No Wellness Wankery

79: Is your head filled with diet rules about alcohol? The truth from a dietitian

September 19, 2023 Lyndi Cohen
No Wellness Wankery
79: Is your head filled with diet rules about alcohol? The truth from a dietitian
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Chances are if you’ve been on a diet before – you’ve probably received some pretty dodgy advice when it comes to booze.

“Eating is cheating”

“Soft drink isn’t worth the calories”.

“Juice has too much sugar, I might as well have wine”.

I hope you can eye-roll with me at the above statements. But if not let’s scrap that and shake up how we think about alcohol.

Let's flip the script on how diet culture influences our drinking habits. We'll debunk myths about sugar, explore global drinking norms, and break free from the usual rules.

Ever wondered how booze affects your mental mojo? We'll dig into the science behind alcohol's impact on your brain, impulse control, and sleep.

Ready to redefine your relationship with alcohol? I've got some cool tips to help you cut back while boosting your self-esteem and food-fun balance. 

Ps. Have you listened to this episode and are ready to learn to unwind and socialise without booze?

Welcome to Booze Break. Jump over to the Booze Break website and you can listen to the first episode for FREE.

Still not sure if this is for you? Take my free quiz to see what type of drinker you are. 

Want to feel more in control around food? My FREE webinar has my top 4 strategies to help you stop overeating.

Try my Back to Basics app FREE for 7 days.
It's got everthing you need to be healthy without dieting at your fingertips.

Looking for more support to feel in control around food? I'd love to support you in my Binge Free Academy

If you don't already - come follow me on the gram at @nude_nutritionist (no nude pics, sorry).

Want to share some feedback or have an idea for an episode, I'd LOVE to hear from you - hit me up at hello@lyndicohen.com

Lyndi:

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's episode of the no wellness wankery podcast. I'm your host Lyndi Cohen, dietitian nutritionist and hater of diet culture, and I am joined today by my co-host, jenna D'Apice. Welcome, jenna.

Jenna:

Hello, it's so exciting to be here and I'm very interested in the topic we are chatting about today because everyone is getting so much more interested in drinking less. I definitely am interested in the sober, curious lifestyle, and then I got me thinking all the little rules that exist in my head about drinking.

Lyndi:

And there are a lot. If you're like us and you were sent to Weight Watchers very young, or just did it for many years, or any kind of diet program, you probably have a whole bunch of these diet rules around alcohol that are percolating your brain and it's hard to know. Is this a healthy habit or is this a diet rule? And so we are going to get into it. Today, jenna, you were saying to me that you have a heck of a lot of these rules, and what are they? I have a lot.

Jenna:

I think they would always used to tell you. It was like how do I still lose weight and drink alcohol? So the whole aim of every rule that I have in my head is to be able to drink and not ruin my diet. Per se was always the thing how can I have one and not ruin my diet? So I feel like one of the biggest things I used to do was kind of like eat less during the day to save the calories for drinking. That was a big thing. Like create a drinking plan, budget your points, like that was a big thing.

Lyndi:

Which is also a recipe for like passing out drunk it is. You get so drunk so quickly and like, from a calorie perspective, it's just it's not smart from a health perspective.

Jenna:

No. And then another thing would be like the whole low carb alcohols, like they are less alcohol, but the low carb beers, like they're marketed hugely as if like, if you want to be healthy and still not have a beer, belly or any of those things that they try to sell you, they say low carb alcohol is the way to go. That's what they say at least. So then we have vodka and diet soft drinks, that type of thing, like the no sugary mixes was another big thing. I was sold.

Lyndi:

Yes, and I was also very into this idea that, like, whenever I drank alcohol it had to be the lowest calorie, that that was like the best thing for me because of all the things we told about alcohol. And it's the sugar that we're told to fear and, you know, still drink the alcohol, but the sugar is the problem.

Jenna:

This is the thing. Another thing I was told someone from Weight Watchers a leader. Are they called a leader? That sounds a bit strange, but probably I called a leader. They told me, if you have the alcohol you like, squeeze an orange into it and then if you still eat the orange, which has had all the juice squeezed out of it so it doesn't even taste good, then it counts as like you've had your fiber and it's like a zero point mixer for your alcohol. That is something that's also stuck in my head.

Lyndi:

Stringy pulp.

Jenna:

Stringy pulp. And then my favorite one was to always you could bring healthy snacks to the party for when you get hungry, so like you can rock in with it, you know, a platter of carrots, and then when you start drinking, you're going to have healthy choices and you and your alcohol will not per se ruin your diet.

