Should I include alcohol in my daily nutrition plan?

How much alcohol is too much?

Am I an alcoholic?

Does that last question make you uncomfortable? Even if you are drinking too much – too often, almost everyone’s answer to that question is no! It was for me.

Wait a minute, I have read lately that research has proven that drinking alcohol is good for me! Don’t give me a guilt trip for drinking.

It is your life to live however you choose. If moderate alcohol consumption is a part of your life then that is your choice. I will not judge you if you choose to consume alcohol.

Research has shown that one beer or one glass of wine per day may actually provide health benefits.

However, the second glass each day negates the benefits of the first AND each glass beyond that is exponentially detrimental to your health!

Plus, if you’re goal is fat loss, or if you are at your ideal weight and on a maintenance schedule, then you’ll need to account for the additional calories added for each glass of alcohol in your daily  nutrition plan.

Quoting the research that a glass of wine or a bottle of beer a day is good for you to excuse away binge drinking a six pack or a bottle of wine, well, not only might you be drinking too much, but you could potentially have a problem on top of sabotaging your health goals.

Most heavy drinkers practice denial relying on their misguided perception of alcoholism.

My perception of an alcoholic was someone who drinks all day: gets up in the morning and has to have a drink; needs to stay buzzed to function; will consume anything containing alcohol to stay high; and whose life is crumbling as a result of his drinking.

So my answer to the question “Am I an alcoholic” was always “no” because I did not see myself as that person, an alcoholic, as I perceived him.  Therefore there was nothing really wrong with my behavior.

My internal question was more often, Am I drinking too much? 

Heavy drinking or binge drinking does not necessarily fit the perception most of us hold as alcoholism.

I did not get up in the morning and crave a drink, however I was often still buzzed from the night before. Beer was my drink of choice, preferably yummy, hoppy microbrews, higher in both alcohol content and calories, of which I consumed at least a few, every evening, with friends or alone. But I always maintained gainful employment, exercised (usually in the evenings as it was too tough in the mornings) mountain biked on weekends, had a social life, friends, family… I was successful and happy – so what was wrong with celebrating life with a few beers, which I enjoyed so much, yes even earned, each evening, right?

Not long before I quit drinking entirely a friend and regular drinking buddy sitting across from me in my home, both of is inebriated, looked me in the eye and said, “Brian, you know what we are – functioning alcoholics”, as he raised his glass for a toast. That was one of many red flashing arrows I had witnessed that made me me think, WTF! Me?

A functional alcoholic will seem responsible with a daily job, family, friends, a home…and yet he is a heavy drinker most if not all evenings and may start drinking earlier on his days off work. His success causes others to overlook his drinking which contributes to his own denial.

Heavy drinking is described as three or more drinks a day and/or more than seven drinks a week for a woman, a dozen drinks or more a week for a man. 

Consuming either the daily or weekly amount could mean you are a functional alcoholic. If you drink this much, or more, you may already have a problem or you are more than likely to have one soon!

Additional signs other than daily/weekly drink counts include:

  • Late for work or taking a day off due to a hangover
  • Buzzed during your first shift at work
  • Using alcohol to “relax” after a tough day
  • Using alcohol to “celebrate” a good day
  • Regularly drinking while alone
  • Loss of memory/forgetting the previous night’s events
  • Driving after a few drinks
  • DUI or Public Intoxication
  • Denial or anger when confronted about your heavy drinking
  • Loved ones denial about your excessive drinking
  • Getting drunk when not intending to
  • Joking about your alcohol consumption
  • Internally questioning your heavy drinking, and then blowing it off

My friend so eloquently phrased it, “When I was drinking, my off switch was broken.”

Personally I’m not certain I had ever been issued an “Off Switch” as part of my original equipment. One beer always equalled three for me, and three often led to five or more!

A Functional alcoholic may seem to be in control but it is a facade. They put themselves and others at risk with their lack of intelligent judgement not the least of which is drinking and driving.

Heavy drinking also carries with it potential health risks including:

  • Liver damage and disease
  • Brain Damage and memory loss
  • High blood pressure
  • Pre-Diabetic due to the excess alcohol sugars
  • Certain Cancers and pancreatitis
  • Higher risk of dying, violence, abuse, depression and suicide

Today, looking back, I see things with a different clarity than while I was living them. Regardless of what I labeled it – a beer snob, a beer connoisseur, a beer drinker, a functioning alcoholic or an alcoholic – I had a drinking problem and cutting down was not a solution for me.  Every time I attempted that solution I failed because of my lack of an off switch.  I have an addictive personality often also considered Obsessive Compulsive behavior.

In hindsight I see my entire life beginning in my teens as a blur of too much partying, too many “good times” of inebriation, poor judgment and risky behavior that I labeled as fun!

Either I missed the signs along the way or I chose to ignore them simultaneously having missed important aspects and people in my life while partying took precedence.

It took a few red flashing arrows in my last year of drinking to change my path. I’m glad I was finally paying attention! I have redirected my OCD addictive personality from a beer drinking hobby to a daily exercise and nutrition passion. I have never felt healthier or happier than I do today.

I posed three questions at the beginning of this post. Only you can answer those questions. 

Whether or not you include alcohol in your daily life and how much you consume is your choice. Nobody can tell you or make you decide otherwise.

Questions?  Contact Me