Fresh off a Booze free lent, I’m not only feeling quite smug, but energised and wondering if I should make this a permanent thing. In my line of work, I’m very aware that I have to practice what I preach and on the whole, I think I do – but I’m no frigging angel either. I am also a firm believer that a balance of 80/20 (not 50/50!) is the best way to incorporate a little bit of what you want into your diet. My ‘20’ is wine, chocolate and sweets.
We joke about how much rubbish we eat, but alcohol consumption is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about.
As a nutritionist and personal trainer, I still get alarmed at the level of alcohol clients think is acceptable and safe. Not only does it contribute to an increased BMI, but it also negatively affects mental health.
It’s important that my clients are healthy and can consume booze within safe levels. However, a lot of education is still needed. I recently started collaborating with Dr. Frances Stewart & Dr. Declan Quinn, both Consultant Gynaecologists & Obstetricians to expand our reach on female health and education across Northern Ireland. Declan stunned me with the most recent stats on alcohol consumption and its links to Cancer. This wasn’t crazy 20-30 units a week alcoholic type drinking, but what I would consider normal drinking habits of the typical woman. This prompted me to quit for Lent. To be perfectly honest, Declan’s statistics scared the shit out of me! I always look for easy ways to improve my health and this is certainly one.
Here are a few of the bombshells he dropped:
- One drink a day can increase your risk of getting cancer
- The more you drink over a lifetime, the higher your risk of developing breast cancer
- Drinking alcohol has been identified as a contributory factor for six types of cancer:
- Bowel, Liver, Mouth, Oesophageal, Voice Box, Throat Cancer
That said, alcohol consumption is not the only risk factor, and not all people who drink will get cancer. But here’s the thing, it is something we have complete control over. There are not many things we can control in this life, but what we eat & drink are a few of the controllables.
I always considered myself to be okay as I keep well under my NHS guide of 14 units a week and I don’t drink every week. However, my triggers are at the end of the week when I’m exhausted and look forward to a glass or two of red wine on a Friday evening. But you know what, since going off alcohol for lent I realised it was only a habit. A habit that could be easily broken. I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say I’m going to give it up for good, however alcohol doesn’t love me back. It gives me nothing in return, especially the next day. I get a wee buzz and become relaxed at the time, but as I hurtle towards my 50s my hangovers are getting worse. It takes less and less booze to make me feel crap the next day, just 2 glasses of wine and I can really feel the effects.
What I learned from going booze free:
- I would rather get my calories from chocolate than alcohol. Less down-time lol.
- It throws my hormones and sugar levels off kilter. I’m grumpy the next day and I crave junk food. Unfortunately you never crave a chicken salad with a hangover.
- It affects my energy levels and I usually cry off training.
- I feel vulnerable in the days after drinking, paranoid even. Any problems or issues I have become a huge ugly monster in my head.
- My stomach gets bloated after the dehydration wears off, it becomes painful and swollen.
This is not the first time I have went booze free, I went off booze last year. I went off alcohol for 6 months to support one of my clients – it was challenging, I’m not going to lie. Christmas, holidays, nights out were tough. But I did it. Moving forward, I think I will definitely go through longer periods totally alcohol free. It does the body and mind good. We’ve got to give it every opportunity we can. We’ve only got the one!