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MND stance on alcohol

Alcohol is another topic I am asked about literally all the time, like pretty much every single day. Alcohol can be an emotive topic for a lot of people, and it is something many people find hard to give up. Or perhaps more pertinent…it’s something that I find, with a lot of people, they are very resistant to the thought of completely giving it up.

Personally, I am teetotal now, just over 3 years at time of writing, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. Certain friends gently encouraged me in this direction using wisdom not pressure, and I am eternally grateful to them for that little ‘gentle push’. Now I am clear and free from having alcohol in my life, I look at the world of alcohol and what it does to people, with a very clear external view of the effect this psychotropic drug has on people’s lives.

You can read about how, when and why I personally quit (I used to drink quite a lot) here:

Now, to address the MND official position on alcohol, and the question I am most commonly asked, which is usually something like “I understand that heavy boozing is bad for you and it will make you fat, but don’t they say moderate alcohol consumption is good for you? Isn’t it supposed to be healthier to drink a glass of red wine every day, than to abstain completely?”

If you intend to completely live the MND way, then I recommend quitting alcohol completely, but I am not against light alcohol consumption (within the boundaries of Core Principle 12) if you feel that is best for you. Let’s dig into the whole thing and see what it’s all about.

Is all that beer and wine making me fat?

First up, let’s just very quickly address this issue of calories and whether or not drinking ‘makes you fat.  shutterstock_75157153

In short, alcoholic drinks are high in calories, high in sugar, and heavy drinking will almost certainly contribute to weight gain, particularly fat weight. I read the other day that “a large glass of wine per day adds up to over 1500 calories per week - it’s like eating a Cornetto every day!” So if you say you have quit sugar, but you still drink, then I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you haven’t fully quit sugar.

So if one of your principle goals is weight loss, then taking a spell (or a lifetime) off the booze can definitely help you.

But red wine is good for you? Right?

Now, on to those studies showing that moderate alcohol consumption confers greater health advantages than total abstinence. The problem is, that as far as I can tell, those studies show the fact THAT moderate consumption confers advantages in heart disease protection and even longevity, but the studies do not entirely demonstrate the reason WHY.

Studies show that red wine is good for you in small quantities. This is because grapes contain compounds called polyphenols.

Read this brief summary -

Particularly, note the last line “studies have FOCUSSED on wine, not grapes”

Now to me, this is the most important point. There are all these studies, but they look at wine, not fruit. No one seems to be doing studies where people practice moderate grape consumption and look for conferred benefits and a reduction in the risk of heart disease. See, the polyphenols are in the grapes…and personally, I really don’t think you have to get drunk to enjoy the health benefits. Just eat a couple of bunches of grapes every week and you’ll get just as many polyphenols as if you drink a couple of bottles of red wine.

Next up, read this - shutterstock_155690618

See, if you want polyphenols there are MANY plant sources, you just don’t NEED wine to get them. You CAN drink wine to get those polyphenols, but you don’t HAVE to, there are plenty of other ways to get polyphenols in your diet. Remember, here at MotherNaturesDiet, we advocate a diet high in vegetables and fruit, we are looking for 15-to-20-a-day, so eating the MND way, you should be good for polyphenols.

However, personally, I don’t think that the observed benefits of moderate alcohol consumption (particularly in the example of what is widely known as ‘the French Paradox’) have anything to do with polyphenols.

The consumption of red wine tends to go hand in hand with relaxing and socialising, and far more experts now seem to believe that the observed benefits of moderate/light alcohol consumption are down to relaxation, de-stressing, and building friendships, bonding with loved ones, and taking a more relaxed attitude to life, than anything chemical or nutritional.

The French Paradox

Let’s look at this example of the ‘The French Paradox’ to see how this fits. It has been observed that the French eat lots of meat and saturated fat and lots of dairy (cheese) and drink lots of wine, particularly red wine, yet statistically they have low rates of heart disease, among the lowest in the Western World. This is called the French Paradox. Paradox meaning it flies in the face of ‘The Lipid Hypothesis’, the mainstay of international government-led nutritional advice over the last 50 years, the idea that fat makes you fat, and saturated fat from animal sources is the leading nutritional factor causing obesity and heart disease. Now of course, if you follow MND and read my work, you’ll know that in fact we believe that sugar, processed food and processed vegetable oils are the real baddies, not saturated fat from animal sources.

Anyway, in trying to explain The French Paradox, for a long time researchers said it was polyphenols in red wine, and the high omega-3 fatty acids in fish and olives and olive oil.

But now, it seems that researchers are starting to see that it’s not WHAT the French eat, but HOW the French eat.

First up – calories and obesity

The culturally famous ‘French family lunch’ typically consists of between 3 and 7 courses and lasts for 2 to 3 hours, during the siesta in the middle of the day.

It was often wrongly assumed that French people were pretty much ‘pigging out’ for lunch, but in fact they’re not. shutterstock_66745999

While they eat many courses, each course is typically quite small, and it seems that the average total calories consumed in one of these long lunches is actually LESS than the “typical American lunch” of a burger, fries and a soft drink from a fast food outlet, or the UK type ‘sandwich, bag of crisps, fizzy drink and a cake’.

