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I had a conversation with a prospective client the other day. She asked if I help with nutrition and dietary changes in my hormone health coaching program. “I certainly can”, I said. “Great, but you don’t make people stop drinking….do you?” (followed by a nervous laugh).

If you know me, you likely know that I LOVE a great wine pairing at a fancy dinner, or a refreshing, fresh-lime margarita. I’ve never been a binge drinker, but truly enjoy the taste of alcoholic drinks. It’s not just a social thing for me where I feel like I need to drink because of others enjoying their martinis. Like a decadent piece of chocolate or a warm cup of tea, it can bring me joy.

An occasional drink is fine as long as you’re not a binge drinking alcoholic, right? You either have a problem, or you’re like everyone else, drinking socially, in celebration of something, or because it’s Friday. This philosophy worked great for me until I started to realize that sometimes, the real reason I was drinking wasn’t only because the drink tasted fantastic, but also because it made me relax. I bet there are many of us in that boat. Alcohol has a relaxing effect and falsely tricks you into thinking that you’ll sleep better as well. Unfortunately, research shows the opposite. Even if you fall asleep easily, alcohol will affect your deep (REM) sleep, which is something that’s widely studied, as referenced in this article. I was fine with the lack of quality sleep a few times a month as well until I started training for a half marathon.

I’ve done tons of running in my 20s, 30s, and 40s, but I found that half marathon training hits differently when you’re in your 40s. It’s not that I’m terribly out of shape or need to lose much weight, but about six years ago, I tested and realized that my VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use during exercise) was just about average. I knew I could do better than that. I picked the VO2 max to work on because it spans across many exercise modalities. Six years and a ton of runs, cross training, and races later, it’s now in the superior (highest) range for my age group.

So what does alcohol have to do with this? I ended up dropping it entirely for this year’s half marathon training. After our June trip to Europe, I stopped drinking so I could work out effectively almost every single day, get quality sleep, feel energized, and know that I gave this year’s half marathon my best shot. I ended up reaching my goal of a sub-two hour half marathon, so it was time to let loose and celebrate! But then….

I didn’t. Not with alcohol, at least.

The real magic of these months without alcohol was the glowing skin, hair, nails, healthy gut, reduced stress / anxiety, and AMAZING sleep, rest, and recovery I got. I turned into relaxed, present, and capable mom, even with the world on fire, a dyslexic child, and trying to start up a business completely out of my comfort zone. I know you might be rolling your eyes right now, because that’s probably what you’d expect, but I think the real magic for me was being relaxed even when I was uncomfortable, being socially at ease, and completely, 100% my authentic self. I learned that you really don’t need a drink for validation, to have fun, relax, indulge, or to feel included. I am perfectly content in my own skin and enjoy a really high quality kombucha or a mocktail just as much these days.

I felt motivated to write this post because so many of us feel this unspoken pressure to either drink or not drink. You’re either in camp trendy and cool or in camp old / boring, but maybe still kinda badass (I’ll take the badass part).  I’m here to tell you that you’re fine with whatever decision you make for your body. It’s not for someone else to decide how you should feel or what should be fun or delicious to you. Wine and mom gatherings have long been part of the social scene that hints at using alcohol as a tool to mask the struggles of modern motherhood (a whole other post by itself OMG!). I decided that I didn’t need that. That doesn’t mean I’m nailing motherhood and ditching other moms, or can’t hang out with them. It just means that I’ll choose what works best for me, instead of letting a situation, day of the week, or uncomfortable feeling dictate that. There’s so much power in sitting with your feelings and learning how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

As a certified hormone health coach, and because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, I am sharing some more research on alcohol and its effect on hormones: as you know, alcohol increases the toxic burden on the liver and is estimated to increase your breast cancer risk by 30% – 50% if you’re drinking 1-2 drinks per day. This number could be influenced by other risk factors too, but it’s enough for me to not drink daily, weekly, or even monthly. The burden you’re putting on your liver can translate into poor hormone balance since your liver’s job is to not just process alcohol, but estrogen, toxins, and other hormones as well. You want that baby running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. I’ve got many more tips and recipes on hormone balance on my blog and site, including a really fun and tasty adrenal mocktail you can check out.

As for the prospective client, my response to her was that I don’t make those decisions for you, but I am here to educate, empower, and teach you how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be a black or white, joy or no joy, or all or nothing thing. Just remember, whatever you decide to do, you can always reach out to me for help, whether that’s with drinking no or less alcohol, navigating social situations, learning how to truly relax and de-stress, and of course, balancing your hormones so you can show up as your true, authentic, badass self.

Cheers, ladies!

varsha racing


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