Today, I’m talking with Sarah Kate, founder of the website Some Good Clean Fun and an advocate for breaking free from mommy wine culture. Sarah Kate is on a mission to open up the conversation around women and alcohol. And I’m excited to talk to her today about how women can rethink alcohol and approach drinking less.
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Sarah Kate, we see a lot of the glamorization of alcohol, from the cosmopolitans that they drank non-stop in Sex in the City to the wines and cocktail companies started by celebrities like Cameron Diaz’s new wine company. But to be an informed consumer of alcohol, we need to expose ourselves to the flip side too, not just the glamorous stuff. So what are the physical and physiological negative effects of alcohol?
So this is one of the most interesting things that really falls under the radar of most people’s understanding of their own health. We have been taught that alcohol is rewarding and it makes us feel good. And there is some truth to that in the sense that for about 15 minutes or 20 minutes you do get a buzz. You do feel great, and you do feel a little bit of stress relief.
But unfortunately what we don’t learn about, especially as women who are interested in personal health. We don’t talk about what the negative effects are after that 15 minutes. And in a nutshell, your body always wants to be in homeostasis. So it will work really hard to get back to homeostasis. And what alcohol does, even one glass, it releases all these hormones in your brain and makes your body systems fluctuate. So your body releases other hormones, including the stress hormone cortisol, to get back to homeostasis. It plays around with your gaba and your glutathione levels.
And I don’t want to get too scientific, but all these things then make you feel more grumpy, more anxious, more depressed. It doesn’t contribute positively to personal health and wellness. And when you then combine that with, let’s say, you’ve had two or three glasses of wine at a mom’s night and you wake up in the morning and you’re dehydrated and you’re hung over. And you’re not only physically not feeling great, but mentally you’re also not feeling great about yourself. And a lot of times we don’t attribute that to drinking.
We either think, ‘oh my God, I shouldn’t have drank so much last night. I’m not gonna do that again. I’m going to be healthy today. I’m gonna drink my water and eat my vegetables.’ But you have an underlying sense of not feeling mentally quite right a lot of times. And that is directly attributable to your body trying to adjust to flushing out the toxins from your system.
So physiologically and psychologically, there’s a very small benefit of 15 minutes of dopamine, but then it takes your body and your mind a lot longer to get rid of those harmful effects. And when you add on, you know, a glass of wine here, a glass of wine there, a cocktail, a gin and tonic, it all adds up. It all adds up to making us as women question ourselves, and feel more stressed or anxious and not understanding why. And always seeking a solution for this anxiety and stress we’re all feeling. And there’s no amount of wine that can give you true stress relief. Right?
Right. Well, it’s a paradox. It sounds like that we turned to wine for the relaxation and the stress relief, but it actually sounds like it promotes the chemicals of stress and anxiety. You know, we’re perpetuating what we were seeking to alleviate.
That is exactly right. And we don’t talk about this enough. We hear this message, oh, drinking is bad, but we never learn, even as young people, what that means physiologically in your body. And it’s a double-edged sword, but yeah, it’s a repetitive cycle we’re seeking something to make us feel better. And it’s actually making us feel worse, but we don’t know it.
Are there unique perils of alcohol for women? You started to talk about this a little bit, but I’m curious.
I think one of the biggest, most recent sort of breakthroughs in this conversation about alcohol and women is that it is now directly correlated to an increased risk of breast cancer. And the thing that sort of saddens me is that this message is getting missed or not being talked about enough. And I’m not going to get into all the medical information because your listeners can Google that. But it is directly correlated to an increased risk of breast cancer. Even one drink. Zero drinks are the recommended amount or completely lowering your risk when it comes to alcohol, of breast cancer.
And that sort of message unfortunately, it’s not sort of getting embraced by women as much as other messages about breast cancer risk. Like don’t wear deodorant. You know, now there’s this massive movement to not wear deodorant, because it could cause breast cancer. Don’t drink from bottles that have BPA in them because that could cause breast cancer. And you know, you’re drinking wine out of a stainless steel water bottle at the farmer’s market. Right?
So if I could just say one thing is that this is a really easy way to reduce your risk. It’s not going to prevent breast cancer if there are other things in your life that could contribute to that. But just a great preventative health for women is to reduce the amount that they drink or drink minimally or not at all. So that to me is the number one risk for women.
And the second risk is just that our bodies tolerate alcohol differently than men do. And there’s more and more research going on about this now, but women and men, the way we tolerate and break down alcohol and the harmful effects are completely different. So it’s much more riskier for women to drink heavily than it is for men. Not that it’s not a risk for men, but there’s just that fact alone.
