A bottle of wine over dinner. Couple of beers on the weekend. It doesn’t take long for the alcohol to add up. Is that a problem? Can drinking stand in the way of your health and fitness goals? Do you need to quit drinking to change your body? Or could it actually be good for you?
Like many of my clients, I’ve never really felt like I need to quit drinking. My consumption is normal by most accounts. It’s “low to moderate.”
Something to celebrate? Pour a little champagne. Crappy day? That Chardonnay or Cabernet will soften the edges a little bit. We all relate to this, right?
If we consider ourselves to be healthy on the whole, alcohol is easy to justify. We exercise. We try to eat nutritious food. If we’re getting coaching, we know we’re working on our stuff.
What Is “Moderation” Anyway?
You may have heard that drinking alcohol could actually be good for you. For women, up to seven drinks per week, with no more than three drinks on any single day and for men, up to 14 drinks per week, with no more than four drinks on any single day – that’s the standard.
It is important to know, however, that all alcohol consumption comes with potential health effects. After all, alcohol is technically a kind of poison that our bodies must convert to less harmful substances for us to enjoy a good buzz in a relatively safe manner.
But drinking is fun. (There, I said it.)
If you’re going to drink, drink because you genuinely enjoy it. Drink if it truly adds value and pleasure to your life. Not because you’re stressed or because it is a habit.
If you choose to drink, enjoy it. Savour it. Enjoy it mindfully, and ideally among good company.
Weekend Indulgences: Time To Reconsider
In my head, the weekend was a time where “normal rules” didn’t apply. It was a time to relax, put my feet up, and let the soothing crunching and chewing take me away. Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday.
I’m not talking about compulsive bingeing here. That’s where you have episodes of eating without thinking, almost like you’re on autopilot. (People with binge eating disorder feel disassociated while overeating and that can be hard to break without help from a doctor or therapist.)
But for me, it wasn’t that. Rather, mine was the kind of overeating where you’re all in: a convenient, stress-fueled, often social habit. You feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, and perhaps even sick to your stomach. Mentally, you feel crappy. Guilty. Regretful. Angry at yourself or just angry in general. And while weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can sabotage your goals.
If you love your cheat days, Friday junk-food bonanzas, or gut punching Sunday brunches, and you’re happy with the results, keep doing it.
But if you’re conflicted, it could be time to investigate further. Ask yourself: What does weekend overeating do for you? What is it a path to? What does it enable you to get or feel? How does it solve a problem or have a purpose for you?
The clean slate approach means that after any and every “screw-up”, you get to start fresh. Overate Friday night? No problem, wake up Saturday morning and start again. Don’t try to compensate. Just get on with things as normal. You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to doing your best.
Put someone else in control for a while. Yes, you are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit — even one that on the surface may seem silly and harmless, like overeating on the weekend — is challenging. Really challenging.
And just like weight loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. It helps to team up with someone who will support and encourage you. Find a friend, partner, trainer, or coach, who will listen to you and hold you accountable. For many of my clients, relinquishing control is a choice they’re glad to own.
About The Author: Aditya Sehgal is a fitness and lifestyle consultant, blogger and a health and nutrition coach.