One of the strongest influences on weight management and healthy lifestyle is drinking alcohol. I am not referring to the fact that moderate drinking has been shown to have some health benefits (cardiovascular). Rather, too much drinking adds unwanted pounds and negatively affects the brain, liver, and most other organ systems. So, how do you know if you drink “too much?” One of the simplest ways to begin to find out is to take a screening test, such as the RAPS4. Here it is:
1. During the last year have you had a feeling of guilt or remorse after drinking?
2. During the last year has a friend or a family member ever told you about things you said or did while you were drinking that you could not remember?
3. During the last year have you failed to do what was normally expected from you because of drinking?
4. Do you sometime take a drink when you first get up in the morning?
A “yes” answer to at least one of the four questions suggests that your drinking is harmful to your health and well-being and may adversely affect your work and those around you.
If you answered “no” to all four questions, your drinking pattern is considered safe for most people and your results do not suggest that alcohol is harming your health.
You also may have a problem if alcohol is causing or aggravating any specific health problem or lab test.
Here is a more detailed online test, developed by Johns Hopkins University Hospital.
What should you do if you think you might be drinking too much? Well, you can cut down by setting an upper limit of drinks per day and days per week. Or, you can try going alcohol free for 2 months or so and see how you feel after this experiment before deciding whether and how much to drink in the future. If either of these experiments is too difficult, strongly consider getting an evaluation from an alcohol counselor or therapist.
To end this post on a lighter note, here is a comprehensive review of cures for hangovers, from The New Yorker magazine (May 26, 2008). Bottom line: there is little scientific evidence to support any of the claims, but it seems alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water helps in several ways: less alcohol consumed, fewer calories consumed, less chance of dehydration (which alcohol consumption can cause).