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Mindful Drinking

I realized a little over a month ago that I had a drinking problem.

No, not that kind. (My main use of alcohol is to keep my sorbet and vegan ice cream from freezing solid. Otherwise, I don’t tend to like the taste of alcoholic drinks, and I prefer to eat my calories.)

No, my problem is mindless drinking, especially tea.

I’ve sort of known this was a problem before, in the sense of having to pee a lot because of how much I drink. Sometimes it’s even how people remember me.

For instance, years ago I went on a day trip to the Grand Canyon, and about a year after, a woman from the bus trip recognized me in the airport as the girl who needed to stop at the bathrooms a lot. Call me crazy, but this isn’t the sort of thing I want to be known for.

Still, I didn’t sit down to think about this until my recent trip to Alaska. I knew that we’d be on long bus rides, and of course long plane rides, so I decided to cut back a few days ahead of time, to give all the liquid a chance to get out of my system.

It worked, and I quickly noticed a couple of things.

One, it was nice not to constantly wonder if I was going somewhere with ready access to bathrooms.

But the second, and more significant, is that I didn’t feel dehydrated. And once I was traveling, I realized I didn’t miss having more to drink.

This was finally what clued me into what I had been doing. I had been drinking so much tea not because I needed it, or in some cases even wanted it. I drank it because: a) it tasted good, b) it wasn’t caloric, and c) it gave me a distraction from work, something to do.

In short, I was using it as a stand-in for mindless eating.

Oh, and here’s another interesting thing. I thought I would feel hungrier if I didn’t drink so much. I had told myself for years that I liked to have tea after a meal because it helped me feel full.

And it did – sort of. But in retrospect, it seems like the artificial fullness from the liquid actually backfired. I got used to that feeling, which made it harder to then distinguish real hunger from false.

So the upshot of all this is that I’ve become more mindful of my drinking. It’s more of a challenge now that I’m back from vacation, but at least most of the time, I’m making a more conscious decision about whether to have something to drink. I’m also paying more attention to the tea when I do have it.

And, as with mindful eating, I find I enjoy the tea more when it’s not just a distraction. A win all around.

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