Now I post this at the risk of you disliking me immediately - I post this at the risk of you seeing me as some buzz-killing; party-destroying; fun-hating; boring individual... but here goes.
Many individuals come to me for help in managing their relationship with food - yet one thing that ends up happening in the process of re-building their relationship with food - is re-building their relationship with alcohol. Now culturally we Brits (and people from many other cultures) drink alcohol: to celebrate at weddings/birthdays; when bonding with colleagues/friends; to make a date more fun; to relax at the end of a tough day; to accompany (and enhance) our meal; to feel confident enough to get on that dance-floor... basically, it is so ingrained in our culture, that we could not even imagine going a few weeks without it. Would life even be fun without alcohol? Yet research indicates that the majority of us Brits wish we were drinking less. We have all had that moment of realising how awful a hangover feels ..and committing to "never drink again"...only to then drink again a week later - realising that we can't deal with a date/work-event/wedding/hen-do without a drink or two.
Unfortunately however alcohol can really influence our food choices negatively - and many people who want to change their relationship with food benefit from examining their relationship with alcohol too. Here are some ways in which alcohol can affect how much, what and when you eat:
Your willpower shuts off
Have you noticed that you can often manage to eat really healthily most of the week but then on Friday (and after a few drinks) it all goes out of the window and suddenly you have the urge to indulge in lots of unhealthy food? Well alcohol has the effect of stopping the part of your brain that is responsible for your willpower (the pre-frontal cortex) from working as efficiently. So you really often just don't have the willpower to resist all of those foods in front of you. The alcohol can also have the effect of increasing your appetite - so you also just eat far more than you normally would.
You may think that alcohol helps you to get to sleep -and it does act like a sedative, making you feel drowsy. However the quality of sleep you have with alcohol in your system is actually very poor - and you will often wake up after a evening of drinking feeling very tired. You may notice that you wake up in the middle of the night after you have had a few drinks in the evening - and you may notice that you are tossing and turning in your sleep a lot more. Unfortunately however, a bad night's sleep often means you spend the next day craving fatty and sugary foods - and sleep deprivation has been shown to also affect our metabolism, making us burn calories less efficiently. So by affecting your sleep - alcohol also makes you prone to eating much more the next day.
Alcohol is a depressant. You may think that it makes you feel high for a short while after you drink that glass of wine... but slowly it then pulls you down to a state where you feel emotionally worse than you did to begin with. We have research which shows that alcohol can exacerbate conditions such as anxiety and depression - just making us feel more low and more anxious... and what do many people do when they feel low or anxious - turn to food (or alcohol). So it can become a very vicious and destructive cycle.
Many people also forget that alcohol in itself is calorific (and provides no nutritional benefit - and no the resveratrol in red wine does not count - you can get that in many other foods without the harmful effect of the alcohol). We now know that ANY amount of alcohol is harmful for our health (sorry I warned you I was about to be a buzz-kill). I have many health-conscious individuals coming to my clinic asking whether dairy is good for them, if they should be drinking smoothies and whether they should give up gluten and grains for their health etc... but then also drinking alcohol on a regular basis. ANY amount of alcohol is harmful to our body and the excess calories that it adds does our waist-lines no good either.
OKAY - so you may be tempted to hit unsubscribe at this point - but I should re-assure you that even I drink alcohol sometimes...however I have slowly re-built my relationship with alcohol so that I no longer feel that I "need" it in any particular situation, so that I don't feel any pressure to drink just because those around me are drinking - I will just have some very occasionally if I really feel like it. I also now drink in a way that means that it does not affect my relationship with food e.g. I will have a glass of wine with lunch rather than dinner (so it does not affect my sleep quality and make me crave unhealthy foods the next day) - I do think that it is important for us all to start talking about our relationship with alcohol. We don't need to all suddenly commit to sobriety - but so many people are afraid to admit that they wish they were drinking less - because they will be perceived as the "strange" one. Many of my clients wish that they could drink less but also do not feel confident without a drink in particular situations (can I really dance without booze?) - or do not think life would be any fun without it (would that hen party even be any fun without some gin?) - however we can often get to a place where they re-build their relationship with alcohol ...and can easily re-build their relationship with food as a result.
If you would like support in re-building your relationship with alcohol or with food - please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to book in a free 20 minute free consultation.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” – Alice Walker