When i was in my forties I stopped drinking for three years. I had been working and living restaurants since the age of 20. By the age of 25 i owned a thriving restaurant in Camden Town. The restaurants success was based on the fact that people would leave having had a great time. It was quite unique really, because the food was good and good value, the decor was shabby chic and a good evening would be an evening where the customers ended up dancing on the tables. Back in the nineties it was hard to find a party restaurant with good food. Anyway, looking back, I realise that I inadvertently became dependant on alcohol in my efforts to make those party nights great. My restaurant story is pretty typical as far as self medication is concerned.
Swipe forward twenty years and my life couldn’t be more different, i now wake up at 6.00 am six days a week as oppose to going to bed at 6.00 am. I don’t have a shot of tequila to get me through service i have berries and raspberries to get me through a session!!
In my forties the fun nights in the restaurants became a drag, the hangovers were often, the anxiety was heightened and I was starting to feel unhappy. I wasn’t drinking all the time but i remember drinking for any occasion, good times, bad times, stressful times and I thought, enough is enough! Once i made the decision to stop i had this amazing feeling of relief, a weight off my shoulders. I stopped drinking for three years, I can honestly say the first week was scary but after about three weeks I never missed alcohol. It just wasn’t on my radar. Even though I was surrounded by it, I was serving it to customers, now a jog, a massage, a piece of cake or an occasional cigar was my way of getting into a relaxed mode.
So now in my fifties i’m very conscious of the amount I drink and what I eat and am not shy about talking about it. People think Personal Trainers are completely clean living, I think Personal Trainers are human and many trainers have times when they party and enjoy drink and food without worrying about health and so on.
The key for me is moderation and having tactics to deal with cravings, whether it’s drink or food. Being able to recognise over indulgence is a help. As i said, for me if I haven’t had a drink i don’t fancy one, but if I have got into the habit of drinking then my brain starts seeing alcohol as the norm. The same goes for chocolate and sugar. If we have chocolate in the house, my wife will split into two halves. Her half will last a week, mine will last two days, so i don’t buy chocolate to keep in the house or alcohol, because i know if it’s there, it’s too tempting.
I come from a family who walk into the kitchen and open the fridge door waiting to be entertained. I do it, my dad does it, my son does it. I don’t know what we are expecting to happen but we all do it!
What I find, if I have a sugar craving, another food substitute stops the craving. Fruit like berries works well, but also high protein foods work really well. Protein is good at stopping that hungry feeling. Full fat yogurts, eggs, Pistachios all work for me.
I try and plan my week. I go through phases of Monday to Friday no alcohol, difficult, infact impossible to keep up during lock down. I find if there is a structure to what i eat and drink throughout the week i keep to it. It’s easy for me, cause I am based at home. People who work in offices often find it hard to keep to a routine. I can understand this, chocolate going round the office, drinks with work colleagues, forgetting or not having the time to make a healthy lunch time meal, the stress of the journey to and from work, you need a lot of self discipline to get through a week without falling off the wagon.
Stress and lack of sleep go hand in hand in making the mind and body want for comfort. We all see a glass of wine and something sweet as a fix for all those stressful moments. The problem is the fix is short term and the problem comes back bigger! I know when i have slept badly i’m constantly hungry. This is where exercise can really help. If you can get into a routine of 30 to 50 minutes a day six days a week. The endorphins produced by exercise reduce stress improve the ability to sleep and stop the panic resolutions.
So try and plan your week. Remove temptation where possible, look after yourself, it can be exercise but it can also be meditation or a massage something along those lines. Try and spot in advance the problem times in the week, i suppose it’s like doing your very own food and drink risk assessment.
As i said before, moderation is key. If you do like the naughty foods and drink as I do, try and be aware if you have stopped bossing it and it is now bossing you.