Tag Archives: holidays

Cheers! Tips for Safe Alcohol Use During the Holidays

By: Ariel J. Warden-Jarrett, M.D., FAAFP

The holidays are a time for family, friends and celebration. Unfortunately, it’s also when people sometimes drink too much, with consequences ranging from fights and falls to serious traffic accidents.

People often put themselves at risk because they believe myths about alcohol use ─ common but incorrect beliefs. Let’s look at some of the most common alcohol myths, and then we’ll tell you how to safely enjoy a few drinks during the holidays.

Alcohol myths

I’m in control. At first, alcohol acts as a stimulant, and you may feel happier and confident. But at this stage, alcohol has already reduced your inhibitions and impaired your judgment. As you drink more, you are likely to underestimate alcohol’s effects, making you feel “bullet proof” while seriously eroding your ability to think clearly and control your behavior.

It’s okay, I’m just drinking beer. One 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor have the same amount of alcohol. It’s not what you drink, it’s how much you drink that matters.

I can still drive. You may think you are safe to drive as long as you’re not slurring your words or acting erratically. However, the coordination needed for driving is compromised long before the signs of intoxication are visible. Plus, the sedative effects of alcohol increase your risk of nodding off or losing attention behind the wheel.

I stopped drinking, so I’m fine. It’s easy to misjudge how long alcohol’s effects last. After you stop drinking, alcohol in your stomach and intestine continues to enter your bloodstream, impairing your judgment and coordination.  Your liver can only process about one standard drink every hour, so the effects of drinking can drag on for hours.

I can sober up quickly if I need to. It’s widely believed that coffee, a cold shower or fresh air will get you sober. It’s also wrong.  These things may help with drowsiness, but not with the effects of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. There are no quick cures; only time will help.

I ate a big meal, so I won’t get as drunk.  Eating before drinking can slow the absorption of alcohol by the body, but it can’t prevent you from getting drunk. Eventually, the stomach will empty from dinner and alcohol absorption will pick up again.

Tips for safe alcohol use

Whether you’re attending or hosting a holiday party, here are ways to consume alcohol safely.

  • Pace yourself. A standard drink is one 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of hard liquor, and you should have no more than one per hour. And no more than four drinks per day for men or three for women.
  • Slow down. Sip your drink.
  • Space your drinks. Make every other one nonalcoholic, such as water.
  • Eat food before and while you drink to slow down your absorption of alcohol.
  • Make plans to get home safely. Remember that a designated driver is someone who hasn’t had any alcohol, not simply the person in your group who drank the least.

If you’re a party host:

  • Offer a selection of non-alcoholic beverages and plenty of food.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party ends.
  • Don’t serve alcohol to an intoxicated guest.
  • Don’t let anyone who is drunk drive home.

For more information on celebrating the holidays safely, visit http://www.RethinkingDrinking.niaaa.nih.gov



Ariel Warden-Jarrett, M.D.Dr. Ariel Warden-Jarrett is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She practices in the Bowie office.

Fad Diets and Holiday Weight Loss

By: Janice Rutkowski, M.D.

The holiday season is approaching, filled with parties, family and, for many of us, a few extra pounds. If you stand on the bathroom scale January 1 and see a higher number, you may resolve to take off those pounds ─ fast.

If that’s the case, be careful how you do it. There are fad diets on the market that promise quick weight loss, but many of them take an unbalanced approach to diet and nutrition. Some tell you to avoid “bad” foods, such as carbohydrates or fats, while others restrict you to just a few foods.

Any diet that restricts certain foods or strictly limits calories can lead to initial weight loss. But fad diets rarely bring long-term results because people return to their poor eating habits when the diet ends.  Also, people who use these extreme diets may not be getting all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Let’s examine five fad diets to avoid in 2017. Then we’ll give you tips for the right way to control your weight during the holidays.

  1. The Five-Bite Diet

The Five-Bite Diet encourages you to count bites instead of calories. You skip breakfast and then eat five bites of whatever food you want at lunch and dinner. The problem with this approach: even if you choose high-calorie foods for your five bites, you may only take in about 800 calories a day, which is less than half of the recommended daily amount. This diet won’t provide you with the key vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body needs, and may cause deficiencies that lead to anemia, bone loss, decreased cognitive function, and low energy.

