Friday, 23 September 2016

Retirement and Alcohol

In my last entry on this blog I know I was going on a bit about the need to get fit and lose weight which probably puts me in a situation similar to many people. Yesterday I came back from the last of my short post-retirement trips and in a way I'm glad to be home so I can establish some new routines in this latest phase of my life. I know I have made light of the need to lose weight and keep fit but I do recognise that these are serious issues for those of us who are 60+. I certainly have become aware of the different health hazards for those like me with suddenly a bit more time on their hands. The biggest single hazard that I can see is alcohol. I have read reports about concerns over the drinking levels of those over 60 and always felt that wouldn't be an issue for me and it isn't currently but I can certainly see how it can easily become so. The last three weeks have been a good example of this. In previous years I would have started back in my job as a deputy headteacher at the beginning of September. Once I was back at work I would maybe have a glass of wine midweek but basically not drink anything until Friday night when I would enjoy a couple of glasses a wine and maybe gin and tonic to mark the end of a hard week. I certainly wouldn't have had much to drink on Sunday prior to starting work and the big staff meeting on Monday morning. That need to be alert and on the ball would also stop me going out for drinks to the pub during the week and the the net effects of this would be that my alcohol consumption would be fairly moderate during the weeks that I was working.

Experiencing September  without work has meant there has not been the days where I think I have to be careful about what I drink because of the next day.  If I see friends on a Sunday for a barbecue I now don't have to worry about having an extra glass of wine because there will not be that big staff meeting on Monday and I will not have to field phone calls from parents. I can now go out to the pub on Monday or Tuesday and I don't have to worry about getting up early and being clear headed for work the next day. Now, although the level of drinking on many of these days when I previously would not have been drinking, is not very high, the overall effect is to increase the amount of alcohol I am drinking over the week. It has made me aware that if I kept this up over the coming months and years it would be very easy to end up with an alcohol problem.  

So, even at this early stage of retirement, I can see three potential health dangers which I need to address:
  1. Less physical exercise. I will need to put in place an exercise regime to replace the energy and exercise which I would naturally have had as part of my day-to-day work.
  2. Overeating .At work I was on the go from eight o'clock through to at least five and sometimes six o'clock. On these days I would have a light breakfast and just a sandwich at lunch. When a home it's easier to snack more often and have bigger meals. Eating more can just creep up on you.
  3. Drinking too much alcohol.It's easier and more tempting to drink recreationally during the week when you're not working which can lead to an increase in alcohol consumption
The other thing that I am becoming aware of is the work contains its own sense of meaning and purpose and suddenly not having that full-time sense of purpose and in my case suddenly not being the person called upon to sort out problems does mean that there is a gap in one's life which it would be tempting to fill with extra food and drink. I imagine this is quite common for many in the early stages of retirement. Having done my travels during August and September I now need to focus on establishing new meanings and a new purpose which in turn will hopefully rein in some of the excesses of food and drink of the last two months.

Sorry this post has been more serious and just to temper that sombre tone I want to finish by pointing out how liberating the past two months have been. Yes there are dangers of overindulging and needing to find new purpose but being aware of these one can do something about them. The huge pluses of retirement are the freedoms provided to find new sources of meaning and purpose and the luxury of time and a pension (although I recognise not everyone has the luxury  of a decent pension) to be able to do what you want to do but maybe put off because of all the other pressures whilst working full-time.

It would be great to hear from anyone else who's recently retired about their experiences in the immediate aftermath of retirement especially in relation to diet, exercise and alcohol. Take care out there.

Until the next time. 


  1. Hello John,

    Just popped over to your site from Ermine's gaff and am enjoying your posts. I can certainly relate to your woes in the areas of fitness and diet. I had become desk-bound and unhealthy but then ramped down to very part-time working four years ago - and began early morning runs.

    This is now an ingrained part of my life and has worked wonders in sorting out various aches and pains and getting my fitness levels up and blood pressure down. I'm leaner and stronger, and almost two clothing sizes smaller, though I have to say I did not actively diet.

    If you are worried that your knees might explode if you went back to running (and marathons are not good at this age anyway, btw) then perhaps you could do something like Nordic walking for the moment?

    For what it's worth, at just-turned-60 I have realised that while fitness is great, it's actually not enough on its own - you also have to actively work on balance, strength and flexibility if you want to keep as youthful as possible.

    It's a slight pain thinking about all the different exercises and activities needed to improve and then maintain all these elements, but they are synergistic and there is so much more time to devote to them when you're not working :)

    I have also realised that traditional dieting (or new-fangled fasting) is not effective for me. The only thing that works for me at this point is portion control and balancing out my intake by, for example, having just soup for lunch if I know I will be having a big meal out in the evening.

    I wonder whether your increased booze intake is a symptom of adjusting to your new work-free status? It might calm down once you've got your head around it properly. I found that I had fallen into the trap of thinking 'I've opened a bottle of wine - we'd better drink it all' and resolved this problem by buying wine boxes. So we can have a small glass with supper without feeling the 'pressure' of seeing an opened bottle, and the box lasts as long as we want it to :)

    Good luck with the blog!


    Now that we all have to pay attention to wretched units,

    1. Sorry, that last sentence came adrift from halfway through the final paragraph somehow...


    2. Hi Jane, thanks for your comments and it sounds like you have adopted a realistic and workable approach to diet and fitness. You seems to have established some new, sensible routines around food and drink and you are probably correct in approaching things in that way rather than "dieting" which we now know often results in weight going back on. The 2 days fasting (actually not technically fasting as you can have 600 calories a day)is not so much a diet as new habit which I have found beneficial in giving my body a rest from food and drink and leaves me feeling more energetic which is a surprising and positive side effect. The key thing is not let the weight creep up and to find a range of activities to keep the body and mind in shape. Not sure I can trust myself yet with a whole wine box.. but a good idea!


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