Friday, 8 December 2017


Remember, dear reader, that 14 units of alcohol is the upper limit of 'safe drinking' set by Britain's Chief Medical Officer early last year. Once upon a time it used to be 28 units for men, 21 for women, then it was reduced to 21 units for men, 14 for women, now 14 units for men and women.

It is the run-up to Xmas, the days are short, darkness and cold reign. What better time of year than to meet up with old friends, and raise a cheering glass or five to celebrate a time of Peace and Goodwill to All. But those 14 units...?

Since 1 January 2014, I've been keeping a health and fitness log, entering - literally - every unit of alcohol consumed into the spreadsheet, along with my daily walking and exercising, and portions of fresh fruit and vegetables consumed. If you can measure it, you can manage it.

Here's a sample entry (from Saturday's get-together in Shoreditch):


That's four bottles of Forest Road Work IPA at 5.4% alcohol by volume, each of 330ml, plus one glass (150ml) of red wine at 13% abv. Total = 9.1 units of alcohol. [One unit is equivalent to 250ml of 4% beer, for example.]

Now the social evenings are coming thick and fast at this time of year. Last night a do at the Polish Embassy in London, tonight the PBlink mixer in London, night before last meeting up with old school-friends down the Kent. In each case several beers or wines - hard to avoid and not appear a party-pooper. Plus alcohol is a great social lubricant, making you more garrulous, confident and amiable - of course, up to a point. The trick is to know exactly where that 'point' lies; when you can feel you're starting to lose the logic of your statements, when you're choosing the wrong words. With me, this starts to occur after 10 units, spaced out over an evening. And then there's the hangover, which is a combination of factors, including how much water you're taking in alongside the alcohol to prevent nocturnal dehydration, the mixing of grape and grain, and the hangover-generating quality of the alcohol consumed.

So ten units is what I can handle and remain sensible, with consciousness working normally. Last night it was 8.1 units - five small glasses of red wine with food consumed over two and half hours. No slurred speech, no hangover, a good memory of the many people I talked to and the conversations engaged in (blockchain, investment in Poland's regions, ethnic food in Poland, business succession and investment, Brexit and the new Polish premier).

But five such evenings over a week equals 40+ units; 50 units according to Public Health England is the dangerous drinking level. And Public Health England discourages us from 'hoarding' our drink-free days so that we can binge-drink and still stay within overall limits.

Looking back over the first 11 months of this year, I consumed an average of 19.1 units a week (below the old 21-unit limit, but much more than the current 14-unit one). And I had 179 alcohol-free days, more than every second day. Two alcohol-free days in a row is recommended by Public Health England, which I generally abide by. And then of course there's Lent (26 years now) during which I touch not a drop. The New Year is a time of resolution, and after Christmas excesses, I treat January as a gentle run-up to the rigours of Lent, slowing down alcohol intake considerably.

Past Decembers look like this:
2014: 56.1 units a week (DANGER!)
2015: 39.8 units a week
2016: 35.2 units a week (still 2.5 times over 'safe' level)

It goes without saying that December is the most intensive month for drinking by far; the most important thing is to be aware of this, monitor it carefully and go for a liver recovery programme in the New Year.

This time last year:
Emilia comes down

This time two years ago:
On being rich in Poland

This time five years ago:
The link between health and happiness explored

This time six years ago:
The black SUV, the black SUV... (with the darkened rear windows)

This time seven years ago:

This time ten years ago:
Where I'm from, and why

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