Casino-based gambling is a huge industry worldwide, with upwards of 50 million visits on an average year. Of those visitors, many will be making multiple trips per year.
Casinos are designed to be centers for all things fun, including many unhealthy habits we all indulge in on occasion. Gambling itself also adds to the excitement, causing anxiety and stress that may trigger readily-available behaviors like smoking, drinking, or overeating.
If you’re trying to watch your health or are a frequent casino gambler, what you do during a visit can add up, leaving you with more than monetary winnings or losses to deal with once you get home.
Here are six common unhealthy habits you may encounter when gambling in casinos and ways you can avoid them.
1 – Indulging in Quick Bites and Buffets
Casinos are known for their wide variety of restaurants or buffets to choose from at any time of the day or night.
Of course, you should plan to enjoy yourself. The food options are part of the appeal of going to the casino in the first place, and it provides dining experiences you can’t get at home.
The key to having fun without completely blowing your healthy diet is planning ahead.
Planning ahead means you won’t have to stress over food choices during your stay or take time away from gambling to debate over your options. Without preparation, you will probably go with the most convenient option, which is often also the most unhealthy.
Research what options are going to be available. Some casinos may offer online restaurant menus to preview before your visit. Previewing menus can also be helpful if you have specific dietary requirements, such as vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, or gluten-free.
Buffets can be particularly difficult to navigate in a healthy way because of both the wide range of food options and unlimited portion sizes.
Here are a few strategies to keep your buffet meal on track.
- Keep it to one trip.
- If you divide the meal into courses, make one trip per course and use the appropriate plate size for each.
- Don’t overfill your plate.
- Take a moment to prioritize what you would like to try, and if there are too many appealing options, remember you can plan to hit up the buffet again another day.
- Choose a plate that is an average size.
- The CDC bases their recommendations on a nine-inch plate size.
- Filling a smaller plate is perceived similar to filling a larger one.
- Your body’s interpretation of satisfying amounts is based more on proportion rather than absolute amounts.
- So, essentially, less food may actually look like more depending on your plate size.
- Try to stick to healthy options and limit greasy, salty, and overly sweet foods.
- Stick to the “plate method” for a balanced meal, as outlined by the CDC. Half of your plate should be made up of non-starchy vegetables like greens, broccoli, or carrots. One quarter can be lean protein like chicken, eggs, or tofu. The other quarter can be grains or starches, like potatoes, rice, or pasta.
Another major temptation while gambling at casinos is snacking.
Alternatively, you can bring along a healthy snack with you, like a protein bar, a single-serving of roasted almonds, etc. Just try to keep to a schedule and whatever you do, don’t skip meals! You will feel better throughout the day with food in your stomach, and you’ll maintain better concentration as you play.
2 – Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is present throughout the casino experience. Like food, it has the potential to both enhance the fun and undermine your wellness plan.
As with food, plan to enjoy yourself. The goal is to have fun, not additional stress. A constant flow of drinks is often available while you play. One of the mistakes that gamblers make is allowing alcohol to sneak up them inadvertently.
If you also tend to over indulge, you will likely benefit from some simple planning ahead just as you would with food. Check out the tips below to help you out.
- First, keep track of your drink intake. You will be distracted, so taking a simple conscious step will likely be helpful. Order according to the time, and keep a tally of how many drinks you’vehad. Establish whatever works and allows you to easily keep track.
- Choose lower-calorie options. Avoiding drinks that are high in sugar will help prevent dehydration and reduce blood sugar spikes that can lead to headaches and hangovers.
- Order water along with your drink or alternate. Alternating your alcohol beverage with water or another non-alcoholic drink will keep your pace slower and help keep you hydrated.
- Make sure to eat while you drink to avoid hangovers or an upset stomach that can also easily derail a trip.
- Limit or avoid alcohol while gambling or limit it to meal time. It is difficult to keep up with the time while you play, and if your server is attentive, drinks can be just as hard to keep up with throughout the day.
3 – Sleep-Deprivation
Casinos are designed to make money off of gamblers 24 hours a day. Creating some kind of schedule that includes breaks and time to sleep is up to you.
As with most vacations, you probably don’t expect to keep to your normal schedule, but that doesn’t mean you should throw all your routines out of the window. Making time for rest will help you feel better overall during your trip and optimize your performance.
