types of drinks
- place consumed
The photo above is how I'd do this because I'm lazy and cheap. If you wanna get fancy (or nerdy) about it, though, there's an app for that.Find a Different Ritual
We've all heard that a glass of wine contains antioxidants, or that it's okay to re-fuel after a hard run with a bottle of beer. But let's be honest, you're not drinking for your health, and neither am I. We drink for fun or to relax (depending on the situation), and most of all, we drink because it's a ritual. It's a way to shift gears from work/day mode to evening time, or to celebrate an event. Much of the drinking I did last year was before shows to a) reward myself for making it through work, and b) get through the next several hours of music/client hangs/after-parties.
It's not always the drink itself, but that ritual of shifting gears, that we become addicted to. And those rituals are still totally something that should happen — they could just happen in a lot of healthier ways.
Let's say you'd normally pour yourself a glass of wine when you get home. There are plenty of other ways to wind down that won't kill your motivation to work out, or leave your head aching the next morning. Think about the other sensations that make you feel treated — what smells make you happiest? What do you love to feel on your skin? Would queuing up your favorite slow jams and splurging on a candle from that fancy local boutique create a similarly relaxing experience? Would taking a hot shower help wash away the day's stress?
PS: I actually dug into the topic of creating healthier rituals, and how to do it successfully, in my most recent newsletter.Designate "Rest" Days
One of my clients recently took a trip to LA (I know, I'm jealous, too). She, like me, is a frequent social drinker, but didn't want partying to undo all the progress she'd been making toward her healthy eating goals. So we chose 3 days of the week that would be her "indulge" days (when she'd order a beer or a vodka soda when she went out), and the other 4 were her "rest" days (when she'd order just club soda + lime). Knowing that she'd be able to treat herself to something alcoholic again the following day allowed her to feel relaxed, rather than socially anxious, on her rest days. She wasn't giving up drinking forever, just for the day.
We intentionally chose the term "rest" days because it highlighted the fact that she was doing something restorative and GOOD for herself, rather than something that was pointlessly limiting, or that made her feel like a party pooper.Don't Keep Alcohol in the House
Just as keeping crappy snacks in the house leads to more crappy eating, keeping alcohol in the house leads to, well, more drinking. Make it a treat — something to do when you're out with friends, not something to seek solace in after every long day at work.
If you must keep booze in the house, limit your stock to only one bottle at a time, and set a minimum on how many days you can go before buying another one (a bottle of whiskey a month, or a six pack of beer every two weeks, etc).
Are you worried about putting on weight from alcohol this holiday season or do you struggle to kick an indulgence that's become too habitual? Share your thoughts in the comments below—I'd be happy to toss ideas back and forth with you.
This post originally appeared on Eat Well. Party Hard.
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