Party Proof Yourself

Clinical Nutritionist BROOKE BENSON CAMPBELL (BHSc Nut Med) has you covered this silly season with this essential food, drink and etiquette survival guide…

The season of holiday and office parties, work drinks and corporate and family lunches is almost upon us, and the power of the festive period is such that even the most disciplined men find themselves seduced by fried finger foods, turkey buffets and free champagne. Memories of Dry July and the Spring gym offensive are long gone, networking and small talk reigns supreme and November-December becomes one big, bloated, riotous, tinsel-covered blur. For the most extroverted of people this time can be daunting, but for others the very thought of navigating late-night karaoke and office Christmas party dos-and-don’ts can be simply terrifying. In order to accommodate and thrive with such a demanding social calendar, I’ve compiled this survival guide to help you make it to the New Year looking (if not feeling) serene, strong and smugly superhuman:

Love it or hate it, networking has become an essential part of the silly season routine but the term still congers up images of slimy executives in ill-fitting suits handing out business cards like gold bullions. Despite this bad reputation, there are still few more effective ways of forging relationships than in-person meetings or events. Just remember, you are there to meet people — that is the entire purpose of the event. This is not the time to sell a product or service. If someone seems particularly interested, get his or her contact details and follow up the next day, but during party hours, curb your enthusiasm and avoid a sales pitch.

At every event, you will inevitably be asked what you do or the company you work for. To avoid the uncomfortable (and often uninspiring) five-minute ramble, have a one-liner ready that goes just beyond your title. Rather than saying “I’m an Assistant Brand Manager” give a little more information – “I’m an Assistant Brand Manager with an exciting start-up, XYZ Vitamins”. Not only will you appear personable and enthusiastic, you may open doors and create contacts in both professional and personal arenas.

Preparation starts hours before the cocktails kick in and if experience has taught us anything, it’s that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach is a decidedly bad idea and may end in “hey u up?” texts to your ex and/or waking up in a strange flea-ridden share house owned by your gym buddy’s steroid dealer (don’t ask). Start your morning with a healthy breakfast containing 10-20g of protein and above all, don’t skip meals throughout the day with the goal of ‘banking calories’ for the night’s festivities. An hour before the event, eat another protein-filled snack: boiled eggs, hummus and celery, or lean chicken breast are all great options, and will allow you to drink more, stay up longer, ward off a hangover and keep regrettable behaviour at bay.

Gifts are great, but according to etiquette experts, in the office they flow in one-direction – downward. The boss buys presents for the staff. The staff doesn’t by presents for the boss. If you have been invited to someone’s house, bring a bottle of wine or flowers to say thank you, but be aware, it is perfectly acceptable for your host to open and serve it the same night – in fact, 52% of people expect this to be the case. Try not to be dismayed that the vintage Krug you brought is being lavished on the undiscerning palates of strangers, or bring it unchilled – it’s less likely to be opened that night.

Research performed by social psychologist Amy Cuddy has shown that an assertive physical stance can affect hormone levels in your brain. Employ the ‘Superman’ pose by putting your feet shoulder-width apart, your hands on your hips, your shoulders back and your head up — then take deep breaths. Doing this for two minutes pre-party will raise your testosterone and lower your cortisol, boosting energy, positivity and confidence.

If you are not already taking a broad-strain probiotic, now is the time to start. Researchers at the University of Colorado have discovered that good bacteria may protect the brain against harmful effects of stress (these include memory loss and anxiety). Likewise, a study published in PLoS has found that probiotics (specifically those containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus) significantly reduced stress and anxiety-like behaviours, and we all know how stressful the combination of sleep deprivation and gift shopping can be.

Speaking of drinks… it has been clinically proven that alcohol inhibits sleep, yet when you get home from a Fireball-infused party, often your bed is the first place you want to go. Before your head hits the pillow though, there are two things you need to do to kick-start the detoxification process. Firstly, grab a tall glass of water, and add one tablespoon of Activated Charcoal powder to it. Activated Charcoal is a tasteless black powder available from chemists and health food shops that will bind to the toxic byproducts of alcohol and take them out of your system, limiting the side effects of copious drinking — this is as close to a miracle cure as you’ll get for under $20. Secondly, eat a banana to help restore your potassium levels. The loss of this mineral when drinking contributes to the dehydration symptoms associated with a hangover.