And then the third part is the mental part of it. It is that the risk for women is that we often are the caregivers, we’re often keeping the household together. We’re trying to juggle it all. And you know, when you add the impact of drinking into that, the risk is that everything falls apart. Your mental health falls apart, and then your family starts falling apart. It’s more acute because we’re trying to juggle it all as women.
Right. Do you think that’s why the mommy wine culture is such a thing? You know, I was in Party City recently, my son just graduated from fifth grade so I want in buying things for a celebration, and they have those stickers that are stick figures that represent members of the family, you know, that you put on the back of your car. And there was a stick figure of a woman holding a wine glass. And it said on the label ‘party mom.’ Why is this such a thing?
I was thinking back about this. And this is a hard question to answer, where did this start? And, you know, you mentioned at the top Sex in the City and the cosmopolitans. I’m aging myself here, but I was just finishing university when Sex in the City first came out. You’re in your twenties, you’ve got some income, you’re on your own. You’re living independently. And I lived in Toronto, so big city. And you just feel like you you’ve got life in front of you and then Sex in the City is, is glamorizing that, that same life. Your girlfriends drinking, going out, having fun partying. And that was the first time that women saw a group of women like that. And the show was about the women and their struggles and it was centralized around socializing, and having drinks, and that sort of glamorous life.
So it kind of started with women my age, seeing that on TV for the first time and being empowered and saying, I want to drink like that. I want to have fun like that. And I can be independent and I can be empowered. So that’s part of it. I think that then started leading to the mommy wine culture because all the single ladies started settling down, getting married, and having kids and all of a sudden they’re not independent anymore. They’re, they’re not empowered, and they’re turning to that escape. I definitely wanted to go back to my twenties and live vicariously again.
It’s holding onto the past and trying to have the best of both worlds.
Yeah. And it’s like, the kids are asleep and I can’t go out to a party, so I’m just gonna have a party in my own house. And this is something that I went through when I was rethinking drinking? It’s not just about about drinking. It’s about what’s underneath that and peeling back the layers. And that’s a whole other conversation about recovery. You know, for people who need that help.
For me, it was like, I just don’t feel good and I don’t want to drink in the evenings. Why do I keep giving myself excuses and reaching for that? And I peeled back the onion and realized part of it was because I was missing socializing, going out to parties. Like having all the things that moms do for their kids. Driving them to soccer, juggling tutoring, all those types of things. I was trying to live vicariously in the half hour, 45 minutes while I’m making dinner. And then, you know, the 45 minutes before I go to bed. It’s like, well, you know, if I can’t go out somewhere and socialize and have fun, I’m gonna let loose. Footloose and fancy free while I’m cooking up the kids macaroni and cheese.
And this is just my theory. There’s a lot of research and literature out there about how women started drinking period. Like how did we start drinking so heavily? And that’s a whole other conversation about feminism, and women in the workplace, and having higher level corporate jobs, and the impact of trying to fit into male culture. That’s one piece of it.
But I think the mommy wine culture specifically is because we’re all looking for something for ourselves. We’re looking for some fun. And we know we can only squeeze in, you know, 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. And then that turns into hiding your wine in a coffee cup, right? Because you don’t want to be judged by your family for having wine in the afternoon. And to me, we’ve now jumped the shark on some of these things with the social media. Memes of women bragging about where they’re hiding their wine or pouring an entire bottle of wine into a flower vase and drinking it.
Like, I couldn’t believe that when I saw that. I thought that this is not even funny. It’s not funny, but people don’t know that. They laugh at it, they think it’s funny. And if you call them out for it, then in the comments, like this is really not a healthy level of drinking. Like maybe you should go for a walk or if you’re feeling not great about yourself, have some water, get a back rub, people get really angry. Like, oh yeah, anti-alcohol police. That’s not actually what I’m saying. Right? It’s we as women, it’s really, really important that we’re empowering each other, or we’re never going to get ahead. We’re never going to be empowered. And some of this narrative around wine culture is definitely disempowering. It’s reinforcing the message that we need something like alcohol and addictive substance to cope.
Right. Man, I could go down a wormhole. I always love it when feminism comes up. Women are doing a lot more work around the house and they’re out in the world and now we’re starting to take care of our older parents. And it’s like kind of instant stress relief. Like I get it. And I’ve used it that way too.
But as you say, you know, it has these unintended consequences. And primary for me, at least in this conversation, is that it delivers the opposite of the result that we want. So for women who want to start rethinking their drinking, where do you recommend they start?
