Monday, May 8, 2017

For Women Heavy Drinking Has Been Normalized. That's Dangerous.

After I was mistakenly punched in the face by a football player at Ball State I was forced to spend some time reflecting on my choices.  Of course, I was 20 years old but I remember being very offended when my dad suggested that I increased the likelihood of bad things happening by the company I was keeping.  I offered up, "You don't understand.  It was mistake.  He wasn't trying to hit me." 

I think my dad's point was that I had put myself in an unsafe position by surrounding myself with a bunch of large, drunk people at that party and many others in the preceding years.  Eventually these risks caught up to me.  He wasn't blaming the victim per se, just wanting me to realize that if I had chosen not to attend that wild, drunk-fest, things would've been different.  Rarely would he ever discuss his drinking and how it impacted his life but this was an eventful discussion and he admitted that he had made bad decisions due to drinking.  This probably would have had more of an effect on me if I had been drinking.  I wasn't drinking at all that night, so I couldn't understand the concept of being around people that were drinking solely for the point of getting drunk increased the likelihood that bad things could happen to me even if I wasn't drunk myself.  Being 20 years old also didn't help me see my responsibility in the matter.

I'm certain being raised by an alcoholic greatly influenced me in the positive as it relates to my own drinking as an adult.  This is especially true after I had children.  I drink very occasionally.  I'll often have one Michelob Ultra with dinner about one or two times per week.  I rarely drink more than three beers on a week. 

My limited drinking also has to do with owning a fitness business.  I feel it is hypocritical of me to be imbibing consistently.  That's not to say I've never had one too many since my kids were born.  When you drink as little as I do, it doesn't take much.  If I have four drinks on one night, that's definitely binge drinking for me.  Two is my limit.

Whether you have pondered how your drinking habits have impacted your life or not, there's no denying that women are drinking in greater numbers than ever before. This is no accident.  I've summarized an article written by Kimberly Kindy and Dan Keating and published in The Washington Post.  It is titled "For women, heavy drinking has been normalized. That's dangerous."
The ads started popping up about a decade ago on social media.  Instead of selling alcohol with sex and romance, these ads had an edgier theme: Harried mothers chugging wine to cope with everyday stress.  Women embracing quart-sized bottles of whiskey, and bellying up to bars to knock back vodka shots with men.  For women, heavy drinking has been normalized.  That's dangerous. Instead of being embarrassing, women being drunk is portrayed as funny in marketing, movies and television.

In this new strain of advertising, women's liberation equaled heavy drinking, and alcohol researchers say it both heralded and promoted a profound cultural shift:  women in America are drinking far more, and far more frequently, than their mothers or grandmother did, and alcohol consumption is killing them in record numbers. 

The percentage of women who binge drink increased 40% among white women from 1997 to 2013, 10% for Hispanic women and -10% for black women.   Since 1999, this increase has caused a 130% change in alcohol-related deaths for white women and 27% for Hispanic women.  On a positive note, alcohol related deaths for black women have decreased 12%.  

The alcohol industry and some government agencies continue to promote the idea that moderate drinking provides some health benefits.  But new research is beginning to call even that long-standing claim into question. 

Drinking an excess of alcohol among other things is linked with…cancer. 

What?!  I guess I just thought the risks of drinking to excess "occasionally" were getting hurt falling down or being embarrassed.  I thought liver disease was for people that "were really bad alcoholics."  I never considered that binge drinking increases ones risk for cancer.

There is "strong evidence" that alcohol causes seven cancers, and other evidence indicated that it "probably" causes more, according to a literature review published online in Addiction.

Epidemiological evidence supports a causal association of alcohol consumption and cancers of the oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, rectum, and female breast. 

As a silly, college student, my drinking had consequences then.  As a grown woman in the fitness and wellness field, I do my best to limit drinking to excess.  Sometimes I have to admit that I fail.  Not wanting to be hypocritical, my only wish is that my clients, friends and family ponder the impact that drinking is having on their health, life and happiness.

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