Disclaimer (once again): These next posts aren't meant to push anyone toward one way of thinking, nor are they meant to anger or discourage anyone. These thoughts are purely my own, and they're for you to use as you wish. If you, or someone you know, is struggling with addiction, reach out - seek help.
Last time, I began my post on alcohol - an always-popular topic, with varied opinions (depending on who you ask). Part 1 covered my personal experiences with booze; times in my life where too much alcohol caused me to teeter on the thin line of being in control and being out of control. Today, I'm going to go further, past those experiences, and discuss alcohol from a health standpoint; beginning to focus on finding a healthy balance and using your future as a guide. This combination is what has shifted my perceptions of alcohol, and made me realize that I needed to change my relationship with it. My hope is that by reading this today, you will be able to look at your own life (and your own relationship with alcohol), and decide whether or not you need to make a change (and how to do so).
Cheers to Your Health!
Let me be the first to say: I still drink alcohol. By no means am I wanting this post to make me sound like a goodie-goodie; a person who treats her body like a temple 24/7. A couple drinks here and there is fine (as long as you know how to nourish yourself, afterward); however, alcohol seems to always be an "all-or-nothing" sort of thing.
We've all been there. It's a Friday night, we're off work and want to celebrate the 'right' way. We hit up the liquor store, or a local patio, and consume drink after drink, until soon, we're feeling it! Our head spins. We feel giddy. Worries (or stressors) begin to leave us.
We've had the day from hell. We get home, put our sweatpants on and instead of pouring ourselves a glass of wine, decide to bring the entire bottle with us, to the couch, and drink until we don't feel as crappy anymore.
We all have our reasons for drinking, and trust me when I say, I've been there. Social gatherings. Drinks. Celebrations. Drinks. Grieving. Drinks. Boredom. Drinks. A weekend at home. Drinks.
Again, I'm not suggesting that giving up "the drink" is the best option, but I think it's so important for you to seriously consider your relationship with alcohol.
When was the last time you drank? And when was the last time you drank before that? Was it one, or two drinks, with friends? Or did you down an entire bottle (or pack) in a short amount of time? What brought you to drink? Did your body NEED it?
A lot of us get drunk to cope with emotions... all along the spectrum - both positive and negative. Alcohol, even during that short time, can cause us to experience feelings of euphoria, and usually, these are the feelings we desire - the feelings that encourage us to drink to excess time and time again.
And then, there are those of us who drink because we NEED to; it's something we've gotten so used to doing - life just doesn't feel the same without it. Our lives seem duller, darker and days seem to drag on. So, we drink to feel like 'ourselves'.
Addiction and Dependence
If it's not alcohol, it always seems to be something else... with everyone. In a society where feeling your feelings is almost taboo, we're meant to feel like we need to become dependent on something in order to "get by". Alcohol, drugs, sex, food... you name it.
The ironic thing about alcohol (and most drugs, for that matter) is that it is actually a depressant. Drinking alcohol drains our adrenals and actually makes us feel more tired and down. What does this mean? Well, those euphoric feelings we're seeking, every time we drink, start to become harder and harder to achieve, the more we actually drink.
Your Body on Booze
Aside from the mental things we notice, alcohol has severe PHYSICAL effects on our bodies, and to be quite honest, that's the main reason I've cut my drinking down, dramatically.
- Drinking alcohol forces your liver to use your stored antioxidants and Vitamin C, which leaves you mineral deficient. And speaking of minerals, drinking alcohol causes you to pee more, which causes your body to rid itself of your-probably-already-low-levels-of-magnesium. Repeated consumption of alcohol causes your body to use up any of its stored magnesium, which is why many people that drink often have little to no magnesium left in their bodies. What is magnesium good for? It relieves constipation (which if you drink a lot, you probably don't experience), calms nervous system and anxiety, relieves muscle aches and spasms, helps increase energy, promotes good sleep, and much, much more! Click here for one of my favorite magnesium supplements.
- Alcohol raises your estrogen levels, which if you're a woman, this can worsen things like PCOS, fibroids and endometriosis.
- Like mentioned earlier, alcohol is actually a depressant and drains your adrenals, causing you to feel more tired and worn out.
