Like many women, as I entered my 40s, I began fighting with my weight just a little bit more. My jeans are too tight, even my clothes from last year are snugger than I’d like. The worst part (and one I hate to admit, but I will to you guys) is that I know that what’s really responsible for the added pounds is wine consumption.
I definitely enjoy the occasional glass of wine here and there, but when I’m stressed (this happens often), I tend to drink even more than usual. Obviously, a lot of us do: Moms and wine have become a boring cliché, a too-obvious meme. We use wine as a crutch when our lives get out of hand, as a symbol to make us feel like we’re in control. Just glancing at a few wine labels at the liquor store, it’s frighteningly obvious that too many wine companies are marketing to the ‘stressed-out-mom’ demographic, like me.
And we probably fall for it a few bottles too often. But sometimes, the hype catches up with us and we wonder whether extra calories are the real issue. Recently, I read an article about the Moderation Management approach to consuming alcohol. MM’s idea about drinking is different than Alcoholics Anonymous in that it is more about regulating your habit and practicing responsible drinking. As a methodical type of person, this concept really resonated with me: I love routine.
So I gave it a try. I started by breaking down my weekdays into activities that are, by nature, alcohol-free. Four nights a week, I carpool the kids, and I work outside the home 1-2 nights a week, which leaves me with one night of ‘free time’.
So I strategically buy one bottle of wine for my free day and make sure I save it for then. And it works. When five o’clock on my big day off rolls around, I feel like I am truly being rewarded for all of my struggles throughout the week. In that moment, I’m celebrating every workout finished, meal cooked, and carpool completed. And if I happen to have a friend to share it with, it’s that much sweeter.
After multiple conversations with other women who’ve each experienced their own conflicted relationships with alcohol, I was inspired to share my approach to moderation management.
Make a plan and stick to it
Fridays and Sundays are my ‘treat-days’ where I know I won’t be driving kids anywhere and I can sit down with a nice glass of wine (or three), and binge-watch my TV shows on Netflix or PVR.
If you get off track, don’t beat yourself up
Of course, there are always situations where you may deviate from the course you have set for yourself. And that’s okay. Just remember to get back on track the next day. And be honest with yourself if you can’t stay on track. Then get back on again.
Try a lower calorie wine
I have discovered a few brands that are only 80-100 calories a glass and 8% alcohol content. These are a little kinder for calorie counting and also for the next-day-guilts. Another friend of mine coined this the-booze-blues, which are the regrets that you feel the next day after a night of drinking.
Keep busy with purposeful activities at cocktail hour
Me and 5 o’clock used to equal wine-time. It was something I looked forward to; I couldn’t wait for late afternoon to arrive. While I still do this once in a while, I have re-purposed that time to 5pm on Fridays. At first, I had to consciously keep myself busy with other stuff around that time, but now I’ve changed my habits and the craving is gone.
For me, this approach only works when I am following a routine. If the routine changes—if my husband is out of town or my kids are on school break—then the whole schedule goes totally out the window.
I come from a lineage of alcoholics who drink like fish and make no apologies for it. My grandpa, a retired prison ward, relocated from Scotland to The Prairies and drank at least 12 beer a day, every day. (He also smoked and rolled his own cigarettes, yet he lived to be 86 years old.) Despite his frequently drunken state, I remember that he was always laughing and having fun. While drinking wine for me almost always equates to having fun, I still recognize deep down that there are many times that I use wine to erase some of the stressors—and even boredom—that comes bundled with everyday life. I can’t be sure of the factors that led my Grandpa towards alcoholism, but I can guess that some of our drivers were the same.
From where I stand, most moms are juggling a lot of balls every day. We’re experiencing high levels of anxiety or depression related to putting ourselves last on the list. This stretched-too-thin-for-too-long syndrome results in a lot of negative crutches. Some women eat too much or poorly, while others, I guess, turn to wine. I recently came across a support group called the Booze-Free Brigade, which is run by another mom who took a stand on drinking and ultimately stopped completely. While I am fairly certain that the Moderation Management approach (mostly) works well for me, I realize that this path requires constant vigilance and it always will.
Moms and wine share a complicated relationship and by putting my story out here, I hope that other women will be inclined to open up as well so that we can learn from and support one another.