Another Round?

December 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm , by

“Let’s grab a drink somewhere.” As a 20-something in New York City (yep, that’s me, right), I’ve heard or said those five words upwards of oh, about a trillion times. But I don’t feel too bad about it. Drinkers have fewer heart attacks and strokes and actually live longer than people who don’t drink at all.

People at bars love talking about this. Try mentioning it at happy hour or a holiday party, and it will make you the most popular person there. But then you’ll have to add that you only get those benefits if you drink in moderation. And you will wish you could just leave that part out because “in moderation” sounds way less fun, especially when you tell everyone what it means. For women, moderation means no more than one daily serving of 5 ounces of wine (not even close to a full glass), 12 ounces of beer or a one-and-a-half ounce shot of hard liquor. Talk about a major buzzkill for everyone’s favorite special, 2-for-1!

When I learned that this was the definition of moderation that all the studies cite, my reaction was similar to how Sarah Elizabeth Richards felt when she was interviewing experts for her piece on women and alcohol in our latest issue. She writes:

“‘That’s it?’ I ask, realizing that I regularly drink twice that amount. I quickly dismiss the government recommendations as overly conservative, in much the same way that I convince myself that a half cup of ice cream isn’t a ‘real’ serving.”

Right! Because, really, on what planet does anyone actually drink like that? I go for a drink after work once, maybe twice a week, and I am not ashamed to say that two drinks is the norm. On the weekends, three is probably my average, but there have definitely been times when I’ve lost count (which I am a little ashamed to say, while writing a blog…at work.) I know I’m not the only one with these habits because all of my friends are the same way. Birthdays, holidays, new jobs, new boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, new shoes, good day, bad day, I mean, you name it. We’ll “cheers” to it.

I don’t drink every day. It’s not like I have a beer at breakfast. And while I should probably cut back a little, limiting myself to one every time I drink just seems impossible.

Thankfully, there is a workaround. To be your absolute healthiest, you should stick to one drink a day. But as long as you don’t have more than three drinks in one day, or seven drinks in one week, you can still consider yourself a healthy, moderate drinker.

My new plan: enjoying two drinks at happy hour during the week is fine, as long as I don’t go to happy hour three times a week or go overboard on the weekends. I can’t say that even this will be easy, but at least now I have a workable goal. How will you spend your seven drinks?

Photo by Julie Bain