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How and why I’ve changed my drinking habits

alcohol drinking habits

How and why I’ve changed my drinking habits

Firstly, I want to be clear that I’m only talking about changing alcohol drinking habits and NOT alcohol addiction.  Alcohol addiction is a serious condition that requires specialist medical advice, which I’m not qualified to comment on.

Also, I don’t want anyone to think this is some sort of prudish, judgmental post about people who drink alcohol.  I love alcohol but I think it is necessary for us all to be aware of the health implications and make informed decisions about our drinking habits.

Humans have enjoyed alcohol for centuries from the ancient Egyptians to the Victorians.   Our love of alcohol hasn’t changed in modern society.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed drinking alcohol.  My first experiences of alcohol were one or two glasses of cider or Pomagne at teenage parties.  As I grew older and started frequenting pubs and bars, I moved on to trying as many different drinks as I could!.

Growing up in the ’80’s, I was bombarded with advertisements from Babycham, Martini Rosso and Cinzano which aimed to glamorize alcohol (do you remember the ads with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins?).

These advertisements portrayed alcohol as decadent, luxurious and grown up.  Drinking these drinks was something to aspire to – it’s amazing the power of advertising! (separate rant – this is why we need regulations on how we advertise to children).

My student years were spent enjoying as many different drinks as possible.  Once I started work however,  drinking alcohol became more of an occasional treat, reserved for a weekend meet up with friends in the pub.

Buying alcohol from supermarkets become more popular in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, with people drinking increasingly in their homes.  It became the ‘norm’ to have a glass of wine with your meal at the weekend.  Now, I think most people see it as the ‘norm’ to have a glass of alcohol every night with their meal.

In many families juggling work, childcare and domestic chores, parents see the evening glass of wine as their treat to help them unwind and relax.  Sound familiar?

I know this was a habit that had developed in our household and for a long time I didn’t think twice about it.

So, what affect does drinking alcohol have on our health?

The Pros

  • there are studies that suggest that moderate, responsible wine consumption can lower overall health risks associated with cardio vascular disease.  However this benefit is only relevant for people of middle age or older and only has a small protective benefit.
  • In the Blue Zone areas of the world, particularly Sardinia, the inhabitants enjoy a glass of wine with friends every evening.  Blue Zones are renowned for the longevity and health of their inhabitants, so it could be argued there is a link between their health and drinking alcohol.

The Cons

Unfortunately there appear to be far more cons than pros:-

  • alcohol is perceived by our bodies as a poison.  Prolonged use can therefore seriously damage our liver, causing cirrhosis and liver failure.  It can also damage the pancreas, causing bouts of pancreatitis.
  • alcohol affects our brains, messing with our judgement, reactions and impulses.  This is why it’s illegal to drink and drive a car.
  • alcohol impacts our sleep patterns.  New research is showing that a lack of sleep can have serious implications on our general health.
  • alcohol can cause osteoporosis, making bones thinner and weakened.
  • alcohol can weaken heart function.
  • alcohol generally increases our risk of cancer, particularly breast, bowel, liver, mouth and throat.
  • alcohol consumption during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, the baby having a low birth weight, learning or behavioural difficulties.  Drinking heavily through pregnancy can result in a serious condition called foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).
  • alcohol can affect your mood and lead to depression, anxiety or anger.

(source: http://www.drinkaware.co.uk)

 

Why I’ve changed my drinking habit

I’m sorry for the long list of doom and gloom regarding alcohol.  Whilst I was aware of some of these health implications,  I had never really considered my daily glass of wine could be playing havoc with my health.  It’s only as I have grown older that I’ve begun noticing alcohol having a more direct affect on my day to day health.

Some of my readers will be aware that I suffer from arthritis.  Over the last year, I’ve noticed that wine seems to increase the pain and swelling in my joints.  I’m also at the dreaded menopausal age when hot flushes, brain fog and a tendency to gain weight can kick in.  I’ve again noticed that alcohol can have an impact on these symptoms.

Lastly and most importantly, I’m concerned at the link from drinking alcohol to an increased risk of breast cancer.  As my mother is a breast cancer survivor, I know genetically I may be at increased risk.  Drinking alcohol could increase my risk further, but this is something I can control and change.

How I changed my drinking alcohol habit

Now, as I mentioned earlier having a glass of wine (or other alcohol) with our evening meal had become a regular habit.

The problem with regular habits is that they become very ingrained within the brain.

Simplistically, habits are formed when the brain is provided with a cue (in our case our evening meal).  This then triggers the routine i.e. a glass of wine.  Our brain then enjoys the reward of feeling relaxed by the release of dopamine as we enjoy our wine.  Eventually,  the loop of cue, routine, reward becomes automatic and we do it without thinking about it at all.