Lyndi:

I mean, the peak of my eating disorder days was me bringing my own specialized food to places. Yes, and then everyone telling me I was like so such good willpower, but I'm like the disorder is strong. This is not a good sign and this is not a healthy thing to be doing. Let's talk about all of this Because I think a lot of the time we're being told that the sugar is the problem inside the drinks, and I think that is very problematic. Let's talk about this idea of people go, I don't want to reduce my alcohol because the alternative is just having all these sugary mocktails, and surely that can't be better for me. Surely having these low sugar alcohol options is the better choice.

Jenna:

This is. This is what I would think Some people like I'm not going to drink that mocktail because we're technical оc polishing.

Lyndi:

Come on, it's not worth the calories and some aren't amazing tasting, but some are really great, and this is my hot take on it. I think having a sugary mocktail is so much better for your health than having any drink with alcohol in it. Now, I think we've been taught to fear sugar. That it is the problem. It is toxic. That word does get thrown around when it comes to sugar. Sugar is not a toxin. Sugar is fuel and that is the way that is perceived in our body. Our body goes okay, this is carbohydrate, this is fuel. Now, of course, if you have too much sugar, we know there are ill effects from doing that, but fundamentally, your body, regardless of if it's too much or just enough, it generally is going to go. This is fuel and this is going to be accepted, and I know how to digest this and I don't have to like rid myself of it immediately when you compare it to something like alcohol, which is very clearly perceived by the body as a toxin, and irrespective of the quantity that you have of it. So even small amounts of alcohol are understood to the body as this is something we need to get rid of immediately because it is not good for us. We know there are so many things that alcohol does to us that are not good for us. Actually, the Canadians, they've just updated their drinking guidelines to be two standard drinks a week is what is currently allowed and I think in Australia we have like seven to 10 standard drinks a week is part of our guidelines, still considered within the healthy limit of alcohol. And Canada's dropped it to two, exactly Because the research is updating. We're starting to realize oh, this thing that's been so socially acceptable for so long, maybe it's not that great for us. We know it's not that great for us. And there's been this health halo of thinking all right, well, red wine's good for us, right, like, surely that's beneficial. Now, I'm not an all or nothing kind of human. You know that about me. So I'm not necessarily saying we absolutely have to stop drinking and you can't drink ever again, but I do think this idea of being told that sugar is the villain and alcohol is somehow something which is way more accepted. You don't hear nearly as much talk about why we should drink less, yet we're told that we have to avoid all sugar at all costs, and I just think it is a bit of a flip flop of what the reality is showing. Now let's talk about, you know, from a calorie perspective just for I can speak to your diet brain for a moment Now when we look at the calories of alcohol versus something like sugar, a carbohydrate, alcohol almost has a pure alcohol. So, irrespective of any of the things that you're drinking with, it has almost twice the number of calories as a gram of sugar, so seven calories per gram in alcohol and four calories per gram in carbohydrates. I just think that's really interesting, okay. So yes, you can go for those lower calorie options, but fundamentally alcohol, because it places such a strain on your body, because it impacts so many other things from your metabolism and your sleep and your hunger hormones. You can't even comprehend the kind of weight it has on your body. But, irrespective of calories, it's placing a huge impact and burden on your body.

Jenna:

So there are so many more things in alcohol than just the calories that we need to be worried about. That, we have been taught, is the biggest issue.

Lyndi:

