Micro Change Monday - Week 5

This week, I’m going to focus on a subject that I’ve been trying to avoid talking about – alcohol.    
I enjoy a social drink but would never class myself as a big drinker. Normally, I’d consume 3 pints of beer once or twice a week, normally on a Friday and/or Saturday and very rarely drink at home.  Of course, sometimes a weekday will creep in if a big football match is showing in the pub, and sometimes it will be more than 3 pints. But, generally speaking it is around 3 pints once or twice per week, so on average I’m consuming no more than the recommended maximum of 14 units per week, with plenty of alcohol-free days in between.  
As I am normally a social drinker, when lockdown was initially introduced, I found that I wasn’t drinking alcohol at all. However, as lockdown progressed and days blurred into one another I found myself purchasing and drinking more alcohol for home consumption than I ever had before.  A couple of beers on a Friday evening to signal the start of the weekend turned into Saturday and Sunday as well. Soon, my mindset was “Thursday evening is nearly the weekend, so I’m allowed”, then “Wednesday is nearly Thursday” and so on. I’m only having one or two drinks at a time, but I’m now drinking alcohol more evenings than not.  It’s almost as if my evening drink now signals the end of the working day, rather than a social drink to celebrate the start of the weekend.  
None of this was particularly conscious and I didn’t really see a problem until I thought about it in more detail.  I realise the regularity of my drinking, even in the relatively small amounts I’m consuming, have formed an unhealthy habit and I need to make a change before it becomes more of a problem.
As I seem to be grabbing a beer from the fridge at the end of my working day, I feel I need to replace this habit with something less damaging to my health.  However, thinking of what this change will be  has been a challenge.
Initially, I thought I’d offer myself a coffee instead. But, as I already have around 3 coffees during my working day, I’m already consuming plenty of caffeine and I’m worried I’ll associate it with work, rather than relaxation. Another idea was to ensure I go for a short walk at the end of my working day to signify the start of the evening. However, I feel I may see this as a chore and as a task I must complete before I can relax, rather than allowing me to relax by completing it. It probably wouldn’t discourage me from having a beer once I’d finished walking.
So, I’ve settled with what I believe to be the lesser of two evils; I’m going to allow myself 1 or 2 squares of chocolate at the end of my working day from Monday to Thursday, rather than consuming alcohol. I will still allow myself a drink the rest of the time. Hopefully, this will allow me to have a drink on a Friday or Saturday to celebrate the weekend and discourage me from drinking during the week.  
As always, I like to attempt my weekly micro-change and attempt to quantify my findings prior to posting my blog each week. So, here come the numbers:
Using a calorie counting App, I tracked my alcohol intake for a week before making my micro-change. I found that I consumed 9 pints of beer over the week with only one day free from alcohol.  This was only 1 or 2 drinks each evening, but I was surprised to learn that each beer contained 3 units of alcohol as well as over 200 calories.  This means I consumed a concerning 27 units of alcohol (well over the recommended maximum of 14 units per week) as well as an additional 1,800 calories.  
The following week, I replaced my alcohol on Monday-Thursday with a square (or two) of chocolate at the end of the working day (each bar has 5 squares, so on Thursday I had 2). Interestingly, there are the same amount of calories in the whole chocolate bar as there are in a single pint of beer, around 200. I must admit, I found this very easy to implement and noticed myself looking forward to the chocolate treat, with little or no thought of having a beer instead or as well as. When Friday arrived, I enjoyed a couple of pints in the evening, but didn’t consume any alcohol on Saturday or Sunday. Whether the lack of drink over the weekend was a conscious effort or merely a subconscious start to breaking an unhealthy habit, I am unsure. However, either way, it was very positive as I simply didn’t want a drink, even though I’d allowed myself to consume alcohol at the weekend if I fancied it.  

So, compared to 27 units and an additional 1,800 calories from alcohol, I am now consuming 6 units and just 400 calories from alcohol, plus an additional 200 calories from the chocolate bar.  This is a saving of 21 units of alcohol and 1,200 calories each week.  Over a year, this works out at a saving of 1,092 units of alcohol and a staggering 62,400 calories. That’s the equivalent of 17 lbs of fat!

All of this is achievable by simply allowing myself some chocolate at the end of the working day instead of a beer. Simple really.  
To read about my other micro changes click on the links below
If you would like some support to make healthy lifestyle changes One You Lincolnshire can support you to become Smoke Free, help you to Drink Less, Move More, Eat Well and Lose Weight. For more information see https://www.oneyoulincolnshire.org.uk/lincolnshire-residents

Chris Laming, Physical Activity Coach

June 28, 2020

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