The cue and reward triggers become so intertwined, that we begin to have a sense of anticipation and even craving to get to the cue i.e. dinnertime and our expected reward – the enjoyment from the glass of wine.  (source: The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg).

 

Have you had that craving during the day to just get to ‘wine o’clock’?  Thankfully, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are an alcoholic, but just that your brain has become addicted to your evening habit and reward.

Unfortunately, trying to break this loop is really tough at first, as we have to re-train our brains.  Now, in my opinion brains are a bit like toddlers.  If you say “no” or change their routine, they have a complete melt down and a tantrum.  If you persist with the new routine, eventually they stop fighting it and adapt to the change.

Our brains are exactly the same.  When we tell our brain it can’t have a glass of wine every night, it fights back really hard and makes us crave wine even more! (most of us experience the same with food).  But, with time and by replacing wine with another routine, it begins to accept this change.  The time it takes to achieve a change in habits can vary from individual to individual and on the type of habit being changed.  A general rule is anywhere between 21 days to 8 months but research suggests the average time is usually about 66 days to begin to see a true change.

So, just prior to Christmas 2017, I decided I wanted to change my alcohol drinking habit.  I knew it would be tough over Christmas and New Year, so I just started slowly by only having a drink every other night.

Then in the New Year I went to not having any alcohol from Monday to Wednesday, slowly increasing this to Monday to Friday.  These days, I go weeks without having any alcohol and amazingly I really don’t miss it.

Another trick I tried during the Christmas period, was to replace my alcohol drinking habit with low alcohol and alcohol free drinks such as Eisberg Wine and low alcohol G & T’s.  Many of these drinks are much better than they were 5 or 10 years ago.

One of the biggest hurdles I’ve found though has been social expectations when I go out.  It does feel very odd not drinking alcohol when we go to the pub with friends or for a meal in a restaurant.  Usually people assume you must be driving but if they know that’s not the case, you do get some strange looks and raised eyebrows.  Also the shadow of the marketing of the 80’s means I don’t feel very grown up if I’m not drinking alcohol.

The benefits of  changing my alcohol drinking habit

Since reducing my alcohol consumption I have noticed improvements to my general, everyday health namely:-

  • I sleep much better and don’t wake up from hot flushes
  • I feel like I have much more energy
  • I’ve noticed I am more patient and far less snappy and short tempered with the kids
  • I find I can concentrate better and have far less brain fog days
  • I have less joint pain
  • I may have lost weight but I don’t tend to weigh myself very often, so I’m not sure.
  • My skin certainly looks better with less fine wrinkles and dryness.  Alcohol is known to dehydrate skin and strip skin of nutrients.  It probably helps that I’m drinking more water now (instead of that glass of wine with dinner!)
  • it’s also saving me money!

My conclusion on changing my alcohol drinking habits

Overall, I feel much better for reducing my alcohol consumption.  I still enjoy alcohol every now and again.  Certainly whilst on holiday I reverted to having a glass of wine most nights with dinner.  I haven’t re-trained my brain completely from enjoying the taste of alcohol.

However, I think my brain is beginning to appreciate how much better it feels for not having alcohol and that has become it’s new reward.

Whilst, I don’t want you to see this article as a “you should do this” argument, I would suggest that if you think you have become stuck in an alcohol drinking routine that may be affecting your everyday health, perhaps you can experiment with seeing how you feel if you change your habit.  There are several challenges around the world such as Dry January, Dry July, Sober October which you could join in to get you started.

Unfortunately, the downsides of alcohol drinking are rather numerous and can have huge implications for our health, so I believe it is in our benefit to kick the habit if we can!

If you enjoyed this article or think a friend may enjoy it,  please like and share it on social media.

You can also sign up for our free New Leaf Newsletter here to receive regular updates and tips and inspiration to make healthy habit changes.

 

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Everyday healthy habits I try to do

Do you often feel frazzled and exhausted?

Do you suffer from brain fog?

Are you searching for some ideas for healthy habits to help calm you day?

Why not check out whether these habits help:-

 

everyday healthy habits

** Please note that this post contains affliate links.  I may  earn a commission from qualifying purchases**

Everyday healthy habits I try to do

I think we all know the importance of habits in our everyday lives.  Habits can effect whether we live healthy, happy lives or lives that are plagued with bad choices.  Some habits are so ingrained, often we don’t even realise we are doing them.   I’ve been working recently on establishing the healthy habits I think help me live a more balanced life.  I will then tackle the bad habits that I probably need to change – that’s a post for another day!