It may feel virtuous to sweat it out after a night of excess, but in reality it’s not a good idea to exercise with a hangover. Even modest dehydration (caused by a pint or two) will compromise performance and mental judgement and will impair the ability to exercise or compete. At the same time the circulating levels of acetaldehyde make it difficult for the liver to control blood glucose levels, putting further strain on the organ. And what about a quick drink post-gym? Not such a clever move. Alcohol’s dehydrating effects and its ability to impair liver function compromise our ability to replenish glycogen (sugar) needed for aerobic activity, potentially causing long-term damage. If you want to get into your best shape, having a drink post-exercise is not the way to achieve it.

While most of us have gotten better about breaking those annoying i-Phone habits, like turning off the camera flash and avoiding ‘phubbing’, there are still a few things to remember. Googling something is not part of a conversation, and selfie attempts should be limited to five – or 30 seconds worth. Any longer than this and you run the risk of interrupting the rhythm of the room and not everyone wants to stand around you while you find the best angle and lighting for your bone structure. Ideally, leave your phone in your pocket for the entire evening – the rest of your Instagram feed will still be there when you get home.

According to a Deloitte Mobile consumer survey, 88% of all Australians now own smartphones and this number continues to rise, which means every year, it becomes easier for silly season transgressions to be captured digitally. When you are thinking about ordering that extra round of shots, or employing some creepy Harvey Weinstein-inspired moves towards the office assistant, remember that nearly every adult under the age of 35 can take your photo in an instant. Save the crazy antics for the comfort of your own home, buddy.

Experiments have shown that clear liquors, such as vodka and gin, tend to cause hangovers less frequently than dark ones, like whisky, red wine and tequila. Darker liquids contain higher levels of congeners (i.e. Methanol) and studies suggest that methanol is strongly associated with hangover symptoms. In fact, specific studies compared the effects of vodka (lowest of all spirits in congeners) and whisky, and in all results, both the frequency and intensity of hangovers were greater for whisky. To avoid a sugar high, also avoid mixers that contain fruit juices, sweet creams, soft drinks and flavoured syrups. Put simply, stick to vodka with lemon and sparkling water – your liver (and your head) will thank you later.

Use your daily commute to answer emails and plan your week so that you can blast through as much work as you can juggle on Monday and Tuesday. This will free up the rest of the week for lunches, meetings and nursing that post-party body. Similarly, push past the pain barrier and schedule gym classes and workouts for early in the week when your motivation and energy levels are high and your calendar has space. If you can keep Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday as per normal, overindulgence later in the week won’t leave such a dent in your work performance and your muscle tone. Your January body will thank you for it.

’Tis the season to clink champagne glasses, but as the body’s primary detox factory, your liver takes the brunt of the hedonistic holiday period. Thankfully, a study of 55 young, healthy individuals show that taking prickly pear extract five hours before drinking reduced the risk of a severe hangover by 62%. Although this isn’t a license to drink to excess, it is a sure-fire investment in headache prevention. To guarantee the long-term health of your favourite organ, eat foods rich in sulphur, like cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. These vegetables help the liver to process alcohol and expel it from the body. While you’re at it, if you can’t say no to a fried spring roll, also consider adding dandelion, globe artichoke and milk thistle to your detox regime. These herbs will help bile production to process fats, easing strain on the liver.

Make your presence a gift to those around you – studies show your attitude does rub off. Researchers have found that people subconsciously mimic facial expressions causing them to pick up on other people’s emotions – both positive and negative – and the effect is even stronger when people are drinking. The takeaway: to extend the life of the party (and your relationships) hashtag ‘positive vibes’ and get into the silly spirit.

Yes, it’s a little 007-ish, but let’s face it, a lot of people are terrible putting names to faces. Introducing yourself with your full name helps distinguish you from the seas of Matts and Marks they’ve met over the last week. Knowing your last name also makes it easier for people to find you on sites like LinkedIn so you can stay connected. It’s Bond, James Bond.

