Two Weeks Without Wine
Published on February 17, 2014
by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

Two Weeks Without Wine

Published on February 17, 2014 by Dr. Caitlin Gordon

wine glasses cheersThis turned out to be easier than I anticipated. During the week, I rarely missed having a glass of wine with dinner or after getting home from a long day. There were some momentary pangs of “oh, a glass of wine sounds nice”, or “mm happy hour”, but these urges lasted 15 or 20 minutes at most. I noticed that my sugar cravings increased sharply when I cut alcohol. My guess is that alcohol is a crutch to get my sugar fix. I had suspected this, but going a couple of weeks without it confirmed that alcohol feeds my sweet tooth. I did eat a few too many sweets the first week off wine before I realized that I was substituting one with the other. Week two, I managed to keep things in check by munching on Raw Balls and drinking fruity tea when I wanted Hershey kisses and ice cream. I also started hiking, going on a run, or going to the gym when I was craving wine and/or sugar.

I replaced wine with exercise and it worked. I thought I was going to have less time to exercise, but it turns out that drinking wine and the associated activities (Netflix, snacking, gossiping, lying on my bed cuddling my dog, surfing the web) are actually quite time-consuming. I made the time to get outside, even just for a 30-minute run. Exercise moves stuck energy. It increases circulation, releases endorphins, and has that calming effect that a glass of wine can have on fried nerves. It might be a little more work to go out for a 30-minute run or walk, but your waistline and mental health will prove it’s worth it. As I mentioned in 9 Reasons I am Doing a Wine “Cleanse”, from the perspective of Chinese medicine this makes perfect sense.  Alcohol in small amounts can actually have a beneficial moving effect on the liver system. Because stressed out and inactive people tend to have stagnation in their liver systems, a little alcohol can have a similar short-term effect to exercise by relieving some of that stuck energy and making us feel more relaxed and calm. This explains why we often want alcohol when we feel stressed. We are craving that movement of blood and energy so we feel relief! Exercise is the healthier alternative in the long run, unless you regularly only consume 1-2 servings of alcohol daily, and are not prone to liver heat. See your acupuncturist to determine if alcohol in small amounts is likely to be harmful or beneficial to your individual system. No alcohol, plus more exercise resulted in losing 3 lbs in a week (the 2nd week, when I wasn’t replacing wine with sugar).

The most difficult part was being around friends who were drinking. I only found myself in this circumstance twice, which is probably why I had an easier time than I expected. Once was at home: my boyfriend and my roommate decided to open a bottle of wine and have some with dinner. It sounded delicious, but I feel like my past exercises in willpower (e.g. resisting sugar for three weeks) helped prepare me. There is a deep sense of satisfaction in overcoming temptation. The second instance was going out for sushi on a double date. My boyfriend and my friend’s boyfriend were drinking sake, but my friend and I were both staying off the sauce. Having a buddy to do this with will help keep you on track! We jokingly cheers-ed with our water and talked about how great it would be to wake up feeling refreshed the following day. It was still a little sad. Interestingly, I found that I got a similar buzz just hanging out with good friends and laughing and eating good food that I got off a few glasses of wine. Natural highs are a gift! Not to mention I had an incredibly productive Saturday, while my boyfriend laid in bed until 11 am with a headache.

Overall, I succeeded in surviving a very busy couple weeks without wine. I felt even-keeled, used my weekend time productively, slept better, and lost weight. I wasn’t lazy, I didn’t get sick, and I felt validated that my relationship with alcohol is healthy without compulsive or addictive tendencies. I found a healthy alternative (exercise) and focused on communicating my feelings instead of distracting myself with a glass of wine. I had two glasses of wine on Valentine’s day and thoroughly enjoyed it. I plan to go back to my normal routine of having a glass with dinner a few nights a week or a few with friends once every couple weeks, but I feel more aware now of how it affects my system and when it does NOT serve me to indulge (when I have lots of liver fire and stagnation due to stress and frustration from an over-packed schedule). I have started to view wine the same way I would view dessert: it needs to be consumed in moderation and as a conscious choice that will need to be balanced by less sugar elsewhere and more exercise.


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