Week 14 and this weeks #HealthyHabits2017 challenge was to drink no alcohol all week. I would say this challenge was a pretty easy one to do but then the weekend showed up with spectacular weather and I ended up in some social situations where it would have been nice to sit in the sun with a glass of wine.
Alcohol is a funny one, especially in London when there's always a reason to have some. Social situations seem to revolve around food and drink which can get very expensive, very quickly, unless you happen to work somewhere where you have a subsidised bar and then you spend all your time at work. It's fun, but I wouldn't call it healthy.
Doing my research on this topic has actually been quite confusing. It seems there is a lot of research to prove there are both pros and cons to drinking alcohol and even to abstaining from it.
On the one hand when it comes to cancer - no amount of alcohol is really safe. A study by the European Cancer Conference reported that the risk for breast or uterine cancer in women rises by 10% if they drink between one and two glasses of alcohol a day in comparison to women who have less than one. Which to me sounds quite scary.
And on the other hand drinking a sensible amount of wine (not those tasty looking concoctions above) could lower the risk of getting dementia, heart disease and even keep your brain sharp by increasing the blood flow to it. Moderate drinking also seems to raise your good cholesterol (HDL) and lower your bad cholesterol (LDL) while decreasing your blood pressure. There's even a glimmer of hope in a hot toddy to help you get over a cold.
All very confusing for thinking in terms of the future as we can't tell what we're susceptible to as individuals. It sort of seems that we'll be damned if we do, and damned if we don't.
HOW DID IT GO - WERE THERE ANY PROBLEMS?
Ultimately I was expecting this week to go very easily. I don't drink very often, while I enjoy the fuzzy feeling of being a bit tipsy, and losing the inhibitions I have about talking to new people, I usually only doing it when I go out to see friends or on special days, never really drinking at home. I never go overboard and I know my limits. I immediately know when I need to switch to water and I always drink a lot of water before I go to sleep. On the rare occasion I've had too much I tend to walk it off instead of catching a bus or a taxi home - I'm definitely unusual in that respect but the fresh air seems to really work and I'm oddly proactive person even if I'm hammered.
I think one of the reasons I found this week quite interesting is because recently I've been finding drinking a bit pointless too. It's quite a massive waste of money and I could have had just as much enjoyment in certain situations sober and wished I hadn't bothered afterward. So I've actually been intending to mindfully stop but situation after situation seems to have come up, a friends birthday, dinner and drinks with family, and I've had no real reason for myself to say no.
I did get through the whole of this week just fine, the only annoyance was that the weather was incredible for the first time this year. It was like it was summer this weekend and yesterday we decided to walk our dog to a lovely pub that's next to the river while the sun set... I happily had an orange juice but it would have been quite nice to have a glass of wine. Same with a bbq today, everyone else was enjoying glasses of Pimm's and I just had my trusty water bottle... Perhaps it was the social element of it but it just felt a little disappointing to not have the option while the weather was being oddly amazing. #FirstWorldProblems. However now I'm sitting here looking back on today, I think I would have felt that same disappointed feeling so ultimately no regrets.
Perhaps the best approach is to just keep it for those social situations or by setting particular cheat days in the week where it's allowed while making sure the other areas of your life are kept healthy. I think one thing that's becoming apparent with these healthy habits is that while there are some things you should be doing all the time, sometimes when it comes to other areas moderation and consideration seem to be key to keeping healthy.
Image from the New York Times Magazine