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Moderate Drinking: How to Avoid Overindulging This Winter

Sometimes it can be difficult to drink alcohol moderately in the winter, especially when it seems like everyone's offering you a glass of spiked eggnog or hot apple cider with rum. BACtrack, a breathalyzer company, reported that December kicks off "drinking season," which lasts through March. According to the study, people drink alcohol more during the winter. With so many succumbing to temptation, how can you avoid the same pitfall and when do you know that you've had enough?

Moderate Drinking Defined

According to the CDC, you're entering heavy-drinking territory if you're a woman and have more than eight drinks a week, or if you're a man and have more than 15 drinks. Binge drinking is defined as four drinks or more on one occasion for a woman or five or more for a man.

But just because you hit the heavy-drinking level, however, doesn't mean you suffer from alcoholism, according to a CDC study. About 29 percent of Americans report excessive drinking and of those, 90 percent do not have alcohol dependence.

When the Negative Effects Kick In

A blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 percent means you're legally impaired and can't drive, but you may start feeling the negative effects of drinking before then. According to BACtrack, you might experience lack of balance, bad coordination, and fatigue at .06. The "euphoric" feelings associated with drinking happen at much lower consumption levels.

But the problem is that there isn't one set number of drinks that determines when you hit .06. That depends on your weight, what you're drinking, your age, what you've eaten, any medication you're taking, and a host of other factors. BACtrack illustrates with examples: If three people each have two slices of pizza, a pint of beer, and two glasses of pinot noir within 90 minutes, the man who weighs 215 pounds will have a BAC of .047 percent, the man who weighs 175 will have a BAC of .064, and the woman who weighs 150 will have a BAC of .097.

How to Avoid Drinking Too Much Over the Holidays

Simply recognizing that you may have trouble stopping before you overindulge is a great start, but consider taking advantage of additional tools or tactics. Volunteer to be the designated driver, which gives you a great excuse not to drink, or simply decide ahead of time that you'll limit yourself to two drinks and ask your friends to hold you accountable. You can also mix in glasses of water and other nonalcoholic drinks so you don't feel like you have to consume alcohol all the time to be social.

Sometimes preparation isn't quite enough. Here are some helpful resources:

  • The National Institutes of Health offers a drinking tracker card that helps you identify triggers that make you want to drink more.
  • The Drinker's Checkup can also analyze your drinking patterns and provide advice on moderate drinking.
  • The Moderate Drinking app is an online tool that lets you set the maximum drinks you want to have per day and per special occasion.
  • Mobile apps, such as DrinkControl, IntelliDrink PRO, In My Hand, or AlcoDroid, can also help you estimate your BAC. If you want a different approach, iDrinkulator will show you how many calories your drinks equal in food.

Staying within moderate drinking limits isn't always easy. Be honest with your friends and family, and let them know you're cutting back. If a friend doesn't support you, you may need to consider just how healthy it is to have that person as a friend. Understanding yourself can play a huge role in limiting winter drinking, so remain mindful of how you feel -- and how you want to feel the next day.

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