According to a recent study published by JAMA Psychiatry, alcohol consumption is on the rise, but so is the prevalence of Dry January followers and teetotalers participating in wellness trends such as the Whole30 diet.
Women, in particular, have a complex relationship with alcohol, and the holidays can bring this to the fore. Below are some facts to consider when faced with the season of drinking and a few tips on how to navigate your way around “helpful” hosts and other partygoers.
1. Nearly 14 million women in the United States binge drink—defined as four drinks or more in a single period—three times a month. That’s 1 in 8 women, and the CDC reports that these women tend to drink, on average, six drinks per binge.
2. Women process alcohol differently than men, putting women at higher risk for liver problems, heart disease, breast cancer, and alcohol dependence. Alcoholism has also been found (by a German study) to be twice as deadly for women as it is for men.
3. Drinking instead of eating can be a sign of high-functioning alcoholism. It’s so easy to slip into this at parties; you want to calm your nerves and behave more sociably, so you have a drink as you walk in the door. Then you have another as you wait for the food to come out. By the time you finally sit down to eat, you’re finishing your second drink or starting on your third, making you less likely to consume a complete meal—that’s a red flag.
A few tips:
1. Just say no…at least to the first one. It’s common to ask for a drink first thing upon entering a party—the host/hostess approaches and greets you and asks, “Can I get you a drink?” It’s pretty easy to take them up on it immediately. Next time, avoid the first one until you’ve made the rounds at the party.
2. Ask for another kind of drink. If you want to avoid getting repeatedly asked if you’d like a drink, say yes to a non-alcoholic beverage, so you have something in your hand and something to sip.
3. If you are relying on a drink to get you through social situations or as a de-stressor, take that for the serious sign it is. No one likes to be told they have a problem—I know this because I have been that person. But if you read the above tips and thought, No, I just take a drink to calm me and help me make the rounds, that’s a sign you’re relying on alcohol too much.
Drinking in moderation is fine for a lot of people, but the increase in stress and parties over the holiday season can adversely affect even the most conservative drinker. Reconsidering your relationship with alcohol can improve your health, help you lose weight, and decrease your chances of having to apologize the next day for any Bridget Jones-like office party behavior.
If you are at the point where you are worried about your drinking, talk to a doctor or an addiction specialist. To read more about women and their relationship with alcohol, check out Ann Dowsett Johnston’s Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol.
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