Monday, 29 June 2015

Poll: How many alcohol-free nights do YOU have?

So, I may be about to open up a huge can of worms here, or perhaps I'm about to learn that everyone is a lot more chilled out about this than I first thought.
Either way, I'm going on holiday in 4 days, so posting this now is obviously going to make me feel very guilty about the vast amounts of wine I will inevitably consume. Good work, me.

Anyway, I have a question for you: how many alcohol-free days do you have each week? I even created a poll so you can all answer:

How many alcohol-free nights do you have per week?

Poll Maker

Why am I asking? And why might our answers not represent the country as a whole?

It's a simple question, but in the drinks industry and amongst wine/craft beer/gin geeks we generally talk a lot more about what we are drinking, rather than what we're not. It almost feels taboo to ask, which is daft when you consider that as professionals (or enthusiastic amateurs) we're probably the ones with the most knowledge about drinking responsibly. Some of us even had to take exams about it - and we're well aware the government recommends two alcohol-free days per week.

I also get the feeling that the kinds of answers we as a drinksy group would give to this question would be rather different from the responses we'd get if we asked a more general slice of society. Just like if you asked car enthusiasts how much petrol they used per week, or Bake Off fanatics how many cakes they make each week, I think drinks enthusiasts probably partake in their passion a little more frequently than the norm. Right?

But although cars guzzling petrol is bad for the environment and too much sugary, fatty baked goodness is going to mess with you both inside and out, drinking alcohol too frequently is more obviously damaging and concerning. But the guidelines on booze are regularly changing and not always entirely clear - so that's why I'm interested.

My answer

If you want to know the answer I gave, it's something along the lines of "Err... at least one. Two or three if I'm being good."
But I'm happy to say that the rest of the week I'm not exactly knocking it back by the bottle (1 or 2 125ml glasses of wine over dinner with my fiance - plus a cheeky extra G&T, cocktail or glass of wine at the weekend when I'm socialising) but that still sometimes puts me a little bit over the government's recommended weekly intake for a woman.

Not by much at all, though, (I'm giving myself a 'B minus'...) and the truth is it's not the units I'm talking about here.

Little and often vs. Weekenders

I know friends that only drink Friday to Sunday but hit it hard on those nights, and I know friends that regularly drink half a bottle of wine a night. Their actual weekly units might not differ that much, but what does differ is one of them gives their liver at least a couple of days to recover each week. Is the weekend binger the better of the two?

And what about people that do drink in perfect moderation, but don't necessarily enforce alcohol-free days into their weekly schedules? The people like my Grandma who had a G&T at 5pm every day without fail (but nothing else), or my friends in France and Italy whose mealtime/family culture means they don't think twice about pouring a glass of wine with dinner every single night?

Exactly how much damage are they doing, and should we be as worried about them as we are about drinkers who exceed the recommended daily units but do have alcohol-free days?

According to medical research, not having enough alcohol-free days can increase your risk of liver damage, heart problems and cancer. Alcohol-free days also apparently reduce your alcohol tolerance, stopping you from gradually spiralling into drinking more and more, with the obvious problems that might bring.

Are we worried enough?

So should the 'just one glass with dinner' drinkers be more concerned about their lifestyles because they're not having totally alcohol-free days? Or are we (or, at least, am I) stressing out a bit too much about government guidelines, when really we should just focus on being sensible rather than obsessively counting units and scheduling our alcohol intake?

If two alcohol-free days are what we're aiming for, it's obvious that a lot of people aren't being sensible enough, but of course it's possible that some of us just need to focus not only on drinking in moderation, but worrying in moderation too.

What are your thoughts on sensible alcohol consumption? Are you worried? Tell me your experiences in the comments.

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