Alcohol-issues

Do You Have A Drinking Problem?

Is one of your New Year resolutions to curb your alcohol intake?

Mine too. Indeed, after our great nation overindulged over the Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday season, I’d hazard a guess that every second person would have this one top of their list.

RELATED: Is Too Much Alcohol Making You Fat?

Alcohol can make us feel euphoric, warm and fuzzy, bolder and sexier, and with the combined dance moves and finesse of Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. But drink too much and it can negatively impact every facet of your life, from your relationships through to your work productivity.

The Federal Government recently estimated the societal costs of alcohol abuse in Australia to be in excess of $15 billion, with $10.8 billion attributed to tangible costs (for example, labour and health costs) and $4.5 billion to intangible costs such as loss of life through violence.

Alcohol is the most widely-used social drug in Australia, with heavy drinking or binge drinking said to cause serious health, personal and social problems.

What’s more, you can have the best diet and/or exercise program to rival Jane Fonda’s, but drink too much alcohol and the empty calories will be sabotaging your hard efforts.

alcoholism, drinking issues, binge drinking

So, how do you tell if you or a loved one has a drinking problem? Health experts say signs it might be time to get help may include: you can’t go a night without a drink; you frequently pass out drunk by 9pm; you regularly can’t remember the night before; you have an increased tolerance to alcohol and drugs and/or you’re regularly binge drinking.

And, according to experts, another good question to ask yourself: Is my drinking negatively impacting my relationships?

Leading Sydney dietician/nutritionist and author Susie Burrell (pictured below) who just launched her new program: Shape Me, The 30 Day Plan, said drinking too much alcohol was a very serious and common problem in Australia.

Susie, who herself enjoys the occasional social drink or two, said many people use alcohol as a crutch to relax and escape from their personal issues and problems.

no carbs diets, low-carb diets, baby weight, post-baby weight loss, diets, fad diets

“Unfortunately, this is the type of drinking that we see far too often in Australia – ½ a case [of beer] or a bottle or more on a daily basis that is not helping you to relax and unwind like you are telling yourself,” she says.

And, as any health professional will tell you – the demon drink is like kryptonite when you’re trying to lose weight. If you can’t budge that final 5kg of baby weight, for example, chances are your excessive alcohol consumption is to blame. Then there are the significant adverse health effects of alcohol abuse, Susie says.

“From a health perspective, excessive alcohol consumption causes two main issues,” Susie says, “the first is that alcohol is relatively high in calories and hence it is easy to gain weight when we drink too much.

“Individuals who drink too much alcohol over many years often develop an alcohol fat apron around the abdominal area – for women this can make them appear pregnant, while for men it’s often a hard-packed solid mass which is exceptionally hard to budge.

“The other issue, which is perhaps the worse of the two, is that excessive alcohol consumption results in disinhibition and lethargy – you do and say things you should not, far less gets done, your mood is impeding and basically you function at a much lower level than you could be at any point in time. Occasionally, this is no issue, but on a daily basis, this pattern of behaviour starts to destroy lives.”

alcoholism, drinking issues, binge drinking

Susie says going cold turkey may be enough for many people to serve as a reminder of their unhealthy reliance upon alcohol to relax or socialise. If not, and you still can’t quit the grog, it’s time to seek medical attention.

“If the issue is bigger than this it is time to get professional help, as our lives and relationships are far too precious to be lost over beers or a cheap bottle of wine,” she says.

If you need help, visit www.beyondblue.org.au and/or www.lifeline.org.au.

Main image via www.rehabcenterforwomen.org and secondary images via www.pixabay.com.

January 6, 2015

A Dry Spell During The Holiday Season: Smart Or Stupid?

Is the true definition of insanity cutting down on alcohol during the Christmas/New Year’s Eve holiday season?

I strongly suspect so, for I’m in my second week of a self-imposed mid-week alcohol ban and it’s making me quite cranky indeed and occupying far too much of my thoughts.

RELATED: How To Calculate The Alchohol Content In Cocktails

While my loved ones overindulge, as is the norm this time of year, I’ve been left staring into my mineral water, willing it to be vodka instead, with a face like a dropped pie.

It ain’t no fun being sober, while everyone around you is tipsy. And I’m a lush from way back – I love me a drink, always have, indeed it’s an occupational hazard of being a journalist.

Y’ know in the old movies, when the journalist character (almost always a man, Lois Lane aside) is wearing an old hat, drinking hard liquor from his hip pocket and chain-smoking as if his life depended on it?

Well, many many journalists still do this even today, if a tamed-down version minus the millinery and cancer sticks. It’s the stress of the job – or something like that – at least, that’s what we tell ourselves and each other.

dry spell, alcohol issues, New Year's Eve

No one is making me cut down on the demon drink – it’s just that, after a very long and loyal relationship with it, I’ve decided we need to break up, if only Sunday-Thursday.

On the other two days of the week, I shall heartily enjoy a few glasses of my beloved red wine with gusto, in a tidy and contained fashion, unlike days of old when I too felt like I was positively swimming in a champagne glass, ala burlesque star Dita Von Teese (pictured below) – OK, not quite.

My reasons for mid-week sobriety – or drinking more in moderation – include: the horror of turning 40 earlier this year and the awful, accompanying realisation I can no longer party like I’m in my 30s; the sobering health impact of excess, such as a few minor health scares this year and the fact that I’m really bloody determined to shed 5kg in order to be my best self.

I also realised – like many mothers, as is completely understandable – I was perhaps overdoing the “I’m-a-stressed-out-mum-of-toddlers-I-need-a-drink-or-two-to-unwind routine.”

And when I – gasp – actually somewhat stupidly answered my GP’s: “How many alcohol units do you consume a week?” question honestly (who does that?!), her raised eyebrow and stern warning about the health impacts of alcohol were enough to see me abstain, and fast.

dry spell, alcohol issues, New Year's Eve

So, instead of using alcohol as a crutch to unwind, I’m now exercising my arse off even more than I did before and I’m giving mindfulness and meditation a red-hot go.

My new Sunday-Thursday alcohol ban is also saving me lots of unwanted calories and so I’ve already lost weight as a result.

What’s more, I feel empowered and strong and quite proud of my dry-spell efforts, even if – yes – I did give in to a glass of Moet at Christmas, as you do.

I’ll never completely give up the demon drink, but I really need to take stock of my drinking so I’m still around to see my children’s children. What’s more, I’ve only really grasped, at 40, the importance of living your best life.

So, for now, it’s learning to temper my short-temper when family and friends around me are still partying like it’s 1999 and striving to love my mineral water, with a twist of lemon.

What do you think? Have you ever cut down on alcohol during the silly season? Any tips?

Main image via dyersoundworks.com; secondary image via www.2gb.com and final image via www.dailymail.co.uk.

January 3, 2015