Totally. It is certainly not the biggest issue. Now we talk about this in depth in the episode 74, which is called is alcohol, feeling, emotional eating, the link between booze binge eating and weights. Now, if you haven't listened to that, I would really encourage you to go and have a listen. We're talking about the way that your alcohol is implicated in weight, because there are many things. And just to quickly rehash here, because I do think it's interesting and relevant to this conversation, the first thing that alcohol does is it increases your appetite, and it does this by, firstly, lowering your impulse control. It also increases things like a ghrelin levels and at the same time it's increasing your appetite is slowing your metabolism. That's because your body is prioritizing digestion of alcohol, which you consider is a toxin, before anything else, so everything else is halted. So storage of fat is far more increased, especially the fat around the abdominal area or stomachs, which doesn't really align with health when we have extra fat around our organs. And so it's one of those things where, once again, we've been told sugar is the villain, and yet we kind of have permissibility around alcohol and I think maybe you have a. We need to think about it slightly differently. Our sleep is disrupted, and we know that sleep is fundamentally the cornerstone of health. It is so crucial to everything we do. We get far less of that REM sleep, that deep sleep that we know is restorative for our bodies, that we absolutely need, and this is also what's impacting our metabolism. It's also impacting our impulse control, because the next day you wake up and if you don't get enough sleep, you don't get enough energy, your body's going to crave food, because that is the way that it's going to get more energy. And so I think a lot of the time, what we're doing is we're staying stuck in the cycle of sat, des, sat, default, drinking. Right, we drink because it's what we do, because we're in a habit of drinking, and I have a few questions I want to ask you, or at least a few tips I want to share, about how we might drink less in a way that isn't rooted in diet culture, that doesn't feel restrictive and can be quite supportive. And one of the questions I want to ask you is this if, why do you drink alcohol? You know, a lot of people tell me they're like I. I do it because I, it's how I socialize, it's it literally it's everywhere and it is. It's, it's seeped into absolutely everything and it's awkward and hard to. How do you go to a party and then go on the only one without a drink in my hand? And I do have a question for you, if you kind of on the fence about this, if you feel this way, a good question to ask yourself why you drink is this if half of your friends drink alcohol only half of them would you still drink? And what if none of your friends drank alcohol, would you still drink alcohol? I think so often we drink alcohol because everyone else drinks alcohol instead of going. What would I do if no one else was influencing me, if this wasn't the culture I lived in? What would actually be better for my body, my mental health? everything and just a quick rehash on the reason why I am talking about drinking less alcohol. I used to have crazy clinical anxiety, crippling anxiety, I would say. I tried everything and for me, when I've pulled back from alcohol, my anxiety does not exist, it has evaporated. And I'm just like. I'm pretty amazed and the research is so clear about the fact that not only does alcohol impact our mood. What you know, the day after we've been drinking, we know anxiety. You know the, the fear and the judgment and the shame and the regret and the spiral we can go into the day after drinking. And I always thought it was limited to that. I thought, you know, a few days later your mood would restabilize. But I think what the research, what when I've looked into it? It's showing that these ill effects on your mental health are long lasting. So a month after you've drunk in alcohol, you're still experiencing the impact on your mental health. And for me, I'd never gone a large chunk of time in my adult life where I hadn't drunk alcohol. Maybe I'd like given a few weeks, you know, maybe people do like a month off, and now they kind of talk about this idea of the 90 day limit, which is to say, if you get to 90 days without drinking alcohol, there are some amazing brain changes that happen and perhaps for the first time in your adult life, if you get to 90 days, you might go oh, this is what it's like not drinking alcohol. And I think this is just what I want you know at least once in your life to have this experience of getting to a 90 day limit and going. Okay, I now know who I am without alcohol. So, jenn, have you ever done a period when you haven't drunk alcohol?

Jenna:

I definitely have, probably, I think. When I first started anxiety medication a few years ago, my therapist was like you know, like this is, you are trying to balance some hormones in your brain and like alcohol is a depressant. Like have you thought about maybe, while you're adjusting to these tablets, not drinking? And I was like, oh, I actually really hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense to me. Like I'm not feeling great, I don't know why I would continue to drink a cup of depressant while taking an antidepressant. So then I, yeah, I had a fair few months off and I definitely felt better in, like I felt lighter in my life, like you just don't ever have periods of feeling hungover or wasting the day. That is something that really played on my mental health because, like you work so hard all week and then you would drink and then just lay in the lounge and then you're like, oh, gotta start the cycle again and I feel like that just like really plays in my mental health of like, oh, there's all these things I wanna do and then you sit on social media and you see people going for walks and living life and then you feel worse about yourself and you're like that if you feel a lot better without that.

Lyndi:

Yeah, it's a funny thing because we drink alcohol to unwind, but what if alcohol is adding a whole bunch of more stress to our life? That's requiring us to need alcohol to unwind and, like the emotional eating cycle, we get stuck in this drinking cycle of going round and round and using alcohol to fix the problem that it caused, and I just think it's. It's very interesting to just consider how you'd feel without alcohol. Let's talk about some tips for drinking less that aren't rooted in diet culture.

Jenna:

Yes, I was gonna say. One of the first tips I have in my brain that I've had to drink less, that aren't rooted in diet culture, is to work on your relationship with your body and food because you naturally I found I was so much drinking because of my self-esteem and because I didn't feel comfortable in the situation, because I was thinking about my body or if we were out and there was pizzas and I'm thinking, oh, I don't wanna eat the pizzas that I'm so in my head. Once I have worked on that and gone back to those type of basic things, I have found I have naturally drunk so much less.

