Confessions of a binge drinker

On the 24th April, my favourite newspaper the Daily Mail reported that binge drinking leads to over eating. I am currently having flashbacks from the week just gone; of enjoyable evenings in the bar, sipping on a few drinks each night, combined with some nice conversation and getting rather stressed with getting my son to sleep……………….and now I am thinking hmmm…………. I wonder how much I did drink on holiday? How many units was in that Mojito?


Now I don’t class myself as a big drinker, in fact I only tend to have a glass or two of wine or something on a Friday and Saturday night.  Me + early get ups + nursery run + work does not go with a drink. I am a sensible person and responsible drinker. I am certainly not a binge drinker (I am frowning as I write this) – I lecture my students about the effects of drinking in excess and what harm it can do. The penny has just dropped.  I am in denial………….Hang on a minute, back to the Daily Mail……………………

The research was commissioned by Slimming World (not exactly sure why? I am wondering what would be in it for them – probably some new low-calorie alcohol range or post-booze snack range they are developing perhaps?) The research itself was carried out by YouGov who, as it turns out collect public opinion data so this is not exactly real research, it’s a survey that can show trends of peoples eating and drinking habits.

But these are their ‘findings’ ………………

50% of the people who said drinking impacted their food choices had also cancelled physical activities the day after drinking more than 9.3 units, equivalent to slightly less than four pints of beer.


They had opted for bed, TV and using social media to stave off the hangover – along with another extra 2,051 calories, on top of their usual diet, the next day.

On the night, they had consumed about 2,829 calories extra in food and 1,476 extra calories in drink, the survey said.

And the following day, the drinkers ate on average 2,051 extra calories.


Alcohol loosened self-control and people who had consumed more alcohol tended to eat at a greater rate and for longer.

Alcohol makes the food even more rewarding. It tastes good and feels even better than it would do normally.

So fair enough, but is this jumping the gun a bit…………….shouldn’t we be more aware of the Calories in alcoholic drinks in the first place? And this brings me to my confession…………..

I drank every night on holiday – this is what I had (from what I remember – it’s not THAT bad!):


  • 3 glasses of wine
  • 6.9 units, 477 Calories, equivalent to 1.6 burgers or 80 mins running needed to burn it off


  • 1 and 1/2 pints lager and lime
  • 1 shot Jagermeister
  • 5.2 units, 445 Calories, 1.5 burgers or 44 mins running


  • 1 pint cider and blackcurrant
  • 1 shot Jagermeister
  • 2 shots Sambuca
  • 5.6 units, 399 Calories, 1.4 burgers, 40 mins running


  • 2 mojitos
  • 1 Jagermeister
  • 3 units, 183 Calories, o.6 burgers, 18 mins running


  • 1 and 1/2 pints lager and lime
  • 1 Jagermeister
  • 5.2 units, 445 Calories, 1.5 burgers, 44 mins running

Total = 25.9 units, 1949 Calories, 6.6 burgers, 3.85 hrs running needed to burn it all off again :-0

Then there’s the snacks we all dipped into……………….3 tubs of Sahara nuts (probably around 300 Calories a tub)  and a packet of crisps (~170 Calories)  OMG this looks so bad!


I would never dream of eating nearly 7 burgers but actually visualising the food equivalents is very effective, even a good deterrent.

This information (units etc) came from the Drink Aware unit calculator – just enter what drinks you had and it calculates the units and Calories for you.  It’s certainly an eye opener – try it!

Now lets just establish what we mean by a binge drink.  

A binge is defined as consuming more than double your daily alcohol allowance in 1 sitting.

So what is my daily allowance?

  • 2-3 units a day for women
  • 3-4 units a day for men

So a binge for me is more than 6 units a day…………………phew I’m not that bad after all I only binged once!! But really, this is not good.  I am surprised by the total Calories more than anything and then by the mixture of stuff I had.  Luckily I didn’t have a pina colada (something like 550 Calories in that bad boy) My list looks like I’m 40 going on 22! Thank God I don’t drink like this all the time.  Mind you, I couldn’t even if I wanted to, I just can’t do it any more.  The days of late nights and hangovers are long gone.  If I do let my hair down completely, it takes me at least 3-4 days to recover. It’s just not worth it! I can see why it piles on the pounds too.  Having said that, with a (nearly) 2 yr old, I don’t remember what a lie-in feels like, or how you could ever lie on the sofa watching TV all day or get left alone to eat a decent cooked breakfast all in one go. So thanks to my son I have no need to do that 3hr run tomorrow to burn it all off again 🙂  Even the thought of that is exhausting!

One of the problems we have in our society is that we are all becoming reclusive drinkers.  Holiday drinking aside, we now consume more drink in our homes than ever before.  Driven by the high cost of alcohol in pubs and restaurants, we take advantage of the bargain barrels offered in our supermarkets. And one of the problems with this is that we completely lose track of how much we are drinking.  We often drink as a reward; that we’ve made it to the end of the week, because its Wednesday; the peek of the week, because it’s Sunday; last chance to drown out sorrows before going back to work again.  Oh its pay day, lets have a drink, I’m stressed out; I need a drink….and so on.

So what can we learn from this?

