Alcoholism and Obesity: Is There a Connection?

alcoholism and obesity
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Alcohol use disorder can lead to many issues, some of which include severe mental illness, external conflicts (such as legal troubles, marital issues, or family conflict), or even death. However, there’s one issue that not many are aware of being linked to alcohol use disorder, and that’s obesity. 

It may not make sense initially, but both alcoholism and obesity are linked to cravings. When someone craves alcohol, it can lead to continuous drinking, which can lead to obesity. Consuming food that is high in calories and drinking excessively both trigger the brain’s reward center. As a result, this can harm a person both physically and mentally.

What is an Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is when someone has a lack of control over alcohol. Another indicator of alcohol use disorder is experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when not drinking. Somewhere close to 15 million people in the United States suffer from an alcohol use disorder, but why so many? The answer may be obvious, most notably the affordability and accessibility of alcohol in restaurants, bars, and grocery stores. 

Both binge drinking and craving alcohol can lead to a substance use disorder, and the displeasure of many, binge drinking is common in the United States. Binge drinking is a form of excessive alcohol use in which someone has more than four drinks in two hours.

How Do I Know I’m Suffering from Alcohol Use Disorder?

There are many indicators of an alcohol use disorder, some of which include the following:

  • When drinking interferes with work
  • When drinking interferes with relationships
  • Frequent memory loss
  • Blackouts
  • Drinking alone
  • Irritability
  • Isolation from loved ones
  • Drinking to feel different

While there’s nothing particularly sinister about wanting a drink now and then, craving alcohol can be a warning sign for alcohol use disorder. Sometimes, there are other warning signs as well, including the symptoms of withdrawal:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Shaking
  • Fever

Am I More Susceptible to Alcohol Use Disorder?

Sometimes an individual may be more at risk of developing an alcohol dependency or alcohol use disorder if the following relates to them:

  • Family history of alcoholism
  • Mental health disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Peer pressure

Why People Crave Alcohol

Craving alcohol is typical in individuals who feel stressed or are dealing with difficult emotions. When someone consumes alcohol, endorphins are released. These endorphins make people happy and trigger the pleasure center of the brain, thus the reason they return so often to alcohol.

It is also worth mentioning that there are times in which alcohol is more attractive to individuals. For example, when people are attending a party or a wedding, alcohol may be present because they’re times of celebration. On the other end of the spectrum, alcohol consumption is also common after a hard day or in more extreme cases, the death of a loved one. Some of these individuals can drink reactively in moderation while others have a harder time doing so.

How Does a Craving Lead to an Addiction?

As previously mentioned, a craving for alcohol can happen after a long day of work, a stressful circumstance, or the death of a loved one. This is because alcohol has a numbing effect on the senses of an individual and releases dopamine to the brain, giving the user an acute sense of happiness. The problem in all of this is that alcohol’s effects are temporary, thus increasing the need for more of it over time. As a result, alcohol cravings can take a toll on one’s physical health.

It is worth mentioning that giving in to cravings for alcohol can lead to the development of tolerance. When someone grows a tolerance for something, they need more of the substance to achieve the desired effect. This can lead to dependency, which can lead to an alcohol use disorder.

Coping Mechanisms for Alcohol Cravings

Craving alcohol can be difficult to overcome. In the meantime, it may behoove you to develop some coping skills regarding the temptation to drink. Some of these coping skills include the following:

  • Recognize your triggers
  • Avoid risky situations
  • Participate in a short-term activity
  • Talk it out with a trustworthy friend
  • Accept the reality of the situation and choose endurance

What is Obesity?

Obesity is when someone has too much body fat, resulting in poor physical health. Those who suffer from obesity usually have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, but just because someone has a BMI of anywhere in the 25-30 range, it doesn’t make them obese. If an individual has a BMI of anywhere between 25 and 30 they could just be overweight, which is different from obesity. Over recent years, however, obesity has risen on a grand scale due to the accessibility of fast-food. 

Obesity can also be the cause of health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Liver cancer
  • Kidney cancer

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity is a major problem among many individuals and is caused by consuming more calories than someone is willing to burn off. This is perhaps the most obvious cause of obesity; others include the following:

  • Consuming foods that are high in calories
  • Neglecting to exercise
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Binge eating 
  • Slow metabolism
  • Gaining weight in pregnancy
  • Alcohol use disorder

Perhaps the most interesting cause on this list is alcohol use disorder. This is a cause of obesity of which some individuals may not have known there to be a link between the two. So how exactly do they connect?

What is the Link Between Alcoholism and Obesity?

Just as there are many causes of obesity, there are also many causes of alcoholism, some of which include family history. Having a family history of alcohol use disorder may make someone more susceptible to developing the same disease. That being said, the chances for obesity to develop in a family member could be greater because of an alcohol use disorder. This is because alcohol and obesity have been known to be linked.

Whether it be a sibling, parent, or grandparent, if someone witnesses substance use disorder in their family, they could develop unhealthy relationships with other things; while they may not use substances of abuse like alcohol, they may exhibit the same behaviors with something like food. High-calorie and unhealthy foods are usually cheaper than their counterparts, making them more easily accessible.

When it comes to alcoholism, alcoholics aren’t receiving proper caloric intake. Instead, they are depending more on alcohol than food. These alcoholic beverages have a lot of calories in them as they’re packed with juices, sugars, and other things. As a result (because drinks can’t satisfy hunger) people tend to snack more to fill themselves when they’re hungry. This leads to individuals consuming more calories than they need to.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Use Disorder

The first step in overcoming an alcohol use disorder is accepting that there is a problem. This is often the hardest part, but once you do so, you can focus on getting treatment for it. Sometimes this is brought on by a bad experience with alcohol, an ultimatum from a loved one, or simply knowing that this is a path of destruction. That being said, finding the right treatment program for you is imperative. Some treatment programs offered at Harmony Place include the following: 

  • Residential Treatment 
  • Outpatient Treatment
  • Detox

Residential Treatment

Lasting anywhere from 28 days to six months, residential treatment programs for alcohol use disorder are geared towards those who suffer from a more severe addiction. This program allows for individuals who participate to receive 24/7 medical treatment from our professionally trained staff, as well as weekly (in some cases daily) therapy. Residential therapy allows individuals to focus on their recovery without outside distractions so that they can get the most out of their recovery experience. 

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment is meant for those who suffer from mild forms of an alcohol use disorder or those who have participated in residential treatment but aren’t ready for the outside world. This program could last anywhere from 3 months to over a year and provides anywhere between 10-12 hours of therapy each week. Those who participate can reside in the comfort of their own homes while attending treatment throughout the week. 

Detox

Experiencing the symptoms of withdrawal is a harsh reality that many have to face in addiction treatment. This is why detox is such an important step in the recovery process. When someone participates in our detox program at Harmony Place, they’re able to manage their pain with medicine that curbs the symptoms of withdrawal. 

Find Harmony With Yourself by Getting the Help You Need

At Harmony Place, it is imperative to us that those who step through our doors are treated with the utmost professional care. This means evaluating their situation, understanding them as an individual, and developing a personalized plan for them to be able to face their addiction and move on. If you or a loved one are suffering from substance use disorder and obesity, you can contact us here.