The elephant in the room...alcohol

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.