It’s crucial to try to get as close to the recommended amount of sleep as possible. The recommended amount is generally around seven to nine hours. Consider planning a break for a nap if you anticipate cutting your rest short.
A short 10- to 20-minute power nap or a 90-minute REM sleep nap are ideal lengths to avoid post-nap grogginess. Don’t forget that your concentration, memory, mood, and energy level can all be impacted by sleep deprivation.
If you’re looking for peak performance and to minimize impulsive decisions that might impact your game, getting enough rest can give you a huge leg up.
Another key factor to getting enough rest is your sleep pattern, also known as your circadian rhythm. Light exposure and level of sensory input are important elements for the regulation of this pattern.
Casinos tend to keep a constant level of light, which is most often flashing, and you’re often surrounded by a plethora of noises. So, give your system a break. Plan for some quiet time at least a couple of hours before bed to give your body a chance to shut down for sleep properly.
Or get outside and take a walk. Clearing up the ambient noise and upping your circulation for a bit will improve your ability to get tired and have a more restful sleep. Avoiding large meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime is also a great idea, as these factors can lead to insomnia and restless nights.
4 – Prolonged Sitting or Standing
Time can pass faster than you realize while you are playing many of the games in a casino environment. Long periods of sitting or standing, particularly if you are on a winning streak, are common.
Depending on your underlying health conditions, prolonged sitting or standing can put you at risk for blood clots, swelling, or stiffness. There are a few easy things you can do to help minimize this risk.
If you can, go outside. It will give your senses a break and help you feel refreshed and reset for another round. You can also try using supportive socks or stockings. Compression socks can help prevent swelling, reduce the risk of blood clots, and lessen the pain of the strain on the feet and legs from prolonged standing.
5 – Stress Overload
Stress can be both positive and negative. Playing games of risk are exciting and fun, but can also be just as anxiety-provoking when you hit a streak of bad luck.
As with food, making the effort to plan ahead can pay off when it comes to stress management.
For example, you should take time to budget for your trip. This includes food, lodging, and betting money. Break it down by day or location, so you can enjoy a variety of activities the entire trip rather than blowing it all in one sitting. If you struggle to stay within the budget, take a buddy or choose a strategy like using cash only.
It’s also crucial to take frequent breaks. Even short walks outside of the casino can be beneficial to you. Consider checking out some other activities offered or choose a quiet place to have a meal to de-stress periodically throughout the day.
Lastly, take time for self-care if you need it. Self-care looks different for everyone, so the most important element is to learn what works for you. Maybe it’s taking a trip to the spa or getting a facial. Perhaps you need to bring along some essential oils to help you de-stress. Or you could keep up some of your exercise routine from home to keep yourself grounded.
6 – Smoking
As with other coping mechanisms, smoking tends to increase in times of stress. If you are sensitive to smoke or want to avoid temptation, you may want to search for a casino that does not allow smoking or has a significant division between smoking and non-smoking areas.
If you can’t avoid exposure and have a sensitivity, be sure to take regular breaks for fresh air and consider taking along a saline sinus flush or allergy medication to cut down on your symptoms.
Remember to remain conscious of your usage. As with drinking, inadvertently smoking more than you intend is easy in a casino environment, so taking steps to maintain awareness of your usage may be important.
Try associating use with breaks or a walk. Keep a tally, or don’t plan to buy more. Consider using alternatives like vapes or nicotine substitutes. If you enjoy smoking while you gamble, vaping may be a good option for you. If you are trying to abstain, some kind of substitute like gum or patches could go a long way toward curbing your cravings.
Trips to land based casinos can be a lot of fun and don’t have to negatively impact your health if you take some simple steps to keep bad habits in check and avoid unnecessary stressors.
Whether you go regularly or don’t want to splurge too much on your vacation weekend, planning ahead and setting reasonable expectations are key to sticking to healthy practices and minimizing stress.
The goal is to take advantage of the casino experiences that are important to you while balancing them with things that are detrimental to your heath, mood, and ability to be present.
Hopefully, this article will help you become more aware of some common things you may want to limit or avoid while gambling in casinos and give you a few useful alternatives.