Overeating and Alcohol
You don’t have to be an alcoholic to abuse alcohol in a way that exacerbates eating problems. All you have to do is drink enough to lower your inhibitions, and your desire to eat when you’re not hungry or overeat past full will take over by itself. There’s no question that alcohol is a relaxant that smoothes out your rough edges after a hard day at the office or with the kids. There’s also absolutely nothing wrong with taking a drink now and then to chill out and unwind.
However, if you have difficulty relaxing without an external substance and begin to rely on alcohol and food in tandem to do the job, you’re headed for trouble. Let’s say you come home from work on a Friday night after the week from hell. You’re tired, grumpy, wound up, and looking for instant comfort. What’s easier than pouring yourself a tall one to get the kinks out? After one drink, you’ve loosened up enough to enjoy the feeling and want to hold on to it, so maybe you fix yourself another. Letting go is both the good and bad news about alcohol—the fact that it lowers your inhibitions helps you relax but also hampers your judgment.
So there you are on Friday night. Because alcohol acts as an appetite stimulant (and because it’s probably past dinner time by now), you’re hungry and go searching for food. Your judgment may be slightly impaired, so, in starvation mode, you grab anything that’s edible, within easy reach, and can be consumed on the spot. With lowered restraint, you overlook how much you’re eating and continue until you’re numb and zoned out. Between alcohol and food, you finally achieve the fog you’ve been yearning for all week—total unconsciousness (perhaps literally, more likely metaphorically). You’re stuffed and feeling no pain except in your strained belly muscles. Perhaps you even allow yourself to get tipsy in order to overindulge your favorite foods and not feel guilty—in the morning you can always blame your binge on cloudy judgment.
If the above scenario sounds remotely familiar, it’s time to take a look at your drinking pattern because it may just be adding to your food problems. Be honest. Does overindulging in drinking lead you to overeating or to eating when you’re not hungry? Do you look to alcohol and food to relax you together? Are you in the habit of coming home and drinking and eating to zone out? Do you look forward to these activities? Do you drink so you can eat without guilt? If so, consider that drinking may be part of your eating problem and that you won’t become a “normal” eater until you change your alcohol habits.