Have you ever asked yourself this question? Dr. Berardi writes a fantastic article that we want to share with you.
Like many of our clients, I’ve never really felt like I needed to quit drinking. My consumption is normal by most accounts, as is theirs. It’s “moderate.”
But boozy beverages seem to show up a lot in life — don't worry you're not alone in that.
Maybe we like having a glass of wine/beer to mark the end of a workday.
Maybe on Friday, we get fancy with a cocktail.
Something to celebrate? Pour a little champagne.
Crappy day? That Chardonnay or Cabernet will soften the edges a little bit.
The drinks can start to add up.
Sure, you might know you’re not a binge drinker (that’s five or more drinks for men, or upwards of four for women, within two hours).
But when was the last time you poured wine in a measuring cup, or tallied your total number of drinks at the end of the week, or calculated your weekly average in a given month, or adjusted your tally to account for that sky-high 9.9% ABV Strong Ale you love?
All drinking comes with potential health effects.
After all, alcohol is technically a kind of poison that our bodies must convert to less-harmful substances for us to enjoy a good buzz relatively safely. There are also other factors:
1. Our ability to process alcohol depends on many factors, such as:
our natural individual genetic tolerance
our ethnicity and genetic background (for instance, many people of East Asian ancestry have a genetically-linked aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme deficiency, which affects their ability to properly metabolize alcohol)
our body size
our biological sex
our individual combinations of conversion enzymes
2. Dose matters. But all alcohol requires some processing by the body.
So what’s the “sweet spot”?
What amount of alcohol balances enjoyment (and your jokes becoming funnier) with your body’s ability to respond and recover from processing something slightly poisonous?
The moderate-vs-heavy guidelines are the experts’ best guess at the amount of alcohol that can be consumed with statistically minimal risk, while still accounting for what a lot of people are probably going to do anyway: drink.
It doesn’t mean that moderate drinking is risk-free.
But drinking is fun. (There, I said it.)
We tend to separate physical well-being from our emotional state. In reality, quality of life, enjoyment, and social connections are important parts of health.
So let me say it:
I enjoy drinking.
So do a lot of other people.
In the U.S., for example, 65 percent of people say they consume alcohol. Of those drinkers, at least three-quarters enjoy alcohol one or more times per week.
And if you’re doing it right there are some undeniable benefits to be gained:
Pleasure: Assuming you’ve graduated from wine coolers and cheap tequila shots, alcoholic beverages usually taste pretty darn delicious.
Leisure: A bit of alcohol in your bloodstream does help you feel relaxed. And like a good meal, a good glass of wine should offer the opportunity to slow down for a minute.
Creativity: There’s evidence that when you’re tipsy, you may be more successful at problem-solving thanks to increased out-of-the-box thinking.
Social connection: Drinking may contribute to social bonding through what researchers call “golden moments” — when you all smile and laugh together over the same joke. This sense of community, belonging, and joy can contribute to your health and longevity.
If you’re going to drink, drink because you genuinely enjoy it.
Drink if it truly adds value and pleasure to your life.
it’s a habit
other people around you don’t want to drink alone; or
it’s “good for you”.
Drinking is about tradeoffs.
Alcohol is just one factor among many that affect physical performance, health, and fitness.
Whether to keep drinking or cut back depends on how much you drink, what your goals are, and how you want to prioritize those things.
Only you know what you are, or aren’t, willing to trade.
It may be a simple “yes” or “no”.
Saying “yes” to six-pack abs might mean saying “no” to a few drinks at the bar.
Saying “yes” to Friday happy hour might mean saying “no” to your Saturday morning workout.
Saying “yes” to marathon training might mean saying “no” to boozy Sunday brunches.
Saying “yes” to better sleep (and focus, and mood) might mean saying “no” to your daily wine with dinner.
Saying “yes” to moderate alcohol consumption might mean finding a way to say “no” to stress triggers (or human triggers) that make you want to drink more.
Or it may be where you’re willing to move along the continuum.
