The West Coast Wire

Drinking less is clearly the healthy choice

Alcohol coach has been following the new drinks consumptio­n guidelines

- LAURA CHURCHILL DUKE

When Wendy McCallum stopped drinking five years ago, she started down a new path to learn how she could help others regain control of their lives too.

The Halifax area resident, who has been a certified burnout and alcohol coach for 13 years, decided to get specific training so she could help women, especially.

Recently, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction offered new guidelines regarding the amount of alcohol Canadians should be consuming per week. Low-risk drinking for men and women is now defined as two drinks or less a week, two to six a week is moderate-risk and more than six is high-risk.

The guidelines also recommend not drinking more than two drinks in a sitting and make it clear every additional drink increases the risk of alcohol-related consequenc­es.

“Less is always best, no matter where you fall on the drinking continuum,” said McCallum.

McCallum’s focus is primarily on women in midlife, but she also does corporate and group wellness speaking. After leaving her career as a lawyer, she began as a natural nutrition consultant, but realized most her clients knew what to eat — they just couldn’t figure out how to make it happen in their busy, stressful lives. She then discovered many of her clients were using a combinatio­n of unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress like food, alcohol and had an over-reliance on social media.

McCallum has been following the new alcohol guidelines, which she said are just catching up with the science and known health risks which she feels have been clear for years. Alcohol is a toxin and a class A carcinogen, linked with an increased risk of heart disease and many cancers, including breast cancer, she explained. It’s also very addictive and socially harmful.

These new guidelines feel like a huge jump for Canadians because, since 2011, the low-risk drinking limit has been defined as 10 drinks a week for women and 15 for men, noted McCallum.

“In many ways, alcohol is the new cigarette,” she said.

McCallum offered a few tips on how to keep track of or curtail how much we drink each week.

First, she suggested starting an experiment and getting mindful. Ask yourself some questions.

• How often are you drinking and what are the reasons why you’re choosing to drink?

• What happens if you choose not to drink at dinner?

• Do you have less fun?

• Do you sleep better that night?

• Did you exercise the next day when you normally wouldn’t have the

Wendy McCallum, a burnout and alcohol coach in the Halifax area, says that people need to pay attention to the new health guidelines around alcohol and curtail their drinking habits. She says, in many ways, alcohol has become the new cigarette. energy?

• Or if you do drink, how did that add to your experience both in the moment and afterwards?

Mindfully notice all the things that are better with less alcohol, said McCallum.

To change the mindset around how much we drink, McCallum said willpower is a finite resource, meaning we will always run out of it.

If we can start consciousl­y looking for the good things that we gain from drinking less, like better sleep, increased energy, improved mood, lowered anxiety, being more present as a friend or parent and more productivi­ty, McCallum said we can shift out of a deprivatio­n mindset and into abundance and positivity.

“Instead of focusing on what you need to give up, focus on what you get to get,” said McCallum.

Instead of reaching for an alcoholic drink, McCallum emphasized there are many other options. Data shows non-alcoholic beverages are a growing segment of the drink industry, which is predicted to continue to rise.

For example, McCallum recommende­d Libra, a non-alcoholic beer brewed on P.E.I. which just won several awards, including gold for their non-alcoholic Pilsner at the New York Internatio­nal Beer Competitio­n; or Benjamin Bridge’s Piquette, a non-alcoholic wine-style drink; or Bulwark’s alcohol-free cider.

She also suggested kombucha cut with some sparkling water or trying non-alcoholic spirits to replace gin, rum, whisky and tequila.

“I recommend people ditch the booze but keep the ritual: use that fancy wine or cocktail glass, just change what’s in it,” advised McCallum.

McCallum indicated that, since the pandemic, there has been an increase in drinking. Now, however, there is a move to normalize the conversati­on around drinking less and destigmati­ze that.

“I’m not the only one campaignin­g hard for this,” she said, noting there are many stats around increased drinking and moe harm, such as alcohol-related liver disease, in last few years, especially for women.

To learn more, listen to McCallum’s podcast, Bite-Sized Balance on iTunes and anywhere you listen to podcasts, or visit wendymcCal­lum.com.

GO ONLINE:

Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction guidelines can be found at

https://ccsa.ca/canadas-guidanceal­cohol-and-health#:~:text=The%20 guidance%20also%20recommen­ds%20 that,drinking%20alcohol%2C%20 less%20is%20better.

 ?? LUWADLIN BOSMAN • UNSPLASH ?? Recently, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction came out with new guidelines regarding the amount of alcohol Canadians should be consuming per week.
LUWADLIN BOSMAN • UNSPLASH Recently, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction came out with new guidelines regarding the amount of alcohol Canadians should be consuming per week.
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