To drink or not to drink? It’s not really a question…right?

Like telling yourself you’re on a diet, or that you’re giving up smoking, when you know that you can’t have something it’s amazing how that thing seems to gravitate to the forefront of your mind. In recent weeks that thing for me has been drinking.

Whether it’s a glass of red wine in front of the fire on a chilly winter evening, an Aperol Spritz over game of cards on a lakefront in Italy, a shandy in an English country pub after a long walk, a glass of champagne at a book launch, or a gin and tonic with the girls at the end of a busy week, I’ve come to realise that alcohol plays a part in many elements of my life. Being someone who is invested in a healthy lifestyle this may seem quite surprising and indeed there have been many times – often when training for a particular race, or else the morning after the night before, when I’m trying to drag myself through the day on a mixture of bananas, paracetamol and coffee – when I’ve sworn myself off alcohol. But this is a promise that I’ve been at liberty to rescind at any point, be it a day, week or month or so later, whereas at the moment I’m afforded no such liberty.

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That said, being pregnant has provided a good opportunity to enforce sobriety for a prolonged period. While I know that recommendations vary, and I believe everyone should follow the path that feels most right for them and their baby, I have made the decision not drink at all throughout my pregnancy. If I was mildly concerned to reflect on how integrated into my lifestyle drinking is, I’ve also been comforted to see that I can live a teetotal life. I’ve proven to myself that I can navigate dinner parties, private views, holidays and even the odd wedding or two alcohol free. And five and a half months into my newly found teetotal lifestyle I’ve found myself asking, once the pregnancy is over, will I go back to drinking?

In all honesty, my feelings in this regard have fluctuated wildly. In the early weeks of the pregnancy, the constant ‘morning’ sickness meant that I couldn’t think of anything worse than drinking. This not only made getting through the Christmas and New Year period without the usual lashings of mulled wine and Prosecco much easier, but also saw me thinking how easy a dry future would be. Since the nausea has subsided there have been times when I’ve lamented not having a glass of wine in my hand on a supper date with my husband, or found myself gazing longingly at a newly opened wine bar in town, with the look of a Dickensian pauper child staring into a toy shop window. Later, on these same evenings, I’ve caught the night tube home and, surrounded by vomiting and leery crowds, I have found myself feeling quietly pleased, and often slightly relieved, about my sobriety, and on waking the next morning, have felt so grateful for my clear head and nauseous-free stomach.

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In terms of training, weight loss, sleep quality and avoiding those lack-lustre post-booze days, it would make sense to give up drinking for good. The frustrating thing is at the moment I’m not seeing these benefits as I’m getting larger and slower. And there is something about the social element of sharing a glass of something with my husband or friends that I’m reluctant to relinquish completely.

What this period has made me reflect on is how eminently possible it is to enjoy events without a drink in my hand to counteract my natural introversion. And now I know that I don’t really need a glass of wine to unwind after a killer week – a gym session or run can actually do the job quite nicely.

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While I hope (all being well) we will be wetting the baby’s head with champagne come August, what I hope to return to is a more moderate approach to my alcohol consumption and the freedom and knowledge that I don’t need a glass of anything to enjoy the company of my brilliant friends. Besides, between the lack of sleep and potential breastfeeding that will come from having a new baby, I imagine those nights of inadvertently drinking one too many may be behind me…for a while at least.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you drink? Would you give up drinking? How has this impacted on your physical and mental health and athletic performance?

 

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A toast to festive cheer!

Dr Stuart's Liver Detox Tea
Dr Stuart’s Liver Detox Tea

With Christmas edging ever closer and with it, the opportunity to over-indulge, I thought this was a good opportunity to re-blog my post on the impact of alcohol on the body, with a few added extras.

In attempt to mitigate the effects of the festive ‘cheer’, I’ve recently started drinking Dr Stuart’s Liver Defence tea, which is a potent mix of milk thistle, camomile, peppermint and liquorice.

While the flavour takes a little acclimatising to, I’ve now become quite a fan and the multifarious benefits make this a tea worth trying, particularly at this time of year!

Milk thistle is believed to stabilise the cell membrane of the liver and stimulate protein synthesis, while accelerating the process of regeneration in damaged liver tissue.

This quality means that milk thistle extract can be used to protect the liver from the effects of toxins such as alcohol.

Silymarin in the milk thistle also assists the liver in its role in fat metabolism, with the potential benefit of fighting against the alcohol -associated midriff spread.

So drink up on this and maybe avoid that extra glass of mulled wine…

One Glass or Two – from 20 June 2014

ImageLately I’ve come to realise that, quite alarmingly, I seem to separate my otherwise obsessively healthy lifestyle from my love of wine and my sometimes rather frightening intake of alcohol.

By Sunday, this week will have involved a toast to a book project, a publishing pub quiz and a wedding, all of which include drinks. Indeed, alcohol intake is somewhat of an occupational hazard, with book launches, networking events and fairs, all helped along with a glass (or two) of wine a teetotal publisher seems something of an oxymoron.

I go through dry spells, mainly to prove to myself that I can happily manage without a drink, but there is something so deliciously decadent about a glass of red curled up next to a fire on a chilly evening, or a crisp Italian white on a sunny afternoon, that I don’t seem to have either the power or inclination to give up altogether.

