When I came to the Oaks in 2000 I was 40 years old. I discovered something my first year working here- that alcohol consumption, particularly wine, was a definite factor negatively effecting the lives of the average guest- a 50-70 year old woman!
I was accustomed to asking questions about eating habits, but I learned that it was important to also inquire about liquid habits, including (but not limited to) alcohol! I learned that many of our guests had over time gotten into a habit of not only consuming alcohol daily, but in many cases having 2 or 3 glasses up to sharing a whole bottle of wine per night! The vast majority of these women were also not happy with their current physiques, especially around the waist line, so something wasn’t working! So, let’s connect some dots here about alcohol consumption and its possible effects.
Sigh. I know. Bummer. Hear me out!
First off, why do we drink alcohol? It’s fair to say we drink to relax, to feel good, to be social, to get “a buzz”, artificially inducing a pleasurable physical and mental state of some sort, to dull pain of any sort (emotional or physical), or simply to just feel DIFFERENT, creating an “altered state”. Any or all of these reasons may or may not be attached to addiction, which is another whole layer, but bear in mind that approximately 10 to 15 million Americans are alcoholics or problem drinkers, and more than 100,000 deaths each year are attributed to alcohol consumption. (A lay person’s definition of addiction is that you are ADDICTED to anything you can’t live without, or anything you throw a tantrum- even if it’s an internal tantrum- over not being able to have.) It is good for us at the very least to examine motivation and effect in the context of discussing whether or not our alcohol consumption is blocking our overall health goals.
Here are some facts: Alcohol affects the upper part of the brain, where self-control and other learned behavior is stored. Alcohol may for some REPLACE eating “real” food, but for many more people it stimulates MORE eating along with its consumption. One study showed a 20% increase in calories consumed at a meal when alcohol was consumed before the meal. There was a total caloric increase of 33% when the calories from the alcohol were added. These additional calories can very easily contribute to weight gain over a short amount of time.
Alcohol provides mostly empty calories and may hinder weight loss. One reason why is that when your liver is processing alcohol it will stop all other metabolic functions. It will do so until it rids your body of ethanol toxicity which is the by product of alcoholic consumption. (It is arguable that on many levels alcohol is a toxin).
According to studies drinking alcohol increases visceral adipose tissue-the fat around your body organs. This is a huge health risk as well as being something we hate- that middle body bulge!
There are some potential benefits for moderate alcohol intake; it may reduce your risk of developing heart disease, reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack, possibly reduce your risk of strokes, particularly ischemic strokes, lower your risk of gallstones, and possibly reduce your risk of diabetes, but even so, the evidence about the possible health benefits of alcohol isn’t certain, and alcohol may not benefit everyone who drinks. Certainly, you don’t have to drink any alcohol, and if you currently don’t drink, don’t start drinking for the possible health benefits. In some cases, it’s safest to avoid alcohol entirely — the possible benefits don’t necessarily outweigh the risks. (Moderate is currently defined as 3-5 drinks weekly for women, 6-10 weekly for men. One drink = 12 oz. beer, 5 oz. wine, 1.5 oz. distilled spirits- 80 proof). This is only referring to “straight” alcohol- not sugar infused fu-fu drinks which are a whole other story!
Here are some of my big ideas in regard to alcohol:
1. Go without any alcohol for at least a week, a month if you can, to see whether or not it may have become a bigger issue than you realized that needs to be addressed. Be willing to honestly assess and address any addiction may be present.
2. If you are not happy with your current physique cut your alcohol consumption in HALF, whatever it currently is, as another plan of attack to modify and promote change. We tend to lose appreciation for things we do too much of, so don’t dull yourself with too much!
3. If you are consuming sugar filled alcoholic beverages, STOP! Switch over to less sugary options and consider those fancy martinis and margaritas very occasional treats.
4. If and when you DO choose to drink, slow things down. Drink water before alcohol and then more water after and in between a potential next drink.
5. Eat something healthy with your alcohol to slow the rate of absorption.
As with all my articles, I’m sure I’ve missed a lot. These are not meant to be end all, comprehensive medical guides, they are meant to stimulate thought, conversation, and ACTION in regard to you, your habits, and your overall health, so please take it as such.