So how much are you actually drinking?
Many clients over the years tell me they only drink 1-2 glasses of wine a night and they really don’t drink that much. But lets look at people’s true alcohol consumption.
Monday – Thursday dinners at home with your spouse, 1-2 glasses of wine (that’s 4-8 glasses, you’re already considerate a moderate drinker).
Friday afternoon drink with colleagues at work, then another 2 drinks at home with the better half (that’s 7-11 drinks, pushing to heavy drinker).
Saturday night it’s dinner out with friends, you have a spirit on arrival and you share a bottle of red over dinner with 3 other people (that’s 9-13 drinks).
Sunday you share a bottle of white wine with your pan-fried Tarakihi and salad, that’s 2 glasses each right, wrong, it’s 3.5 standard drinks each.
Now for some, that would sound like a fairly typical week, I can feel some of you nodding. Well that’s a total of 12.5 – 16.5 drinks a week. You are now categorized as an alcoholic. See how easy it is to get to that status? It doesn’t take much at all.
You can see in the table below how much alcohol is needed for each of the categories for male and female.
“But drinking wine is good for me!! The French do it and I read research in the paper that it’s good for the heart.”
Yes that’s true. Light to moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, helping reduce your risk of cardiac arrest and clot-caused stroke by 25 to 40%, and there have been several studies indicating that drinkers — even heavy drinkers — actually outlive people who don’t drink.
An important point that seems to get buried:
If you don’t already drink, health experts recommend you don’t start.
“Wait, what? If drinking is so good for you, then why not add that antioxidant-rich red wine to the food pyramid? After all, wine is acidic and it helps my stomach with digestion.”
That’s correct, but the issue is that most of the health benefits associated with alcohol stem from epidemiological studies (meaning watching what happens over time). These types of research find correlations, not causes. To speak in plain English, carrying an umbrella correlates to it raining. Carrying an umbrella doesn’t CAUSE it to actually rain.
Research on alcohol has shown the following positive health correlations:
– Helps to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest and strokes;
– Moderate drinking helps to reduce risk of gallstones and type II diabetes;
– Psychological and social benefits.
It’s not much, is it? So, let’s look at the negatives…
Addiction or Alcoholism, depression, neurological damage, epilepsy, dementia, damage to foetal brain
Arrhythmias, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and stroke
Infection, illness, cancer (mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver, breast), damaged intestinal barrier, increased inflammation
Hormone disruption and impaired sexual function
Osteoporosis, pancreatitis, muscle damage
While that all sounds quite depressing, please remember a couple of points:
1) This research shows correlation (or trends), not a causal relationship, so it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re certain to get all of these health issues.
2) You need to be honest and measure your drinking. If you fit the heavy drinking category, yes, you should be concerned and you should consider making an effort to reduce your intake if you want to avoid any health risks.
3) You also need to weigh up the negative with the positive. Forget the heart benefits for a second. If you genuinely enjoy the taste and variety of Pinot Gris versus Chardonnay, or boutique IPA beers, then drink it!
If it helps your anxiety at social gatherings, then have a drink.
BUT if it’s a scapegoat from your reality or it’s a reward for just getting through the day, you need to think about your behaviour.
Ways to keep alcohol intake healthy:
– Do not drink because you feel the need to.
– Aim to have at least 2 alcohol-free days a week.
– Drinking alcohol doesn’t necessarily make you an unhealthy person, neither does not-drinking automatically make you a healthy person. You need to decide if your habits are healthy or not. Only you can decide that.
– You need to decide if your drinking habits align with your goals.
If you want a six pack; you’ll probably have to cut down the drinks to nearly nothing.
Want to go to the gym Saturday morning? Friday night afterwork drinks and pizza will probably need to be a now and then event, rather than a weekly event.
What other healthy habits are you trying to build into your routine that can be interrupted by your drinking?
– Your decisions need to be based upon what you’re willing to do and what you’re not willing to do, i.e. you may cut down to 2 beers a week but you won’t give it up altogether.
– Maybe you’ll do a dry month – not just dry July with everyone else and then have a big boozey night on the 1st August, but because you want to give your body a rest for 1 – 2 separate months out of the whole year.