Wednesday, April 30, 2008


After working for the Government, Financial Industry and Healthcare I saw every acronym under the sun; or so I thought. While driving around Australia, roadside billboards encouraged motorists to practise (yes, with the English “s”) two AFD’s a week for better health. The billboard gave little to no hint what an AFD was, depicting photos of couples enjoying a walk together or families out at the beach. There was such a frequency of the messages as we drove from Sydney to the vineyards of Hunter Valley that my curiosity quickly became overwhelming; I had to know what an AFD was. I don’t remember who exactly provided the AFD education, it could have been a waitress at a pub, a friend or random person on the street, but it was surprising and amusing to find out the definition behind the mysterious acronym; Alcohol Free Day.

Drinking is as much part of the Australian culture as big portions are to Americans. Everywhere you go there is a pub brimming with men and women alike enjoying a pint of their favorite beer, playing darts, engaging in conversation and relaxing with family and mates. This laid back part of the Australian culture and their ability to create a community over cocktails, is one of the many things I love about the country and its people. Teetotalers would definitely declare that the entire citizenry of the Island nation has a serious drinking problem but their drinking is no more a problem then in any other place in the world. Actually, I think the Australians are much more social in their drinking and in my experience are much less apt to hide it or imbibe alone.

Apparently the frequency of their socializing is a big enough problem that the Government found it necessary to start a public awareness campaign aimed a reducing the number of days people drink and not necessarily the amount. What a country! I started wondering deep down inside under all this European blood was an Australian just waiting to come out. Encouraging people to put down their bottles 2 days a week is like an open invitation to drink 5 days a week. If a person in the United States admitted to drinking 5 or more days a week they would be met with concerned looks, sneers and rejection. As one of my Australian friends has pointed out, that is one of the many differences between a country founded by convicts and a country founded by puritans; convicts are more fun.

Upon returning home from my adventure down under we could not help but share the AFD public service message with all our friends, many who thought we were joking. Public health campaigns in the United States usually focus on nutrition, exercise or the benefits of breastfeeding. It is comical to think of how an AFD campaign would be received in the US, the types of studies needed to prove any real health benefits, and if it is even necessary in a culture more focused on short term binges then daily drinking.

Coming from a family that often enjoys too much of a good thing and always watching my caloric intake, I thought I was all too aware of my drinking patterns. The AFD campaign opened my eyes to some interesting personal patterns that included having a drink (or two) after a particularly stressful day at work, frequent attendance at happy hours, a jam packed social schedule and an inability to turn down a free drink. Suddenly, when paying very close attention to my AFDs vs. ADs (alcohol days), I realized that after joking around that 2 AFDs hardly seemed like much of a sacrifice that I often didn’t adhere to this simple guideline.

"Stay busy, get plenty of exercise, and don't drink too much. Then again, don't drink too little."
-Herman "Jackrabbit" Smith-Johannsen

ADs were often just a glass of wine with dinner which aligns with many medical studies that show a single glass of wine daily actually has plenty of health benefits. Unfortunately, my attempts to enjoy the finer wines and spirits of life in daily moderation are just that; attempts. I easily succumb to peer pressure and it doesn’t take much of an arm twist to convince me to have another at happy hour, a party, or dinner. This unfortunate trait to enjoy too much of a good thing makes it impossible to follow the healthy guideline to have a single glass of wine a day. Perhaps the Australian Government, in their AFD public health campaign, realized that their citizens are also unable to embrace moderation and opted instead to encourage weekly holidays from alcohol. Two AFDs a week is a modest goal and even with a jam packed social calendar I am finding it easier and easier to have three or four AFDs a week which is helping out with the size of my waistline and my wallet. People no longer assume if I bypass the wine or beer for an ice tea at an event that I must be sick or, *gasp*, pregnant. All it takes these days is one simple explanation; it’s an AFD.


A Lost Writer said...

Lol!! Culture clash!! I'm a poor drinker myself. I'm lucky if I can squeeze in an AD in a month. The idea of going out with friends for a drink is awfully appealing, but it rarely happens. May be I should migrate to Australia. :-P

matin_leblanc said...

Culture shock from country to country! I've never been to Australia so that was very interesting. Lol- puritans vs. convicts comment.
When my Italian husband applied for health insurance here in the states, he checked the box on the survey saying he has two drinks a day. They sent him a pamphlet suggesting that he had a drinking problem and he should seek counseling. Lol!! In the 14 years I've known him, I've seen him tipsy about 3 times. Like most Italians he has one glass of wine with lunch and one with dinner. When I told this to an acquaintance who is a regular weekend binge drinker, she actually agreed that he does have a problem! Some people have no concept!
It's interesting that what is seen as completely normal in one country is a problem in another.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

It really is a shame that we have such a stigma in the US with normal drinking. Much of the world has a glass of wine with dinner each night and they are healthy and happy. Instead of learning the value of moderation our teachings are often tied to closet drinking to avoid shame or high school and college binge drinking that carries over into adulthood. Someday I hope to shake the bad binge habits developed in college and enjoy a daily healthy drink.

Thanks for your comments.

husband said...

after our recent vacation, I'm currently attempting an AFW... much like an AFD, just 7 days long...


Explosive Bombchelle said...

The Husband- I do like how your attempt at an AFW was thwarted by medical advice from Dr. Oz in Esquire supporting a drink or two a day for better health.