What is "Low-Risk" Drinking?
In this episode of the “Alcohol Minimalist Podcast,” Molly discusses the pivotal role of science, particularly neuroscience and neurochemistry, in understanding alcohol’s impact on the body and mind. She encourages listeners to view science as a dynamic process of discovery rather than a static collection of facts. Addressing misconceptions about alcohol’s perceived health benefits, Molly emphasizes the importance of making informed decisions based on research and highlights the limitations of scientific studies on alcohol. The episode concludes with practical advice on setting limits, understanding blood alcohol content, and creating a mindful approach to drinking.
Hey, it’s Molly from alcohol minimalist. What do you do in this October? I would love to have you join me in my more sober October challenge. What do I mean by more sober October, it simply means that we’re going to add in more alcohol free days than you currently been doing, whether that’s one or two or 31. It’s up to you, you get to set your own goal and that’s why it’s more sober October. You can check it out and learn more at get got sunnyside.co/molly It’s totally free. I’ve got prizes, I’m going to be going live every week to announce the prize winners. And it’s just going to be an awesome event. So I would love to have you join me. You can learn more at get.sunnyside.co/molly and you can get registered today. Welcome to the alcohol minimalist podcast. I’m your host Molly watts. If you want to change your drinking habits and create a peaceful relationship with alcohol, you’re in the right place. This podcast explores the strategies I use to overcome a lifetime of family alcohol abuse, more than 30 years of anxiety and worry about my own drinking, and what felt like an unbreakable daily drinking habit. Becoming an alcohol minimalist means removing excess alcohol from your life. So it doesn’t remove you from life. It means being able to take alcohol or leave it without feeling deprived. It means to live peacefully, being able to enjoy a glass of wine without feeling guilty and without needing to finish the bottle. With Science on our side will shatter your past patterns and eliminate your excuses. Changing your relationship with alcohol is possible. I’m here to help you do it. Let’s start now. Well, hello and welcome or welcome back to the alcohol minimalist podcast with me your host Molly watts, coming to you from an absolutely gorgeous Oregon. I don’t know what to say, folks, but it’s probably been five weeks that we’ve suffered through some pretty miserable rainy weather and the past two days 70 degrees, sunshine, absolutely glorious. You can hear it in my voice. I love it around here when it’s like this. And I really hope it just sticks around. By the time you’re listening to this. It’ll be you know, the beginning of June. And I’d like to say that I’m I’m just past the rain in June. So anyway, welcome or welcome back. Before we get started, I have a prize winner today. As a reminder, if you want to be eligible for some alcohol, minimalist swag, all you have to do is go to wherever you listen to this podcast and leave a review or go over on Amazon and leave or Amazon or any other place actually that you might pick up the book there. It’s available on lots of various e retailers. And if you leave a review of either the book breaking the bottle legacy or a review of this podcast, you will be automatically entered to win. And today’s winner is J Crohns. J Crohns. You left a review of the book on Amazon super appreciate that. And if you would please email me Molly at Molly watts.com. Let me know that you are J crowned and I will send you out your alcohol and most swag. All right. A reminder also before we get started on this week’s episode over on my website, www dot Molly watts.com. That’s Molly with a why and watts with an S, there is a page dedicated to recommended resources. The address is actually WWW dot Molly watts.com/resources. And if you go there, you will find so many tools to support you and help to create this peaceful relationship with alcohol that I talk about all the time. There are free resources like my ebook, alcohol truths, how much is safe. And then there are outside resources I recommend like books, tools, programs from partners I trust and those partners that I’ve personally vetted. There are links to organizations like the NIA like moderation management, and more. And if you are wanting needing additional support, I just invite you to check it out. www dot Molly watts.com/resources. Okay, on to this week’s show. This week I wanted to talk with you about what I mean when I talk about low risk drinking. I want to clarify for you clarify for you. Let’s let’s be clear when we say clarify how Although it might be different than mindful drinking, or moderate drinking, and I want to share why it’s been an important part of the peaceful relationship with alcohol I have. So if you’ve been listening to this show for any length of time, you have probably heard me share some science based information. You’ve heard me talk about my love of science, my inner science nerd who really values and uses science in my life as a compass for a lot of the different areas of choice in my life. I think some people may hear a disconnect between science and mindfulness, meaning that mindfulness