This is such a great question. And I love talking about this. The first thing I want to say right off the top of this question is that everybody has a different journey. Every single woman is going to approach this differently and is in a different spot in their ability to shift their habits and mindset. Different tools and resources work differently for different people. So I’m just going to put that out there that not everybody’s going to follow the same journey I did.
However, I do also want to say to anybody listening to this, if you’re afraid of admitting you have a bad relationship with alcohol, because you’re worried about going to a dusty church basement to an AA meeting, that is the farthest thing from the truth. And this is what has prevented women from standing up and talking about their relationship with alcohol. So I just want to reassure people that if you’re listening to this and you do feel like, I’m not really happy about how much I drink, but I’m afraid to tell somebody. There’s lots of resources.
So for me, what I did is I started reading a book called This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. And she wrote it several years ago and has since then launched off , a whole bunch of other things. But This Naked Mind, at the beginning of the book, she says, there is no judgment. There are no rules, and this is your journey. And if you want to keep drinking while reading this, go ahead, but you won’t want to when you’re finished. And she was right.
I read the book in about four days and signed up immediately for her 30 day alcohol experiment. And I did the 30 days. And I know a friend of mine’s read it and it didn’t really resonate with her. But the reason it worked for me is A, because I am a huge feminist. And so there was pieces of it that really resonated with me. But B, she really breaks down the psychology. She calls them liminal points. Where on the one hand we have a message, such as, alcohol makes you feel good, or alcohol makes you more social at a party.
And then she actually takes the medical, physiological, and psychological facts and breaks that down. Breaks that all down that after a couple of drinks, you start to slow down your speech. You start to slur a little bit, your brain synapses slow down. Your executive function is not able to respond in a creative way anymore. You know, you and I, we’ve both been at parties where you’re talking to somebody, you can tell that they’re starting to slow down how they’re talking. They’ve repeated themselves a few times, right?
So the truth is that, in the book she points out, does alcohol make you better as a person at a party? I would say no. So she breaks down these liminal points. That’s where I started. It. was non-judgemental, there was no rules. I could take it at my own pace. I read the book. And I couldn’t believe it, that I hadn’t learned all these things. That you know, oh my God, it does what it does what? It opened my eyes to all that. I did the 30 day experiment. It’s a free thing she offers, the 30 day alcohol experiment.
And then I started what I call rethinking drinking. So with the same premise of no judgment, no rules, you know, I just decided every single day I wasn’t going to drink. And there were days when I’m not going to say I slipped, but where I just needed a reminder why I didn’t like it anymore. And so it took me a good five or six months to decide, no, I don’t like this anymore. So I haven’t had a sip of anything to drink since Christmas Eve. I had a glass of red wine and I was like, yeah, I don’t like this anymore.
So I would say, if somebody was going to start today, pick up Annie Grace’s book. You can get it on Amazon. And then take it day by day. Start journaling and start digging deep into yourself. And keep asking yourself why, and is this what I need right now? Do I need a foot rub? Do I need to scream and cry and pound my feet on the floor and have a tantrum? If so, do it. Like if you’re feeling frustrated and you just want to scream, go upstairs, scream into your pillow. Have a tantrum, cry. Run as fast as you can around the block to let out your frustration. Think about why, what is your why? And that’s what worked for me. It may not work for everyone, but I would say that’s a great place to start,
Right. I would say that even listening to this episode as a start. Sarah Kate, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and sharing all this information. For folks who’d like to connect with you, where can they go?
So you can find us on somegoodcleanfun.com, which is an online publication. As you mentioned off the top, I’m also on Instagram. The publication is that @rethinkingdrinking and I am @somegoodcleanfun on Instagram. So you can find us there.
Daily Tiny Assignment
I really thought it was interesting how Sarah Kate was talking about trying to figure out what it is that you’re looking for when you’re reaching for a drink. She was talking about it in terms of moms. If specifically, maybe you’re a mom, maybe you’re not a mom. But there is probably something that you’re craving kind of deep down inside. Maybe it’s not immediately apparent when you are thinking about having a glass of wine.
I mean, it might be something pretty basic like relaxation. But it might be something different, like feeling free or feeling rebellious. So that’s your tiny assignment. Next time you want to have a drink, just kind of really do a little bit of investigative questioning. Like, what is it that I really want right now? You don’t have to change it. You can still have a drink if you want to. I’m not sitting here saying this is what you need to do in order to not have that drink.
I’m just saying, if you can really figure out what’s going on, then you have a different set of information, which helps you make your decisions from a different vantage point. And one that is true. So I hope that you will come back tomorrow when I’m Michelle Smith of Recovery is the New Black. And she’s really going to share with us how you can start to tell if your drinking really is becoming a problem. And if you find that it is, what to do about it.