Women on the Verge of a Drinking Problem

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Rebellion Against Rules

For moral support I call my old college roommate, a mother of four who lives in San Francisco, to talk about how our drinking habits have changed since college. (Even though we no longer drink that dangerous 190-proof Everclear-spiked punch, we do drink more often.) My friend confesses that she counts down the hours until dinnertime, when she can open up a bottle of pinot noir, and often ends up having two glasses by the end of the evening. She says it helps her get through the tedious tasks of giving her two youngest daughters baths and reading Bobby Bear's ABC book for the hundredth time. But she worries she may be developing an alcohol dependency and thinks she should drink less.

After learning about the government guidelines, she says she realizes that she has been looking forward to drinking every day more than she should. "I say to myself, 'It's better for the kids since I'm more relaxed,' or 'They say it helps you live longer.' It's easy to latch onto those claims." Funnily enough, though, she has already decided she should limit her consumption to the recommended seven drinks a week. So now she tracks her intake on the dry-erase calendar she uses to manage the family's activities. "In the corner of each box, I write zero, one or two. When the weekend rolls around, I know what I have left."

While I'm impressed by my friend's discipline and planning, I don't like the idea of adopting such a structured approach to drinking. Isn't it supposed to be an escape from my hyper-scheduled days in the first place? I also think such limits might be counterproductive, psychologically speaking. Surely the sentence "you can only have one drink" will make me crave more.

I wish I could report that I forced myself to drink less because I'm concerned about being around longer for my future children. However, it's really vanity -- and the desire to fit into a certain turquoise silk dress that has been taunting me from my closet -- that finally prompts me to shorten my happy hours. Despite weeks of giving up sugar and eating whole-grain everything, I'm still struggling with the zipper.

I know that alcohol is a no-no on most diets. But I've been collecting evidence to bolster my case that a little bit is okay. A study that surveyed the drinking habits and weight history of more than 19,000 middle-aged women found that women who consumed light to moderate amounts of alcohol gained less weight over 13 years than their peers who abstained or drank heavily. Besides, wine and vodka are low carb. And isn't it true that French women drink and don't get fat?

Continued on page 4:  A Weighty Issue


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