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Excessive Drinking And Eating In Lockdown: How Much Is Too Much?
“I wouldn’t normally, but it’s a global pandemic.”
Is this your new approach to drinking alcohol and eating?
During lockdown, 70% of people admit to drinking more. Furthermore, one-third of Brits say they are eating less healthily. With the world turned upside down, it is easy to excuse bad behaviour. It is a way of surviving the stress, anxiety and confusion of the situation. But, when does unwinding in the evening lead to excessive drinking and eating? How much is too much, and what can you do to curb it?
Why Are You Drinking More?
In the UK, one in four claims to be drinking more to cope with the stress of the situation. Others claim to be drinking more due to boredom and loneliness. For many cultures, it has been ingrained to associate drinking with stress – we see it on TV and films that alcohol is a go-to for bad news: “Have a drink, take your mind off it.”
With pubs and restaurants closed, it has also become more important for people to create a pleasant experience at home. For this, a nice bottle of wine has become the moment of the day to look forward to. Similarly, video get-togethers with friends are increasing. These video events include pub quizzes and ‘Happy Hour’, all of which can lead to increased drinking too.
For some people, an alcoholic drink is providing the only structure of the day. This is where that 5 o’clock G&T separates the day from the evening. If you are working from home, then it can be hard to know how to switch off and unwind from work. An alcoholic beverage can be the signifier.
What’s The Cause Of Excessive Eating In Lockdown?
Another trend is that people are eating more due to lockdown. Again, this can be out of boredom. It may also be a way to seek comfort. Often, our brains can associate the feeling of fullness from food with feeling whole. When there is negativity or something lacking from life, then emotional eating is used to fill this gap.
Similar, baking and cooking are growing in popularity thanks to social media sharing. Households (and the internet) have been going crazy for homemade sourdough or banana bread. While cooking and baking are therapeutic, these tasty treats can be too tempting to save, leading to overeating. However, it is again, this form of socialising using social media which is getting so many people making and then indulging. It is a way to feel connected and part of society when you’re feeling isolated.
With two-thirds of Brits also saying they are sleeping less due to worry; it is easy to see why alcohol is used for its sedative effect (even if alcohol actually inhibits good quality sleep in the long-term). It also easy to see why eating is increasing too. A lack of sleep releases more of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. This is why you feel constantly hungry when you’ve slept badly.
Whether as a coping mechanism, a form of socialising or simply something to do, alcohol and food have become a crux and a way to feel good – even if that feeling is temporary.
The Problem With Excessive Drinking And Eating
We all know the health concerns that relate to excessive drinking and eating. From liver disease to Type 2 diabetes, forms of cancer and many other serious illnesses – excessive alcohol and food can be life-threatening.
However, at the moment, many people are not looking to the future and instead just seeking out methods to survive this difficult period. This means that many people are not focusing on what they feel or look like at the moment. This can make many people forget about the health concerns or the damage they are doing to their bodies.
How Much Is Too Much?
If you are drinking a glass of wine every night, then according to UK guidelines, that is too much. So much so that studies have found that drinking over the 14 unit limit a week could shorten your life.
14 of units of alcohol per week translates to either;
- 6 x pints of 4% beer, or
- 6 x medium-sized glasses of wine (175ml), or
- 14 x 25ml measures of spirits.
With UK alcohol sales jumping 22% in March alone and alcohol sales reached £1.1billion in just four weeks – this indicates that many people are drinking more than is healthy right now.
It is harder to measure excessive food as each person is different and, depending on their activity level, will require a different calorie intake. Generally speaking, women should consume around 2,000 calories a day and men should have about 2,500 calories per day.
Signs You Are Drinking Too Much
It can be so difficult to admit to drinking too much. However, here are some key indicators that it is time to reduce your alcohol intake;
- It interrupts daily living
- You wake with a hangover
- It increases your anxiety
- You can’t keep up with your regular responsibilities
- People are becoming concerned, or relationships are strained
- Sleep is disturbed and disrupted
- You have an increased tolerance for alcohol (you can drink more than what would typically get you drunk)
- You have a drinking pattern or habit that is too difficult to stop.
How To Stop Excessive Drinking And Eating
1. Use A Food And Drink Diary
The Drink Aware app is a great way to measure your drinking and record your drink and drink-free days. This can help to make sure you drink no more than 14 units in a week and encourages you to have drink-free days throughout the week.
A food diary or app, such as Cronometer, is a fantastic way of recording everything you eat and drink. This can help to make sure you stay within your calorie limit as well as making sure you’re getting the right levels of nutrients and vitamins through your diet. You can even record exercise too, which will allow you to increase your calorie intake.
2. Up Your Hydration
Water can not only help you to feel full – which may prevent you from snacking unnecessarily – but it can also help to reduce alcohol intake too. Make sure you accompany every alcoholic drink with a glass of water.
3. Use Measures
At home, many people don’t measure their food and drink. This can lead us to eat and drink more than we should. What you think is a small glass of wine, may actually be a large glass by standard definition. Get used to measuring all of your food and drink so you know exactly what you’ve had and can easily keep track for your diary.
4. Find New Ways To Relax
Instead of sinking into the sofa with Netflix and a tub of ice cream or bottle of wine (or both!); find new ways to relax. It can really help to find a hobby that keeps your hands busy, like crafting, writing or sewing. This means you’re less likely to reach for your glass or that packet of crisps. Choose virtual game nights over Happy Hour with friends and get plenty of exercise to boost those feel-good hormones.
5. Create Healthy Alternatives
If these five tips don’t work, then you may want to seek help. I can offer bespoke therapy packages for excessive drinking and eating. All of my therapy is virtual – meaning it is ideal for lockdown. We can video chat via Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp.
During these virtual video calls, we can delve deep into the reasons behind the excess and work out the best tools and practices to help address any concerns and make sure you’re feeling the best you possibly can. If you’d like help, I’d love to chat through your concerns during a free consultation. Email email@example.com to book your first call.