As collegiettes, sometimes in the midst of our well-earned weekend debauchery, we let our smarts and good instincts slip a little and engage in a little bit of dumb party behavior. It’s nothing serious, of course, but sometimes sipping out of a used Solo cup seems like an OK idea, and puffing on a Marlboro Light even though you don’t smoke appears to be the perfect social segue. And sure enough, to make ourselves feel better about our poor decisions, we come up with excuses to reassure us that it’s really not that bad.
“I only smoke when I drink, and a couple times a weekend isn’t bad.”
“I’ll eat healthy tomorrow – tonight, we binge.”
“Germs don’t exist while I’m drinking!”
We’re here to put those excuses to rest and to give you the real deal on just how bad some of these party habits can be, and which ones are ok to let slide. So instead of saying “My diet starts Monday” to try to combat those three slices of drunkenly-eaten pizza in your stomach, you can rethink some of your party fouls before they happen.
Unhealthy Party Habit 1: Smoking a cigarette once a week while drinking.
Sure, a few puffs a couple times a weekend seems minimal compared to the smoke intake of the stressed out, chain-smoking grad students parked outside the library. But smoking a cigarette, even just a few times, can cause serious damage to your body, and ups your risk of cancer and heart disease, not to mention that you face the possibility of getting addicted. Smoking every day is, of course, much worse than being a “social smoker” and only lighting up while out with friends, but either way, you’re deteriorating your lungs, mouth, teeth and heart to some extent with every puff. Since drinking lowers our inhibitions, it’s easy to see past the negative side effects of smoking once we’ve had a few, and it can even lead to more stupid decisions. “[Drinking] can cause you to lose coordination while smoking, and believe it or not, I have seen patients who have burned their lips from drunkenly smoking their cigarettes backwards!” says Dr. Victor Starcher, the regional medical director at MedExpress Urgent Care.
How to Fix it: Next time you’re at a party and your friends are going outside for a casual cigarette, find the nearest hottie and chat it up with him instead. By avoiding the circle of smokers outside, you won’t be tempted to have a puff. If you must go outside with everyone, bring your drink or chew a piece of gum so your mouth is preoccupied and doesn’t need a cigarette.
Unhealthy Party Habit 2: Bingeing on food after a night out.
Drunk food seems to be part of a routine for many college students. Even if you’ve had a full three-course meal before you go out, once the beer starts flowing, ending the night with a grilled cheese or two seems inevitable. While binge eating while drunk isn’t as detrimental to your health as the binge drinking that went on before, says Dr. Starcher, eating copious amounts of food can harm your waistline. When you’re drunk and eating, you aren’t exactly paying attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and before you know it, you could consume hundreds of extra calories. Eating all these extra calories – on top of the calories you’ve already consumed from alcohol – equals weight gain, especially if you’re drunk-eating greasy food.
How to Fix it: Drunk eating Thursday night circa 2am seems inevitable, so instead of stocking up on Bagel Bites and nachos to fulfill your late night cravings, try having some healthier snacks on hand, like celery and carrots with hummus or some low-fat string cheese. These snacks are still salty enough to satisfy you without doing as much damage.
Unhealthy Party Habit 3: Throwing up from drinking once a weekend.
We’ve all gotten to that point at least once, and throwing up because you’ve had too much to drink is never a good feeling. There are people, however, that purposely make themselves throw up because either they want to sober up or because they think it will make them feel better. Either way, throwing up on a regular basis–especially from drinking–is an unhealthy party habit to kick. “Alcohol is a toxin, and if your body receives more than it can process, its natural protective reflex is to expel as much as possible, thus vomiting,” says Dr. Starcher. “If you are engaging in this practice once a week, you may increase your risk of liver and heart disease and studies have shown that heavy consumption of alcohol is positively correlated with breast cancer, as well.”