Canapé trays may elicit a momentary squeal of delight, but beware – they can be the cause of many a diet’s undoing. The good news? There is no need to abstain from cocktail hour as long as you follow these simple rules: Avoid anything deep fried or too beige – generally, these bites will be high in trans fats and carbohydrates and highly processed. Instead search for protein – smoked salmon, raw fish, grilled meats: these foods are the best choices. They are less likely to be coated in creamy sauces and generally higher in nutrient levels and essential fatty acids. Protein will also help you feel fuller for longer and prevent the all-too-common late night Gyro (with chips) emergency. If you are eating out and know the restaurant ahead of time, scope out the menu online before you go and decide on the healthy option to order. This will prevent the lack-of-concentration-quick-menu-scan while trying to entertain clients or your
date and allow you to stick to your health goals without too much sacrifice.

One of the major stressors alcohol places on your system is antioxidant depletion. Metabolising alcohol uses glutathione, an amino acid that serves as one of the body’s most powerful free radical fighters. Taking 500mg of N.Acetyl Cysteine daily can help replenish antioxidants while clearing out toxic metabolites that are generated by the liver’s breakdown of alcohol. Your New Year’s Day will look much brighter with a little N.A.C.

Where possible, time your drinking. Research from Penn State University shows that alcohol decreases protein synthesis by 15-20% after 24 hours, but not sooner. To prevent this decline, try supplementing with the leucine. Alcohol blocks muscle building at a chemical level by inhibiting the action of leucine, the most anabolic of the branched-chain amino acids. Taking a dose the day after drinking can help to override the inhibition, boosting muscle mass and keeping that six-pack summer ready.

Do what you have to do early, like talk to the host or the person you want to schmooze. Tick your boxes first and then you can either drink and relax or leave early with your head held high. Nobody wants a guest who hides in the corner drinking free grog before doing the rounds, so ‘eat your frogs’, do the things you came to do and then move forward. Plan your party for the best outcomes in work and play.

Bloating can be caused by a number of things: fizzy drinks, rich foods, stress and fatigue are all common culprits. If you find your stomach adventuring over your waistband this party season, don’t worry. Invest in some curcumin tablets – curcumin is an anti-inflammatory compound that heals bloating and distention. Triphala is another Ayurvedic herbal blend that will keep your tummy trim, taught and terrific – in fact, this Indian secret is a blessing for weight loss too: studies show people that take the blend daily for two months lose up to 5kgs, so balance egg-nog overload with Triphala.

Signs of overindulgence are likely to appear first around your eyes. This is because the skin that surrounds your blinkers is paper-thin (0.3 -0.5mm, as opposed to facial skin that is 1-1.6mm thick). This skin is also lacking in sebaceous glands that maintain the integrity of the protective barrier. When blood vessels dilate as a result of too many late nights, they can become visible through the delicate skin in the form of dark circles and puffiness. A good eye serum marketed towards male skin will help to support this area and lessen telltale signs of debauchery. Similarly, if you’ve been appreciating the festive cocktails a little too much, you’ll need an industrial-strength moisturiser to get you through the summer months. Alcohol strips the body of moisture, leaving you with skin that can appear sunken and dry, and a facial moisturiser with hyaluronic acid will give you the gold standard in hydration – it acts like a sponge to hold up to 1,000 times its own weight in water. Hydrate inside and out to maintain that party face.

If all else fails, and socialising isn’t going your way, compliment people. As a society, we are vain, self-loathing animals so stroke an ego with a compliment as an opener, or to steer a conversation in a different direction. It wins way more friends than, ‘What do you do?’ and you may just gain a fan for life – or at least for cocktail hour. ■


Brooke Benson Campbell (BHSc) is a Clinical Nutritionist and Naturopath, speaker, writer and presenter with a passion for all things health, beauty and wellbeing. A self-proclaimed human test subject, she is constantly trialling the newest products, seeking the latest discoveries and reading the current clinical studies, in order to share her findings with the public through private practice, social media and industry education. Follow Brooke at her Instagram @the.b.b.c 

For the full article grab the November 2019 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.

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