So in reality, the French are consuming (national average) a lower calorie diet than the US (despite spending many more hours at meal times). The French are eating more home-prepared food, the US more store-bought or restaurant-bought food, and the French consequently have less of an obesity problem than the US. The French are eating fewer calories spread out over a much longer period, compared to Americans ramming in a lot of calories very quickly.

Relaxation and social bonding

And the actual advantages of the French long lunch really, if new thinking is correct, has nothing to do with calories or nutrients at all, it’s because the French are taking a good chunk of time every day to relax, lower stress hormones and enjoy social time with loved ones.

It’s the strengthening of the family unit, it’s the bonding time, the sharing of community life, the saying of prayers, the social down time, the break from work. The more research points to stress as the biggest factor driving rising rates of heart disease, the more we can see how the French Paradox is more a story of lifestyle than anything to do with nutrition at all. When we look at statistics on the national average number of hours worked in a week, we see that the average French person works a 29-hour week, whereas the average Brit works 32 hours per week. The average worker in the US clocks up 34 hours per week. The French have among the lowest working hours listed among leading developed nations, according to OECD data from 2012.

If you have been to my seminar, you’ll know I talk extensively of the health benefits of religious beliefs, love, relationship stability, reducing financial stress, reducing work stress, and more.

So it seems, the real factors behind the French Paradox may have little to do with polyphenols in red wine, but it may actually be down to –

  • More family support
  • Greater sense of community
  • Lower calorie diet overall
  • More down time, less work, stress reduction
  • More fresh home-prepared food
  • The higher omega-3 content of the Mediterranean diet
  • Polyphenols in red wine – perhaps!?!?!? (hint, just eat grapes!)


What about other drinks and foods which people love to say they shouldn’t cut out completely because they offer some health benefits?

People say there are lots of B vitamins and various minerals in a pint of Guinness?
Sure there are, but it’s the same story as the red wine. There ARE vitamins and minerals in Guinness, but there are MORE vitamins and minerals in vegetables, so don’t go kidding yourself that you NEED to drink Guinness in order to avoid suffering a mineral deficiency!

Antioxidants in dark chocolate? Same story.

It’s the same again with coffee consumption. (See elsewhere on this blog for a more extensive analysis of coffee.)shutterstock_125710847 Experts have studied the market in Brazil, and seen comparatively high coffee consumption and comparatively low rates of heart disease. They looked for a long time to try to find links between caffeine consumption and heart disease…yet in many studies, caffeine is seen to aggravate inflammation, not ease it, so researchers were perplexed. Now they think, it’s not the coffee itself, it’s the “cafe culture” - people meeting every day and taking time to share social interaction with friends and loved ones. This increases community welfare, family closeness, builds friendships and so on. Researchers are starting to suggest that the coffee has absolutely nothing to do with it, and it’s the relaxing, stress-busting, love-sharing social interactions that confer all the heart-healthy benefits.

Someone said to me, ‘What about you Karl, what do you think it is? Do you think it’s the red wine, the dark chocolate, and the coffee that is saving French and Brazilian people from heart disease, or do you think it’s the stress busting factors?’ To me, I just closed my eyes for a few moments, and searched my feelings. To me, it’s a no-brainer, it’s so obviously the stress reduction factors, there can be no doubt. But that’s just me.

So what is the MND position on alcohol?

Red wine, Guinness, coffee and dark chocolate CAN all be ‘good for you’ if consumed in moderation…but none are ESSENTIAL. The benefits are actually from being more relaxed, being happier, being in love and surrounding yourself with your loved ones.

But I still suggest going teetotal if you truly want to embrace all aspects of the MND lifestyle. Why? Because I think the small stress-busting benefits of moderate consumption are largely outweighed by the sugar content of alcohol and the long term effects on mental clarity that come from having alcohol as part of your life. That’s my personal opinion. I personally find, now I have been teetotal for over 3 years, that my mental clarity is better than ever, my world-view has changed completely. For taking alcohol and sugar out of my life, I can now look in from ‘the outside’ if you like, and see those substances for what they really are – addictive drugs that numb the thinking of a nation, breed apathy and promote degeneration of numerous bodily functions.

I would add a caveat, that MND Core Principle 12 is there to allow some flexibility in the adoption of the MND lifestyle. Let me explain this, below.

Quitting booze is a BIG deal for MOST people

Look, I am not stupid, I KNOW that quitting alcohol completely is a big BIG deal for a lot of people. I KNOW that alcohol is the centre of your social life, I KNOW that you will drift away from some friends if you quit alcohol completely and I KNOW how you just plain LIKE to have a drink or two from time to time. People say I am “too hard core” about alcohol, it puts people off MND.

