Come up with a plan.
Think about why you really drink, a dietician suggests.
by Theresa Shank, For the Inquirer
Between holiday parties and, well, let’s face it, 2021 itself, you may have been drinking a bit more than was wise at the end of last year. So, as the new year approached, you may have made the decision to forgo alcohol altogether for the month of January.
Now that January is over, the next decision is what comes next. Here are a dietitian’s five tips on how to welcome alcohol back into your life without face-planting into a pitcher of margaritas.
1. Plan your drinks
One thing that often helps me is to plan out which days of the week I will abstain from alcohol and which days I will have a drink. I prefer to have more nondrinking days than drinking days. Have an important meeting tomorrow? Maybe you want to get a good night’s sleep and not drink. Without a plan, you’re just engaging in reactionary drinking, which should be avoided. By planning ahead, you can create anticipation, too.
2. Get intentional
Before you pick your glass back up again, it’s key to identify which aspects of your relationship with alcohol you wish to retain and which ones you want to let go of. Next, it’s important to think about why you’re drinking. Take a good look at what you aren’t giving to yourself mentally and emotionally every day — and then find ways to provide it. No single glass of wine is ever going to change your life. Only you can do that, by changing your mindset and being intentional with where you are and where you want to be.
3. Drink only to enjoy
I always tell my clients, “drink to celebrate, not to wallow.” Really, have you ever met a glass of wine that changed your relationship with an annoying colleague or helped your children sleep better throughout the night? Doubtful. Choosing to drink in an Eeyore state of mind will only further your crummy thoughts and land you with a headache the next day. And your colleague will still be annoying. If you tell yourself that you need alcohol (or cookies, same idea) to unwind from your day vs. wanting to enjoy a glass of wine to celebrate the accomplishments of the day, there are likely bigger issues that you should explore. If you come to find that you are dependent upon alcohol, reach out to a professional who can help.
4. Make an agreement, not an ultimatum
Only you can figure out which boundaries work best for you. For instance, you may decide not to keep alcohol in your home and instead to go out if you want a drink. Unless you have a dependency upon alcohol and shouldn’t drink at all, be leery of giving yourself ultimatums that may cause you to rebel. Much like food, when a drinking habit is forbidden, a person may feel deprived — and wind up consuming much more than if it were known that a moderate amount could be consumed soon.
5. Wait for the entree
Another small – but helpful – habit is to ask for your drink to come out with your entree when you are at a restaurant. While you wait, drink water so you’ll be hydrated before you drink alcohol, which is notoriously dehydrating. An appetizer with a nourishing fat, such as olive oil or avocado on a salad, hummus with veggies, or olives will help buffer the release of alcohol into your system, so you don’t get intoxicated too quickly — and forget how many drinks you’d planned.
6. Get creative
Sometimes, all it takes to achieve your goals is a little creativity. Instead of feeling pressured to finish an entire bottle of wine, try a wine preserver such as the Coravin Wine Preservation System or a Rabbit Wine Preserver. Or maybe you go out with your co-workers for happy hour every Tuesday, but you don’t want to drink during the week. You may want to try one of Philly’s best mocktails, but ask the bartender to go light on the simple syrup.
These tips aren’t useful just for alcohol, but also for dairy, gluten, sugar, or just about anything you want to limit. Wellness looks different for everyone. But when it comes down to it, each of us has the innate ability to take care of our own health — as long as we assume responsibility.
Theresa Shank, M.S, R.D, LDN, is the owner of Philly Dietitian LLC, which offers virtual nutrition counseling services.