Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not drinking when in the presence of other people who do

Inspired by this Mark Bittman column (see above) I thought I'd relay my experience this past weekend when with the family I was in Texas (mostly Bulverde, a suburb of San Antonio) to visit my sister-in-law and to attend the memorial for her former husband.  There was a lot of hanging around and sharing stories about Randy, good for providing comfort for all and especially as a release for my sister-in-law.  In the late afternoon and evening most of the adults (sometimes including my kids) had a margarita or a beer or a glass of wine in their hands.  Friday, which was the day we arrived and everybody else who was at my sister-in-law's other than her niece was a sibling or a member of the sibling's family, I was the only non-drinker in the crowd.  Saturday after the memorial, there probably was well over a 100 people at my sister-in-law's, most of whom sat outside, under tents for blocking the sun.  There were a lot of young kids and their parents, mainly children and grandchildren of my sister-in-law.  That evening there were quite a few non-drinkers.  They had bottled water.  It was hot outside.

My abstemious behavior is temporary, I hope.  It is the anchor of a self-defined diet, which I've been on now nearing three months.  The point of not drinking is not to cut out the calories in the alcohol per se, but rather to deter binge eating.  After a couple of drinks I'm prone to overindulge food-wise.  Even without the alcohol, there has been the occasional binge of over eating.  But this way it is not quite so dramatic and is of shorter duration, so I can more readily return to the routine of the diet.

I've lost 25 pounds so far, a large enough chunk that it is noticeable to me.  My goal is to lose 38 more pounds, which would get me to my weight when I got married. Last week before going to Texas I became somewhat more optimistic that I will reach this goal.  I finally seemed to figure out how to do the elliptical, for long enough that my breathing and sweating reminded me of the feeling I had when I used to jog.  Walking, which had been my mainstay and which will remain as a good part of my exercise hereafter, never gave that aerobic feel.  Doing the elliptical is therefore a plus.  I have an intuition that if I can stay with it and the diet, the weight will keep coming off.  We'll see.

If that's true, at or near the time I reach my goal I will return to drinking, in moderation, perhaps in a different pattern than before, one where the social situation should dictate what's appropriate, and when I'm home drink little or not at all.  But thinking about that is getting ahead of myself, not a good thing to do.  For the time being, it is the straight and narrow for me.  This brings me back to the Texas trip and what I learned from it. 

When away from home there are many sorts of stress that you don't think of normally.  One of those for me was the type of food we were eating.  Much of it was very starchy.  At home I try to have a lot of fruit and vegetables.  That was harder to do in Texas.  Plus the food was out all the time - chips, cookies, cake, etc.  Snacking was there as part of providing comfort.  I understood that yet I found that now my resistance was being tested further.  That made it harder to not drink.  And it made me a bit irritable.

Then there is the more usual stress.  I am not a good traveler.  I typically don't sleep well in a hotel room and my digestion goes haywire as a result of the plane ride.  Plus, when I'm in Texas with family, I feel like the outsider even though each one of the extended family is very friendly to me and I'm comfortable with them.  The outsider feeling comes from something else; the state itself seems crazy to me.  One indicator of this is the massive amount of new housing under construction, while at the same time the place is in the midst of a drought, one that is beginning to seem like a permanent condition.  The craziness contributes to my sense of unease.  All of this weakens my resolve.

I wish I could report some silver bullet for dealing with it all.  I don't have one.  Instead, my message for others who are trying to not drink temporarily is to minimize such situations, if possible.  Even though I didn't break down on this trip, I might very well do so on the next one.  Best to not have too many experiences with this sort of temptation.

I suspect it is not the same when at home going out with some friends who drink.  That would only be for a few hours, at most, and so should be easier to manage.  My curiosity has me wanting to experience that, to see if my conjecture is correct.  But my desire to stick with the diet trumps that.  Playing a game of chicken with yourself to see how much you can tolerate is probably not healthful.  Losing the weight is.

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