It’s one of the most basic principles taught in any drug/alcohol/gambling/compulsive eating treatment program: If you want to stop, learn HALT.
The acronym stands for Hungry-angry-Lonely-Tired. They’re four mental/emotional/leading to relapse.
Now, a study that will be published in the November 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research adds to what physicians and mental health professionals have known for generations: “Drinking alcohol may reduce maintaining a healthy diet, leading to adverse metabolic effects which in turn add to those directly produced by alcohol.” In short, excessive drinking and an unbalanced diet are two preventable contributors to health problems.
“On average, people who drink excessive alcohol are more likely to be careless in their dietary habits,” noted Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, chair of the department of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Navarra (Spain) and co-author of the report. “A high alcohol intake is especially unhealthy with respect to liver disease. A high-energy food pattern rich in trans fats – such as ‘fast-foods’ or items from a commercial bakery — is also likely to be related to liver disease. In this sense, if both unhealthy lifestyles cluster together, they can act synergistically to produce very adverse effects.”
“The specific influence of alcohol on diet may depend upon the overall quantity of alcohol ingested, frequency of consumption, beverage preference, and whether alcohol intake takes place during meals,” said Jose Lorenzo Valencia-Martin, a doctor at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid and corresponding author for the study. “Alcohol may indirectly contribute to several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”
The researchers found “drinking at mealtimes is associated with insufficient intake of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and with excessive intake of animal protein,” according to Valencia-Martin.
The researchers conducted 12,037 telephone surveys between 2000 and 2005, among other issues, looked at binge drinking. In the end, “Excessive drinkers, either with or without binge drinking, showed a poor adherence to dietary recommendations,” said Valencia-Martin. “Although drinking at mealtimes has traditionally been considered a safe or even a healthy behavior, our results point to some unintended consequences that the general population should be aware of. In particular, drinking at mealtimes is associated with poor adherence to most of the food consumption guidelines.”
“’What do I have to change?’ is a standard question from men and women new to recovery from alcoholism and substance abuse. Most of the time, the answer is ‘Everything,’” noted Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy.D., CAP director of clinical services of the Brain Training Centers of Florida and an addictions counselor. “And we always caution them about HALT. If you’re hungry, alcohol is quick and easy calories. Angry? Have a drink or two and you won’t be angry – until you are again. Lonely? Substance abusers have a relationship with their drugs of choice; alcohol or drugs are often their closest friends. And tired? The extra calories can be a quick picker-upper until it slams you,” said Flynn. “This new research takes the conventional wisdom about recovery one step further and applies it to many men and women who are not yet in trouble because of their alcohol use.”
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.