When you’re as passionate about beer as I am, it can be difficult to find balance. But, to live life to its fullest, balance is exactly what you need. Many times I’ve found myself in need of a balance check. What I’ve found is that my quality of life is better when I’m taking good care of myself. By staying healthy, I can look forward to a long life that includes the things I love; including beer. If you can find that equilibrium between what your body wants and what your body needs, you can be a healthy, happy beer drinker.
You may be drinking too much if you can have a couple of beers and not feel it. A high alcohol tolerance will keep you from suffering some of the short term effects of alcohol, but won’t save you from the long term consequences. Moderate alcohol intake can actually have some health benefits, but there are very real dangers that come with heavy drinking. Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol can increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver, and some cancers. It’s also a good way to gain some excess weight. So how do we drink the beer we love and still keep ourselves healthy and happy?
Create Healthy Habits
I’m not going to lie to you. Initiating healthy habits isn’t easy. It requires motivation and a lot of discipline. Visualize the goal and keep it in your mind. It will get easier, but it takes at least 2 months to form a habit. That requires commitment, and the challenge doesn’t end there. Each time we find a reason not to do what we’ve committed to doing, we erode the routine. It takes double the effort to get back what we’ve lost as it does to simply maintain. So, be very careful with excuses.
If you want to drink beer, you need to keep your body moving on a regular basis. That means doing something every single day to get that heart rate up and break a sweat. If you only have time for a 15-30 minute session, do it! Don’t let a day go by without some kind of activity. Put it in your schedule just like any important appointment you can’t miss. Stuck at home? Run up and down the stairs in your house, do jumping-jacks, or push-ups. The higher the intensity, the less time you need to spend. Remember, this isn’t just about burning fat and calories. It’s also about increasing your cardiovascular health.
When it comes to exercise, I like to mix it up. My gym membership is one of the best investments I’ve made. It’s a good place to start, but I don’t want to be at the gym every day. I need to get outside! I highly recommend outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, or biking. Being out in nature is good for the soul! On the days I don’t go up to the mountains or to the gym, I do a 30 minute walk around my neighborhood.
It’s awesome to find something you enjoy doing, but don’t expect to love every second of it. There’s not much I’d rather do than go snowboarding or mountain biking, but it still takes effort. When I’m tired, I think of the beer I have waiting for me in the cooler at the finish. I watch the clock while I suffer through my spin class at the gym, but no matter how hard it is to get it done, I always feel so good afterwards. Exercise gets a lot of good chemicals pumping through your body, no drugs needed!
Watch What You Eat
It would be great if exercising all the time meant you could eat or drink as much as you want. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. A healthy diet isn’t something you can get around. There’s no “life hack” for that. Beer has a lot of calories considering how easy it goes down. It varies, but most 12 ounce beers are going to be around 200 calories (more if they’re malt heavy or have a higher ABV). That’s 10% of a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet! So, if you drink a few beers, you won’t have much left for food. Starving yourself so you can drink beer isn’t such a good idea.
If you’ve never tried it, I recommend keeping a food diary for a while. There are plenty of apps available these days to help you. It’s eye opening when you realize how many calories you’re actually taking in. You may find yourself making better choices. I’m not one for low-carb, gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, vegan, or vegetarian diets. My Mom always taught me to eat the four food groups and to practice moderation. Eat more fruits and vegetables than meat and carbs and keep the sugar intake down. Too much of anything isn’t good. Pretty simple.
When it comes to beer, keep in mind that you’re getting a dose of sugar (in the form of alcohol) and carbohydrates. I’ve been known to eat a plate of chili cheese fries and a beer for my ski lunch. That’s a huge pile of carbohydrates and calories for sure! I can’t ski enough to make up for that. It’s ok to splurge from time to time, but that’s not going to be a good long-term diet.
Moderate Alcohol Intake
The USDA defines moderate drinking as no more than 1-2 drinks (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of hard liquor) for men and up to 1 drink per day for women. Yes, we ladies do have to be more careful! It’s very easy to drink 1 or 2 a day and then drink a few extras on the weekend taking us out of that moderate zone. The ritual of drinking every single day can make it easy to cross that line. It works better for me to reserve my drinking to weekends only. That way a daily habit doesn’t set in, and I can enjoy my beer that much more when the weekend comes around. Also, it is beneficial to drink with meals and avoid binging.
If you feel like you may be drinking too much, consider abstaining for a month. It’s a way to reset your behavior and start over. Get that alcohol tolerance down, and get out of the habit of regular drinking. You may even lose a few pounds! If you have been abusing alcohol, get the assistance of a doctor as the withdrawals can be deadly.
The life of a beer drinker can be joyful! Exercise some restraint and offset your drinking with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Do that and you can have your beer and drink it too!