How to Fix it: Early in the night, before you start drinking, make sure you eat a well-balanced dinner with enough protein, which stays in your stomach longer and helps to slow down the absorption of alcohol. When you begin your night, pace yourself and don’t drink too much too fast – one drink an hour is best, and alternate alcoholic drinks with water. If you feel like you’ve had too much, cut yourself off and switch to water completely.
Unhealthy Party Habit 4: Not washing your hands in the frat bathroom after using it.
At a frat party, you’re lucky if the boys provide toilet paper in the bathroom, let alone soap and paper towels to wash your hands after you do your business. Forgetting to wash your hands after using the bathroom is bad enough on its own, let alone not washing your hands after using a germ-filled frat bathroom. “Public restrooms, and probably moreover privately operated restrooms are hotbeds of viral and bacterial matter,” says Dr. Starcher. Those germs can easily result in the stomach bug or another internal sickness if you touch your face or mouth.
How to Fix it: Next time you’re heading out to a party, stick some instant hand sanitizer in your bag to stay safe and do your best to avoid touching the germ-filled surfaces in the bathroom.
Unhealthy Party Habit 5: Drinking from a cup of beer during a game of beer pong after the ball has been on the ground and then in your cup.
Much like fraternity bathrooms, floors of parties are disgusting, and usually covered in dirt, dust, stagnant beer, and other unidentified sticky substances. These often come with germs that cause the common cold, the flu, mono, or any other sicknesses that could be floating around your college campus. “Would you eat a piece of gum that you dropped onto the floor, gently rinsed with dirty water and then shook dry?” Dr. Starcher says. “The water does nothing to clean the ball, but that’s not even the worst part of drinking games.” Aside from a germ-filled cup of beer, drinking games usually go hand-in-hand with sharing drinks, which can also spread sickness.
How to Fix it: Before you begin a drinking game, always grab a clean cup that you can drink out of. Instead of filling the 10 beer pong cups with beer, fill them with water and drink a separate cup of beer each time the opposing team lands a cup.
Unhealthy Party Habit 6: Walking in high heels on an icy street.
Sure, you want to look hot for the party, but nobody looks good in a skirt and an ankle cast. Walking in heels on an icy road is a recipe for disaster, and a fall can result in a few cuts and bruises or a trip to the emergency room. “You risk not being able to wear heels for a lot longer than one night if you end up in a cast,” says Dr. Starcher.
How to Fix it: Avoid sprained ankles, broken arms, and embarrassment by carrying your highest heels and throwing on some flats or flat boots for the trek to your final destination. Or just skip the heels entirely and go with a pair of cute boots—you’ll be more comfortable anyway.
Unhealthy Party Habit 7: Making out with a stranger.
Making out and hooking up is part of college culture, but doing it often equals spreading germs and potentially getting sick. “This is a bacterial and viral nightmare,” says Dr. Starcher. Sicknesses like mono, influenza, and the common cold can be spread orally, so making out with anyone who has these germs equals soup and Gatorade come Monday morning. But that’s not the worst of it, says Dr. Starcher: “Just remind yourself of this one fact whenever considering a hormone-fueled game of tonsil hockey with a stranger – Chlamydia can also be spread orally.” Gross.
How to Fix it: Makeouts are unavoidable, and we would never tell you to put the fun of college on hold while you stress out about the germs in your mouth. Next time you kiss someone you don’t really know or someone who could be sick, use a mouthwash like Listerine afterwards to help kill off any germs that are breeding in your mouth.
All these party habits need to be kicked, but some habits need to be eliminated immediately. Here’s how they stack up, starting with the worst.
- Throwing up from drinking once a weekend
- Smoking a cigarette once a week while drinking
- Drinking from a cup of beer during a game of beer pong after the ball has been on the ground and then in your cup.
- Not washing your hands after using the frat bathroom
- Making out with a stranger
- Walking on an icy street in high heels
- Bingeing on food after a night out
Dr. Victor Starcher, Regional Medical Director at MedExpress Urgent Care