The Karma Sense Eating Plan is your go-to guide to eating healthy while enjoying the foods you love. Based on feedback from the Karma Sense audience, I learned that one of these loved foods isn’t a food. It’s alcohol and it’s something I don’t give enough attention in my writing.
I don’t know what it says about my audience that so many people have questions on this topic but, we aim to please. This post examines Karma Sense alcohol consumption. I originally gave an in-depth analysis and recommendation on Karma Sense alcohol in Episode 10 of the Karma Sense Foodcast. If you listened to that, this post is similar.
But if you haven’t heard it or need reinforcement, sit back with a tasty beverage and read on.
Another thing I learned from you in the audience is that some of you like to read, some of you like to listen and some of you like to do both. Again, we aim to please. Therefore, in the future, you’ll sometimes see that I repeat topics in both formats.
Really, the only reason I’m repeating topics in different formats is to support all audiences of the Karma Sense Media Empire. It’s all because we aim to please. It has nothing to do with my being lazy (or hungover on a Monday morning).
Addressing the Pink Elephant in the Room
Look out! Look out!
Pink elephants on parade
Here they come!
They’re here and there
Pink elephants ev’rywhere
What’ll I do? What’ll I do?
What’ll I do, indeed! That’s the question asked in the Disney classic, Dumbo, when our hero mistakenly consumes a fermented beverage and begins to big-time hallucinate about pink elephants.
Now, I know some people who’ve had a drink or two in their lives and none of them ever saw pink elephants. And, if you remember that scene from the movie (or watch the psychadelic YouTube clip above), you’ll wonder what the animators were on. It had to be a lot stronger than a few beers.
But I digress. The important thing here is for me to help clarify the role of beer, wine or sangria (a solid Beefsteak Charlie reference) in a healthy lifestyle. So let’s answer the question…
Karma Sense Alcohol – What’ll YOU Do?
Alcohol is another one of those really confusing and controversial macronutrients. That’s right, for the purposes of this discussion, alcohol is a macronutrient, like protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Unlike protein, carbohydrates and fat, your body doesn’t need alcohol to function. Our species evolved for thousands of years before Fred Flintstone discovered cactus juice.
Did you ever notice how Fred was a little paunchy? The alcohol in his cactus juice contributes 7 calories per gram to his diet. That’s about 64 calories contributed solely by alcohol in a normal size shot, mug o’ beer or glass o’ wine. That 64 calories doesn’t include the additional contributions from the carbs in your beer, wine and mixers, the protein in your jello shots or the fat in The Dude’s White Russian.
And all of that should be a consideration when you’re making a decision on the role alcohol has in your healthy lifestyle. As you know, the Karma Sense way is not to assume that there’s a cookie cutter approach to any health question. The answer always depends on your goals, values, lifestyle and obligations.
But to prevent this blog post from running over like a poorly poured beer, I need to make some gross generalizations (gross as in large, not as in disgusting although I can’t guarantee the latter).
And here they are.
- Some people shouldn’t drink at all.
- Some people have no desire to drink.
- Some people like to drink and want to lead a healthy lifestyle.
- A subset of #3 above includes people who want to lose weight.
There are also people reading this who don’t fit any of those categories. They’re just here for the poop jokes and don’t care about anything else. Will there be poop jokes? Well, think about what bears do in the woods and you’ll have your answer.
Meanwhile, let’s look at those first four categories.
Some People Shouldn’t Drink At All
There are a bunch of health issues that get worse if you drink These include but are not limited to liver disease, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, kidney disease, stomach ulcers, many mental health issues (I include addictive behavior in this category) or when taking medicines that don’t mix with alcohol. You and your doctor know who you are I don’t want to be the turd in the punchbowl so I’ll stop with this category here (⇐That bear in the woods just dropped another one) .
Some People Have No Desire To Drink
If that’s you, there is no reason to start. It’s true that moderate drinkers seem to avoid many chronic diseases more successfully than teetotalers. There are other chronic diseases such as stomach cancer, that nondrinkers more successfully avoid.
In my opinion, the potential benefits of drinking alcohol don’t outweigh the potential downsides. That’s really all I have to say to non-drinkers other than “Please be gentle with the rest of us when we make fools of ourselves while under the influence. Consider it cheap entertainment. Oh, and thanks for driving us home.”
Some People Like to Drink and Want to Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
If there’s any nuance on this subject it’s for the moderate drinkers. Let’s first define what moderate means.
Moderate drinking for men means anything less than or equal to two drinks per day. For women, it means one drink or less per day. Sorry ladies, I don’t make the rules. But if you want to complain, please send all letters to:
1600 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC 20500
If you’re registering your complaint after January 20, 2017, that’s OK. It’s still probably his fault.
Moderate drinkers drink because they like to. Some further rationalize they’re drinking because of rumored benefits. Red wine is the biggest benefactor of this halo effect. You may have heard of ‘resveratrol,’ the pigment that makes red wine red. Resveratrol is a beneficial antioxidant that has heart-healthy effects. But you can find studies that suggest health benefits in white wine, beer and even the hard stuff. That’s because the majority of red wine’s health benefits come from the alcohol, not the resveratrol. While resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant, the amount you get in red wine isn’t all that great and furthermore is available in spades in grapes, red berries and dark chocolate.
It’s not, however, available in spades (rimshot).
In summary, for people who are moderate drinkers and want to pursue a healthy lifestyle, there is compelling evidence that your heart health will be somewhat stronger than people who abstain and much stronger than people who drink too much. But be aware, your chances of getting cancer are a little higher than your non-drinking friends. But if you’re avoiding binge drinking, the difference is small. Odds are there are other places in your lifestyle that you can change that will have a better impact on your health than quitting drinking.
Okay, so now I have to define what too much drinking is even if it’s a little redundant. For men too much is drinking more than 2 drinks a day. For women, it’s more than one drink a day. Don’t bother to do fancy math tricks here either. If you don’t drink all week and then have 5 drinks in a day, that’s binge drinking and that’s unhealthy. On the other hand, if you’re a woman who, for example, has 2 or 3 glasses of wine one evening a month, I wouldn’t worry. Especially if you also occasionally skip a night or two.
That leaves us with…
Drinkers Who Want to Lose Weight
It is definitely possible to lose weight and still have alcohol as part of your diet. I’ve done this myself. But, alcohol is a source of empty calories. That is, calories with no other nutritional value. If you stop drinking or even reduce your drinking and everything else stays the same, you will likely lose weight. You lose weight when calorie intake is less than calories burned.
Dropping alcohol is an easy way to tweak the simple equation in your favor. When I’ve dropped pounds while still drinking, it happened because I made other favorable lifestyle changes too. This is your decision.
And hey, it’s not all or nothing. If you’re in the habit of having a drink every night, why not make a deal with yourself to skip it one or two nights a week? Choose the two days of the week, put it on your calendar and turn it into a non-negotiable item. Say, “Tonight’s my non-drinking night. No big deal.” But when you say it, do so to yourself or make sure it’s relevant to the conversation. Otherwise, people will think you HAVE been drinking.
Do that for a month. That’s no more than 8 days of not drinking. See how you feel. Check your weight and waist size. Is there a difference? How hard would it be to add another night?
For many people, this technique is easier and more successful than, for example going from beer to a martini because the latter has fewer calories. But there’s nothing wrong with that strategy either. Totally skipping a calorie-laden drink is more effective but do what ya gotta do brah.
If you want to explore more strategies for optimizing your health without going all 18th amendment, you know where to find me. We aim to please.
We Aim to Please
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