Lyndi:

That's so interesting. And going back to this idea of alcohol being the problem here and being the source of this now that I'm not drinking, the negative self-talk I have has reduced to nothing, whereas before I was like I was practicing body acceptance and doing all the things that I talk about, but it did always feel like there was this chitter-chat. I always had to come back and quiet that voice and quiet the voice and the voice would pipe up again and it was kind of exhausting going through that process. Now I don't have those negative self-thoughts around myself and if I do, I can notice them, I quiet them and they do not resurface. So my negative self-talk, my poor self-esteem, is a non-issue and I really do think that it's due to the way that alcohol impacts our brain's ability to self-regulate and I think when we're drinking alcohol, our self-esteem is lower. Therefore, we drink to combat the poor self-esteem and we stay stuck in the cycle of self-loathing and the chitter-chatter and the noise. This is it. What if you are not the problem? What if alcohol is contributing to you not liking yourself? And it's not the solution we've been taught it is. So I really like this idea of working on ourself and maybe drinking less or not drinking at all for a period of time is a very handy thing to give a go.

Jenna:

It is definitely a start. And then if you are drinking I think everything I said about saving calories and all of that is clearly it's so powerful to say it out loud because it's insane You're like, oh no, we're not doing that, we need to eat food.

Lyndi:

You're allowed to eat food.

Jenna:

You're allowed to eat food.

Lyndi:

Don't cut out fuel so that you can ingest more of the toxin and I hope no one's getting triggered by my use of the word toxin, because I really don't wanna be shaming and blaming around alcohol. I'm sorry that, if you're kind of listening, going that, oh, that's not sitting right with me, I'm sorry about that. I do think that drinking less is powerful and even if you just continue to drink the same amount but you have a lot more mindfulness around that alcohol, that is beneficial as well. So just an acknowledgement there. But getting back to this idea of eating before you're drinking, absolutely so, if you're aligning your stomach with some food, we're going to buffer the impact of alcohol somewhat. So the best thing you'd be having to eat would be a balanced meal, not a little snack, not some cucumber sticks with some hummus. I'm talking about carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, well rounded, a meal that's satiating. What this is going to do is help for, hopefully slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. I mean. Other thing I don't know if you've ever heard this tip is people would say that drinking a carbonated drink with certainly the carbonation, so fizzy drinks, so champagne or any kind of soft drinks when mixed with alcohol, gets you drunk quicker. So also just being mindful of that, a lot of the time we start a party and we have those drinks and it gets us drunk really quickly. One of the top things I think you can do if you want to drink less is to simply, if you can, sit out that first drink. So when you arrive to the party you know you're like, oh, I feel a bit like that nervous energy and I just want to like, take that feeling away. If you can just sit in that for a moment. You know I'm just going to go for just one non-alcoholic drink and everyone else starts the other drink. So by the time they're up to their second drink, you can now come in and you start your first drink. You're always going to be one drink behind everyone. As a result, you can see other people and the impacts of alcohol are having to them. I think it gives you a little bit more perspective and also means you've already just drunk one drink less and if that is all you've accomplished, you win. You win the day and that's brilliant. So can you hold off and also just sit with that feeling for a little bit more and realize actually I can ease into a party without having alcohol, because I think that was a revolutionary idea to me. When I was not drinking alcohol, I went to a lot of parties and I was like I'm still fun.

Jenna:

You're still fun.

Lyndi:

I think it's a fear we have that if I stop drinking alcohol, I won't have fun, and I won't be fun. Now an idea for you that I want to throw out. If you feel like you need alcohol to have fun, maybe the things you're doing aren't fun. Maybe if you need alcohol to enjoy the time with your friends, maybe you just don't enjoy spending time with those friends and it's time to reflect and go. Maybe the problem isn't with you and the solution is an alcohol, but maybe you need to reflect on the decisions you're making, because if going to the pub and sitting there without a drink is boring, then the task itself is boring, and let's reflect on that. Now, what else can we do to drink less? That isn't rooted in diet culture?

Jenna:

We could alternate drinks. I think that's a big one. I think sometimes, even if you've had, you've gone out and you've had an alcoholic drink, your next drink doesn't necessarily always have to be alcoholic. If you are then being like, oh, I might just have a soft drink, or I might, just because sometimes it's like, oh, I'll just have waters between my drinks, but you don't really want to be smashing glasses of water when you are out at a party, you're not going for a run, it's like you can just stop and maybe have a glass of juice. You can alternate between the things and even if you do that, you could have halved the amount of alcohol you drank just by really putting very little effort in. To reiterate this.

