When I read a piece by Amanda Platell on alcohol in The Mail, I think my reaction was pretty standard; “how awful, thank goodness I don’t do that”. However when I reflected, I realised I do drink every day and whilst during the week I never feel drunk when I go to bed occasionally at the weekends I feel I’ve had too much. Good grief, I am a ‘middle aged drinker!
The funny thing about alcohol is that it is accepted as part of our social life. If you don’t participate in that particular game then you are the exception or the driver. The problem is that drinking has become so embedded in our culture, probably much the same way smoking did up to the 50’s and 60’s. How many old black and white films have you seen where the sexy, successful key players that we all wanted to be, smoked seductively? Fast forward a few decades, the cigarette has been replaced with a glass.
In my head I’m healthy; I drink green juices, have an amazing diet of organic food, drink lots of water and work out. However, the telling 7 – 8 lbs I have been trying lose forever is not just postmenopausal weight gain. No amount of running has really made a permanent change to my figure or the bathroom scales. Also no matter which diet I’ve tried and tested in the interests of science and on behalf of my clients has brought forth the results I wanted.
The reality is, according to the guidelines around alcohol consumption; I do drink too much to be deeply healthy.
Like Amanda, acknowledging this has been a bit of shock. I had turned a blind eye to how much I actually drunk, not owning what I have been doing. It’s difficult to accept that I have any really harmful habits when I open my fridge and see so much fresh organic food alongside the Sauvignon Blanc.
However, when I read that article, I realised I needed to wake up too.
In the hugely pressured and over stimulated life we all seem to lead, social drinking has become synonymous with relaxation. As a friend said to me “having an evening drink is a line in the sand that the stress of day is over”. There’s no two ways about it, a glass of wine (in my case) or beer, fast-forwards the process of winding down. Who needs to find the time to meditate when a glass or two will do the job?
How do I know if I drink too much?
The reason I’m writing about this is because I was shocked by the recognition that I am one of those middle-aged drinkers Amanda Platell wrote about, despite being a health professional. We (society) all need to get out from under the cosy blanket of thinking that only alcoholics have a problem with alcohol. For my part, I’ve always thought that as I don’t need/want a drink until after six meant I’m alright, Jack. Plus a glass of wine everyday is actually healthy, isn’t it?
However, the reality is I know those units add up. If I had cared to take an introspective look sooner, I would have seen I’m not as healthy as I’d like to be. Which brings me to an important question we all need to ask ourselves: “how do I know I if drink too much”?
I believe the real answer is very simple; the point at which you find reasons not to stop. And yes, I’ve of thought of plenty which is why I have put my big girl pants on, acknowledged what’s going on and cut right back.
How to cut back on alcohol
The first challenge was starting to stop drinking alcohol and joining The Performance Project helped me do this. They provide an all encompassing fitness programme part of which is to complete a diet diary. My nutrition is pretty good as it should be and I was not about to tell Nick Walsh my trainer that I was drinking during the week! This accountability gave me the push I needed; last week I was alcohol free (AF) for four days.
My strategy is to completely avoid alcohol during the week and drink on two (not three) evenings over weekend. I have already found that it requires willpower, thought and a degree of preplanning. Our normal weekends often include popping into the pub after a dog walk where we meet with neighbours and friends. It is also the time for seeing my offspring and their partners, which usually involves sharing some wine and beer with the laughs. There’s always something going on. On Sunday we had an important family party and I embraced my ‘alcohol moments’ with maybe a little too much gusto. However I’m now back to being teetotal again until Saturday.
I need to learn a number of new skills; to be sociable without imbibing, find a healthier way to switch off in the evenings and give myself rewards that genuinely makes me feel nurtured, not numbed.
There is no doubt that I have woken up and that is in no small part due to Platell’s article. So thank you Amanda, for the kick up the butt, which should start getting smaller very soon!