AS FEBFAST starts tomorrow, Jean Hailes for Women’s Health is reminding women to take a frank look at how their drinking habits impact their health.
febfast is a fundraising campaign that encourages Australians to stop drinking alcohol for one month.
“Unless you have a break from drinking, you don’t realise how much it has become a habit,” says Terrill Bruere, dietitian at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health.
“Everyone will have different reasons for giving febfast a go but it can make you more aware of your drinking and help you realise that you can change how much and how often you drink.”
Australians who had taken part in febfast list the top three benefits of giving up alcohol for a month as saving money, sleeping better and losing weight.
More than three-quarters of participants say it isn’t difficult to give up alcohol for a month and 70 per cent say it helps them become more aware of the effect alcohol has on their health.
The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council recommends women have no more than two standard drinks per day. A standard drink includes 100ml of wine, 30ml of spirits or 60ml of port or sherry.
“Younger women may drink more than this if they drink so-called ‘alcopops’ or ready to drink sweet vodka-based drinks. Because of their sweetness it’s easy to overlook the high volume of alcohol in those drinks,” says Ms Bruere.
“Excess alcohol can affect moods and relationships and drinking too much can also increase a woman’s risk of injury and affect her safety.”
Alcohol can also have a negative impact on fertility.
“Fertility is always best when your body is healthy. So if you are thinking of conceiving you shouldn’t be overdoing alcohol – and that goes for men and women,” says Ms Bruere.
Middle-aged and mature women may use alcohol to unwind at the end of a busy day or to mask loneliness and unhappiness.
But drinking beyond the recommended limits can lead to weight gain, depression, relationship difficulties and muddled thinking.
Older women may be at greater risk of falls if drinking makes them unsteady on their feet and this can lead to broken bones and injuries.
“Alcohol is associated with celebration, being social, fitting in, having a good time and relaxing after a hard day, but it’s easy to overdo it,” says Ms Bruere.
“So this February, give alcohol a rest, become more aware of how and why you drink and then make sure that when you do drink, it’s a conscious choice rather than just a habit.”
febfast national director Howard Ralley describes the campaign as a win:win.
“Not only is it great for your health, you can also raise money to help highly vulnerable young Australians tackle serious alcohol and drug problems,” he said.
Each year over 60,000 young people turn to alcohol and drug support services across the country asking for help.
“During February,” says Howard, “every drink you turn down helps build a lifeline for kids looking to regain control in their lives.”
Talk to friends and family about what you are doing so they can support you.
Find other drinks you can enjoy instead – drinks that look attractive and taste nice but that are alcohol-free.
At social events say to people ‘I’m having a great time but I am not drinking this month’.
If you usually have a drink to relax in the evening or at weekends, do something else to relax instead – go for a walk, have a bath, have a non-alcoholic drink, chat to a friend or listen to music.
Every time you’d normally buy yourself a drink, put the equivalent amount of money aside and use it to buy yourself a reward at the end of February.
Once febfast is over, be more mindful about how you drink. Before you down that glass of wine or beer, ask yourself ‘Do I really want this drink?’