Blame it on the Alcohol?

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Image source: pixabay.com

Jamie Foxx’s song “Blame it” encourages blaming alcohol for all ruined relationships, unsafe situations, and perceived enhancement of other’s attractiveness. Outside of the many issues and poor decisions can that can result from a night of boozing, including a high credit card bill, higher risk for accidents, and even a 2am Taco Bell run…there are more. During Covid-19, some are hitting the wine and beer harder.

Let’s review the basics: alcohol interferes with communication between nerve cells and all other cells in the body. Moderation (the amount considered to not contribute to any major health concerns) for the average woman is defined by the CDC as not more than one drink per day and for the average man as not having more than two.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics asserts, “there has been an increase in the proportion of US adults who drink on any given day and an increase in calories consumed from alcoholic beverages when drinking occurs.”

What effect is this having on us from a weight loss perspective? Or a liver-health one?

Now we appreciate the humor some of you bring to our appointments:

“I think I’m drinking enough water. There’s water in beer, right?”

“I’m not too concerned. It’s called a liver, not a die-er”

“Wine-o? Maybe; I prefer ‘wine-yes'”

With alcoholic beverages being among the top five contributors to total caloric intake among US adults, this is something we need to talk about. But beyond calories, here are more reasons to explore your relationship with alcohol:

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Reward ≠ Food

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Patient and client conversations can be a rich source of writing inspiration to address common concerns. As we discuss new changes, cravings, accomplishments and challenges, ideas start to percolate as we work together to find the best solution for the individual. If the same issue is mentioned by different individuals more than three times in relatively short succession, we can almost *feel* the universe tapping on our shoulder.

The latest recurrent theme among us all seems to be regarding emotional eating, over-eating, and reward-eating.

Let’s break this last one down. Why would we associate certain foods with a reward?

    • With thousands of years of evolution working for (or against) us, humans naturally crave sweet flavor. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors would get a little *ping* of dopamine by eating berries and other naturally sweet substances. The brain would reward eating this food, which some argue helped our ancestors survive by promoting fat storage to see them through the leaner times. This survival mechanism is all but unnecessary during the times in which we live, with plentiful food stores and sedentary lifestyles (when was the last time we burnt 2000+ calories a day hunting down buffalo?).
    • An ostensible lack of other options or ideas for rewarding ourselves. We’ve leaned on food to give ourselves a pat on the back after a hard day in the office, for finishing a big project, or to relax after a full day with the kids finally in bed. After many years of this, we may have forgotten how to celebrate our accomplishments without cake, doughnuts, french fries, or chips.

After the sleeve of cookies is finished, there can be a poignant anxiety that settles in. Guilt and shame follow soon after and we feel terrible about ourselves. Then we say “what the Hades, I’m probably never going to lose the weight anyway” and keep going or we decide with firmness and determination, “starting tomorrow, no cookies ever again!” However, we all know how this plays out; the deprivation leads to cravings and the whole cycle begins anew.

When you eat, try eating to nourish your body and experience pleasure. Tying food to your reward-system will unravel advances in your health goals and, here’s the kicker, it doesn’t even work. By the time we are done with the chocolate chip cookie party, we only temporarily feel sated before we either look for more sugar (during the ‘down’ of our blood sugar rollercoaster) or we feel guilty…..which drowns out what ephemeral feeling of pleasure we got from the food in the first place.

By having some non-food rewards instead, or at least sprinkling them into your current routine, you can start to challenge the ‘need’ for something sweet and, instead, ‘treat’ yourself ‘sweetly’ (double puns, couldn’t resist :D). Here are a few ideas to get your started on non-food rewards:

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❄️ Are you Frozen too? ❄️

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One of the great joys of having young kids in the family is letting our own inner child come out to play. With the recent release of Frozen II in theaters, we thought this was the perfect time to relate this to being frozen in our own lives. Elsa the Snow Queen’s super-power is turning objects and people to ice. She can build icy bridges, stop an attack, and probably make ice cream whenever she wants (lucky). But her power has to be controlled. And while Elsa freezes things, we often freeze ourselves.

How we ‘Freeze’ ourselves

How do you relate with being frozen? In what area of life are you stuck? It could be around starting an exercise regimen, decluttering the basement or guest room, addressing the issues in your relationships, writing the book, updating the resume or asking for a raise. It could be in the area of health improvement, where we want to lose weight or become more plant-based, but we just can’t seem to begin or sustain our progress.

