Holiday party

5 Things to Know About Alcohol While Celebrating This Holiday Season

With the last ghosts and goblins clearing the streets, we now enter the seemingly earlier annual descent into the holiday season. If you haven’t yet witnessed your first Christmas commercial or that one neighbor replacing the pumpkins with twinkling lights, it’s coming soon.

After spending last year’s holiday season on lockdown, and even though we’re far from out of the Covid woods, most people expect this to be the year of the party. During the pandemic, more than a few of us decided to turn pro in the sport of drinking. But before we unleash our inner Don Draper upon extended friends, family, and coworkers, maybe we should consider a few things.

The Party

Drinking at a holiday party is different from knocking back a few with your buddies at the local pub. Getting festive at parties usually involves drinking sweet concoctions designed to mask the taste of alcohol. Ladling some of the host’s famous Jingle Juice into a faux crystal Solo cup makes monitoring your consumption tough.

That fruit juice mixed with three parts vodka and rum hits like Mike Tyson in his prime. The next thing you know, an Uber driver is explaining to you that there’s a $150 charge for puking in the car. Not a good look!

Getting carried away at a holiday party is easy if we’re not careful. The combination of bottomless self-serve drinks and a socially charged atmosphere is a recipe for disaster.

Sugar Overload

Have you ever heard of a keto holiday party? Yeah, we haven’t either. The holidays are chock full of carbohydrates and sugar. With all the comfort foods, cookies, candy, and sweet drinks, they should sell Happy Pre-Diabetes cards at Hallmark.

All the sugary goodness of the holidays creates a feeding and drinking frenzy where consuming sugar induces us into wanting more sugar.

We definitely should eat something if we plan on drinking alcohol, but carbs are not the answer. Avoiding heavy appetizers and the cookie table will help you drink less at parties. Our brains love sugar, and once that train gets rolling down the tracks, it’s hard to stop.

Brain Chemistry

The reason most of us can’t eat just one cookie or have a single drink has much less to do with willpower and more to do with altering our brain chemistry. This physiological response to alcohol makes binge drinking a problem at parties.

Neuroscience and addiction research shows that our dopamine release is virtually the same for all hedonic pleasures. Our brain’s reward system acts the same whether it’s sugar, alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, you name it. Whenever our brain gets a taste of these substances, it immediately wants more. At a party, multiple celebratory substances launch dopamine like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Seasonal Drinking Disorder

Okay, holiday seasonal drinking disorder isn’t officially a thing, but maybe it should be one. Humans are evolutionarily programmed to consume large quantities of high-calorie and carb foods in the fall. This bingeing is nature’s way of preparing us for the long, dark winter when food is historically scarce. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint, food scarcity is not a problem for most humans in modern civilization and first-world countries.

As the days get shorter and the temperature drops, research shows that average alcohol consumption increases. In fact, the harsher the climate, the more we drink. It’s why we think of Russians, Canadians, and people from Wisconsin (just kidding, Packers fans) as big drinkers.

Moderation is Key

Moderation is the key to drinking less this season. Hey, there’s a nugget of wisdom you’ve probably not heard before now. If we don’t want to drink too much, then we should drink less. Genius!

What does moderation look like, and how can we do it? On most occasions, the plan isn’t to get plastered and make a fool of ourselves. Accidental overconsumption often occurs while we’re having a good time and lose track of our alcoholic intake.

The plan for moderation needs to be a simple one that doesn’t rely on willpower. The first thing you can do is eat a healthy low-carb, high protein snack before the party. When we feel full, we’re less likely to reach for comfort foods and cookies.

Our next move should be avoiding the holiday punch and unfamiliar cocktails. Stick with what we know, like beer or wine. These drinks are usually less alcoholic, and we’re more keenly aware of how many is too many.

Finally, alternate with water after every cocktail or water-down our drinks. Nobody will notice if we pour a couple of ounces of water into a glass of wine or have tonic water with a lime in our cup. We can still look like we’re drinking without getting carried away. Having a drink in your hand, alcoholic or not, leads to greater sociability.

Have Fun

Everyone loves a good party but having fun doesn’t need to be synonymous with drinking alcohol. It’s possible to enjoy ourselves without ending up as “that guy.”

If we feel the need for social lubrication, that’s okay too. But, we need to know our limits and remember that nobody liked Don Draper.


Take care, even down there.

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