By Mike Short

cheersDo you ever wonder why you can’t get rid of that fat around your gut… your beer belly?  This may seem obvious, but it could be the beer you drink.

Alcohol has a unique process when it enters our bodies which can increase the likelihood of accumulating fat, especially in our midsection. Personally, I believe alcohol has its place and certainly can be a fun way to celebrate special occasions like Solemnities and special feast days, but all too often we let it become a self-medicating tool to deal with stress or anxiety. In addition, from a health perspective, alcohol can make it really hard to drop those pounds we all want to part ways with so that we can look and feel better.

How it Works

Here’s how it works. When alcohol enters our bodies it is split into two categories, fat and acetate [1]. The fat is taken into the bloodstream and is stored, while the acetate can’t be stored but has to be used as the primary energy source. The body doesn’t metabolize the acetate like normal protein, carbohydrates and fats that are in our food, so it shuts those off and only runs on the acetate. Guess what happens to the protein, carbs and fat that were digesting before you threw down your first beer? You got it, right to the beer belly. Due to the excess good energy (protein, carbs and fat) not being burned they get converted to fat and stored right in that spare tire.

Drinking alcohol also gives people a case of the munchies. As we get in a relaxed mood from our favorite IPA or glass of wine, it becomes much easier to indulge in unhealthy snack foods. The more we drink, the more we tend to eat. Alcohol also causes the brain to release the powerful hormone called dopamine, which is the pleasure and addiction hormone, so it often results in a physiological desire to continue to eat and drink more [2].

The hormone called cortisol is also released when we drink alcohol which is known to cause the body to break down muscle. The effect of increased cortisol in the body decreases the hormone testosterone which it turns out, helps the body to burn fat. So you are simultaneously burning less fat and breaking down muscle!

What would Jesus drink?

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Recently while listening to a homily by Bishop Robert Barron, The First of the Signs, he preached on a familiar story from the Gospel of John, the miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana.

During the story, while Jesus and Mary are at a wedding feast, which in the Jewish culture would last several days, Mary points out to Jesus a culturally embarrassing faux paw. Mary tells Jesus “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus responds to Mary and refers to her as “Woman”. This language used by Jesus harkens the word used in Genesis to describe Eve. In this way, Jesus is referring to Mary in a particular context in which she represents the whole human race.

Bishop Barron goes on to describe how this story has deep meaning on multiple levels, so when Mary says that they are out of wine, she is not only speaking on the practical level, but she is also communicating on the deeper symbolic and spiritual level. Mary is referring to a great lack in the heart of the whole human race.

On this spiritual level Barron describes how “wine in the bible is a symbol of the exuberance and intoxication of the divine life. When God is in us we are lifted up, rendered joyful, transfigured, our minds and our hearts are renewed.”

Think of how the effect of good wine has on us “the intoxicating and uplifting effect.” This can be seen as an image of the power of the divine life operating in us. So we can see how Christ can replenish our lack with the divine life.

Seeing wine and spirits from this perspective can help us to see how God draws us to himself in all things. He wants to communicate his divine plan through his creation, but we all too often become infatuated with the gift, and forget the giver. We tend to seek the temporary joy that an intoxicating drink may provide for our own pleasure rather than allowing it to point us towards the divine life which promises true and everlasting joy.

While having a drink or two can be enjoyable, it’s helpful to understand how it effects our bodies and our goals of self-mastery, but perhaps it is more beneficial to contemplate the deeper meaning of what we are all truly seeking in that intoxicating and joyful state that good wine can provide…a share in the divine life!



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