The Alcohol Calorie Struggle
I mentioned briefly in Monday’s MIMM weekend recap that some portions of the weekend brought on anxiety and emotional struggles for me. Not surprisingly, these were ED-related…specifically to my feelings before and after drinking alcohol.
Since I entered recovery, my relationship with alcohol and its “empty calories” has improved. To this day the number “seven” still sticks out in my head – as in the number of calories per gram of alcohol. I see this number in my mind each time I have a drink. The difference between me now and me two years ago is now I can actually take a sip of a drink, as in I can actually perform the action. I used to be crippled by such fear of empty alcohol calories, and my belief that they’d just pile up on my stomach in the form of fat, that I rarely ever drank. If I did, I had to be STARVING first to do so. My senior year of college, I’d barely eat all day long so that I could go out to the bars at night and drink rum and Diet Coke (gross).
I went from rarely ever drinking, to drinking at restaurants, to drinking a glass of wine with dinner at home if I was REALLY craving it, to the point I’m at now – drinking a glass or two of wine with dinner each night I’m at home, and getting a cocktail or two when I am eating out at a restaurant. As I said in my healthy living blogger “It’s OK!” post last week, I drink every day.
But I still struggle every single time I go outside of my box. What’s outside said box? Day drinking, drinking in any situation in which I lose “count” of how many drinks I’ve had, drinking a cocktail I wouldn’t normally order (like something with fruit juice in it), drinking beer, or drinking over the course of several hours (even if I only have a few drinks during that time). Those are just some examples of alcohol situations that still ignite the flame of ED thoughts in my mind. And that’s a lot of situations that have been popping up more and more as the summer months roll in.
This past weekend I attended a concert where I spaced my drinks out over several hours, some of which were beer. The next day I drank a beer and sparkling wine during the day. Then I went out to eat later that night and had a cocktail and wine. By the time I got to the restaurant to have said cocktail and wine, I was freaking out about the night before and the day drinking that day. The thoughts go something like this: You’re consuming calories with no way of feeling “full” to tell you to stop consuming them. This type of empty calorie goes straight to your stomach as fat. The carbs in the beer are not something you need. You’re going to make this a habit. You don’t need to drink, so just don’t.
My dad handed me the drink menu at Bonefish Grill and asked, “Are you getting a Manhattan?” I took one look at it and burst into tears. Embarrassing…my mom had to go outside with me so we could stand behind the restaurant and I could collect myself and cry it out. How could I want to have a drink with dinner if I’d already drank that day? And I drank the night before. What was I DOING?
Well, I was living! I was doing what I enjoyed. I enjoy unique beverages. I consider myself a “cocktail queen”. I do not drink just to drink. I’d rather not drink at all than drink a cranberry/vodka or a Bud Light. Summer is drinking a beer when you crave it, quenching your craving with that one beer, and moving on afterward. That is normal. What’s not normal is binge drinking, is drinking to just feel the alcohol’s effects and not care about taste, is drinking to the point of being drunk and then staying drunk all day. Do I do any of those things? Have I been doing any of them? Nope.
That paragraph above is essentially what I use to fight ED thoughts whenever they tell me I don’t deserve to have a drink when I want one. Whenever they tell me I suck for drinking when I “just as easily couldn’t”, I tell myself that I am strong for NOT listening to the ED when I just as easily could! And what has happened to me since my fear of alcohol’s seven calories per gram has decreased? Well, a bunch of fat hasn’t piled up on my stomach. My body DOES in fact give me clues as to how much I am drinking. Maybe I don’t feel “full” like with food, but I also am not a bottomless alcohol pit – my cravings disappear, I may start to feel dehydrated or buzzed. All of these are indicators of when to stop drinking, indicators of what is moderation. I DO practice moderation.
So while my anxiety this weekend sucked, I pushed through it. And I came out on the other end the same Caitlin I have been, with a lot of fun summer memories, not just of delish beverages but of special moments with family and friends! After all, isn’t that the most important thing? I find focusing on the people I’m with and the happiness they give me to be a great way to fight ED thoughts, be they related to alcohol, food, or fitness. The people I love are what have gotten me through this journey! So I plan to keep honoring my cravings, trusting my body, and patting myself on the back whenever I do so. My mantra is “I deserve”, and I’m going to keep repeating it to myself, because it’s the truth.
Do you ever struggle with guilt related to the calories in alcohol?
What’s your favorite summer beverage?