invokes more of a spiritual meditative construct, listening to your body and brain being more aware, which certainly is one way of being more mindful. And it’s definitely important and an important part of creating a peaceful relationship with journey. Well, I’m having a I’m having a time this morning, it’s definitely a part of creating a peaceful relationship with alcohol. For me, mindfulness also includes becoming more educated and informed, which, when it comes to alcohol has to include science. I don’t think we can get fully in tune and aware of our bodies and brains without learning more science. It’s one of the reasons that this podcast puts a lot of emphasis on science, including neuroscience and neuro chemistry. Now, here’s the thing about science. Science is both a body of knowledge and a process. In school science may sometimes seem like a collection of isolated static facts listed in a textbook, but that’s only a small part of the story. Just as importantly, science is also a process of discovery, and allows us to link isolated facts into coherent and comprehensive understanding. From the Encyclopedia Britannica, quote, science is any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world, and it’s phenomena, and that entails unbiased observations, and systematic and experimentation. In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge, covering general truths, or the operations of fundamental laws. What I find interesting about this definition is that it actually says general truths with an S. I think it’s important to hear that because one of the things I’ve shared here on the podcast is the limitations of research and science when it comes to alcohol. It’s also why I titled my ebook, alcohol truths, not truth. using science to guide your decisions around alcohol is a fundamentally good strategy. But not if you don’t understand the limitations of that science. I talked about this specifically back in episode number 31, using science to guide your alcohol decisions, which I’ll be linking here in the show notes. And there’s another foundational episode on using science way back in episode number two, where I talk about why science can be one of the challenges to your own power to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. And I’ll link that here as well. Now without going into another full blown conversation, I but I also know that there are a lot of new people finding this podcast all the time. I will simply say that if you are holding on to headlines like drinking red wine provider prevents heart disease, or maybe something like this one, I found people who consume red wine between one to more than five glasses a week had a 10 to 17% lower risk in contracting COVID 19. But beer drinkers had a heightened risk, according to a recent study. That is a true headline I found folks by the way, if you are using these kinds of headlines to justify your nightly drinking habit, that I really want you to listen to this. These kinds of headlines are simply put, not true. They are not giving you a full understanding of these kinds of studies. And most importantly, they don’t provide any balance for the risks associated with including alcohol in your life. What is 100% true is that no one should be adding alcohol to your life for any perceived health benefits. There is no health benefit to drinking alcohol that can offset the increased physical health risks of drinking. I want to say that again, there are no health benefits that outweigh or offset the known physical health risks of drinking alcohol. And that any of those perceived health benefits can actually be achieved by other safer dietary and lifestyle changes. Now, this isn’t to say that there are no benefits to drinking alcohol. But those benefits are not improved physical health and the benefits quote unquote, which might include social benefits and some mental mood benefits come only from the limited or low risk limits for alcohol, which we’re going to talk about. But even those can also be achieved without alcohol at all. So let’s make sure that we understand and are accountable for our choices. Hey, everyone, just a quick break here in the show, to talk with you about sunny side. Sunny Side has partnered with me and I am super excited to share this company with you. I’ve actually had the founders on the show before and I will link that in the show notes. So you can hear a little bit from them. Sunny Side is an app that helps you cut back on your drinking or simply build healthier drinking habits. I have watched the company grow over this last year and I’m so impressed. They are deeply mission driven. And they are building a service to help millions of people create a healthier relationship with alcohol. And they’re doing it without the pressure to quit or feel guilty. So of course, you know it aligns with everything I talk about here at alcohol minimalist. Think of Sunnyside as a digital coach that helps you set the plan for the week, and provides tools to track your drinks and measure your progress. All while using proven behavior change techniques to create a lasting habit change. It’s super easy to start super easy to stick to. And it includes a 15 day free trial. So you can test it out. Really it’s worth checking out, head on over to sunny side dot CEO slash minimalist to get started today. So low risk, what