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Cheers Y'all! Practical Tips for Navigating Holiday Alcohol

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

Holiday cocktails

The holiday season brings joy, celebration, and more often than not, party after party filled with festive drinks. If you're trying to control your weight this holiday season, you might wonder, "Can I enjoy alcohol without derailing my progress, or do I have to completely give it up?" 


Today I’m diving into alcohol's impact on weight loss and metabolism, what you should avoid, and balanced ways include alcohol in your holiday season without blowing your progress.

 



Alcohol Metabolism and It's Impact on Weight

 

Understanding how the body processes alcohol is crucial in comprehending its impact on weight loss. When you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing it over other nutrients. 


Unlike proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, alcohol is not stored in the body. Instead, it takes precedence in the metabolic queue, potentially slowing down the burning of fat. 

Although alcohol itself is not stored in the body, excess calories from alcohol are. That means that once the alcohol is processed out by the liver, extra calories go to storage rather than being utilized for energy.


Alcohol is also pretty calorically dense (7 calories per gram) and contributes to your daily energy intake without providing essential nutrients. Unfortunately, most holiday drinks come with a high calorie price tag:


  • Eggnog: 340 calories

  • Mulled wine: 230 calories

  • Spiked apple cider: 175 calories

  • White Russian: 300 calories

  • Peppermint martini: 250 calories

 

Finally, as you may have experienced, alcohol usually stimulates the appetite and lowers inhibitions, leading to overeating or making less mindful food choices. This can be especially detrimental when you’re surrounded by tempting holiday treats.

 

Hangovers: The 72 Hour Aftermath


Alcohol hangover

Hangovers occur due to a combination of factors and for most adults, their effects - fatigue, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances - can actually last up to 72 hours. 


First, there's the sleep disruption. While alcohol may initially induce drowsiness, it derails the sleep cycle, leading to fragmented and less restorative sleep. Poor sleep quality affects energy levels and cognitive function, making it challenging to concentrate and perform your best over the next few days.


Alcohol is also diuretic (and a toxin), leading to increased urine production. Not only do you lose water when this happens, but also electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium as well. The result is usually symptoms like headache, dizziness, and fatigue. Because rehydration and rebalancing of electrolytes takes time, you may therefore find that workouts you attempt in the days following a heavy alcohol night feel harder and not as effective. Plus recovery is slower.


Finally, alcohol can cause inflammation in the body and irritate the stomach lining, contributing to nausea and gastrointestinal discomfort. 

 

Tips for Balancing Holiday Alcohol

 

I know that last bit sounded terrible...but the good news is that you can easily make progress towards your weight loss goals and avoid the hangover by taking just a few smart steps with your drinking.


Here are a few ways:

 

  1. Opt for Lighter Choices: Choose lower-calorie alcoholic options, such as wine or spirits mixed with low-calorie mixers. Be mindful of sugary mixers or cream-based drinks, as they can contribute lots of extra calories.

  2. Set Limits and Be Mindful: Establish a limit for the number of drinks you'll have ahead of time, and savor them slowly. Being mindful of your alcohol consumption can prevent overindulgence.

  3. Hydrate Adequately: Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or sparkling water to stay hydrated. Proper hydration supports metabolism and can help you feel full, preventing excessive alcohol consumption. Plus you’ll feel SO much better the next morning.

  4. Prioritize Nutrient-Dense Foods: If you plan to indulge in alcoholic beverages, make sure your meals are rich in nutrients. Include lean proteins, fiber, and healthy fats to promote satiety. Do not skip meals before a party!!! I cannot stress that enough. You will end up overeating or making less mindful choices because your body is starving!

  5. Consider Inconspicuous Mocktails: Oftentimes at a party, what we really want is just to have a beverage in our hand. If you decide you’d rather not drink alcohol, or just want to pace yourself while having a beverage in hand, order club soda with lime in a rocks glass (add tajin for a little spice!). Club soda with a splash of cranberry juice looks a lot like a vodka cranberry...and Diet Coke in a rocks glass looks like it has whiskey in it...just sayin'.

 

What Should I Avoid?


Eggnog

 

Be mindful of certain drinks or drink categories that may pack a caloric punch and potentially derail your wellness goals. High-sugar cocktails, creamy concoctions like traditional eggnog or creamy liqueur-based drinks, and excessive consumption of sweetened mixers can contribute to an influx of unnecessary calories (not to mention that nasty hangover we just talked about). 


Opt instead for lighter alternatives with low calorie low sugar mixers. Most importantly though, moderate the quantity and stay hydrated with water in between alcoholic drinks.


Finally and most importantly, before any party, set a drink limit for yourself. Choose a number that feels realistic but is less than you’d normally drink if left to your own devices. Write that number down (actually write it down) and then commit to it. Instead of quickly sucking each beverage down and immediately going in for another, take the time to enjoy each drink. 


PRO TIP: The reality is that you’ll probably want to go back for another drink, even when you’ve hit your limit. In that moment, remind yourself what you really want…results. You may be tempted to say, “screw it” and grab another drink anyway, but ask yourself, “how do I want to feel about this choice in the morning?” 

 

Balance is Key. Make Decisions Ahead of Time

 

holiday champagne

If you like to indulge in alcoholic drinks at holiday parties, then by all means please enjoy! Life is about balance and I do after all believe that you can include alcohol in that balance. I myself love a cocktail or two during a part. 


It is however important to keep in mind that while alcohol may not completely derail you, any alcohol consumption could easily slow your weight loss progress. 

If you're like many warm-blooded humans, you may be okay with that. After all, not every day needs to be a "losing weight day."


What I encourage you to do though is make some key decisions before you walk into an event. Decide what and how much you're going to drink ahead of time, and then commit to it.


If you don’t want to let holiday drinking get in your way of your goals, then I encourage you to be more selective about what and how much you drink.


If you’re okay with not seeing as much progress during the December month (perhaps you simply want to maintain your weight), then you have a bit more flexibility with your choices.


Either way though, you need to make that choice and then commit to actions that reflect that choice.

  

Want Help with Mindfulness and Staying Accountable Around the Holidays and Beyond?

 

Most people believe weight loss can’t happen during the holidays…that it would mean giving up all the treats and dishes they love. 


That’s false.


When you work with me, I guide you through making balanced food choices during the holidays and show you how to include all your holiday favorites without sacrificing weight loss progress. 


I take the guesswork out of nutrition, teach you how to fuel your body in a balanced way, and I hold you accountable to the goals you set for yourself.


When you work with me, you get everything you need to be successful. Schedule a free call with me to see if I can help you with your goals, and whether we’re a good fit for each other.

 

Cheers to a joyful and health-conscious holiday season!

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