Dr. Stephenson, aka The VibrantDoc is a recognized leader in functional medicine and author of the best-selling care book Vibrant: A Groundbreaking Program to Get Energized, Reverse Aging, and Glow.

We spoke with Dr. Stephenson about the Rule of Halves—a moderation technique to cut your vices and improve health.

Vibrant Doc Dr. Stacie J

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson

At Chilled, one of our main mottos is mindful drinking. Talk to us about what “mindful drinking” means to you.

Mindful drinking is really the only way to drink in a way that won’t negatively impact health. To me, mindful drinking means being attuned to how drinking (and eating, for that matter) feels, both in the moment and later. This can be more challenging with alcohol, since it lowers inhibitions, but if you reinforce the habit of mindful drinking, then even when you aren’t thinking about it, those habits will kick in.

To learn this skill, I believe in stopping after every sip and simply noticing: How did that taste? Was it satisfying, or am I just drinking because everyone else is, or because it’s a habit? Do I genuinely want another sip, or have I had enough? If I have more, how will I feel now? How will I feel later? It may sound silly, or disruptive, to imagine having all these thoughts after every sip, but, you can think all these things in an instant, once you get used to assessing how your body is reacting and how your mind is doing as you take in alcohol.

What usually happens for me is that after one drink—one glass of wine or one cocktail–I realize I’ve had enough. Maybe everyone is saying, “Let’s have another round!” but if my body is telling me that I have enjoyed one drink but don’t actually feel the need to have any more, or that I will probably regret having more because of how I will feel later, or because I know I’ll be less mindful of other things I want to stay mindful about, or just because I’m full, then I have learned to say, “No thanks, but I’d love a club soda with a lemon slice.”

Anyone can learn to do this, and I recommend learning this body-awareness practice because when you aren’t really thinking of it, you can get in the habit of drinking less, automatically knowing your chosen limits. I also recommend this because drinking too much alcohol burdens the liver and can cause headaches, overeating, and bad decisions. It can also negatively influence the balance of good bacteria in your microbiome. There are many good reasons to drink mindfully, but in my opinion, the best reason is because mindfulness in all consumption improves quality of life.

Tell us about the Rule of Halves.

Cold turkey is hard and dooms many to fail. We all have a pretty good idea about which of our health habits aren’t the best, and the Rule of Halves is a way to begin practicing moderation rather than abstinence. It’s simple to practice. Just do half of whatever you were doing before—half the amount, half the time, half the cost. For example, if you normally drink three or four glasses of wine in an evening, cut that in half. Try having 1-1/2 or 2 glasses of wine instead or pour just half of a glass each time and fill the other half with club soda for a spritzer.

You still get to enjoy your indulgence, but you are consciously choosing to moderate it. Once you get comfortable with this amount, you can cut it in half again, so you’re just having one, or part of one. You can keep halving what you are doing until you no longer feel the need to do it, or you can settle into a more moderate amount, knowing that you have chosen to drink (or eat or buy or whatever) that much. Doing this will build your confidence in your ability to make good decisions to support your own health, and it can apply to any habit you would like to change.

Any advice how bartenders can help put this into practice with their guests?

Tell people about the Rule of Halves and how it’s worked for you. Talk about how great it feels to practice conscious moderation.

Bartending as a profession is grueling plus it may lead to unhealthy vices. Give us some tips/ tricks for bartenders who would like to manage a healthy lifestyle while working behind the bar.

Interestingly, mindfulness in work can be just as rewarding and health-promoting as mindfulness in drinking. I’m a doctor, not a bartender, but I would guess that many bartenders see drinking alcohol as part of the whole experience of bartending. Of course, there are many bartenders who don’t drink on the job, or who do so moderately, but I believe that if you do choose to do this, doing so mindfully can protect your health, so you don’t get so caught up in the party that you drink more than you intend every time you work. This can compromise your liver function, depress your immune function, and can even affect your mental health over time. Instead of drinking without thinking much about it, my advice as a doctor is to make every decision to drink a purposeful and considered decision.

Do you want to force your liver to have to detox from that drink? Do you want the calories? The sugar? Do you want to fill up on something with very little nutrition? Do you want to drink past the point of making good decisions? Maybe you are in the habit, but if you really think about it, you might realize that you don’t really want every shot a customer offers to buy for you. The customer is always right, as they say, but I would add the caveat: The customer is always right unless what they want compromises your health and well-being.

