'Tis the season of overdoing it. There's something about this time of year that tends to expose our vices. The office only throws one party a year? Have a whole bottle of wine. Sweaters are half off? Buy five of them. Celebrating is fine, so long as you're not paying for those questionable December actions in January. Below, U.S. News explores four common holiday overindulgences, along with tips for curbing them.
The holiday bender. Does December for you mean eggnog for Christmas, wine for Hanukkah, champagne for New Year's Eve and mulled wine for the frigid winter days in between? You're not alone. Nearly half of Americans binge drink over the holiday season, according to the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit Caron Treatment Centers.
Solution: Celebrate responsibly. Holiday stress can be a trigger to drink, so managing those anxieties may curb your binging. At parties, pace yourself by snacking and gulping water between drinks. And don't fool yourself into thinking that a cup of coffee or cold shower will sober you up. The effects of alcohol continue long after your last drink, and time – lots of it – is the key to becoming sober. Remember that as you leave your holiday party. In December of 2011 alone, 760 people died in drunk-driving-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If you know you're going to drink, designate a sober driver ahead of time, or plan to go home via taxi, a friend, public transportation or a local sober ride program.
[Read: Happy Hangover-Free New Year!]
December lovin'. Maybe it's the roaring fireside – maybe it's the Mariah Carey Christmas tunes – but something is in the December air that makes folks a little frisky. In December, conception rates are higher than in any other month, and more than twice as many condoms are sold the week before Christmas than the week after. Whatever the reason, folks seem to stockpile for a holiday of merrymaking.
Solution: Protect yourself. Want to go home with a babe from the holiday party? Before going all the way, discuss past partners, history of sexually transmitted diseases and drug use. If you're not looking to have kids, always wear a condom and check that it's not damaged before using it.
[Read: Sexy Tips from a Septuagenarian.]
Holiday shopping gone awry. Today only: 50 percent off sweaters! Buy now to ensure delivery by December 24! Only one week till Christmas! Seasonal, pushy deals and the expectation that a successful holiday means a mountain of gifts – these factors can really get to you, sometimes making typically moderate shoppers go crazy at the mall. If you're not careful, you could be paying off holiday credit card bills well into next year.
Solution: Budget wisely. If you tend to overshop around the holidays, unsubscribe to store email lists, whose bold-lettered deal alerts may tempt you to spend. And don't bring your credit card to the store. Look at your budget, figure out how much you can afford to spend and then bring only that amount of cash with you. When you shop, make sure you go when you're feeling most refreshed, since shopping while stressed and tired typically leads to more impulsive buying.
The holiday munchies. Ham and pie and gingerbread – oh my! Family traditions that revolve around food, coupled with holiday stress, often lead to overeating. And all those extra calories come as you're still working off that Thanksgiving stuffing. It's bad news for a nation with an obesity rate nearing 36 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Solution: Step away from the dessert buffet. At parties, delicious foods at arm's reach will have you wondering exactly how you managed to scarf down 10 cookies in 20 minutes. If you're bringing a dish to share, opt for a healthy choice, like fruit and a low-calorie dip. That way, even if everything around you is drizzled with brown sugar, you know there's at least one dish with nutritional value. And remember to be social. Talking with a mouthful of food is not a good look.