Lyndi:

I think our fear of soft drink being bad for us and our fear of juice being bad for us means we do not do this because for us, that is like the worst thing we could do, not realizing that the exchange is actually a better exchange. When you're looking at these two options, going for a juice or a soft drink is always going to be better than an alcoholic drink. I want you to keep that in mind so you know that that is the healthier choice in that situation. I would encourage you to have those non-alcoholic options on hand. In my fridge. I have things from anything from like kombucha and you might hate the flavor to like these like mejitos little cans of mejitos and they don't have any alcohol in it. I always do have those options. If we've got a barbecue and I want an alcoholic drink, I can have one, but if I don't, there are yummy, yummy options on hand. I do think now, like I host lots of parties in my house, I love doing it and I realize I've never had non-alcoholic options. I just never have. I've just had water and I feel I'm going to change that. I want to have amazing non-alcoholic options so that it's just as exciting to drink non-alcoholic options, because water can be a little bit boring.

Jenna:

Exactly, we drink water all day, every day, so you have a little thing. I keep seeing booze break, which I am very interested about. Can you please tell me unless if you haven't seen on Lindy's Instagram nude underscore nutritionist if you don't already follow Lindy there is an exciting Program coming out about drinking less, learning how to drink less. Am I on the right track? You tell me a little bit about booze break.

Lyndi:

Yeah, you know, like when I was drinking less alcohol, I was like, okay, first I'm figuring all of this out for myself. I think a lot of the things out there to support people to drink less. I want to get to a point where you're like you really have a problem with alcohol and you know your gray area drinking and you're blacking out and and certainly I want to provide support for those people. But I also think that I wanted to have something where, if you're just a drinker like perhaps I was, or you know everyone, like the culture can suggest we all are If you just like all I'm drinking more than I want, it's not making me feel good, whether or not that's one glass a night or one bottle a night, irrespective if alcohol is not making you feel good. I wanted to create something that would help you drink a little bit less or not drink, and it didn't matter. You know what your goal is, and I think some of the hesitations we have is around the site here how am I still gonna be fun, how am I still gonna socialize? How am I gonna drink less and and then not binge drink when I start drinking alcohol again? I think it's a very real fear that we all have. What happens if my partner doesn't drink? How am I gonna explain to people that I'm not drinking alcohol? And also, how do I do it without feeling deprived? And I think this is why I've created this product. Is called booze break and it's an audio guide because, like, I just don't think we have time to sit down and watch a program sometimes if you're busy, like me. I wanted this to be an audio product that you can listen and learn as you go. It's kind of like a podcast, but better, and so there are 15 episodes. You get bonuses as well, and it's in conjunction with mascompton. She's a legend. She hasn't drunk for eight years, which is wild to me. But you don't have to commit to never drinking again. You could just go. I want to do a 30 day thing where I drink less or don't drink. 60 days, 90 days, and just see how you go. I just want to support people to go. How would this look if I drank a little bit less? How would I feel? Would I enjoy it so much that I think this is now the new me? And if you want to stay exactly the way you are, if you feel like listen, I'm great, I really enjoy this, great. But if you're going, alright, I wouldn't mind transforming a little bit. I want to see who I could become. I kind of want to go from that girl to the girl you know. I think this is something that you might not have considered, that I think I'd really like to be able to support you with. And if you're not sure of booze, break is right for you. One of the things you can do is listen to the first episode for free, totally free, and listen to it and you find, hey, I don't like this, then no harm, no loss, no risk. But if you do like it, then great, brilliant. You can join booze break. So to get the first episode free, you can comment booze break in a DM to me or a comment on my Instagram all you can click the link below in the show notes. You can also hop into the booze break website, which you'll find in the show notes as well, and you'll find a very clickable link to get that freebie into your ear holes right now. And if you're like I don't even know if this is right for me, do I need a booze break? Then write me the words booze quiz and I've got a fun little quiz you can take to work out when are you currently at, what is your drinking personality, where do we go through from here and also be sending you some free, fun, easy tips to help you drink glass to feel your best.

Jenna:

I love this. It's so much more about even just checking in with where you're at with alcohol. Is this serving me? Do I want to drink a little bit less and small? So do I want to have more control over my drinking, in terms of it's not just my automatic default response. I decide each day am I gonna have a drink, am I not gonna have a drink? What feels good for me and my life?

Lyndi:

I love this Totally and I'll leave you with one thought. If, if, the only thing that comes out of doing booze break is this, I think it's very powerful. What I want to help you do is to go from a default drinker. So when someone goes, do you want a glass of wine, do you want to drink? Instead of you just going automatically yes, I mean, I mean, I mean and saying yes before you even thought about it, I want to swap you into someone who, default, doesn't drink, and you can always choose to opt into that drink whenever you want, and you therefore have so much more choice and control and you don't have to go never drinking again. But instead of being a default drinker and to regret the things you do and the amount that you drink and how much you eat and how much you spend on expensive ubers and nights out and losing phones and stuff, you can go to become that person because I feel like I'm in control around alcohol. I don't feel like it controls me and dictates my life and my self-worth.

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