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Girls Night: Tips for Responsible and Healthy Holiday Imbibing

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The other day I was driving down the road and I sneezed, like... really hard. The sneeze was so hard, my head felt like it exploded. My first thought was Uh oh... I could be getting a sinus infection, because, a) I get allergies year round and am prone to those mofos, and b) I'd already struggled with a mean and ruthless allergy season and had been in denial for weeks. My next understandable thought was Gee, maybe I should call the doctor, but I immediately shrugged it off. Why? Because of all the holiday occasions and parties coming up that involved the consumption of alcoholic beverages!

It's the HOLIDAYS! I love the holidays! I particularly love the times my girlfriends and I can get together for a night out (these days it seems so rare). But I'm a social butterfly, and I love sampling the yummy treats and toasting to happy times. Plus, I knew after one look at me, my doctor would put me on antibiotics, and any chance of a girls night (or any night, for that matter) would be gone. First of all, I am allergic to most, so I tend to delay using them as long as humanly possible. But also, we all know (or should) that some antibiotics are the archenemy of cocktails, wine, champagne, basically any alcoholic beverage. The two shall ne'er mix... and if they do, they can make you sick as a dog, or the antibiotics will be rendered less potent.

So, I sat in my car, thinking about all of this, when in the blink of an eye I had a flash memory of a couple of times in the past year I'd scheduled (and rescheduled) doctor appointments for suspected sinus infections so they wouldn't conflict with events. Naturally the self-aware person that I try to be, I had to question myself:

Are you, Ms. Health & Fitness Advocate, avoiding the doctor so you can GO TO MORE PARTIES?!

Of course, the devil on my shoulder cheered, WOOHOO! Nice work!

I honestly had to stop and ask myself, Is being able to party with my girlfriends (or anyone) and drink alcohol that important, OR do I really want to be healthy? If I was choosing health I needed to get in to see the doctor STAT. It's not that antibiotics are my end-all, be-all of solutions to sinus infections. But lately, you wouldn't find me opting out of a party or event in favor of staying home in my fuzzy slippers, cuddling my Nettie pot either.

I realized in that flash of an instant how utterly hypocritical Western women (and I personally think we Americans) tend to be when it comes to really taking good care of our medical health (myself obviously included). We will blow the trumpet for health, fitness and wellness, and we'll try to exercise, eat right, etc... but we love our social gatherings, parties, dinners, etc. Threaten to take those away so that we can nurse ourselves back to health, and all bets are off.

In some ways, I get it. We work hard. Some of us have multiple careers, aspirations and hobbies in addition to our families and full time jobs (raises hand). Add to that the time we put in trying to stay fit... well, let's just say we look forward to any moment we can let our hair down (raises other hand). No one wants to be on antibiotics when everyone else is celebrating. No one wants to be sick either, but going to a party feeling like crap apparently is not always a deal breaker.

So it's an issue for many adults to get in to see the doctor when it's warranted (I've clearly illustrated with my own example). We simply don't like to take the time, and we don't want to be inconvenienced.

But how do we enjoy ourselves and make wise and healthy choices over the holidays, particularly where alcohol is involved?

Here are some tips to carry you through the rest of this holiday season (or any time of year).

Have a Plan

You have to plan to stay healthy and make wise choices. Get into a good mindset about you and your health. Determine to treat yourself well. Then be self-aware. If you're sick, take care of you first. The parties and revelry will always be there. If it's not this holiday season, the next event is just around the corner. It always is.

See this as an opportunity

Women who drink responsibly have a tremendous opportunity here to keep things in check, and perhaps stop a problem before it develops. With alcoholism among older adults (particularly among women) on a rapid incline, it's even more important to watch your habits and keep them in check and under control.

Take care of YOU

Here's the mac daddy of all tips that will test your priorities and help you stay healthy throughout the holidays (or any time of year):

If you catch yourself scheduling or rescheduling things like doctors appointments in your life in favor of parties, or other occasions, it's time to pull the reigns in, baby. It's that simple. Your health trumps parties and "fun" every single day. Translation: Go to the doctor! Take care of you!

There are a multitude of occasions during the holidays. When you do imbibe, follow these tips:

1. Have a plan -- just like that plan for being healthy, have one for the evening. Decide you are going to be responsible, tell your friends and others you're with about your plan, and be diligent to stick to it.

2. Stay hydrated through the night. If you're out for a long evening (say, from 6 p.m. to midnight), plan to drink two full, tall glasses of water between each cocktail (sorry, shot glasses of water do not count). It will not only fill you up more, it will keep you hydrated (remember: alcohol is dehydrating), and will help you pace yourself (this is my personal preference, but other options like soda water with lime, or a cranberry/soda combo work well too).

3. Don't mix alcohols. Though everyone reacts differently to various types of alcoholic beverages, try to stick with one beverage, and plan not to over indulge. Three cocktails are more than enough over the course of a long (six or eight hour) night, and if you stick to one type of beverage, you may be less likely to over-indulge. This is, assuming you grow tired of drinking the same thing all night long, or don't over do it too soon. The point is, plan, and be smart about your limits.

4. MOST IMPORTANTLY: Don't EVER drink and drive. THIS. This must be planned and decided before anything else. Know that you will not get behind the wheel, and factor that cab in. My friends and I often split the cab fare and make a fun evening of it. You'll be glad you did, and so will your loved ones and everyone else on planet earth.

Only you can insure you have the happiest of holidays... Be wise, make healthy choices and above all, take good care of YOU. Because your family, your loved ones... all of us... we need you here.

Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

Companion video to this article on YouTube: http://youtu.be/xCd5Z3zLqzk

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