While I always feel a little disappointed and annoyed at myself when I have that one glass too many, and envy my teetotal friends who don’t have the same enjoyment of wine, this just doesn’t seem to be enough to give it up completely.

A recent survey of a number of my colleagues and friends revealed a similar story, with many of them admitting that they should probably drink a little less and that they too separate drinking alcohol from other health and fitness concerns.

spirits-yorkshireThe short term outcome of drinking aren’t great.

The calories in alcohol are only matched by those in pure fat (so when you think you’ve ‘lost your appetite’ after a few drinks, you may actually find you’ve just taken in your calorie intake in a less nutritional form). These empty calories not only add to your waistline without offering any nutritional value, but the alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body uses for energy. This is because while we can store protein, carbohydrates, and fat, we can’t store alcohol so our body works to get rid of it and in doing so all of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.

On top of this there is that inevitable night of poor sleep (which in itself boosts your desire to eat) followed by a day of chain drinking coffee and indulging in stodgy carbohydrates, sugary fruit juices, or fatty nuts. Not to mention the subpar performance in the pool/gym/running track, if you even make it to your workout.

The longer term outcomes of regular alcohol intake are pretty bleak and include increased risk of mouth, throat, liver, oesophagus and breast cancer, steatosis (fatty liver), cirrhosis and fibrosis of the liver, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscles), arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), stroke and high blood pressure.

cider-doughnutDrinking too much can also weaken your immune system and chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

The Guardian reported this week that the number of people diagnosed with liver cancer has risen sharply in recent years. An Office for National Statistics study shows the incidence of liver cancer in England increased by 70% for males and 60% for females between 2003 and 2012.

This study reports that since 2003 there have been large increases in the number of registrations of liver, oral, uterine and kidney cancer, all of which are strongly linked to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.

The NHS says that while the exact cause of liver cancer is not known, it is thought to be related to damage to the liver, such as cirrhosis, which can be caused by excessive drinking.

beer-steakDrink Aware has a great resource for calculating your daily and weekly unit and calorie-from-alcohol intake which is quite shocking and I’d recommend having a look (if only out of morbid curiosity!)

Still fancy that glass of wine…

Read more on the NHS, Drink Aware and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism websites.

One glass or two?

ImageLately I’ve come to realise that, quite alarmingly, I seem to separate my otherwise obsessively healthy lifestyle from my love of wine and my sometimes rather frightening intake of alcohol.

By Sunday, this week will have involved a toast to a book project, a publishing pub quiz and a wedding, all of which include drinks. Indeed, alcohol intake is somewhat of an occupational hazard, with book launches, networking events and fairs, all helped along with a glass (or two) of wine a teetotal publisher seems something of an oxymoron.

I go through dry spells, mainly to prove to myself that I can happily manage without a drink, but there is something so deliciously decadent about a glass of red curled up next to a fire on a chilly evening, or a crisp Italian white on a sunny afternoon, that I don’t seem to have either the power or inclination to give up altogether.

While I always feel a little disappointed and annoyed at myself when I have that one glass too many, and envy my teetotal friends who don’t have the same enjoyment of wine, this just doesn’t seem to be enough to give it up completely.

A recent survey of a number of my colleagues and friends revealed a similar story, with many of them admitting that they should probably drink a little less and that they too separate drinking alcohol from other health and fitness concerns.

spirits-yorkshireThe short term outcome of drinking aren’t great.

The calories in alcohol are only matched by those in pure fat (so when you think you’ve ‘lost your appetite’ after a few drinks, you may actually find you’ve just taken in your calorie intake in a less nutritional form). These empty calories not only add to your waistline without offering any nutritional value, but the alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body uses for energy. This is because while we can store protein, carbohydrates, and fat, we can’t store alcohol so our body works to get rid of it and in doing so all of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.

On top of this there is that inevitable night of poor sleep (which in itself boosts your desire to eat) followed by a day of chain drinking coffee and indulging in stodgy carbohydrates, sugary fruit juices, or fatty nuts. Not to mention the subpar performance in the pool/gym/running track, if you even make it to your workout.

The longer term outcomes of regular alcohol intake are pretty bleak and include increased risk of mouth, throat, liver, oesophagus and breast cancer, steatosis (fatty liver), cirrhosis and fibrosis of the liver, pancreatitis, cardiomyopathy (stretching of the heart muscles), arrhythmias (irregular heart beat), stroke and high blood pressure.

cider-doughnutDrinking too much can also weaken your immune system and chronic drinkers are more liable to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis. Drinking a lot on a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections – even up to 24 hours after getting drunk.

The Guardian reported this week that the number of people diagnosed with liver cancer has risen sharply in recent years. An Office for National Statistics study shows the incidence of liver cancer in England increased by 70% for males and 60% for females between 2003 and 2012.

This study reports that since 2003 there have been large increases in the number of registrations of liver, oral, uterine and kidney cancer, all of which are strongly linked to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.

The NHS says that while the exact cause of liver cancer is not known, it is thought to be related to damage to the liver, such as cirrhosis, which can be caused by excessive drinking.

beer-steakDrink Aware has a great resource for calculating your daily and weekly unit and calorie-from-alcohol intake which is quite shocking and I’d recommend having a look (if only out of morbid curiosity!)

Still fancy that glass of wine…

Read more on the NHS, Drink Aware and the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism websites.