My girlfriends and I were a few cocktails deep when we got into a playful debate about which season is the hardest to abstain from drinking.
Molly argued for fall, with football season, pre-holiday stress and, of course, Halloween. (She’s still stuck in freshman year, despite graduating nearly a decade ago.)
Brittany backed spring, blaming it on the nice weather and obligatory happy hours. Melissa stood behind winter, complaining that it’s just too boring, cold and depressing not to drink.
We sat there laughing, carelessly racking up our tab. Ultimately, we all agreed that summer wins.
The truth is, there’s always a good reason to eat, drink and be merry. Life is short, food is delicious and, well, YOLO.
But when fall comes around, and we try to wrestle ourselves into our skinny jeans, we start feeling a bit remorseful.
Don’t choose between next season’s jeans and this season’s cocktail; you can have it all! Follow my no-sacrifice drinking tips to keep summer off your hips!
1. Be honest (with yourself).
You work hard and deserve a cocktail at the end of a long week or just after a hard day. Be kind to yourself.
The more you deprive yourself, the more likely you are to binge (allowing the perpetual self-hate cycle to begin).
2. Be a mindful drinker.
We hear a lot about mindful eating. And while we may honor it when it comes to our food, we seem to throw out the principle entirely when it comes to drinks, downing glass after glass of wine.
So, how do we change this?
It involves savoring and appreciating the flavor of whatever we are consuming. We need to take the time to recognize the way it tastes and the way it makes us feel.
Eating and drinking stimulate “feel good” hormones. Being mindful lets that good feeling last longer.
Not to mention, it also makes us less likely to overconsume, and better able to manage our level of intoxication.
3. Know the science.
You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know the basics.
I call this “nutrition in a nutshell." It’s as simple as understanding that alcohol does have an effect on the body.
Accepting this fact is the first step to becoming a more mindful drinker.
Plus, if you’re already spending hours at yoga, or hungry days on your juice cleanse trying to rev metabolism and do good for your body, it’s silly to abandon all that hard work for multiple drinks.
So, here's the truth: Alcohol, the backbone of cocktails, disrupts the normal nutrient digestion process, altering the way fats, carbohydrates and protein are utilized and stored.
This means you can’t drink and expect your body won’t notice. Whether it’s a stomach ache or faster fatigue at the gym the next day, you can’t outsmart science.
4. Time your meals.
The biggest mistake I see women make involves timing meals around the time they plan to drink.
I’ve heard women say, “I avoid eating before drinking to bring on the buzz faster,” and, “If I’m drinking, I don’t need any extra calories from food.”
This is wrong, and it ultimately leads to binge-eating, feelings of regret and extra caloric intake. Instead, eat before and an hour or two after.
Alcohol disrupts the way our body processes food.
Metabolically, when we're not drinking alcohol, our body takes in carbohydrates, proteins and fats, uses them for energy and then stores them into places our body can easily reach into if we need more energy.
When alcohol and food enter at the same time, the body drops its aforementioned duties and makes it a priority to get rid of alcohol.
The result is fatty acid buildup, which can lead to unintentional weight gain, exactly what you were trying to avoid.
Since alcohol also depletes coveted nutrients, do yourself a favor and eat a well-balanced meal before and after.
5. Make good choices.
Now you’re wondering what happens if you’re eating and drinking at the same time, like at a cocktail party or a dinner, right?
I’m of the school of thought that food and alcohol (when consumed in moderation) make great couple. And no one, including me, should take that away from you.
If you’re going to drink and eat at the same time, just be mindful of what you choose.
Avoid high-fat foods like chips and fries, and opt for lower calorie, nutritious foods, like veggies and lean protein.
It’s undoubtedly fun to sip on a cocktail, while simultaneously twirling your hair and flirting with the cute guy at Surf Lodge.
But, it’s not so fun (or cute) when you’re sucking at the straw to get every last drop or fighting for your spot back at the bar.
The desire to hold a drink in social situations perpetuates the need for a second drink, the third and, well, you know how this ends.
I usually avoid making a fool out of myself by adding water or ice to my drink. This helps it last longer, and results in consuming fewer drinks (not to mention calories).
If you don’t have access to water throughout the night, ask the bartender to pour your drink in a larger glass and use the remaining space to add in hydration (like water or extra ice).
Plus, those extra drinks can be chock-full of calories, which isn't a chock-full of fun for your banging body.
The moral of the story? Nurse that drink, hydrate and decrease the amount of calories and alcohol you take down.
7. Quit the juice.
Despite our reliance on juice cleanses to “detox” throughout the week, juice does not make drinks healthy, especially if that juice is coming from the bar.
The juices used for mixed drinks are usually cheap, full of added sugar and provide very little in the way of nutrition, despite their deceitful fruity names.
Next time someone offers you “jungle juice,” or anything that looks like an unknown combination of something you would drink senior year of high school, pass and head over to the clear mixers like soda, water or seltzer.
This will cut your calories by at least one third, and steer you far away from hangover road.
Keep these tips in mind while enjoying your summer cocktail because hey, you deserve it.