As we head into the official holiday week, many of us have already enjoyed our fair share of fun, food and drinking--and many of us may also be feeling the early effects on our bodies of all that extra imbibing and ingesting.
But the office parties and Christmas events we've been attending all month are really just a warm up for a week that for most of us kicks off with lots of eating with family, and ends with lots of drinking with friends as we ring in the new year. Our shopping, decorating, planning and traveling has come to a close, and decompressing from the build up of holiday stress can itself motivate us to over-indulge.
No one wants to think about the negative effects of our food and alcohol consumption while we're trying to enjoy the holidays, but I've been talking and writing about this topic since Thanksgiving, along with my other medical colleagues at FOX. Chances are you'll eat too much this week, but the good news about overeating is that, unless you have a medical condition with dietary restrictions, the aftermath of too much turkey or cake may be some temporary digestive discomfort and weight gain. With a little post-holiday discipline and diligence, this can be reversed.
Over-consumption of alcohol, however, can pose more serious problems. It can negatively change our behavior, lead to unpleasant or dangerous situations, and for those with a history of alcohol abuse, this time of year can be very difficult. At the very least, drinking too much can ruin some of our holiday time if we have to spend it recovering from a hangover.
And, for those of us who are calorie conscious or trying to keep our weight gain under control, alcoholic drinks can pack a real caloric punch. Many people are unaware of just how fattening liquor is.
So while there is nothing wrong with enjoying a few holiday cocktails and toasting the new year, here is a recap of some of the tips I've been offering all month long on FOX on safe and responsible drinking:
--Never drink and drive. This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Never get behind the wheel of a car if you've been drinking, regardless of whether you think you're sober or not.
--Avoid diet mixers. The difference between drinking a rum and coke and a rum and diet coke is not just the calories saved by drinking diet soda. Mixing alcohol with a diet beverage results in a higher concentration of alcohol in the blood stream. Sugar metabolizes alcohol. In this instance, sugar is good for you.
--Do not mix alcohol with so-called "energy drinks." The high concentration of caffeine in energy drinks masks the effects of the alcohol. People think they are not drunk and drink considerably more. This leads to overdosing on alcohol and possibly alcohol poisoning. This is extremely dangerous, and can be deadly.
--Be aware of the caloric content of alcohol. We famously reported on FOX last week that a pina colada had about 700 calories, about the same as a Big Mac. A typical shot of alcohol has 90 calories. Mixers--juice, soda, etc.--can add significantly to this. For example, an average size vodka and orange juice has about 150 calories. Beer and wine are lower in calories than hard liquor. You may want to consider mixing your liquor with tomato juice. It is low in calories, very nutritious, but unlike diet soda, has the sugar necessary to metabolize alcohol.
--Alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks, preferrably water. This will cut your alcohol consumption considerably, slow its affects on you, and help prevent the dehydration that causes hangovers.
--Drink out of a smaller glass. Size matters. Just as food portions have ballooned in this country, so has the size of drinks. Ask for a smaller glass.
--Beware mixing drinks. This age-old advice still rings true. Mixing different liquors is never a good idea.
Finally, have a safe, healthy, happy wonderful holiday!
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.