So, here are some of my everyday healthy habits:-

1. On waking

When I’m having my cup of tea in bed (see my school morning routine here) I prepare for the day ahead.  I usually mentally work out my to-do list for the day.  I then prioritise around 3 to 4  items that I know really need to be completed  – anything else that gets done is a bonus.

I also consider who I am likely to interact with during the day and decide how I will handle any discussions/meetings I may have with them.

I try to perceive whether there will be any difficulties with my to-do list and think about how best I can deal with them.  However, I try not to get too bogged down in negative thoughts about what could go wrong.  I prefer to focus mainly on positive outcomes.  My mum always says ” if you use positive problem solving to prepare for the worst – then hopefully it won’t happen!”.

2. Exercise habits

I’ll be perfectly honest and own up to the fact that I’m not good at prioritising exercise into my day.

I do try to find time first thing in the morning to walk the dog.  Dogs are great motivators to get us out!

If like me, you struggle with an exercise routine,  perhaps you could walk to work/school or anywhere on your commute?  The other option is to try and get out for a walk at lunch time.  (You can check out the benefits of walking as exercise here)

As much as possible I try to do a home work out of say Hiit or yoga as well.  I have signed up to regularly classes in the past and whilst these have helped, it’s inevitable that something crops up and I miss the class.  I then get frustrated that I have wasted money.  I suspect I will dip back into this form of exercise, as it does help keep me accountable but it’s difficult when you have kids.



3. Tackling the to-do list

Like most mums, I end up spending much of my time trying to multi task.  Research shows that this  is actually not a very effective use of our brains.

If I spend too long multi tasking, I begin to feel frustrated and anxious.  This is probably because I’m not really completing tasks sufficiently to cross them off my to-do list.

I’ve now started setting a timer on my phone and/or breaking my time down into blocks to allocate to certain tasks.  This really helps me to focus my mind on the job and stop procrastinating.  By the end of the task I usually feel more energised as I’ve actually completed something.  Also my brain doesn’t feel so scattered and confused.

Another tip, is to work out what time of the day you feel at your most energised and focused.  For me it is definitely the mornings when I’m fuelled with coffee! I know some people who love getting up super early (my husband) to get stuff done, whilst others prefer to work into the night (my brother).

4. Try to eat healthy and drink lots of water

I think we are all trying to do this habit, some are just better at it than others!.

I go by the 80:20 rule (eating healthy for 80% of the time, lapsing 20%)  and balance.  I try to eat healthy as much as possible.  To me this means eating lots of fruit and vegetables, trying to avoid overly processed foods and watching my portion sizes.  However, I’m not into banning sugar completely from my life, eliminating food groups or never eating fish and chips.   It’s important to find a healthy eating plan that works best for you and your lifestyle.

I’m also trying really hard to drink more water through the day.  I’ve noticed I have less brain fog when I achieve this habit.

Whilst it’s not technically an everyday habit, I do firmly believe in weekly meal planning.  By looking at my meal plan in the morning, I can take out the necessary meat or items from the freezer required for our evening meal.  Then, I don’t need to think about what we are going to eat until I come to prepare it that night.  This removes a huge amount of stress and extra planning from the day.



5. Do something kind or helpful for others

As a mother and a wife this kind of comes with the job description!  However, I do try to throw in a few other acts of kindness – maybe helping a relative or friend, or complimenting a complete stranger, opening the door for someone and smiling as much as possible!   Apparently, acts of kindness to others helps to improve our own feelings of self worth.

5. Read something!

I’m a huge reading fan.  I usually read for about half an hour before I go to sleep.  I find this really helps to calm my mind.  I also snatch 10 minutes here and there in the day – having my morning cup of tea, waiting for appointments, waiting at school pick up etc.

There’s so much reading material available in the world, that no matter your interests I’m sure you will find something to read about.  Reading helps to relax the brain, spark creativity, teach new skills, inform and explain our life and world.



6. Enjoy moments of complete quiet

This one is especially important to me.  In a house with 4 boys I find I really need little pockets of pure quiet now and again to just recoup and regroup my mind.   It might just be 10 minutes whilst I put the washing on, but just that little escape from all the noise of life really helps to keep my brain calmer.

7.  I always try to find things in my day to be grateful for

For me this is mostly observing things in my environment that cheer me up –  something in nature that I’ve seen on my morning walk, the kids being funny, or the way the sunlight dances on the wall.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not some overly cheerful person.  When it’s cold and pouring with rain or there’s a problem to sort, I really struggle to find anything to be grateful for.  But it’s at these times that we need to focus on something to be grateful for to stop ourselves sliding into negativity.

