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The Truth About Alcohol, Part 2

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Despite strict advertising rules, age restrictions, and limitations on when alcohol can be sold, the alcohol industry is an integral part of American society socially, culturally, and economically. Buying, consuming, and even talking about alcohol has become one of America’s favorite past times. From a relaxing dinner to a lively birthday party, even religious services—alcohol is a factor that often defines the parameters of our interactions.

 

Like the food industry, the alcohol industry spends millions of dollars yearly on advertising, marketing, and PR. These efforts are all about one thing: to get us to buy and drink more booze.

 

We can’t fault them for this. Like any company, they’re in business to make money, have a product and are simply trying to sell it. Often their marketing focuses not on the drinking itself but the “feel good” experiences associated with the consumption of alcohol like music festivals, sporting events, and weddings.

 

Women-Specific Marketing

 

When I think of alcohol marketing, the TV commercials featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales horses and guys watching football come to mind, but in recent years, there has been a concerted effort by the alcohol industry to target women with a focus on feminizing the branding of various alcoholic products. Pink beer, “skinny” cocktails in slim, pastel-coloured cans, and fruity drinks can be found throughout social media, and they all target women.

 

And of course, let’s not forget book clubs with wine, yoga with wine, Bunco with wine, painting with wine, insert-activity-HERE with wine, once again all marketed towards women, complete with cute, bedazzled T-shirts.

 

I’m old enough to remember the “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby” ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes. Hoping to cash in on the Women’s Lib movement, Virginia Slims (note the word “slims”) capitalized on an image of a confident, empowered, professional, independent woman who just happened to be attractive and sexy. Today’s alcohol marketing builds on that and associates drinking with sophistication, sisterhood, and the celebration of women.

 

Sadly, there’s also been a concerted effort to target mothers. Images of the soccer mom on the sidelines, Yeti cup in hand with questionable contents, wine labelled as “Mommy Juice,” and sayings like “wine o’clock” all portray busy, frazzled moms needing wine to self-medicate and reduce anxiety. “Mommy Wine Culture” has evolved into products such as purses specially designed to hold wine bottles and rhinestone-encrusted keychains that double as corkscrews. The main issue with Mommy Wine Culture is that it glorifies drinking as a strategy for relieving stress and dealing with depression, which are conditions that affect women far more than men.

 

When You Prefer NOT to Drink

 

It’s easy to understand that the alcohol industry uses various psychological techniques to get you to drink and buy more booze. Sadly, however, our friends and family often pressure us to drink when we don’t want to. One study by Drinkaware found that 35% of adults surveyed drank MORE than they intended because others pressured them. Peer pressure is REAL and not just for teenagers.

 

There are a variety of reasons why people choose not to consume alcohol. They may be recovering alcoholics. They may have someone close to them who is or was an alcoholic. They might have had a loved one killed by a drunk driver. It may be against their religion, or they choose not to drink because they have specific health issues, like diabetes, liver, or kidney problems. They may be pregnant or breastfeeding. They may not like the taste. Or they may just want to avoid the empty calories, the spike in blood sugar, or the loss of control.

 

Non-drinkers often find themselves in challenging situations because most of our social activities revolve around alcohol.

 

Here are ten of the most noticeable challenges I’ve observed when either I or someone I’m close with decided not to drink:

 

  1. Other people seem annoyed. I have witnessed first-hand the surprised, eye-rolling, irritated reactions when I tell them I’m not drinking.
  2. The pressure gets laid on THICK to “have a sip” or a small glass of wine. “Oh, come on! One drink won’t hurt you/blow your diet/do any harm!”
  3. People make comments like “well, you’re no fun” or “loosen up!” to try to get you to drink.
  4. People assume you’re some type of health-nut snob who not only doesn’t drink alcohol but also wakes up at 5 am to work out, drinks a gallon of water a day, and only eats organic, grass-fed, pasture-raised foods sprinkled with fairy dust.
  5. People ask personal, invasive questions about why you don’t drink or automatically assume you’re an alcoholic.
  6. There’s a lack of enjoyable beverages for people who don’t drink alcohol, or it’s $10 for a glass of nasty fruit juice with high-fructose corn syrup. OR you are directed to the “kiddie cooler” with Sprite and Hawaiian Punch.
  7. Everyone assumes you’re now the designated driver, and the thought gives them carte-blanche to get trashed and act irresponsibly. You then end up driving people home all over town or trying to arrange Ubers for everyone.
  8. You don’t get invited to social gatherings—the book club meeting where everyone drinks wine or watches a game at a sports bar—because you don’t drink. Or, people turn down invitations from YOU because they’d rather go out with their drinking friends.
  9. If you’re female and in the appropriate age range, people assume you’re preggo.
  10. People just can’t wrap their heads around why there doesn’t have to be a reason because it’s assumed everyone would PREFER to be drinking.

 

My point in bringing up NOT drinking is to expose some of our social biases regarding alcohol consumption. Not only is it undesirable to drink too much and make a fool of oneself (or worse), but it’s also culturally undesirable to not drink at all. Both of those need to change.

 

If you plan a gathering as we head into the holiday season, ensure plenty of non-alcoholic beverages are available. Place them where people can see and access them just like they could pour themselves a glass of wine or grab a beer from the fridge. There’s no reason to ask ANYONE why they are not drinking alcohol, and once they say “no thank you,” that’s it.

 

Whether or not you consume alcohol is a personal choice. If you choose to drink, please remember to practice mindful drinking–being aware of why and how much you’re drinking–and extend kindness and consideration to others who may not partake. If you choose to not drink, resist the urge to judge others for doing so.

 

Photo by Adam Jaime on Unsplash

HI, I'M CANDACE!

I am a science-based wellness coach with over 30 years of experience specializing in helping people 40+ reduce pain using corrective exercise therapy, get stronger through smart fitness programs, and increase energy and vitality through sustainable nutrition.

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