That is the question. At least for those of us trying to lose weight. Should we indulge ourselves and then suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous guilt for consuming empty calories? Or should we abstain?
Last week, my girlfriend Deborah Wagner, a registered nurse, and I had an animated debate on this subject over a wineless lunch. Both of us work to maintain our weight between 128 and 132 pounds. Given our commitment, lunches inevitably begin with a self-assessment on how we’re doing, followed by the latest insights.
When the topic of wine came up, Deborah argued on behalf of the daily sip. As head of our community’s wellness program, Deborah is well informed, whereas my contrary point of view was strictly personal. Although my mind was made up, I was willing to listen.
Deborah asserted that her nightly glass of red wine is medically beneficial. She cited research claiming that a daily glass of red wine improves heart health, may prevent tumors from growing and may also improve nerve function. Preventing or delaying heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s should be reason enough, Deborah said, to enjoy a glass of wine. She quickly added, however, that if a person didn’t drink wine, they shouldn’t begin. However, for Deborah, the immediate benefit was the relaxing effect of wine. The nightly ritual made the transition from work to home seamless.
Best of all, Deborah said, a glass of wine helps individuals maintain their weight. She based her assertion on research stating that people who consume a single drink a few times each week have a lower risk of obesity than teetotalers or heavy drinkers have. I could understand the connection between heavy drinking and surplus pounds, but I was surprised that a moderate amount of alcohol helped individuals stay trim.
My argument against indulging was not scientifically based but was nonetheless compelling to me. I seem incapable of drinking only one glass of red wine. If one glass tastes good, then the second glass tastes even better. I’ve also noticed that if I drink a glass of red wine with dinner, I crave sugar later in the evening. While the wine doesn’t cost too many calories, the sugared dessert I can no longer resist certainly does. In addition to consuming surplus calories, I feel less rested upon rising the following day. Throughout the day, my energy level is lower than usual even as my appetite is ratcheted up.
I’m 15 years older than Deborah, so our age difference might explain the different physiological reaction I reported. Or maybe I just have different body chemistry.
Had I been more prepared, I could have buttressed my antiwine argument by citing the dangers associated with drunkorexia, the latest eating disorder. This unofficial term describes individuals (mainly women) who starve themselves all day so they can indulge in alcohol later without feeling guilty about consuming too many calories. This abuse of alcohol leads to malnutrition, organ damage and weak bones. Treatment is complicated because the disorder is frequently part of a larger complex of dysfunctional behaviors, such as bulimia and anorexia.
Debbie and I ended our lunch without resolving our differing opinions on the value of a daily glass of red wine—we agreed to disagree. Like the good friends that we are, though, we had no problem agreeing on our next lunch date.
What’s your perspective?