Mindful alcohol and tips for drinking in moderation
Mindful alcohol and drinking in moderation is key to a healthy lockdown lifestyle says Dr Michael Mosley.
Sales of alcohol have soared during coronavirus lockdowns announced across the globe. Experts have warned that failure to tackle problem drinking during the Covid-19 pandemic could result in increased harm for generations to come, and a second public health crisis. Developing mindful alcohol habits will benefit us now, and for generations to come.
How much should you be drinking?
“Current UK guidelines – which are much lower than in Italy and Spain – advise limiting alcohol intake to 14 units a week (or around seven 175ml glasses of 12% ABV wine), however the problem with units is that they are almost impossible to pin down. The effect of alcohol differs person-by-person, depending on body size, gender, and also how you metabolise alcohol. I try to drink within the recommended guidelines of seven medium-sized glasses of wine a week, and I follow the principles of 5:2; having a drink five nights a week and not drinking for two,” says Dr Mosley.
Be aware of your moods
“Modest amounts of alcohol can raise your mood, but when you go beyond the recommended guidelines you are increasing your risk of depression and anxiety,” says Dr Mosley. “You can get caught in a vicious cycle where you drink because you are anxious, stressed or unhappy, and then the alcohol makes you worse. It’s really important to cut down if you can.“
Watch out for sugar
“Alcohol is also high in sugar, which is not only bad for your teeth and your waist, it is bad for your brain as well,” says Dr. Mosley. “This is partly because sugar, like alcohol, can be horribly addictive. Unless you do lots of exercise, all those excess calories will be laid down as fat.
We know that people who are overweight or obese are much more prone to depression and anxiety, and that seems to be directly linked to the fat itself. Fat doesn’t just sit there, it sends out inflammatory signals. So when you pile on the pounds, particularly around the waist, you are not only damaging your heart but your brain as well.”
But aren’t there benefits to drinking red wine?
“Some studies have shown that there are benefits in drinking a glass of red wine, but after a glass or two a day, the benefits drop off pretty dramatically and disadvantages start to emerge, particularly the risk of liver and breast cancer,” says Dr Mosley. “The sensible reaction to all of this is to not give up drinking wine full stop but rather to enjoy your wine, to savour it and have one or two glasses a night.” That is, create mindful alcohol habits.
Call it mindful drinking. We have a tendency to gulp things down, but if you slow down and really enjoy what’s in your glass, you’ll probably drink less as well.
Tips for mindful alcohol and drinking in moderation
Often, people think of mindfulness as meditating, which isn’t for everyone, but the great news is that you can practice mindfulness by creating simple activities and rituals – no meditation necessary. Try some of these ideas:
- Avoid alcohol on all fasting days and whilst you are doing The Very Fast 800. Instead, stay well hydrated and create new favourites, like some of the beverages our Health Coaches enjoy.
- Upgrade your alcoholic beverage. For its health benefits, we recommend red wine as your drink of choice. Why not start by researching the different types of red wines and asking friends for their favourite recommendations? Building your knowledge and red wine experience will help to savour the experience of each drink you try.
- Slow down when social drinking. Always alternate your alcoholic drink with a water – and make it sparkling water to keep up the interest!
- Set yourself up with alternatives for the triggers that usually lead to drinking alcohol. For example, if you have a long, hard day at work, instead of reaching for alcohol, try a relaxing bath, going out for a walk, or calling a friend.
What are your triggers that lead to consuming excess alcohol? Identifying your triggers is one step in creating a more mindful response. If you’d like more ideas on how to upgrade your healthy habits then join the 12-week online programme.
Developed in conjunction with Dr Michael Mosley, The Fast 800 is an innovative approach to healthy living and weight loss based on the latest scientific research.
The online programme is for those that need more support and guidance for achieving long lasting health. If you join the online programme, you will receive Mediterranean-style menus, mindfulness prompts and weekly HIIT and resistance training plans that are tailored to your level of fitness.