The holiday season brings so many good things — festive gatherings included. But if you’re trying to reduce your alcohol intake, you may be wondering exactly how you’re going to manage that when so many get-togethers with friends and family revolve around alcohol. For those committed to a low- or no-alcohol holiday season, there’s good news. There are actually a lot of creative ways to deal with alcohol-centric events and curious partygoers who want to know why you’re not drinking. Here, experts share their best tactics.
SET YOUR INTENTION
Sometimes just being really clear with yourself about what your alcohol plans are can be helpful, particularly if you do it right before you set out on your holiday gathering schedule. “Set a firm intention beforehand not to drink, and list out all the benefits of not consuming alcohol,” advises Ellen Albertson, PhD, a registered dietitian and health coach. Those benefits will probably be individual to you, but they might include things like staying on track with weight-loss goals, or waking up feeling great rather than tired and sluggish. “Keep the list where you can see it,” Albertson advises. That way, it’ll stay top-of-mind.
GIVE THE HOST A HEADS UP, IF APPROPRIATE
If you’re heading to an event that revolves around alcohol (Think: wine tasting, beer flights, or even a boozy dinner party), consider letting the host know ahead of time that you’ll be abstaining, suggests Sarah Skovran, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. Keep it brief and friendly, along the lines of:
“Hey, I’m looking forward to the thing on Saturday. Just wanted to let you know I won’t be partaking in the (alcohol part), but I’m really looking forward to (seeing you; getting to catch up; playing games; dancing; whatever it is you’re looking forward to). See you then!”
SHOP FOR YOUR OWN ALTERNATIVES
Bring sparkling ciders and other celebratory, non-alcoholic beverages to events you attend, recommends Julie Upton, a registered dietitian and co-founder of Appetite for Health. There are lots of fun zero-proof options these days, and you can encourage the host to share them with others, too. “You’ll probably spark a trend of more partygoers imbibing in your alcohol-free option,” Upton adds.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR CONFIDENCE
When you see others enjoying alcoholic drinks, you might start to lose some of your resolve. But remember: You can still have fun without drinking! “Before the party or gathering, do as many things as possible to feel calm and comfortable in your skin so you won’t feel like you need a drink to relax or fit in,” Alberson suggests. That might be wearing an outfit that makes you feel awesome, getting excited about connecting with new people, or remembering how much you’re looking forward to seeing loved ones.
HAVE A NON-ALCOHOLIC DRINK IN HAND
One thing a lot of abstainers struggle with is being offered a drink and having to turn it down. A simple way to avoid that is to already have a drink at the ready, notes Jen Hernandez, a registered dietitian. “People won’t ask you to drink more with a beverage in hand,” she adds.
USE THE DESIGNATED DRIVER DISTINCTION
If you don’t feel like answering questions about why you’re not drinking or you’re feeling pressured, this is one of the easiest solutions, Upton says. If you say you’re the DD for the evening, no one can argue with that.
DEFLECT AS NECESSARY
If someone presses you on what you’re drinking specifically, don’t be shy about being a little vague. “If you don’t want to divulge that you’re not drinking alcohol, you can simply refer to it as ‘my own little concoction.’” Hernandez suggests. Optional: Throw in a wink for mystery.
SHARE YOUR REASONS
For those who do want to talk about their choice not to drink alcohol, people will usually understand if you explain your motivations. “Tell your friends or family that you are prioritizing your mental and physical health this month,” recommends Erin Kenney, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. “Maybe you’ve already noticed positive benefits like clearer thinking, more energy or improved digestion. Express confidence in your decision without judgment for others’ behaviors.”
USE TOMORROW’S WORKOUT AS A REASON
Another great way to deflect anyone insisting you drink is to politely say you plan to exercise hard tomorrow, and alcohol will slow you down, notes Liz Weinandy, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “This is true: Alcohol can make us feel sluggish since it dehydrates us,” Weinandy says. It can also impact your workout results. “Now the hardest part might be carrying through on that hard workout.”
KNOW HOW TO DEAL WITH PUSHERS
We’ve all met those people who say things like “Come on, one drink won’t hurt,” after you’ve already declined their first offer. “These people are not looking for an in-depth conversation about your reason for not drinking,” Skovran says. “How you proceed depends on your personality. My go-to is a blank stare and ‘I’ve already said no, but thanks.’ If you want to be more direct and don’t mind the attention it will draw, feel free to ask them why they care so much whether or not you are drinking. And if you want to be a little more placating, a quick, ‘I’m actually not drinking tonight, thanks anyway’ should work.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
Remember, you don’t owe anyone an explanation about what you choose to eat or drink or not, Skovran says. Turning down alcohol at holiday events can be tricky. But if it’s part of your health and fitness goals to drink less alcohol, there are lots of ways to make sure you stick to your plan.
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