- Alcohol disrupts blood sugar function, and usually, when we drink, we find ourselves making bad food decisions the day we're drinking, as well as the day after.
- When drinking alcohol, it acts as a diuretic (dehydrates you). Because of this, your liver needs to find water from other sources, and this can be why you sometimes wake up with a headache (and HELLO dehydrated, dull-looking skin)! The liver is one of the pathways of elimination, and therefore, it's very important to make sure it's always working properly, in order to allow your body to expel toxins easily. Read more on the pathways of elimination here.
- Women break alcohol down more slowly.
- Often, we find ourselves bloated after drinking.
- For me, drinking too much alcohol results in crap sleep, stomach aches and waking way earlier than normal (because I need to poop), and let's be honest... morning-after-drinking-poops aren't great!
Balance is a funny concept; a concept I plan on talking more about, in a future post. While "finding balance" might not always be the case when it comes to our actual lives, balance is completely attainable, when it comes to booze.
Yes, you can still "be good" and "have fun"! Again, don't let this post fool you into thinking you can't indulge in a drink from time-to-time. As with anything in life, practicing good moderation is key; making sure that the majority of the time, you're doing your best to fuel your body right - treating it like the temple it is. The thing about experiencing fumbles is this: we all have them; allow yourself to experience them. The most important aspect is to rebound as quickly as you can; deciding what you're going to do AFTER that fumble.
What does this look like? Well, it's not having drinks every night. It's taking a break; giving your body (and especially your liver) a break, and opportunity to reset. Taking a look at your week, ahead of time, and deciding on any opportunities you'd like to enjoy a few beverages. Always plan ahead! The 80/20 rule is an easy one to follow; fueling your body well 80% of the time, and then enjoying some indulgences 20%.
Making Good Decisions
There definitely are better options, when it comes to drinking. From a simple calorie standpoint alone, drinking mixed drinks, heavy beers and creamy drinks are going to be higher in calories (and sugar). Stick to something simple; flavor with fruit (or something natural); remember that added sodas contain more calories (and not-so-great ingredients). *Always make a point to read the label/ingredient list, if you can. So often, especially in alcohol, there are many added fillers, glutens, artificial ingredients and things we don't feel comfortable consuming.
My personal favorites:
- Truly Spiked & Sparkling is my drink of choice, when hitting up the liquor store, and enjoying a night of grilling out/outside. It's something Ryan and I have both dubbed as our new, summer drink, "The summer of Truly". 100 calories per can, two grams of carbs and one gram of sugar, these drinks taste just like their name: spiked sparkling waters. They are naturally gluten free and come in citrus and berry flavors.
- White Claw Hard Seltzer comes in at a close second to Truly. Similarly, it is a spiked, sparkling water that contains 100 calories, per can, two grams of carbs and sugars (12 oz. can). They are also naturally gluten free and come in similar flavors.
- Vodka and water. Tito's is my favorite brand of vodka. Why? Their vodka is distilled from corn, so it's naturally gluten-free, which is great (in my opinion). So many alcohol brands end up adding a bit of mash back into their booze, which can contain gluten, or distill with a glutenous grain, which always scares me. This vodka gives me no yucky side effects and is one I feel 100% about drinking. Another incentive of purchasing these pretty bottles of booze? Tito's gives back to local and national non-profits (they love animals just as much as I do)! With about 65 calories per one ounce, I enjoy mixing my Tito's with eight ounces of water and a few limes. Refreshing, semi-hydrating and low-calorie!
- Champagne! As you can see in the chart above, champagne is one of the lowest calorie booze options out there. Another added bonus? It's fizzy and screams celebration! Once, when I ordered a glass of champagne at two, in the afternoon, the waiter asked me what I was celebrating... "Living!"
- A nice glass of red wine is always a treat (and great for the antioxidants)! If you want to easily turn that one glass into two, mix half of your glass of wine with some sparkling water (La Croix is my favorite). Your one glass just turned into two!
- Unity Kombucha Beer! This is something I first tried in Chicago, a couple years ago, and just found in Minnesota, last night! Unity takes their 30-day brewed kombucha, and mixes it with organic, dried hops and other flavors. Delicious!
When You Drink
Since alcohol is so dehydrating, it's important to add water as part of your 'drinking union'. An easy go-to? After each drink, drink at least a full eight ounces of water, if not more!
