How to Keep Your Drinking in Check This Labor Day
Labor Day festivities mark the unofficial end of summer, and for many, the beginning of a pretty nasty hangover. If your Labor Day plans include alcohol, read on to learn how to drink responsibly and avoid a regret-filled Tuesday.
Choose Your Company Wisely
Turns out peer pressure isn’t reserved for adolescents and afterschool television specials. Research shows that adults also feel pressured to drink when they’re among others who are imbibing. Middle-aged adult subjects in a UK study were found to have similar binge-type social drinking behaviors as their younger counterparts. They also reported having difficulty refraining from drinking when in social situations involving alcohol — some even fabricating excuses to avoid gatherings where others were drinking so they wouldn’t be tempted or risk coercion. If you’ve got a crew who likes to overconsume, perhaps opt for a trip to the beach with the family, picnic in the park with some calmer cronies, volunteer or check out a community event such as a parade or festival. Attending events where alcohol isn’t one of the main acts and the actors are alcohol-less may help you curb your drinking.
Drink A LOT … of Water
Drinking alcohol can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. That’s because alcohol works as a diuretic, increasing urine production. This also taxes the kidneys because when the body is dehydrated, the kidneys need to work harder to filter harmful substances. Consuming approximately four alcoholic beverages can cause the body to eliminate up to one quart of water. This number may increase if you’re drinking in the sun on a hot day. To help avoid a hangover, which can be exacerbated by dehydration, the National Health Service recommends alternating alcoholic beverages with water. So, for every alcoholic drink you have, drink a glass of H2O and help your hangover and the overall health of your organs.
Set a Drink Limit, and Write It Down
An undefined goal like, “I will drink less this Labor Day,” may be a little too ‘loosey-goosey.’ To keep you on track, set a maximum number of drinks you will have and to make it more official, write it down. Put it in your purse or pocket and look at it during the day if you’re approaching your limit. Perhaps even mark the paper every time you have a drink. Something about putting pen to paper with our goals makes us more likely to follow through on them. When coming up with your magic number, keep in mind what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines as excessive drinking. Binge drinking for women is considered four or more drinks on a single occasion, and, for men, five or more drinks on a single occasion. Heavy drinking is defined as eight or more drinks a week for women and 15 or more drinks a week for men.
Nosh and Nibble
The body absorbs alcohol more quickly on an empty stomach. How fast alcohol is absorbed on an empty stomach also depends on the type of drink. One study found that peak blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is higher after drinking hard liquor like vodka than drinking wine or beer, even when subjects consumed equal amounts of alcohol content across the beverages. When alcohol is absorbed more quickly, you get drunk quicker. If you’ve got a long day ahead of you, drinking two alcoholic beverages is going to hit you harder than it would had you padded your stomach. Alcohol absorption is also impacted by factors like body weight and metabolism, but as a general rule of thumb, keep that tummy full and make sure to visit the snack table frequently. Foods high in dense carbohydrates, fats and protein can help slow down the time it takes your body to absorb alcohol. Also, maybe reach for a beer or glass of wine rather than a vodka tonic.
Don’t just drink to drink — pay attention to your beverage. Take small sips and notice the qualities of your drink. What does it smell like? What does it taste like? Is it sweet or bitter? Can you feel carbonation in your mouth when you take a sip? Enjoy your drink. Make it last. Instead of holding it in your hands at all times, if possible, put it down on a table or ledge between sips. This might slow down your drinking behavior, encourage you to consume less because each drink lasts longer, and actually help you enjoy the act of drinking, not just its inebriating aftereffects.
Do These Seem Like Lofty Goals?
If reading these suggestions makes you feel like you’re in for a fun-less, ‘laborious’ Labor Day, you may want to take a look at your usual drinking patterns. Unsuccessful attempts to quit drinking or curb drinking can be one of the warning signs that you have a substance use disorder or are at risk of developing one.