Does Alcohol Fit into a Healthy Lifestyle?
Updated: Feb 29, 2020
The following topic has been a tough one for me to write about. It's been on my mind for months. It's one I care about A LOT and I think I've finally been blessed with a better understanding and the words needed to form a coherent message. I accept this might even be a deal breaker for you, but that is a risk I'm willing to take because it's something I believe we all need to be talking about more often.
Today I'm talking about alcohol.
I find alcohol fascinating! I am fascinated by the way it's perceived as cool; it's super acceptable. A virgin cocktail is laughable to some. A drinker may feel confused, curious, potentially even awkward when they hear you don't want a drink. Are you sure?! Well it's here if you change your mind. I'm going to have one; you can have a taste of mine if you want.
As you may know, I decided to stop drinking alcohol in May of last year. And it wasn't because I'm an alcoholic. At the time I decided to stop drinking, my life was not in danger, nor were others. I do have some bad memories linked with alcohol, either related to my own drinking or others, but what I want to communicate today is that deciding to stop drinking alcohol IS NOT, and DOES NOT HAVE TO BE, the result of alcoholism. If you don't want to drink you have every right not to drink!
I decided to stop for a variety of reasons, and I'll share just one of those today: Being there.
The day I decided to stop drinking:
One Sunday afternoon in May 2019, I was out to lunch with my family and I hadn't had a drink in about a month or two. I thought it would be nice to have a glass of wine while I enjoyed a fun and relaxing day out. I ordered my favorite: Sauvignon Blanc. The memories of fondness for this drink are still fresh in my mind. A hot summer day complimented with a cold, smooth glass of this crisp white is like heaven to me. But on this day, it was the last adult beverage I've had. I wasn't even done with the glass before lunch had ended, and that led me to think: I'm paying for this, so I'm gonna finish it. So I gulped it down. I was buzzed off of that one glass. My tolerance was certainly low, and some will joke I'm a cheap date! But joking aside, I was less myself. I couldn't pay attention well enough to my daughter. My head felt a little fuzzy. Altogether, I wasn't "there." I learned that day that, for me, "being there" matters SO MUCH! If someone is talking to me, I want to listen and respond coherently. If I want to be silly to the point it might embarrass my friends, I can do that without crossing [too many] boundaries. Being there allows me the freedom to accept and love every part of ME, exactly as I am in any given moment. That helps me to grow into the person I want to be! It allows me to absorb all the excitement of something exciting. It allows me to muscle through the hard days and see just how strong (or not) I really am!
Considering I'm a big proponent for having a great relationship with the food you eat while enjoying all your favorite flavors, I would say "being there" is like savoring the taste of life.
Truthfully, I'm not settled on a hard-forever-NO. Lately I've caught a few glances at some cocktail descriptions that sound lovely! But do I want to experience the buzz? Nope. And here's what I'm so excited to discover about myself and alcohol: a few sips may be an amount that works for me. A few sips can satisfy the interest in taste without sacrificing being present.
Here's why I'm sharing my story today and believe we should talk about alcohol more often: because if we're seeking a healthier life, we must recognize that life prevails without it. And for something that is widely accepted, it certainly risks a lot of damage. Damage to the person drinking it, and damage to others. You know this damage exists because you hear about fatal driving accidents due to drunk driving, or you know someone who drinks too much, or you know someone who is affected by someone who drinks too much, or perhaps you have your own personal experiences with drinking too much. This article shows the magnitude of damage alcohol delivers from the millions of people who have died to the variety of health conditions it is linked with. It's unarguably a risky beverage to drink, hence the recommendations to "please enjoy responsibly."
Share with me any scientific study on a proposed benefit that alcohol supports and I won't be impressed. Whether it's apparent support for cardiovascular health, lengthening of life, or supposed decreased risk for development of diabetes, I seriously don't care. The thing is, health is not dependent on one thing. If oranges, a healthy food rich in vitamin C, hesperidin and fiber, is the only fruit you eat every day, you are seriously limiting your intake of other nutrients that are available in a variety of other fruits. Alcohol can support cardiovascular health? So can regular exercise! Alcohol can lengthen your life? So can vegetables! Alcohol can reduce your risk for developing diabetes? So can fiber!
There are a multitude of factors that go into reducing the risk for disease and supporting longer life. The point here is that, for studies that have shown greater longevity with moderate alcohol consumption (note moderate alcohol consumption below), there are other factors at play. Whether it's that those folks have strong genes in their favor, eat a healthy diet, exercise and socialize regularly, or get enough sleep, alcohol is not to praise for the primary cause of a better life.
Can it fit into a healthy lifestyle? Months ago I would have given you a definite no. And that's why I didn't rush writing this! I was curious to understand, what is alcohol's purpose anyway?? And as I ate a cookie one day, I realized: Pleasure.
You have every right to define your own health standard that you love to live by. So yes, it can fit into a healthy lifestyle, but I advise in a way that it doesn't risk even the slightest bit of damage to your health or those around you. And only you can define how much and how often that is.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about alcohol! If you drink, why? What are your favorite beverages? Or, if you've decided to stop drinking, what moved you to do so? Comment below, write to me, or schedule a call to talk about it! I love chatting about nutrition and wellness. It's what helps me help you!
Wishing you fabulous health today and always!
Note: Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as 1 drink per day for women, and 2 drinks per day for men.