How to drink sensibly

  1. Don’t drink on an empty stomach (food slows down the absorption of alcohol so you are less likely to feel so intoxicated so quickly)
  2. Alternate an alcoholic drink with a soft drink or water (this will stop you getting too dehydrated and feeling rough the morning after)
  3. Dilute alcoholic drinks with a soft drink – add soda or lemonade to wine to make a weaker ‘long’ drink for example
  4. Try not to get caught up in big rounds when you might be persuaded to drink much more, more quickly.
  5. Avoid binge drinking – just because you don’t drink in the week, it doesn’t mean you can ‘save it all up’ for a blowout at the weekend – lots of alcohol stresses your liver
  6. You should avoid alcohol for 48hrs after a large amount to drink.
  7. Everybody should aim for 2 drink-free days a week

Drinking myths

  1. Women can handle their drink just as well as men. Err no. Men tend to have more body water so can dilute the alcohol more than women.  Men also tend to have a higher metabolic rate so may not reach the same alcohol ‘high’ as women (although this is not true for my husband!
  2. A Guinness a day is ‘good for you.’ No to this one too.  It was promoted as a ‘healthy’ drink but Guinness were asked to remove this slogan.  The iron content of stout is not enough to justify drinking it.  Essentially alcohol just provides empty Calories – there are no essential nutrient in any alcoholic drink.
  3. Mixing your drinks makes you more drunk. Nope it’s about how many units you have had. Alcohol is alcohol as far as our body is concerned and the liver knows no better if its dealing with wine or cider. Mixing your drinks will most likely make you sick due to the concoction in your stomach that upsets it.
  4. Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Nope again  – as with the previous myth
  5. Being sick, having  a cold shower or cup of coffee will all make you sober up. No – these will all probably ‘wake you up’ and counteract the sedative effect alcohol can have. They will not remove the alcohol that’s already in your blood stream.
  6. The more you drink the more tolerance you develop so you can safely drink more.  This is a definite no no. The more you drink the more damage you do to your body full stop.
  7. Alcohol is a stimulant. Initially alcohol may stimulate you; making you feel more energetic and more confident but as it builds up in the blood stream it depresses your nervous system.  It is this effect that slows your speech and reactions and ultimately can mean you fall asleep or lose consciousness.
  8. Oh and apparently alcohol does not make sex better.  I’ll leave that one for you to think about (but must add that drinking too much reduces both male and female fertility).

So its Saturday night and I might be having a night off but you enjoy your drink if you are having one 🙂





Top Tip No.4 for a healthy gut: watch what you drink

Limit coffee, alcohol and spicy foods



Some of us just can’t function without those two cups of coffee each morning and we look forward to the Saturday night takeaway all washed down with a few beers or glasses of wine but do we know what these foods are doing to our gut?


Alcohol and caffeine are both known to increase the amount of acid produced in the stomach.  They also relax the ring of muscle at the top of the stomach (where the stomach joins to the oesophagus), making it easier for the acid to bubble up out of the stomach, causing those unpleasant symptoms of heartburn.

As well as the above, alcohol and caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea and cola) are also amongst the main triggers of IBS symptoms.  These include:

  • abdominal cramps and pain
  • bloating
  • excessive wind
  • frequent need to go to the toilet
  • diarrhoea and / or constipation

Coffee typically contains twice the amount of caffeine as tea (although it depends on how you like your tea – a good mug of ‘builder’s tea’ will contain nearly the same amount as an instant coffee) and cola drinks contain a little less than an average tea. Then there are all these caffeinated energy drinks that fill me with horror, I am shocked by how much caffeine is in these! (Keep a look out for a blog coming soon about caffeine….)


Alcohol and caffeine both have a particular tendency to speed up the activity of the gut, making everything rush through much more quickly causing diarrhoea; you don’t have to suffer from IBS to experience this though – have you have ever had a runny tummy after a night out drinking or a few too many cappuccinos to get you through a long day?

There is lot of evidence to show that alcohol consumption is linked to a variety of digestive cancers from the throat down to the bowel (particularly mouth, throat, stomach and bowel cancers).

How is alcohol linked to cancer of the gut?

There are a number of theories as to why alcohol causes cancer:

  1. The  alcohol is converted into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde by the liver (as it helps remove the alcohol from our body) or by the bacteria that live in our mouth and gut.  This acetaldehyde can damage the DNA in our body’s cells triggering some cells to divide and multiply uncontrollably, making the cells more likely to turn cancerous.
  2. Alcohol makes it easier for the lining of the mouth and throat to absorb cancer-causing chemicals; particularly those found in tobacco. This is  why people who drink and smoke further increase the damage caused and have especially high risks of cancer.
  3. Folate is an important  B vitamin (B9) that helps our cells produce new DNA correctly. People who drink alcohol tend to have lower levels of folate in their blood and some studies have found that cancers can be more common in people with low folate levels.

The risk of cancer is not just increased for heavy drinkers

We are consuming more alcohol in the home now than ever before.  Cheep booze offers in the shops and the convenience of drinking at home means we often underestimate how much we drink. What is worrying is you don’t have to be drinking excessively to increase your risk of cancer (again, I’ll be blogging about this more on another day).  Regularly drinking 3 units (1.5 pints of  lager or a large glass of wine) a day can still  increase the risk of mouth, throat, oesophageal and bowel cancers.  It also doesn’t seem to make a difference if you drink it all in one go or spread it out over the week (not for cancer risk anyway). Overall, the risk of developing cancer is smaller if you stay within the government guidelines:

  • 2-3 units a day for women
  • 3-4 units a day for men


Spicy food

Compared to alcohol and caffeine, overindulgence of spicy food can be equally irritating to the gut. Eating spicy food more than 3-4 times per week can cause heartburn and stomach ulcers. A chilli chicken madras balti right before bedtime is certainly a great way to fuel the flame of heartburn.


So go easy on the drinks and the spices to keep your gut happy. Not all spices are irritating however; ginger can really help with nausea and peppermint is often used to relax the gut and reduce the spasms associated with IBS; these have been used for 1000’s of years to calm the gut!


Last tip tomorrow 🙂