And because we are frozen, we just find ways to feel better about it. Sometimes we distract ourselves. Have you ever needed to study for a test and then looked at the messy state of your room and thought to yourself, “there’s no ways I can study in this environment”and then spent your study time detail-cleaning the room? We may distract ourselves with lounging in front of the TV, or spending hours on Facebook or Instagram. Numbing out with sugar, caffeine, smoking, or alcohol are also ways we try to make ourselves feel better about being frozen.

What makes this even worse is we put a layer of shame frosting on top. We start belittling ourselves and ‘wishing’ we were better. “Argh,” we think as we get up from the couch after 4 hours of watching Gypsy Sisters or Netflixing World War II documentaries, “I wish I had more motivation to have exercised today” or “I should have cleaned out the downstairs closet, it’s such a mess.”

Perhaps you can relate to unachieved goals, shame storms, and numbing out. Have you ever wondered what lies beneath?

What causes us to be Frozen

In a word: perfectionism. It sounds kind of beautiful, but it’s actually one of the worst words because of the meaning and effect it has in our lives.

It’s hard to say where our perfectionism comes from, but if you’ve ever grown up hearing someone say to you, “If you can’t do it right; don’t do it at all!,” that could be part of the origin. In essence, we are told that our actions, and even who we are, aren’t worthy unless perfect. What a toxic message to carry around with us in our lives.

Perfectionism tends to either paralyze us into inaction or cause us to go overboard and, consequently, burn out.

Why even start to clean the guest bedroom if we can’t do it ‘perfectly’ and we don’t have the five hours we believe it will take? Well, because you CAN make progress, even with 15 minutes of removing trash, clutter, and boxes. 

Perfectionism with our food usually looks like following a certain diet for a few days or weeks, then falling off the wagon and eating everything in sight. There’s an anti-dote to this that allows for sustainable weight loss; chat with us and find out more.

In short, perfectionism usually causes us to procrastinate, get overwhelmed, and shut-down or ‘freeze’.

What’s the cost of perfectionism? The cost is not getting things done at all, whereas we could have made progress. The cost is our inner peace; we don’t feel at peace when we feel stressed and frustrated by not having the time or ability to do something perfectly. Perfectionism can cost our relationships with other people. If you’ve ever yelled at a child or spouse because of a small mess or because they aren’t cleaning the ‘right’ way (your way) you can see the effect your perfectionism and words have on others. Also – and this is two-fold- if you value keeping your home environment museum-perfect over having your ‘messy’ grandchildren visit or if you feel like you can’t have visitors due to a messy, cluttered environment, your relationships with others will suffer.

Check yourself: next time you find yourself frustrated or overwhelmed by a challenge, look underneath that feeling to see if perfectionism is the undercurrent.

How to get Un-frozen

The power of un-freezing ourselves comes from realizing that progress > perfection. Initially, your belief in that statement will recoil. How could progress be better than that which is perfect? Well, considering the high costs and knowing something will never, ever truly be perfect….progress starts looking really good, right? Excellence, according to dictionary definition is, “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” If excellence means that we can take action, feel good about ourselves, and not get stuck, why would anyone choose perfectionism instead? 

A small step, taken consistently and continuously reaching toward our goal is better than no action at all. Perhaps you remember My 30-minute Morning Routine about how many people create obstacles for themselves to workout when 6 minutes of strength-training in your own home can still help you feel better and see results. But if you don’t learn to change your way of thinking, perfectionism will keep you hog-tied and frozen.

In Frozen II, Elsa’s sister, Anna, seems to display and embody more of the element – fire – in this movie. Here’s where we have an answer to thawing ourselves out and taking action. Fire motivates, it stirs passion, and, if uncontrolled, it will burn everything in its path. So the key here is to find your motivation and use it as the fire to propel you towards your goals, but without going overboard and burning out.

Motivation isn’t usually enough though, so consider other ‘hacks’ such as scheduling your workout. The 4 Tips to Fit in Fitness blog is a great place to start. When it comes to decluttering, check out our experience with the Konmari Method for inspiration and ideas to make it easier.

Want to write a book? Just start writing, imperfectly. A typo is not the end of the world; besides, there are opportunities to review and make edits (or have others do it!). Allowing perfectionism to rule in this area of your life means your story is never shared, in-print or online.

What’s one area of your life where you’re willing to become ‘unfrozen’ and warm up your ‘fire’ to take action?