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Young Australian women, alcohol and obesity

Research shows that young Australians are drinking more than ever before. And young women are now drinking as much as their male counterparts. They get drunk quicker as they have a smaller body weight (usually). There are few if any alcohol education campaigns targeting young women.

From a nutrition perspective, alcohol contributes to excess weight. One shot of vodka has 10g of alcohol. At 70 calories, this is equivalent to an apple. When the alcohol is mixed with sugary soft drinks or juice, one drink is often in excess of 200 calories. If a person has 500 extra calories per day, or binge drinks one or more times per week, this can easily equate to half a kilo weight gain for that week.

When I counsel clients about weight loss and portion control, alcohol is often the one thing that women, especially young women, do not want to reduce, let alone give up. Many of these clients have very long working hours and a high cost of living. They live by the motto “work hard, play harder” and alcohol is a big part of that.

Alcohol increases appetite at the time of drinking. If a proper meal is eaten before drinking alcohol then the effects are slower to appear, which often leads to even more drinking and could snowball into binge drinking. It’s common for people to go out for dinner on Friday or Saturday and end up drinking over a 5-6 hour period. This can add up to a huge amount of calories as many women prefer sweetened drinks like cocktails.

My clients often fail to link their excess weight gain to what they drink. This includes alcohol and also milky coffees, hot chocolates, large juices, energy drinks and vitamin waters.

Everyone knows obesity is on the rise but most cannot recognize obesity; only those that a morbidly obese – people who struggle to walk or get up from a chair.

If an average female (163cms) weighs more than 80kgs, she falls into the obese category but many people do not recognise this, often including the person themselves.

On the flipside, you have young women with eating disorders and aspiring models or fashionistas who substitute alcohol for food. By that, I mean they will drink, fully aware of the calories and then forego food in their attempt to stay über slim. This practice can lead to devastating consequences such as osteopenia and loss of monthly periods.

Alcohol is being abused in many ways and from what I’ve seen and there is very little guilt associated with it. This is interesting because eating some chocolate mud cake will often be seen as a guilty pleasure but wine with dinner is the norm.

Education around alcohol should start in high school, perhaps as part of the physical and health education curriculum, and supported by ongoing government funded social media campaigns.

Want to know more? Download the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education’s fact sheet about young women, alcohol and obesity.

Milena Katz

Milena Katz is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and also a qualified high school science teacher. She is the founder of Ahead In Health, a Sydney-based private practice and nutrition consultancy and has over 10 years of experience in clinical nutrition and community nutrition education. She recently co-developed Food Sick, an iPhone app to help people keep track of food and symptoms. Milena also has an interest in food and evolution, complementary medicine and anti-ageing; and is a passionate advocate of healthy eating.

She has worked in clinical nutrition in many Sydney hospitals and in the area of health promotion focusing on primary care. She loves working with parents to improve children's health and also teaches a range of nutrition courses at the Eastern Suburbs Evening College. She is passionate about preventing diseases through better food choices and also provides advice for low salt diets, weight management, heart health, diabetes, children’s nutrition, and digestive problems.


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