This blogpost is not about weight loss or maintenance, though. Sorry to disappoint – though I’m thinking that if you keep reading, and you think about it, it may actually apply if that’s your goal. Rather, the main point I hope to get across, is that the best time to deal with something is when it’s first starting. The old ‘nip it in the bud.’ When I was at a monthly town meeting last week, organized by S.M.A.R.T., about The Drug Problem (and yes, this includes alcohol), a fun and educational activity was proposed for next August. I pointed out that September is National Recovery Month, so August would be perfect because it’s the month before Recovery, and even better than recovery, is prevention. Yeah, it was funny, but I wasn’t really joking.
I know this may come as a surprise, because I am now training for my 10th marathon (10th if you include two marathons which were the end of the two Ironman triathlons I did), and if you follow me over the years on Map My Run, you will vehemently disagree with this statement – but I am inherently lazy. I know right now my husband is thinking I am totally delusional, since getting me to sit on the couch takes an act of God, but the truth is, I would much rather take the path of least resistance. And all of my physical training, and the hard work I put into other areas of my life – nutrition, parenting, personal development, professional growth, relationships – is basically because I really don’t want to bother with doing really hard work.
When I was pregnant, I continued working out and eating well, because I couldn’t imagine dealing with a lot of postpartum weight to shed; when I had babies, I pushed through really hard times in breastfeeding because making bottles seemed like so much work. I insisted my kids eat well most of the time, and avoid video games, and resist travel sports as long as possible, because dealing with health and focus and social issues, and with a crazy family schedule, seemed like so much work. I spend a lot of money and energy on buying and preparing nutritious foods and supplements, because dealing with preventable disease further down the line seems like a terrible way to spend my golden years. I quit alcohol ten months ago in part because I was uncomfortable with how it was very likely creating a toxic environment in my body and in my brain, and certainly In my soul, and I was afraid that if I didn’t jump off the elevator when I did, I would be forced off it at a much lower floor. And gosh, taking the stairs back up to a better floor is not a climb I want to personally have to endure.
I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. Someone looking at a lot of the stuff I do may think I am super duper motivated, but if you look at WHY I do a lot of this stuff, it’s because I am super motivated to AVOID hard, messy work. I realize that I cannot control everything, in fact there is not much I can control other than my attitude and my choices, but I figure, if I am humbly mindful of that department, then at least I have done my best.
This month (October) is Breast Cancer Awareness month. I ran a 5k a couple of weeks ago related to the cause. As often occurs at athletic events where we train, to improve our health and feel and look our best – there was beer as part of the post-race celebrations. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, because I am certain that the alcohol industry (which has steadily grown over the last ten years in the US, with current sales at $211.6 billion per year), doesn't want this to get out – but it is pretty much proven through all kinds of studies, that drinking alcohol increases your chance of getting cancer. In fact, if a woman drinks as little as three drinks a week (and remember, these are scientific studies so that means normal pours, not your kitchen pour), she has a 15% higher chance of getting breast cancer. So, hopefully you see why I think that breast cancer fundraisers that are in the form of wine tastings or races that are featuring alcohol, are idiotic. I know, it feels good to wear pink and run 3.1 miles for a great cause. And you probably didn’t know about the alcohol and breast cancer (and plenty of other cancers and diseases) link, so I won’t hold it against you. The booze industry doesn’t want you to know. But now you know.
I recently read this really fascinating book: Drink – The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol (by Ann Dowsett Johnston). It’s a combination recovery memoir (she’s an alcoholic in long-term recovery) and public awareness cry. Backed by plenty of studies and quotes from reputable sources including the CDC, Drink points out some facts that I think most of us don’t want to hear. But I hope you’re still reading, so here’s a sampling:
- “If you drink before age 15, you’re four times as likely to become alcohol dependent than those who waited until they were 21; seven times as likely to be in a motor-vehicle crash after drinking; eight times as likely to experience physical violence after drinking; 11 times more likely to experience other unintentional injuries like drownings and falls.”
- “A recent British study reports that the odds of a teenager getting drunk repeatedly are twice as great if they have seen their parents under the influence, even a few times. In fact, the number one influence is the way parents drink.”
- “Alcohol is the number-one date rape drug.”
- “… the culture of normalized heavy drinking is growing… ‘This is not an addiction issue… Addiction is the far end of the spectrum. This is about the impact of alcohol right across society. Lots of harms are coming from those who are not addicted. Periodic, episodic binge drinking leads to acute and chronic problems in society. The problem with alcohol? We don’t acknowledge it as a drug – and as such, we haven’t paid enough attention to it.”
- “Alcohol is where tobacco was 40 years ago. And it’s the same: a massive and powerful industry, cynically promoting its product. There is a ruthless recognition by industry that young people have more access, freedom, and money than ever before – products are designed and marketed, targeting young women to get drunk as quickly as possible.”
- “The US Congress, state legislatures, local city councils, and provincial governments around the world are in the pocket of big alcohol. The alcohol industry employs one lobbyist for every two members of Congress. It gives generously and across political party lines. And it succeeds, over and over again, at blocking evidence-based public health steps to control alcohol problems.”
- “When you consider the science, alcohol is doing the most harm in our society. Unless we start seeing leadership on alcohol policy, our life expectancy will decrease. We should move on taxes, on pricing, on advertising, on the general availability of alcohol.”
- “Let’s face it: when it comes to alcohol, our values are a little fuzzy. We tend to ‘other’ the problem: it’s the rare alcoholic, the drunk driver, the guy on the street corner swigging from the brown paper bag… Actually, only a small proportion of the population are alcoholic. If you eliminated all risky drinking, you would decimate alcohol sales.”
- “Our drinking patterns are not benign. Alcohol consumption creates more harm to others than secondhand smoke. It’s about time we took a hard look at the problems that drinkers cause in their immediate environment and in society at large. This starts with family problems and ends with drunk drivers.”
- “Alcohol is a carcinogen, and the risks of drinking far outweigh the protective factors. For some time there has been a clear causal link between alcohol and a wide variety of cancers, including two of the most frequently diagnosed: breast and colorectal.”
I am going to guess that this will be one of my least-Liked, least-shared blogposts of all time. A friend once told me that she loved and hated me, because I was the one friend who would tell her what she needed to hear, instead of what she wanted to hear. I guess maybe this blogpost falls into that category. Because if you have read this far, that means that you may be (hopefully) a little more aware of the public problem we face today. And this is not a problem that needs to be decided by people who win elections, as much as by whether or not you spend your money and tax your liver on and with something that according to studies, is a growing problem for women in their 40s and 50s who are high-functioning and post really perfect family and vacation photos on Facebook.
Sometimes (actually, often, if not usually), the easier road is actually not the easier road to comfort and ease, but the fastest way to suffering and destruction. I recently heard someone say, “No kid says, I want to grow up to be a heroin addict.” It’s true – I really believe that each and every one of us just wants to feel healthy, energetic, significant, understood, peaceful, loved. And sometimes we think a certain road will give us that, at least in the moment. Reading up to this point, as you have done, means that you have it in you to explore uncomfortable roads, and I will bet you are willing to travel down them if you think they may lead to long-term health and wellness. I know I am far from alone on this road less-traveled, and I hope that you will continue to venture along it with me, ahead of me or behind me, but still on the same road.