 

A few other things I would like to do regularly but don’t always manage

Strenuous exercise

I really struggle to find time to fit in a good cardio or weight bearing exercise block.  I know I need to and it makes my body feel good when I do it but committing time to it is always a struggle for me.  It’s something I’m continually working on.

Review my day

I know it would be helpful (in the same way that I prepare for the day ahead) to review the end of my day.  Reflecting on what I have achieved, what’s been good about my day, would probably be a useful habit to implement.  However (I suspect like many of you) I just fall into bed exhausted and forget to complete this habit.

Have a regular bedtime

Wow – that sounds so old and boring doesn’t it!

But, I really do need my regular 7-8 hours of sleep, and science is now proving how important sleep is for all aspects of our lives such as weight loss and mental health.

I usually head to bed between 10-11 pm, have a read for half an hour and then hope to sleep through until the alarm goes off.  It doesn’t always work – why is it that we seem to wake at 4am?

Without proper sleep though I can struggle with my mood, feel lethargic and unproductive and stray from my healthy eating habits.

 

So, that’s it.  These are the everyday habits I try to include into my day.  I’d love to hear any suggestions about the habits you do each day that help you live a healthier life.  Comment below or hop over to my facebook page or Instagram page.

 

I hope you have a fabulous weekend and week ahead.

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P.S Don’t forget to sign up for my Newletter for regularly updates, news and views.

 

 

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This week’s meal plan and why busy mums need self-care habits

newleafhealthandwellbeing

 

Why busy mum’s need self-care habits

Hello Everybody,

I hope you have had a good week.  The observant amongst you may have noticed that there was no meal plan last week.  My apologies for this.

My Reason? – I’ve been working for 2½ weeks on a moderately physical work project.  Unfortunately, this work seems to have really aggravated my arthritis and I’ve been feeling pretty poorly.

Now, this isn’t a ‘please feel sorry for me’ type of post.  The reason I want to share this story with you is because as mothers we often take it upon ourselves to keep ‘soldiering’ on.  I think most mothers feel guilty if they aren’t giving 100% to their families.  We often fail to provide ourselves with some self-care, because we feel we are too busy.  Why should we have time off when there is always so much stuff to get done?  But, self-care is really important as it gives our minds and bodies time for recovery and repair.

Now, I know some mums are pretty good at pencilling in time out in their diaries for spa days, girls weekends or shopping trips.  I don’t know if you are the same, but I find it really hard to totally relax on these sort of trips – I can’t stop worrying whether X or Y child has done their homework, has their games kit etc.  Then there’s all the preparations before you go, which can just add to your levels of stress and tiredness.

So, over the years I’ve slowly been building up little pockets of self-care in my daily routine.  These encompass the usual things of trying to eat healthily for 80% of the time, getting some exercise in (mainly walking and yoga) and trying to get as much sleep as I can!.

But sometimes, when I hit particularly busy times, feel unwell or overly stressed, these routines aren’t enough.  When we hit the wall, it’s important to listen to our bodies and make big adjustments to our routine and just REST.

These are my tips for helping to get through these tricky times:-

  1. Try to get enough sleep and generally rest.  Having a duvet day with the kids and watching movies does you good and the kids will love having your undivided attention.
  2. Have a break from social media – sorry that’s why there was no meal plan last week!
  3. Ask for help from friends and family.  Being a martyr doesn’t help you to recover and in the long term it can jeopardise your overall health.
  4. Have a bit of quiet time – a long, hot bubbly bath is a good spot for this.
  5. Have takeaway or simple meals and don’t feel guilty about it.
  6. Listen to your body and don’t do exercise if you really don’t feel up to it.  Again, your body will gain far greater benefit from resting than being stressed from over working.

Most importantly, when you are in need of rest and recuperation, don’t get bogged down by thoughts that your energy levels won’t return – they will, but only if you give yourself some self-care.  The cliché quotes of “how can you fill other’s cup if your cup is empty” and “put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others” are true.  By looking after yourself you can truly be there for your family when they need you the most.

Here’s this week’s meal plan:-

  • Roast pork loin with bacon and sage stuffing, roast potatoes and vegies
  • Salmon and pea quiche with salad
  • Chicken stroganoff and rice
  • Ginger poached tuna (or any fish) with noodles or rice
  • Cottage pie
  • Creamy tarragon chicken, roast garlic new potatoes and green vegies
  • Mexican pork stir fry

 

I hope you all have a super Easter Break.  Don’t forget to make time for some self-care this week.

Let me know on the New Leaf facebook page what self-care habits you incorporate in your daily routine.

If you want to keep up to date with the New Leaf blog posts, receive tips and ideas to keep healthy and get free recipes, sign up for the New Leaf Newsletter here.

 

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