Intuitive Eating & Drinking Alcohol
Can I drink alcohol and with Intuitive Eating? How does drinking alcohol fit into Intuitive Eating?
As we approach a holiday weekend, these are the types of questions that I’ve received from my clients. If my clients are asking the questions, chances are you probably have similar concerns about drinking alcohol, too. Am I right?
In this article, we’ll explore how Intuitive Eating intersects with drinking alcohol, and how to determine your healthy relationship to alcohol.
Intuitive Eating & Drinking Alcohol
Intuitive Eating prioritizes a healthy relationship with food and body and choosing to drink alcohol can very much be a part of that…when approached with mindfulness and intention.
Some principles of Intuitive Eating that I’d like to highlight today include:
- Challenge the Food Police
- Discover the Satisfaction Factor
- Cope with Your Emotions, Without Using Food
- Honor your Health with Gentle Nutrition
Let’s take a closer look at each one as they intersect with drinking alcohol.
Challenge the Food Police
The food police is the voice inside your head that judges you for what you do or don’t eat. It might sound something like: “I shouldn’t drink alcohol because it will ruin my diet” or “drinking alcohol is the worst thing I could do for my health.” The voice of the food police is judgmental and thinks in terms of all-or-none (catastrophic thinking).
If you notice your inner food police come up when you drink alcohol, challenge it with compassion, curiosity, and rational thinking. Replace extreme terms like “always” or “never” with “sometimes” or “may.” For example, instead of, “I should never drink alcohol again” replace it with, “I may drink alcohol if I want to and feel comfortable with it.” Note the difference?
Discover the Satisfaction Factor
I love this principle because it invites us to savor our food (and drink), eat what we feel like eating (and drinking) and tune into our internal cues during a dining experience. When we apply this principle to drinking alcohol, we can determine what we actually like or dislike about drinking.
- What do you feel like drinking?
- What makes alcohol appealing to you?
- How does it taste in your mouth?
- How does it make your stomach feel?
As you sip on your drink, make time to appreciate it. Pay attention to the sensation at your taste buds. Enjoy slowly, engaging your senses, and savor each sip! As inspired by the Intuitive Eating Book:
If you don’t love it, don’t drink it, and if you love it, savor it!
Cope with Your Emotions without Using Food
This Intuitive Eating principle is super important when it comes to drinking. Are you using alcohol to soothe, numb-out, or distract yourself from your emotions? What are some non-drinking coping strategies that feel good to you?
With all my clients, we make sure that they have multiple self-care strategies available to them. Life comes with its stressors, and we must have ample strategies to cope in skillful ways. For more ideas on skillful ways to cope with stress, see How to Navigate Emotional Eating.
If alcohol feels problematic when in doubt, seek the help of a medical professional.
Honor Your Health with Gentle Nutrition
The final principle of Intuitive Eating states, “Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy.” You won’t suddenly gain weight or develop a nutrition deficiency from one drink. It’s your average nutritional intake over time that matters most.
Instead of fixating on every single sip of a drink or crumb of your food, zoom out and look at the bigger picture. Within a week, how were you able to care for your body? What food choices felt nourishing to you? Honor your progress, not perfection.
How Intuitive Eating Transformed My Relationship to Alcohol
Before Intuitive Eating, my relationship with alcohol was…complicated. My view of alcohol was wrapped up with diet mentality. If I drank alcohol, I worried about the extra calories. How would I make up for them? I felt guilty about the extra snacking that came with it — late-night pizza (shout out Pizza X) and breadsticks with ranch. How would I compensate for it the next day? Drinking alcohol led to guilt, shame, and worry.
Fast forward to today, my relationship to alcohol feels…balanced, healthy and right for me. With the framework of Intuitive Eating, I was able to uncouple the diet mentality from drinking alcohol.
Instead of fixating on calories, I now focus on nourishing my body as a whole. Sometimes, I drink past my comfortable fullness level, but that’s okay. I’m not perfect, nor am I striving for perfection any longer. I honor my humanness.
Mindful Takeaways for Drinking Alcohol
- Get curious. Replace any judgments that you have around alcohol with curiosity. Ask: What are my intentions behind drinking?
- Listen to your body. Intuitive Eating teaches us to listen to our internal cues around hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. How does drinking alcohol make you feel?
- Remember gentle nutrition. One or two drinks won’t ruin your day or week’s worth of eating. Zoom out and look at the big picture!
- Challenge the food police. When you drink, do you have thoughts around “saving up” or “making up” the calories? Alcohol is not food. Your body still needs nourishment (adequate meals, snacks, and hydration) on days that you drink.
- Intention over perfection. Intuitive eating is not perfect eating. It’s eating in a way that honors your mind, body, and spirit. If alcohol is a part of that, great! If not, that’s great, too!
Reflect on your relationship to alcohol: Where has it been in the past? Where is it now? What feels right to you?
What’s right for you may be different than your best friend and that’s okay! Part of healing your relationship with alcohol might be taking a break from drinking. Or it might be allowing yourself to enjoy a drink in a comfortable setting. Your path will be unique to you. As long as you are honest with yourself and your intentions, you are on the right path.