I suggest the following ways to tweak your work experience, so it promotes your heath, rather than tearing it down:

  1. Set a limit for drinking and stick to it no matter how you feel in the moment. Always remember what side of the bar you’re on.
  2. Drink a 16-ounce glass of water after every drink.
  3. Stick to fiber-rich food with healthful oils (like salmon and olive oil, not fried food) and lots of veggies. If the place where you work doesn’t have food like that, bring your own. Don’t skip dinner!
  4. No matter what hours you work, prioritize sleep. Get your 7 to 8 hours every night, even if that means sleeping during the day.
  5. Don’t drink any alcohol within 3 hours of going to sleep.
  6. Get some exercise every day. Standing behind a bar doesn’t count.
  7. Nurture positive work relationships. Supportive work friends can help you stick to your goals.
  8. Focus on getting great at your job, rather than self-medicating to get through your shift.
  9. Manage your stress. If you feel overwhelmed, take some slow deep breaths, even if you can’t step away from your work. Take breaks whenever you can.
  10. As much as is possible, maintain a calm sense of self-possession while working. Focus on your skills, being fast and fun without feeling pressure to be anything other than who you are or do anything other than what you know is best for your health and well-being.

What are some ways bartenders can encourage “healthy” or “responsible” drinking?

Learn the health benefits of certain drinks that you can share with guests. If it’s appropriate, you could talk about how there is a sweet spot for the health benefits, and that after a certain amount, the benefit becomes a detriment. For example, red wine can be more healthful than not drinking at all, but more than one glass for women or two for men are less healthful than not drinking at all.

Another trick that works for me is to go for the high-end glass of champagne or wine or make a truly special cocktail. You can talk to your guests about what makes a wine great and why you recommend the higher-end wines, or about the very best tequilas or whiskeys or good vodka. Learn to make some exclusive or vintage cocktails using less-known mixers or special ingredients like bitters with interesting health benefits or fascinating stories behind the origins of the cocktails or about the vintage or winery that you can share. Many people find that a truly unique and amazing (but expensive) glass of wine or cocktail is worth the splurge, and they can savor it, then stop after just one or two. It’s so much more satisfying and rewarding than drinking twice as many cheap drinks full of sugar and preservatives.

Talk to us about being The VibrantDoc.

After 15 years in private practice, I took a position as the Chair of Functional Medicine for Cancer Treatment Centers of America, but I missed helping people one-on-one learn how to take control of their own health and go from feeling poorly to feeling vibrant. I also realized I often told people the same basic things about health over and over, so I decided to write a book and start a company dedicated to helping people recognize that they, not doctors, are the ones in control of and responsible for their own health. Many chronic diseases and much fatigue can be prevented or alleviated through foundational lifestyle changes you control, including what you eat, how much you move, how you connect with others, how well you sleep, and how often you do things that require your body to summon extra effort to deal with, like drinking alcohol, taking a lot of medications or drugs, smoking, being sedentary, or eating junk, including fried foods, saturated fats, and refined sugar, all of which are inflammatory for most people.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Mocktail

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Mocktail

Photo Courtesy of VibrantDoc

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Mocktail

(Serves: 4)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
  • 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 3 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ground nutmeg for garnish

Preparation: Put puree, almond milk, maple syrup, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Once blended, add to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake or stir. Pour into martini glasses. Garnish the drinks with a pinch of ground nutmeg.

Option: To serve the drinks warm, add 1/3 water to the mixture, then heat on low in a saucepan.


About The VibrantDoc 
Dr. Stephenson has dedicated her life’s work to helping people create vibrant health from within to prevent chronic disease and recover from illness naturally. In addition to her functional medicine and anti-aging board certifications, she is a Certified Nutrition Specialist® and Doctor of Chiropractic. Dr. Stephenson is the Founder and CEO of health and wellness media venture, VibrantDoc, and serves as the Chair of Functional Medicine at Cancer Treatment Centers of America®. She is also a board member for the American Nutritional Association, has partnered in a joint “Healthy Communities” venture with the American Heart Association, and is the Vice Chair of Gateway for Cancer Research, a non-profit organization dedicated to funding breakthrough cancer research and early-stage clinical trials.