Pairing alcohol with some high-quality protein is essential in slowing the rate in which alcohol enters your system. If you know you're going to go out that evening, be sure to fill yourself up with good, protein-filled foods, earlier in the day!
In the words of probably everyone's mom, "If they asked you to jump off a bridge, would you?" Remember, just because your friends are drinking, or getting wasted, doesn't always mean you have to! I have been one to rock the 'non-alcoholic option' frequently! At a WRESTLEPALOOZA event, a couple years ago, somebody took a photo of me and posted it on Twitter, "Just saw a girl drinking coconut water from a #PBR coozie in Des Moines. Is this OK?" LOL Yep, that one got a lot of retweets. To be honest, it was Boxed Water, not coconut water, but that's besides the point. Sometimes, people give you crap for being different. Just remember, that doesn't mean it's wrong! You do you. Always.
A few of my absolute FAVE alcohol-alternatives include:
- Kombucha! Now, I know, I know... kombucha technically contains traces of alcohol, because it's fermented. But this bubbly drink is the closest to alcoholic you can get, without getting there. Plus, it contains yummy probiotics that your tummy will just love. Each night, I open myself up a bottle of 'booch, and sip on that! The same feeling as popping open an alcoholic beverage... except it's not.
- Mocktails! Some of my favorite, summer-time drinks include some Sakara Life Beauty Water, mixed with raspberry La Croix, a little sweetener and maybe some fresh fruit! So many bubbles, no booze!
- Good 'ole h2o! Seriously, still or sparkling, hydration is fun! Join the club!
Having a couple of drinks, here and there, is fine, but being able to nourish yourself afterward is the most important element here. Replenishing your body is so important, in order to make sure you can easily rid it of those toxins. A couple of choice supplements are helpful:
- Probiotics, which I recommend taking daily, to begin with. Taking another probiotic, after a few drinks, will help your gut stay happy
- B vitamins. Taking a B vitamin before drinking, as well as after, will help you recover quicker from dehydration.
- Milk Thistle is a wonderful liver-cleansing herb. Taking one of these can be helpful, as well.
- Down a large class of water, and be sure to replenish electrolytes. Coconut water is an excellent beverage!
- Magnesium is wonderful here, too. Take a magnesium supplement, an epsom salt bath (drink more water), and help your body detox.
Visualizing Your Future Self
While this might sound corny, visualizing is one of my favorite activities; it helps us paint a picture of our future, and gives us an idea of what we need to do to get there.
How old do you want to live to be? Do you want to grow old with someone? Have grandbabies? Travel? Stay active, and independent, for as long as you can?
The choices we make, now, greatly determine how our future will pan out.
When you're struggling with making a change - any change - try to close your eyes, and picture where you want to be in ten years, twenty years, and on... Will you get there, if you continue to do what you do, each and every day? Or will you need to make a change, in order to make sure you get to that place?
Making Your Own Happiness - What Truly Makes You "Alive"
I firmly believe that a 'happy life' is created from all of the moments we experience. Some moments are less than wonderful (like my experiences I shared in my last post). However those moments helped me become a better person; get me to a place where I feel more confident in what I want out of my own life, and how I can obtain that.
For a lot of us, a lot of life's moments can become hazy when too much alcohol is involved. And in my personal opinion, that lessens the enjoyment factor. Find your joy in yourself, your loved ones, your company... and focus on those moments with a clear perspective; that'll really ensure you remember them and hold them dear!
* If you feel like cutting back on alcohol is something you cannot do alone, reach out an seek help. There's nothing wrong in addiction; sometimes, you just need a little assistance in getting help.
Relax, unwind, don't beat yourself up! Spending your entire life worrying isn't going to get you anywhere. Remember to be smart and ask yourself what will help you create your best life. Then, take small steps to get to that point.
"Alcohol, Diet Friend or Foe." Sakara Life. June 14, 2017. (The S-Life Mag).
"How to Stop Alcohol from Messing with Your Hormones." September 6, 2015. (Floliving). Vitti, Alisa.
"The Effects of Alcohol on your Body." (Healthline). Medically reviewed by Elaine K. Luo, MD on June 9, 2017 — Written by Ann Pietrangelo and Kimberly Holland.