Maybe you’re willing to practice drinking more slowly and mindfully, but you’re not willing to decrease your total alcohol intake.
Maybe you’re trying to lose weight, so you’d consider drinking a little less. Like 2 beers instead of 3, but not 0.
Or, maybe you’re willing to stay sober during most social situations, but you’re not willing to endure your partner’s office party without a G&T on hand.
So, what should I do now?
1. Observe your drinking habits.
Keep track of all the alcohol you drink for a week or two.
You don’t need to share it with anyone or feel like you need to change anything. Just collect the info.
Next, review the data. Ask:
Am I drinking more than I thought? Maybe you hadn’t been taking the couple of casual glasses of wine with friends into account.
Is my drinking urgent, mindless, or rushed? Slamming drinks back without stopping to savor them can be a sign that drinking is habitual, not purposeful.
Are there themes or patterns in my drinking? Perhaps you habitually over-drink on Friday because your job is really stressful.
Is alcohol helping me enjoy life, or is it stressing me out? If you’re not sleeping well or feeling worried about drinking, the cost can outweigh the benefit.
Does alcohol bring any unwanted friends to the party? Binge eating, drug use, texting your ex?
If any of the answers to these questions raise red flags for you, consider cutting back and seeing how you feel. Alcohol will always be there.
2. Notice how alcohol affects your body.
Use the “how’s that working for you?” litmus test. Ask:
Do I generally feel good? Simple, but telling.
Am I recovering? How’s my physical performance after drinking? If I were to hit the gym on Saturday morning after a Friday night social, how would I feel and perform?
What happens afterward? Do I get a hangover, upset stomach, poor sleep, puffiness/bloating, and/or other discomforts?
How does the extra energy intake work for my goals? Is alcohol adding some calories that I don’t want? Am I trying to lose weight, for instance?
What do my other physiological indicators say? What did my latest medical tests suggest? How’s my blood work? My blood pressure? Any other physiological indicators that I’m watching?
If you’re unsure about whether your alcohol use is helping or hurting you, talk to your doctor and get a read on your overall health.
3. Notice how alcohol affects your thoughts, emotions, assumptions, and general perspective on life.
Again: How’s that working for you?
Do you feel in control of your drinking? Are you choosing, deliberately and purposefully… or “finding yourself” drinking?
What kind of person are you when you are drinking? Are you just slightly wittier and more relaxed, savoring a craft beer with friends? Or are you thinking, Let’s make that crap circus of a workday go away, as you pound back the liquid emotional anesthetic through gritted teeth?
If you had to stop drinking for a week, what would that be like? No big deal? Or did you feel mild panic when you read that question?
4. Play “Let’s Make a Deal”.
To pinpoint which goals and activities in your life are the most important to you, ask yourself:
What am I currently saying “yes” to?
What am I currently saying “no” to?
What am I willing to say “yes” to?
What am I willing to say “no” to?
What am I prepared to say “yes” and “no” to? Why?
There are no right or wrong answers.
Just choices and compromises.
You’re a grown-up who can think long-term and weigh options rationally. Whether you drink or not is your call.
5. Disrupt the autopilot.
One of the keys to behavior change is moving from unconscious, automatic reactions to conscious, deliberate decisions.
To experiment with decreasing your alcohol intake, try these strategies:
Delay your next drink. Just for 10 minutes, to see if you still want it.
Look for ways to circumvent your patterns. If you usually hit the bar after work, try booking an alcohol-free activity (like a movie date or a yoga class) with a friend instead. If you stock up on beer at the grocery store, skip that aisle altogether and pick up some quality teas or sparkling water instead.
Savor your drink. Tune in to the sensations in front of you. Here’s an idea: try tasting wine like a wine steward. Look at it, swirl it, sniff it, taste it.
Swap quantity for quality. Drink less, but when you do drink, treat yourself to the good stuff. (This is our fav.)
6. If you choose to drink, enjoy it.
Savor it. Enjoy it mindfully, ideally among good company.