Gauge your appetite before you drink.
Ever gone for pre-dinner drinks only to find that dinner doesn't sounds quite as appetizing after a cocktail? That's because alcohol inhibits ghrelin — a.k.a. the hunger hormone. I noticed this when I first started Intuitive Eating and thought, "Okay, guess I just won't eat dinner if I'm not hungry." This experiment resulted in what we call a hangover and I learned my lesson. Now, I'm just more mindful of pre-meal drinking (especially if I'm about to eat something really good). And, even if I do end up killing my appetite with a happy hour Malbec, I make sure to eat something anyway. I don't need a full stomach, just a not-empty stomach. Because:
Hangover hunger is real.
Too much booze and not enough food throws your blood sugar out of whack. That, combined with the dehydration means your body wakes up in survival mode, demanding those big, starchy comfort foods STAT. Seriously, people. Just eat dinner.
But, "drunk munchies" are not as real.
Yes, the same blood-sugar drop that incites hangover hunger can give you the drunk munchies the night before. Depending on how long and how late you go, the pizza urge may kick in hard as the booze starts to leave your system. But, the other side has to do with how alcohol lowers your inhibitions. If you restrict yourself from certain foods in everyday life, you're likely to go to town on them after a drink. Personally, I found this habit vanished when I stopped dieting. When you're allowed to eat sugar cookies sober, you don't need to wait until you're tipsy.
Cocktail ≠ stress relief.
Okay, sure it does, at first. There's a reason that first drink often goes down a lot faster than the second — and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But, alcohol is both depressant and stimulant. So, while that initial, chilled-out feeling may make for a great social lubricant, you may find soon find yourself feeling even more amped up and tense as the booze spikes your blood pressure.
Take a time out.
Always be curious about your habits. Not judgmental — just curious. There's nothing wrong with enjoying a healthy relationship with alcohol, but every once in a while, check in to make sure it is, indeed, healthy. Alcohol is fun, but it's also habit-forming, and for many people, that habit is actually addiction. So, take a time out and try an experiment. If you usually have a beer after work, try not having it for a week and pay attention to how you feel. Go to a party sober and take note of your social interactions. Tell your friends about the experiment. If you really want to go for it, try a sober month. In all these scenarios, though, it's important not to approach it like a punishment, a fast, or a "detox" cleanse. Thinking in terms of restriction is what leads to sneaking and cheating and, eventually, feeling like a loser. If you take on the experiment with an open, curious mind, you'll find out the truth about yourself and your habits.