  1. The Raw Food Diet

The Raw Food Diet teaches that cooking food destroys nutrients and natural enzymes, so you should only eat raw fruits, vegetables and grains. Since raw foods are often low in calories and fat, you’ll probably lose weight and get some nutrients on this diet. The downside is you’ll also miss some important nutrients, including protein, iron, calcium and minerals.  Also, cooking food has some benefits, such as killing bacteria and making food easier to digest. Eating only raw foods can also lead to bloating, indigestion, constipation, malnutrition and a lowered immune system.

  1. The Baby Food Diet

The Baby Food Diet is an Internet phenomenon that cuts calories and controls portions by having you replace one or two meals a day with baby food, which ranges 25-75 calories per jar, and then eat a healthy dinner. This diet has several notable drawbacks. It is very low in fiber, which can lead to digestion problems. It is low in fat and protein, which will leave you hungry in an hour or two and increase your chances of binge eating. Also, since baby food is very bland and there’s little chewing, you will probably feel unsatisfied and crave something else.

  1. The Blood Type Diet

The Blood Type Diet is based on the assumption that the foods you eat react with your blood type, so your blood type dictates what you should eat. If your blood type is A, for example, you should have a mainly vegetarian diet; type O’s should consume meats and avoid grains; type B’s can eat a variety of foods; and if you’re type AB you can eat anything on the A and B lists. But research has not supported this diet’s claims, and following it can deprive you of vital nutrients. For example, people with type A blood may not get the proteins and carbohydrates they need for good health.

  1. The Master Cleanse

Master Cleanse claims to rid the body of harmful “toxins” and promote weight loss. It is a liquid diet that lasts three to 10 days and features a special lemonade drink made of lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. This concoction is a diuretic that will cause you to shed water weight. The problems with the Master Cleanse are shared by all “cleansing” regimens. First, its claim that it rids the body of toxins is questionable since your liver and kidneys do that on a continual basis. Second, once you stop the diet, the water weight will return. Third, the diet only gives you 600-1,200 calories a day, well below the recommended daily amount. And finally, because of the lack of nutrients and calories, you may experience fatigue, nausea, dizziness and dehydration.

Now that we’ve looked at wrong ways to deal with weight gain, here are 10 good tips to help you enjoy the holidays while keeping your weight under control:

  1. Be realistic. Instead of trying to lose pounds during the holidays, try to maintain your current weight.
  2. Plan time for exercise. A moderate increase in exercise can help offset holiday eating. Try walking briskly 10-15 minutes twice a day.
  3. Before a party, eat a light snack like raw vegetables or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite.
  4. At a party buffet, take small portions of a variety of foods, including vegetables and fruits.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Chew your food slowly and enjoy the flavor.
  6. Limit the amount of alcoholic beverages you drink. They can lessen your inhibitions and induce overeating.
  7. If you overeat at one meal, eat less at the next to balance out your calorie intake.
  8. Plan group activities with family and friends that aren’t all about food. Try playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.
  9. Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering.
  10. Prepare favorite dishes that are lower in fat and calories. Here are some tasty, healthy holiday recipes to get you started.


Janice Rutkowski, M.D.Dr. Janice Rutkowski is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She sees patients at the Arundel Mills office.

Holidays Got You Anxious?

by Janice Rutkowski, M.D.

During the holidays, many people look forward to spending time with friends and family, but there is also a great deal of anxiety associated with various preparations, travel and time commitments. There may be an inability to sleep properly, exercise wanes and diets can be abandoned. How do we decide if this is “normal” stress from the holidays or is there more involved?

There are many kinds of anxiety disorders and these may have to be treated differently depending on the cause and symptoms. These include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social phobia. Modalities of treatment may include medication and/or counseling. Your physician should be able to diagnose the condition and determine appropriate treatment.

When should you seek medical help? If the level of anxiety is interfering with your day-to-day activities, the symptoms have been present for over 2 weeks, symptoms are worsening over time or interpersonal relationships are suffering as a result, you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss therapeutic options.

Janice Rutkowski, M.D.Dr. Rutkowski is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. She received her medical degree from the University of Limoges in 1981 and completed her residency program in Internal Medicine at Maryland General Hospital in 1984.