does that even mean? Well, I want to be really clear about this too, because sticking to low risk drinking limits is not a guarantee that you won’t experience negative consequences from drinking. Low Risk isn’t no risk. But for me, it’s the current level that I’m comfortable with. And a level that allows me to have a peaceful relationship with alcohol, the numbers for women under the age of 65 and who are in good health. Now, that’s a you know, good is a subjective term, right. But if you have known disease states like diabetes, like high blood pressure, if you are taking antidepressants, these are all things that are contraindicated for drinking alcohol, all right. So you would not be considered to be in good health, if you have any of those diseases, you know, chronic disease states or if you are taking any type of medication that may be have negative interactions with alcohol. All right. But let’s just say you’re under the age of 65. And in good health, no more than seven standard drinks in a week and no more than three standard drinks in any one day for men again under the age of 65 who are in good health, no more than 14 standard drinks in a week and no more than four standard drinks at any one day. Here’s what the N i A says about these levels of alcohol consumption. And I a research shows that only about two in 100. People who drink within these limits meet the criteria for alcohol use disorder. Even within these limits, people can have problems if they drink too quickly, or if they have other health issues. So low risk limits in no way can guarantee that if you drink three to four drinks, which is the you know the no more than in any one day. If you drink three to four drinks really quickly, it there is no guarantee that you won’t be at increased risk of negative consequences like accidents, injury, increased anxiety or anxiety, disrupted sleep potential for interpersonal conflicts. What is happening for most people at three to four drinks, it is raising their blood alcohol content past the threshold of therapeutic which as a reminder is 0.055% and honestly for most people three to four drinks is going to put their BAC well beyond 0.055 and quite possibly past the legal limits for driving which in most states is 0.08 and you could be definitely and below even 0.08 You’re still considered legally impaired folks. By the way if you’re over point 0.06 And for most people, even with time in between drinks, it will take five hours For your blood alcohol content to go back to zero after you stopped drinking. Now, remember, I’ve talked about it before that every time you drink, it’s like your own personal petri dish. I know that’s a lovely a lovely comparison. But it’s true. Your individual reaction to your drink up to how much you’re drinking will depend on your gender, your weight, how much you’ve had to eat, how tired you are, to how tired you are, your body temperature, the external temperature outside how stressed you are, and other factors that will affect how your body processes each drink you have. But for most people, if you drink three or four drinks, even if you pace yourself, even if you follow that well known idea of wondering per hour, because that’s how much the liver can process. This does not mean that your blood alcohol content will be at a level that doesn’t put you at risk. Drinking three drinks for a woman in a day, and four for a man. This number is really just a backward extrapolation from the definition of binging from the NIA A, which is for women is four or more drinks and for men is five or more drinks. So to not hit the binging level, right four and five, you have to stay below that which is where we get that one for three from from women and four for men. It’s literally just one less of what is allowed to not be considered binging. But it could definitely put you at risk for a mean for putting you into risky behavior categories based on an increased blood alcohol content. In his book, drink, the new science of alcohol and your health by Dr. David Nutt, he clarifies to reduce the risk. And this is a quote from that book, and I will link it here in the shownotes. Folks, if you haven’t read it, it’s one of my favorites. To reduce the risk of alcohol related harms the 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation, quote, unquote, up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, and only by adults of legal drinking age. This is not intended as an average over several days, but rather the amount consumed on any single day. The guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason. So to be truly low risk, you just can’t think to yourself, Okay, seven drinks per week. I’ll do Monday through Thursday, alcohol free. And then on Friday, three, Saturday, three and Sunday one. If you’re drinking more than that right now. Okay, then yes, progress over perfection and better is better. But ultimately, we need to be conscious of how we’re drinking, when we are drinking, and being sure to stay in tune with our bodies and what’s going on in terms of all those factors, food fatigue temperature. And at least for me, I can tell you that I’m continuing to evolve my own mindfulness and awareness around alcohol. I think that’s where the science and the mindfulness combined, the less I drink over time, the more aware I become of the trade offs. On the days