photo: jamesmlinkBy Dave Smith
This next guest post is brought to you by the awesome Dave Smith, who has helped us out before with great fitness advice such as his beginners' bodyweight workout routine. He was also a great panelist back in days of yore when Cranky Fitness had an"Ask The Personal Trainer" feature. Check out his informative site at Make Your Body Work, full of useful information and encouragement. And please welcome Dave as he presents some thoughts and research on Summer Adult-Beverage consumption!--Crabby
What I Learned About Mindfulness From My Birthday “Drinking Bender”
I've never been much of a drinker. I’m usually that guy who sips a glass of water at a restaurant (yup, every waiter or waitress’s dream customer). But on my recent 35th birthday I let loose and drank three entire beers (two of them being light beers) in one evening! A wild night, I know.
stomach starting to expand. It felt as if someone had inserted a balloon and was steadily filling my belly with air.
My stomach kept growing, it became uncomfortable for me to move, and I hit rock bottom when I had to loosen my belt and undo the top button on my jeans. It was a pretty sight to behold.
The next morning my belly balloon had mostly deflated but I still felt sluggish all day long. Happy birthday to me!
Do you ever drink (or eat) something even though you know you’re going to pay for it later?
Why do we do this?
Blame It On The Weather
If you’ve noticed that you’re drinking more alcohol as the weather gets warmer, know that you’re not alone. About 1 in 3 people acknowledge that they drink more in the summer. Why?
Out of the 2,000 people involved in a summertime alcohol consumption study, there were a few very common responses:
• It's lighter outside in the evenings (54%)
• People want to make the most of the warmer weather (46%)
• There are more events in the summer, such as weddings and festivals (47%)
• It's more enjoyable drinking in the warmer weather (46%)
• There are more get-togethers with family and friends in the summer (43%)
It’s pretty straightforward: Most people enjoy drinking socially and we tend to socialize more in the summer months. Is this a big deal?
Isn’t A Little Drinking Good For You?
There are lots of reasons why drinking alcohol in moderation can be good for your health. It can help lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, it can prevent sicknesses such as the common cold, and it can even lengthen your life.
Aside from these physiological benefits, there are strong psychological benefits of enjoying a few social drinks.
After a long week, having a drink with friends can help you unwind. It's one of many ways to de-stress and can help you mentally move into relaxation time. Saying, “let’s grab a drink” also provides a reason to socialize and build relationships – It’s fun to hang out on a sunny patio with a drink and good company.
But What About The Bloating?
The carbonation in some alcohol can be one cause of stomach bloating. Wheat-based drinks (like beer) can also cause bloating because the wheat is difficult to digest for some people (which is also why some people bloat after eating a big pasta meal).
Another cause of bloating can be the high sugar content found in most alcoholic drinks. Sugar binds with water when it’s stored in your body so excessive drinking can lead to extra water retention and bloating.
Beyond just its sugar content, alcohol packs a wallop when it comes to calories. Every gram of alcohol carries 7 calories. Compare this to protein and carbohydrates, which each have 4 calories per gram, and it's easy to understand how the calories from alcohol add up pretty quickly.
Plus, those 7 calories don't come with any vitamins, minerals, or nutrients that your body needs to survive and thrive. That's why drinking alcohol is sometimes referred to as "drinking empty calories".
Quiz: How Many Calories Are You Drinking?
Take a guess. In an average week, how many calories do you think you get from the alcohol you drink?
Now remember that number while you fill out this alcohol calorie calculator. Try to be as accurate as possible
How close was your guess? (For the record, my three birthday beers landed me a tidy 359 calories).
It’s also worth considering what types of food you eat to go along with those drinks. For me, I am quite a disciplined and healthy eater, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t eating a salad to go along with my birthday drinks!
Whether you’re drinking beer, wine, or cocktails, there is a high likelihood that some not-quite-healthy snacks are going to be found nearby. It’s this food-drink combo that can lead to some pretty astounding calories being consumed in a very short period of time.
A Mindful Approach To Drinking And Snacking
I know cutting out alcohol altogether is probably not a realistic option for most people. Instead of trying to go cold turkey, it might be helpful to take a mindful approach to what you’re drinking.
Mindful choices are informed decisions: “I’m going to have one glass of wine tonight and will really enjoy it” is a much different approach than cracking open a bottle and filling your glass whenever you feel like it.
Maybe you’ll even want to tell someone about your plan. Saying out loud, “I’m going to have just one drink tonight” can be almost magical. There is something very powerful about publicly stating a goal – You are much more likely to stick to it.
The same goes for your food choices. Mindless snacking has no boundaries and the consequences aren’t considered in the moment. Imagine sitting in front of a big bowl of chocolates or potato chips and “just having a few” – It’s easy to get out of control, often without even realizing what just happened.
Mindful snacking could be practiced with a small plate, adding your snacks to it, and knowing that this is your limit. You’ve made a conscious decision and set a boundary. Now enjoy those snacks!
What About You?
How do you avoid drinking too much or over-eating, especially during the summer social season? Share your ideas below!