One thing that I have struggled with during the ups and downs with my food related issues are drinks. There’s nothing that seems more pointless to me than wasting precious calories on a drink when I could be cracking open a Diet Coke and using my saved calories on a snack. Calorie laden and sugar packed drinks tend to be viewed as poison by all health professionals, but that doesn’t stop them existing. From my observations, most people are generally still taking sugar with their tea, ordering hot chocolates with whipped cream, and guzzling down full-fat coke like it’s water (I send my condolences to Jamie Oliver). So why are we still drinking them? It’s simple really – they taste good. Having a nice drink gives people pleasure that can’t quite be replicated by our sugar free alternatives.
All of this probably isn’t news to most. I am sure there have been plenty of blogs and scientific articles written on this topic before, and how the thought of consuming a freakshake for someone with an eating disorder is probably what gave it the name in the first place. However, a big issue that also falls into this bracket is drinking alcohol. Everything I have read so far on the cross over between issues with eating and alcohol mainly concern addiction, or the general pros and cons of alcohol consumption overall. Quite frankly, I don’t give a shit about whether a glass of red wine a day is the biggest cause of diabetes or the best way to ward off cancer. All I want to know is whether it’s going to make me put on weight.
All doctors and NHS health guidance are quick to remind us about the link between alcohol and obesity. I’m sure most of you have seen a version of an image showing different alcoholic drinks and how many calories is in each one. When I was at university they even had the audacity to stick up posters in our student union bar warning us of the calorie content of drinks, which led me to worrying about how many calories I could burn off by dancing if I ordered a smirnoff ice. Does nobody even realise how horrifying this can be for some people? Have you ever tried googling the amount calories in alcohol? It’s a minefield. WHY HAS NOBODY INVENTED ALCOHOL WITH NO CALORIES IN IT YET?!?!?!
Hence, I’ve made the decision to go against the general advice of all health professionals. In my quest to become a happier and healthier person I have decided to try to start drinking more alcohol. Over the last 4 years I have been pretty much stone cold sober, apart from selected social situations such as toasting to a happy new year or being chanted at by my flatmates to down a drink in 10 seconds. I’ve been more than happy to be the designated driver, or found it easy to reason my reluctance to drink on the lack of benefits it will reap. In fact, there’s only one reason as to why I haven’t given up alcohol altogether: The only thing people find more baffling than eating disorders are people who don’t drink.
The social practice of drinking, for me, is unavoidable. Birthdays, Christmas, parties, work do’s, weddings, weekends, weekdays… there’s always someone cracking open a bottle of wine. I often come into the path of alcohol and have several methods of avoiding it, but I find the peer pressure to drink is sometimes so great that it overpowers my anxiety about weight gain. But I don’t want to drink because I have to, I want to drink because I want to.
I want to share a pitcher of Pimm’s when I’m watching wimbledon, have a glass of champagne to celebrate a promotion at work, or have a pint of cider in a pub garden on a warm summers evening. Being honest, I want to get pissed (but not on vodka and Diet Coke). I’m not planning on becoming the next Al Murray, but I don’t want to miss out on life, which I feel like I have done too much of. Fighting the fear of weight gain is hard enough as it is when it comes to eating, but drinking is a hard nut to crack. So in the future I’ll try to raise a glass to raising a glass, and to making the most of life.