It’s OK to still drink a little if you want to. Use your brain, think it through – if the benefits of having a couple of drinks once a week or once a fortnight, outweigh the disadvantages, then go for it. If you know that a couple of glasses of red wine per week help you relax, unwind, forget your troubles and enjoy socialising time with friends and loved ones, then those advantages probably far outweigh the downside of such moderate alcohol (and sugar) consumption – so do it!! Core Principle 12 is there to cover you! Again, I will emphasize that Core Principle 12 says that up to 10% of your calories can be ‘off MND’ – that covers you for a couple of glasses of red wine per week, but not 14 pints of lager and a kebab on the way home from the pub! Moderation people!! Once again, we see that one size does not fit all. We are all different, and for some folks, a few drinks will prove beneficial, will add more to your life in many stress-busting ways, than the small amount of sugar and alcohol is going to do biological damage inside. Really, I KNOW how nice those glasses of wine can be – believe me, I am someone who has been through a LOT of “field testing” in this particular subject area!

But for me personally, and maybe for you, total abstinence suits me better, in three ways.

For one, I’m the MND guy, all self-righteous putting myself out there as a shining example of healthy living. It just feels right and better that I don’t get ‘caught out’ drunk one day or something, you know? I just really want to be the leading example, and teetotal seems best. I’ve done plenty of drinking in the last 30 years, I really don’t miss it, I’m cool with leaving that behind.

Secondly, I actually like how I feel inside for being 3-years plus completely teetotal now. I feel my brain works better than ever. I feel ‘clean’ inside. I feel like the fog has been lifted – sugar and alcohol gone, no chemicals messing with how I see the world. I feel stronger, more alive, I have more energy, and these fresh feelings far outweigh any small benefit linked to being able to relax a little more. I know plenty of ways to relax, I don’t need wine to do that.

And thirdly, and perhaps this is the most significant point. I simply don’t trust myself to remain in control of the alcohol. Yeah, that’s the truth.

Now I was never an alcoholic – well, measuring consumption by number of units, and frequency, then I most certainly WAS for a few years in my youth, but I was never addicted in that way, I don’t think. But it’s not the years of really heavy drinking I’m talking about. It’s more the years of moderate drinking. I am pretty sure I have never opened a bottle of wine in my life and failed to finish it.

beer bellyI could never just have 1. That first 1 (and my glass of wine would be a third of a bottle) could go down in minutes, then 2 was more relaxed, and 3 would be to celebrate something significant, like it being Friday. So that’s a bottle on my own, then if it had been a good week, why not do another. See, and I have friends like this. It’s not about being rat-arsed rolling around on the floor throwing up, but it’s about having 5 or 6 cans of lager at home, in front of the TV – 7 nights per week. 5 or 6 cans of lager, that’s 8 units per night, an extra 700 calories every night, that’s 56 units per week, almost 3 times the safe limit, plus 5000 calories per week – upping your caloric intake to 9 days’ worth every 7 days!

I have friends who do this, and they say to me “No I don’t drink much, few tins in the evening, that’s all.” Then in the next conversation, they say they can’t understand why they are putting on weight!!

The guy who “gently challenged” me to quit drinking and see how it felt, said to me, “How does it make you feel to imagine NOT having a single drink for a month?”

I took some time to answer, and after I really thought about it – it terrified me.

As soon as I acknowledged that fact, I HAD to give it up.

I was never hooked but I USED it almost every day. That was an addiction, albeit a fairly mild one, and I am better off without it. I like to be in control, but with alcohol in my life, it slowly creeps up on me, and slowly places itself in my life, and I don’t want that ever again.

How is YOUR relationship with alcohol?

Looking back over everything we have covered here regarding alcohol so far, I am sure you will agree that this is all fascinating stuff. But you know, MND has this ALL covered already. MND has all this taken care of.

Core Principle 4, 10 and 11 - quit the alcohol, de-stress, love more, don’t hate, take time off to be in nature, relax.

It’s all there.

See, MND was not something I whipped up in 5 minutes. The 12 Core Principles are the end result of 26 years of my life’s journey, studying, learning and experimenting. Now, if you don’t want to do 26 years of living, trying, learning, experimenting all for yourself, then don’t, let me save you the time and trouble. I came up with 12 simple 1-liners you can follow, and they encapsulate all that you need for a healthy life.

I explain that here:

MND is thought out to far greater depth than it appears on the surface. The art of genius is to take the complex and make it simple. I have tried my very best to do that for you.

If you want to learn everything in infinite detail, stick with me for the next 20 years and read all my blogs and buy the books I write and I’ll share it all…but far simpler and quicker, for most people, is just to follow the 12 CP and see how life gets better.

I promised to explain where Core Principle 12 fits in. OK, for some people, teetotal is just too big a hurdle. There is massive, widespread social acceptance of alcohol, it is endemic in Western society, and for many people, to quit alcohol completely is just too much of a hurdle – many people [wrongly, in my honest opinion] think that to completely quit alcohol, they need to give up their social life. All people are not the same, for some people, I DO think light/moderate alcohol consumption (just a few units per week folks) would confer enough stress reducing benefits to outweigh the disadvantages of consuming refined sugar and psychotropic drugs!

As with all things in the world of diet and health, there is no perfect ‘one-size fits all’ answer for everyone. MND is structured in a way to offer flexibility for individuals to make this healthy lifestyle work for you. If you find that a couple of glasses of wine per week help you to relax and unwind, then maybe that is better for you, maybe that’s how you bend Core Principle 12 to work for you.

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