Dryathlon Part 2

It’s official, I’m over the hump. It’s been 18 days since my last drink, so I’m glowing with health, sleeping better, and full of energy and optimism. Right?

Well no actually. The past week has seen my sleep patterns disrupted. Every morning upon waking I feel like a bear with a sore head who has been awoken from hibernation far too early, and I’m behaving accordingly. To say I’m moody would be a massive understatement. I feel groggy, tired, and have a constant low-level headache.

Plus, I’m not getting that Friday feeling. There doesn’t seem to be a tangible end to the week, punctuated by a nice bottle of Pinot Noir acting as a big, red exclamation mark.

Feeling disheartened, I decide to research some of the benefits of abstaining from the slosh. Perhaps there are subtle changes occurring behind the scenes that I am thus far unaware of.

My first port of call is the Cancer Research UK website. Surely if this concept is their brain child, there will be lots of motivational tools.

I use their sliding scale to work out how much money I’ll be saving in a month by not consuming my usual c. 16 glasses of wine a week. They estimate that I’ve saved £283. I quickly whip out my calculator to check the authenticity of this estimate as it sounds way too high, but at roughly £9 a day, this seems fair enough. Blimey. Nearly three hundred quid. That’s quite a lot.

The scale also informs me that by abstaining from drinking alcohol, I’ll have cut out approximately 22,674 calories. Which is the equivalent of 46 Big Macs.

I can confirm that despite my fuggy head and major grump-on, my mid section is shrinking, and I have lost a few pounds. I put that down to cutting down on the Hobnobs at work and dragging myself out for a quick run every other night, but it would seem that the calorie deficit I’ve created may have more to do with my new found waist than I first thought. Most people (including me) just don’t factor beverages into their daily consumption. If they did, I’d imagine they’d have quite a shock to learn that they are drinking most of their calories.

All this is great and everything, but I still feel cheated. Why don’t I feel better? Perhaps my 1-2 glasses a day during the week and 1-2 bottles of wine at the weekend weren’t enough to have been affecting my health in the first place.

The information about recommended intake is maddeningly muddled. As is the public information about safe limits for driving. Does anyone really know how much booze will push them over the limit? I ask some of my friends.

“A pint” is M’s categorical answer for how alcohol he can consume before getting behind the wheel. When I ask him about recommended intake per day, he is slightly less certain. “2-3 units a day?”, “which is about two Coronas”.

C is a fellow female. “I reckon it’s about one large glass of wine a day, but I don’t drink anything before I drive because I have no idea what the drink-drive limit is.”

Whilst it amuses me that of all the people I ask, men use beer as the official measuring device, whilst women all seem to agree on wine being the icon of choice, what’s not funny is the fact that no one can agree on what is safe to consume whilst driving or how many units fall within a healthy range.

When viewed globally, this confusion proliferates exponentially. No two societies can agree on limits, and the differences are staggering. For example, in Austria men are advised to drink no more than 24g of pure ethanol per day, whereas in Italy it’s 40g*.

Plus, who orders three grams of wine? There are certain mind altering substances one would order using grams (if one were so inclined), but alcohol is not one of them. The only country to have sensible, understandable guidelines is Canada, who have charmingly chosen beer or cider for their motif*.

The laws for drink driving** are every bit as confusing. This is because rather than making a blanket recommendation (our governments love to do this: five a day, veg; eight a day, glasses of water; etc.), the catastrophic outcome of drink driving is frequently both instant and terribly visible. As such, governing bodies are forced to confront the fact that alcohol consumption affects each individual differently. It’s not about how much you have consumed, so much as how your body processes that alcohol.

In other words, Bob could safely drink three pints of lager and drive home in an exemplary fashion, whereas Cuthbert might eat a sherry trifle and drive promptly into the nearest tree.

So it would seem that confusing drink-driving limits are unavoidable. The only sure fire rule is complete abstinence. This would be impossible to implement, due to alcohol content in some medicines and foods, so as a law it’s not sustainable; but as a personal rule of thumb, I think it’s the only way.

* http://www.icap.org/table/Internationaldrinkingguidelines

** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drunk_driving_law_by_country

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