Drink or Do Not—There is No Whine

“Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy…”
Benjamin Franklin

In a recent Page Six blurb, Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were “outed” for drinking a glass of wine at lunch within a week of taking on a “no-drinking challenge” hosted by Ladies Home Journal. I don’t know if it was particularly newsworthy or that anyone really cared, but I certainly noticed it. Not because I’m the wine police, nor because I am a fan of their show, but because this is something I see often in my practice and have experienced at times in my own life: many women (in particular) are a little over-attached to wine. Men tend to have different crutches.

I did not say all women all the time and there are certainly those that sit across my desk that enjoy a glass of wine on occasion and for whom it is not a habit. But a large percentage of the women I talk to, want or feel they need a glass of wine at the end of their day to unwind and relax. Sometimes two. On really rough days….? They underreport.

I’ve been there. Wine has been a part of my life too and was my consolation during the roughest days of my divorce. I have eaten, celebrated, cried, communed, laughed and shared some of the most intense conversations of my life over a glass of wine. Okay, a bottle of wine. Looking back, those conversations probably devolved into dribble as we neared the bottom of the bottle, but wine has been a part of some of my best and worst days. From the ceremony of opening the bottle, choosing the right glass for red or white, pouring, swirling and sipping, there is not a facet of wine I don’t love. Oh, except one. It makes me fat.

And I’m not alone.

There is a price to be paid for loving and drinking wine regularly, and the cost often lands on your thighs. In my practice, I work with many women in particular who struggle with every morsel they eat yet end their nights with a glass or two of wine and can’t understand why they are not losing weight. There is a lot of resistance to the suggestion that the wine is part of the problem. While they intuitively know what I am saying is true, they resist that reality because of an attachment to the feeling that wine provides. My job is to help them see what lies on the flip side and come up with a manageable plan that allows them to enjoy some alcohol without it sabotaging their every effort to get slim and healthy. Initially, I get a lot of pushback and it can take some time to get them to make changes around this habit, but when they do, the results are seemingly miraculous.

I learned this firsthand when in 2001 I decided to become a Yoga teacher and signed up for a 9-month certification program that immersed me in the teachings and practice of this ancient art. I became so engrossed in the process that shortly after beginning I made a radical decision. I decided to stop drinking for one year.  At the time I was married to a man that worked in the restaurant business and our recreation was dining out which we did up to four nights a week and all of those meals included on average two glasses of wine, so this felt radical indeed. Despite this, the day after my next birthday I stopped drinking alcohol entirely for one year.  While I still enjoyed lovely high-end meals, traveled, hung out with my friends and even participated in happy hour, I did not drink. And what transpired was nothing short of amazing.

After having struggled with my weight all my life, being mindful of everything I ate, I found that the key was really in being aware of everything I drank.  There was little change in the first three months, but almost immediately after that my weight plummeted. There were moments that I thought that I must be sick with some sort of awful disease because I simply could not keep weight on despite the fact I was giving myself way more leeway on the foods I was eating. I felt great, had more energy and stamina, focus and clarity than ever so I knew I wasn’t sick yet I was thinner than I had ever been in my life. It was awesome. Looking back, I still regard that as one of the best years of my life.

If you feel like you are doing all the right things yet can’t keep your weight inside a range that feels comfortable for you, I encourage you to look at your alcohol consumption and determine if it is serving you or hindering you. If you find that perhaps some change is in order, then you need to come up with a plan. The solution is different for each person. Some decide to limit alcohol to weekends only. Others limit the quantity per evening. Others stop all together and then there are those that change nothing, continuing the battle with food while the answer sits at the bottom of every glass. Me? My personal solution is that I enjoy alcohol only when I travel. That might sound restrictive, but I travel four to six times a year, so it’s really not. And because I drink infrequently, one glass of wine is often enough. I can enjoy all the elements of wine that I love and still wake up feeling great the next day. Best of all, I don’t have to micromanage every bit of food I eat.

I think Benjamin Franklin was right on in his above quote and I am all for the things in life that provide pleasure. Whether it is from great food, good wine, travel, leisure or romantic pursuits, anything that offers joy and comfort in this otherwise crazy world are all great in my book. But if it gets in the way of your personal goals and your day-to-day happiness, then it must be looked at with a discerning eye. Just as you wouldn’t stay in a toxic relationship with a partner, lest it undermine your relationship with yourself, substances that take you away from your center and turn you away from your personal best need to be examined in order to best understand their role in your future.

However you decide to do this, remember that change requires practice. And while you may not be successful straight out of the gate, that is no reason not to keep trying. Every day is another opportunity to create the lifestyle and body you want. All you need is the inspiration and motivation to do it. And what I can tell you for sure is that the inspiration that comes from embracing a lifestyle that delivers vibrant health and vitality far surpasses the immediate yet often remorseful pleasure of wine. By like 100%. I Promise.