Drinking and Eating

It’s the holidays . . . woo hoo! Ready to eat, drink, and be merry?

I used to totally blow it out during the holidays. What about you? Most of us eat too much, drink too much, and let it all hang out because it’s “that time of year.” But eating, drinking, and being merry — all at the same time — usually just leads up to one big binge.

I wrote about the tendency to binge over the holidays in my post “Festive Free-For-All,” and this week I want to continue talking about the tendency to overeat when you drink alcohol and give you a few more tips to keep from going off the deep end.

Before I go any further, I want to say that if you think you have a problem with alcohol, please get help. Also, I want to give a shout-out to my friend Robbie Shaw (a_light_in_the_addict on Instagram — great videos, check him out) who is a recovering alcoholic and who has a really interesting viewpoint on alcohol in our society. His take is that we have a sort of cultural brainwashing around alcohol that gives drinking an acceptance that is never questioned, despite its harmful effects. Just something to think about. . . .

Anyway, if you do drink and you’re also an emotional eater, keep in mind that you will eat more when you drink — unless you do it the right way.

When you’re drinking at a party, you probably eat to “soak up all the alcohol,” as I frequently hear people say. I used to do this all the time. And the foods I gravitated toward were very filling — fatty meat dishes, things loaded with cheese, or anything fried. I felt compelled to be completely full while I was drinking so that I wouldn’t overdo it.

But then I would overdo it, because I was so busy talking and socializing that I didn’t pay attention to how much I was drinking. Then, when my rational thought process went out the window, I conveniently forgot all about being healthy and sticking to my diet and started listening to the voice in my head that said, “Come on, it’s the holidays.” And I would keep eating. Then, with a big buzz going, I would go home and eat some more.

Okay, so if it’s a given that you’re going to have some holiday cocktails, just be smart about it so you don’t go completely crazy and feel totally gross by New Year’s. Here are some tips to keep you in moderation mode when you’re eating and drinking.

Have half a drink before you socialize. Full disclosure. Cocktail parties are incredibly stressful for me. I would much rather be standing in the corner, talking to one or two people I adore than doing the cocktail party chit-chat thing.

I used to carry a full glass of wine with me to stay relaxed if I was ever forced to make the rounds. And I usually drained it in no time flat. Now if I know I have to do this, I have a half a drink to loosen up before I walk in and then get a sparkling water to walk around with. That way, I won’t throw my healthy habits and good intentions completely out the window. And yes, I work the circuit as quickly as possible.

Take a day off. Quick science lesson: Your body has multiple enzymes that break down alcohol, and they are produced in proportion to the amount of alcohol you consume. If you drink more, your body produces more enzymes. So the more you drink, the more you are able to drink without feeling the effects of your drinking. In other words, the more often you drink, the harder it is to catch a buzz.

This is important, because it works in both directions. If you drink less, your body doesn’t make as many of the ethanol-metabolizing enzymes. So after a few days of no drinking, your tolerance goes down. That means that when you get to the party, you can enjoy yourself with fewer drinks — and you will probably eat less. (Also, if you’re used to having two drinks on a regular night, you’ll have five at the event.) So go at least one day, preferably more, without drinking before a party.

Load up on raw veggies. I know, celery sticks and cherry tomatoes are lame as all get-out. But make a full plate of something similar and eat it before you drink anything. (Or have it while you’re enjoying your pre-small talk half glass of wine.) You will feel full, I promise. And you’ll have something healthy instead of unhealthy in your stomach to “soak up” the alcohol.

Set your drink down in between sips — and make them small sips. You will not pay attention to how fast you’re drinking when you’re talking and socializing, it’s just a fact. So make a point of setting your drink down in between sips so you go slower. And so you eat slower. And so you eat less. Another trick I use is to push my glass away from me a little, so I don’t just keep mindlessly picking it up for another sip.

Sit down while you eat. If you’re standing or moving around you’re more likely to eat and drink too fast. Double whammy if you’re drinking next to the buffet. Don’t do it. Make a plate, sit down, take a breath, and then eat and drink — s-l-o-o-o-o-w-l-y.

The main thing to remember is that drinking creates artificial hunger, makes you oblivious to what you’re doing, and fuels your tendency to binge eat. So if you’re going to drink while you eat, just remember all of this and take steps to modify your behaviors.

Who knows? Maybe with practice you can continue and create some amazing new habits for yourself. And you will for sure feel lighter, be more clear-headed, and have more excitement for life.

Which is exactly what you need if you’re going to set a better goal for yourself — one that of course has nothing to do with losing weight!