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Yes, Alcohol Can Be Part Of A Healthy Dietary Pattern

As a society, alcohol has a huge cultural hold on us. For most, it is part of our day-to-day lives; it is the way we socialise, wind down or cope. Regardless of the reason, for the most part we over-drink without realising. Safe consumption of alcohol has been determined as two standards drinks per day, with evidence pointing to a need for two to four alcohol-free days per week.

Before you think, “phew – I am okay with that”, let’s discuss what a standard drink is. A standard drink is 10 grams of alcohol (Australia and New Zealand), this equates to 100ml wine, 170ml champagne, 30ml spirits and 330ml of beer. 100ml is about 4-5 gulps, it’s teeny tiny! Your average restaurant wine serve is 150ml and only you know what your standard home-pour is. I encourage you to measure your home-pour so you understand it and decrease it if over-consuming.

Overconsumption of alcohol has far-reaching implications for your body and mind. For instance:

  • Hormonal imbalance due to the production of more estrogen;
  • Development of fatty liver;
  • Less energy due to the depletion of vitamins and minerals as a result of what your body requires to process the toxins associated with alcohol consumption;
  • Less energy due to blood sugar imbalances caused by alcohol consumption;
  • Less energy due to dehydration;
  • Increased body fat and cellulite;
  • Bad skin;
  • Worse PMS;
  • Mood fluctuations; and,
  • A lack of clarity and a general lack of get up and go.

Let’s look at a major concern for so many in more detail, increased body fat and weight that won’t shift. This is not simply related to alcohol’s calorific content (despite a person being able to consume a meal’s worth of calories in 3-4 drinks). Weight won’t shift when we are drinking too frequently because the presence of alcohol in your body and the associated toxins it creates when broken down, results in a cascade of signals encouraging your body to store fat no matter what happens calorifically. For instance, over-consumption of alcohol can lead to sex hormone imbalances, particularly oestrogen which encourages fat storage within the body. It also leads to cortisol production, which is another fat storage signal to the body.

Despite all this, I am not suggesting that you don’t drink, what I am suggesting is that you are honest with yourself; take the time to understand your consumption levels, to understand why you drink alcohol and how they are affecting your health both physically and mentally.  If you discover you are over-consuming (most people in their head and their hearts know when they are) consider these little tricks to reduce intake:

  • Putting a 100ml mark on your favourite glass at home to manage consumption;
  • Filling your wine glass with sparkling water when you would usually have your first relaxing wine;
  • Having a spritzer rather than a full glass of wine
  • Having a glass of champagne, wine or half strength beer rather than a cocktail when socialising. A cocktail may have 2-3 serves of alcohol depending on the combination of spirits used;
  • Alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage when you do choose to drink;
  • Only drinking alcohol when you have a social occasion that you are attending;
  • Building a habit of alcohol free days that works for you and your life; start small and build over a few weeks, aiming for 3-4 alcohol-free days.

Remember any change you make will impact your long-term health and wellbeing. Changing a habit related to alcohol consumption is no easy task due to the addictive nature of alcohol, so take baby steps to ensure sustainability and don’t feel guilty if you have a big night once in a blue moon. It’s what you do everyday that counts, not what you do every now and then.