Drinking alcohol is the norm in our society. It has become such a natural thing to do that many people can barely believe that somebody might choose not to drink. In this post, I’ll talk about the social aspects of not drinking, my own experiences with it, facts about how our bodies deal with alcohol, and I’ll share some tips on drinking in relation to weight loss/ maintenance and a healthy lifestyle. I just want to make it clear that I’m not condemning alcohol completely or trying to make anyone who enjoys it stop drinking occasionally. I’m just talking about my experiences as somebody who chooses not to drink.
I’m sure everyone who doesn’t drink has heard those phrases before:
“But how do you have fun?”
“Come on, everyone else is having one too! What’s the big deal?”
There is a lot of social pressure to drink, and you only notice how much pressure there is if drinking isn’t for you, and if you turn down a drink in a social setting. From work events over Christmas parties to meeting the significant other’s family, there are so many situations where having a drink seems to be “the thing to do”, and when people count on you having that drink and you say no, you will be faced with their reaction to something unexpected. Some people might not understand that it is very much possible to socialise and have fun while being sober. Some people might label you as boring (but if they write you off that easily, are they even worth hanging out with in the first place?), and others might try to talk you into having that drink regardless of your protest. The rarest, but my favourite kind of people are the ones that just accept your take on drinking and move on with the conversation. Drinking plays such a big role in many social situations that you can’t be surprised if people are a little thrown off when they learn you don’t drink; especially if your not drinking has nothing to do with religious beliefs and is simply a choice that you made at one point in your life. You need to be prepared to let people know in a polite manner that they don’t have to feel awkward about the situation, and that you enjoy spending time with them just as much with an alcohol free beverage in front of you. All this sounds easy enough, but I find it to be a bit more difficult in practice.
Whenever someone offers me a drink and I turn it down (and I’ve been doing it for years), I often feel a little bit guilty, like that person was trying to do something nice for me and I responded with being rude. That feeling grows even stronger when the person does not stop at one no, but keeps trying to make me change my mind, so that I have to keep declining over and over again. I always feel that tiny bit of guilt even though I realise that there is no need for it. It is my choice what I put in my body, just like everyone else gets to decide what they eat or drink. However, when everyone else drinks (for example a shared bottle of wine) and I’m the only one who decides to order something else, it feels like I’m moving away from the social norm; it feels like I’m rebelling and making my own rules which often requires great willpower and the patience to deal with the same comments more times than I can count. Due to the social pressure or due to really wanting to fit in on occasion (for example when first meeting my boyfriend’s parents), I have still had the occasional drink from time to time, but it never makes me feel good; drinking just isn’t for me.
I choose not to drink for several reasons:
- I realised that it’s of no benefit to me. Drinking does not make me happy, does not help me reach any of my personal goals, and in addition to that it makes me feel sluggish or worse for an entire day, therefore even wasting my time and holding me back. It’s just not worth it for me; even less when considering how expensive alcohol is.
- I don’t like the feeling of being drunk. I like being in control of myself; of my movements, of my speech, and of my behaviour. The more we drink, the less control we have, and that’s just not something I enjoy experiencing.
- I’ve had several bad experiences with it. After I turned 18, I partied a lot, just because I was old enough to be allowed to. I thought it was the cool thing to do. In addition to that I was going through some difficult times and thought “going out” a lot would help me deal with everything that was going on. Obviously it didn’t, and nothing good ever came out of me being drunk.
3 facts about alcohol and our bodies:
- Alcohol contains 7 kcal per gram, which makes it the second most energy dense “nutrient” (for lack of a better word); second only to fat with 9 kcal per gram.
- Alcohol promotes water loss in the body, which in turn can lead to the additional loss of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium and zinc.
- While alcohol is being metabolised in the liver, the process of converting glucose from other carbohydrates into energy is put to a hold until all the alcohol has been dealt with first.
Tips for making your healthy lifestyle work with your drinking habits:
- Don’t overdo it. Have a drink or a few drinks occasionally, but not every day. Try to limit your drinking days to 1-2 per week or less, and drink only as much as you can handle.
- If your goal is to lose weight or if you’ve lost weight and would like to maintain your current shape, try to stick to drinks that have no added sugar. Minimise your intake of sugary cocktails and anything with lemonade in it. Stick to wine, champagne, or anything (sugar free) on the rocks. With 9 kcal per gram, alcohol is quite dense in energy, so the higher the alcohol content of your drink, the more calories you’ll consume (when comparing same size drinks with different alcohol contents).
- Don’t use the drinking as an excuse to binge on junk food. Try to keep your eating as healthy as possible, and don’t make the post-drinks visit to a junk food place a habit.