I do choose to have that third drink, I can genuinely feel the difference the next day, I can tell from my sleep, I can tell from a heightened sense of anxiety in my mood is just a little more depressive. What is great about it is that luckily, I’m also becoming a better Mind Manager now. And that is when that you know when I sense what is happening. I also work on not being too critical and judgmental of myself. One of my favorite phrases for so many of these observations, my brain likes to make observations, like I didn’t sleep very well, I’m feeling tired. I just tack on the phrase at the end, and that’s okay. Or I’m feeling more anxious than normal. I feel a little shaky, I feel tense. And that’s okay. It helps for me to remind myself that I can handle this feeling. I know why it’s there. And it helps me build desire to avoid it by not having the third drink the next time. Just a side note, this is one of the chief skills of becoming a better Mind Manager and that is just not letting your brain create drama with your thoughts. Less drama equals better life. Even when the circumstances of your life are challenging, less drama, less dwelling in the problem. more focus on the solution is where you want to direct your thinking. Sorry, I digress. To recap, low risk drinking levels are outlined by the NI a and they are based on levels that will help most people avoid meeting the criteria for alcohol. Use Disorder, but even the maximum daily threshold of three to four drinks for women. And I mean three drinks for women and four drinks for men respectively, do not necessarily ensure low risk, especially depending on how fast those drinks are consumed. Part of my journey to become an alcohol minimalist was to learn to use data to use the science to help me rewrite some of the stories I held on to for years regarding alcohol. Low risk drinking is important to me because I want to mitigate risk. Because worrying about whether my drinking was at unsafe levels for years caused anxiety that I lived with for years. I understand the risks now I understand the science of alcohol and how blood alcohol content impacts my brain. And why drinking more than one to two drinks raises my blood alcohol content beyond the limit of 0.055%, which is really the threshold for those positive social and mental mood benefits. Up to a blood alcohol content of 0.055% is when alcohol may provide feelings of relaxation, confidence, slight euphoria, contentment, this is what people might describe as feeling a little tipsy, right, the pleasurable effects of alcohol and after a blood alcohol content of 0.055%, which is why alcohol is known as by phasic. In this earlier phase, lower blood alcohol content gives you that pleasurable effect and drinking to a blood alcohol content of above 0.55% does not increase the pleasurable effects, right. So that’s why it’s biphasic to different phases. And instead, negative consequences increase with every increase of blood alcohol content over point 055. When we include alcohol in our lives in a truly low risk way, we can experience the pleasure of alcohol without the pain, it can enhance our social interactions relaxes and add to a special meal or a party. While it’s certainly not necessary to drink to experience any of those effects. It’s also something that as an alcohol, minimalist, I can enjoy. I’m a work in progress, but a peaceful work in progress. I am 100% confident that I won’t return to my nightly three to four drinks a night habit, I am 100% confident that I won’t drink past those low risk limits on a weekly basis. And additionally, I include multiple alcohol free days each week, one alcohol free weekend each month. I’m actually right in the middle of it or I guess at the end of it now, as I am doing this podcast this weekend. And I always include at least one alcohol free month per year. What is so different about being a real alcohol minimalist is that I really value my alcohol free days, I pay attention to how I feel. I uncover old habits and thoughts that still want to pop up about alcohol. By the way when I’m having an alcohol free weekend or an alcohol free day. And I observe them. I’m curious about them. I noticed them and I bring them into my conscious mind and I question them. Low risk drinking is a great goal. It’s progress for most people. It certainly was for me, it’s progress when we aren’t even aware before of these limits. And then we become aware and we understand how they are determined. Wherever you are in your relationship with alcohol. I hope that you use these low risk limits to guide your plans. Make a plan ahead of time. Use these limits to make that plan and let’s work on the stories around alcohol that you’ve never ever questioned. All right, my friends, I hope you are having a beautiful weekend wherever you are. I’m certainly going to enjoy the beautiful sunshine while it’s still here in Oregon. And until next time, my friends choose peace. Thank you for listening to the alcohol minimalist podcast. This podcast is dedicated to helping you change your drinking habits and to create a peaceful relationship with alcohol. Use something you learned in today’s episode and apply it to your life this week. Transformation is possible you have the power to change your relationship with alcohol now, for more information, please visit me at www dot Molly watts.com