Fitness and Health Fanatic by Day? Heavy Drinker by Night?
Are you working out several days a week, shopping the perimeter of the grocery store for organic foods then burying your head in the sand when it comes to your nightly wine consumption?
That was me for years. I have been health conscious for as long as I can remember. At the height of my drinking I was playing competitive tennis, practicing yoga, strength training, and managed to run a half marathon. At the time, I was drinking close to a bottle of wine a night. I would start with the intention of having a glass while cooking dinner. I refilled during dinner and before I knew it, I was returning the bottle to the fridge with barely any left. I had a rule about never finishing a bottle by myself. That might mean I had a problem. Wine was served after tennis matches, beer after races. Deep inside I felt like a hypocrite. I was doing all the things for my fitness and health then sabotaging my efforts with my nightly wine habit.
I loved reading all those shared articles on Facebook about red wine and your heart health and moderate drinking being linked to a longer life. Did you ever notice how positive articles about alcohol are shared far more often than negative ones? These articles get shared over and over because they confirm what we want to believe and make us feel better about our behavior. This is confirmation bias and social currency at work. We want to share what makes us feel good and look good in our friends’ eyes. No one digs into the research or shares the article on the link between alcohol consumption and cancer.
I would justify my nightly “treat” because I had worked out so hard that day. In reality, I was simply undoing all of my efforts. Alcohol sabotages your fitness goals. You’re much more likely to skip your workouts and make poor food choices after drinking. If you do workout, alcohol impairs the body’s ability to process adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the primary energy resource for muscles. It may take your body longer to recover from a workout. Add to this the fact that alcohol is a diuretic and excess consumption can leave you dehydrated, forcing your heart to work harder during your workout. Finally, alcohol significantly impacts REM sleep. When you lack the quality, restorative sleep you need, it impacts hormones in the body, such as testosterone and growth hormone which are necessary for muscle growth.
In the end, it comes down to how you feel and being honest with yourself. You know the time and energy you put into fitness and looking after other aspects of your health. Does your use of alcohol align with your values in this area? Are you living in integrity with yourself?
Every December I used to write out my goals for the new year. These goals repeatedly included some sort of fitness and nutrition goal, followed by “drink less wine.” I never came close to achieving this goal until I was willing to take an honest look at my relationship with alcohol and address my subconscious beliefs about its benefits. I can finally say that my behavior today is in alignment with the value I place on fitness and health.