By Carleigh Reynolds
Cheers! (But responsibly.)
Hello, Ravens! It’s me, Carleigh, your campus Food Ambassador, resident food blogger, Instagram enthusiast, et cetera. I’m reporting to you live about the only thing that matters: lunch.
One thing that I’ve come to realize is that food and beverages go hand in hand. Many of my food pics feature both a food item and a drink. Without the latter, the image doesn’t look like a complete meal. What I’m getting at here is that we can’t have a conversation about food without talking about drinks too. So I chatted with Shannon Clarke, the Director of Student Affairs, about the CU Don’t Know initiative, healthy drinking habits, and the relationship between food and drink.
Carleigh: What is CU Don’t Know?
Shannon: CU Don’t Know is an alcohol harms reduction initiative. So the goal of CU Don’t Know is to help students understand what the social norms on campus are—that’s what their peers are doing. So they can put into context the decisions that they’re making. The goal isn’t to stop people from drinking. It’s to ensure that when students are drinking, they’re drinking safely. We provide monthly posters with information that has come from the research that is out there on student drinking habits. The National College Health Assessment is where we get most of the information. We also submit newsletter articles to the State of the Raven on a weekly basis and we also have a blog and use social media.
Carleigh: What is your role at CU Don’t Know?
Shannon: I’m the Director of Student Affairs here at Carleton. Student Affairs is the office that’s responsible for the alcohol awareness strategy that Carleton initiated a few years ago. We’re seeing that student drinking culture is something that needs to be addressed. The best way to do that is to engage students and talk about what that culture looks like. To address the drinking culture, we look at the environment and the strategies we in have in place, like the policy we have that restricts sponsorship from alcohol companies. My role is to help with those policy pieces and support the students that are involved in running CU Don’t Know.
Carleigh: People seem to be aware of, and ask questions about, the health information associated with what they’re eating but often forget to track the health information surrounding what they’re drinking. How can students get more information about health impacts of alcohol?
Shannon: Looking at the drinking patterns that a person has is important. One of the tools that we have at our disposal here at Carleton is e-CHUG, where a student can reflect on how much they’re drinking and how that compares to the social norms on campus. It provides information about how a student’s alcohol consumption might impact their health and goals.
Carleigh: What should students be eating before a fun night out?
Shannon: Well, eating is an important part of consuming alcohol in a healthy way. In terms of steps to a safe night out, you should be eating before and during drinking. That’s why in every place with an alcohol license, there has to be a minimum of two food options available. That ensures that people who are using alcohol are eating at the same time. Have a plan around where you’re going to eat and when you’re going to eat. Don’t make it a last-minute decision. The food can be anything, just make sure you eat and you’re not drinking on an empty stomach.
Carleigh: What should students be eating to recover from a fun night out?
Shannon: As you’re having a fun night out, you should make sure to pace yourself. That’s thinking about what is a safe amount for you to drink and being aware of how alcohol is metabolised based on your size and other factors. So that the next day you don’t have to suffer and worry about recovering. Also keeping hydrated throughout the night can also reduce the impact the next day.
On any day, eating a healthy, balanced diet of fruits and vegetables and grains and wholesome proteins ensures that your body has all the nutrients it needs to recover from any situation. Your body has to work extra hard to metabolise alcohol. Be kind to your body and give it what it needs to work.
Carleigh: What else can students be doing to keep their drinking habits at a safe and healthy level?
Shannon: Definitely keep track of how much is consumed and avoid scenarios where overconsumption is a part of the plan, like drinking games. Make sure you have friends around you that are healthy supportive folks who can say, “I think it’s time for you to stop drinking. Let’s have some water or lets have a snack.” Ensure you have a safe plan to get to and from wherever it is you’re going. Visit CU Don’t Know. We have lots of tips on our website.
Carleigh: How do you think alcohol consumption and mental health are linked?
Shannon: I think that alcohol is a coping strategy that students sometimes use. Be aware of what purposes alcohol is serving for you and how it helps you reach your goals. If there are alternative strategies that you can employ in terms of managing stress —that could be accessing the online self help modules that Carleton has to offer—reach out and use them. Certainly alcohol doesn’t help with mental health. That’s why CU Don’t Know talks about other ways to have fun that aren’t drinking.
Carleigh: What do you want students to know about drinking and CU Don’t Know?
Shannon: Challenge what’s out there regarding what you think might be real. If you think your peers are drinking a lot and that you should be doing that too, there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that that is not the reality.
If you’re interested in getting involved with CU Don’t Know, email firstname.lastname@example.org. They are always looking for volunteers and love using student perspectives in their alcohol awareness strategies.
If you’d like to learn more about CU Don’t Know and student drinking social norms, check out these links:
Feeling enlightened? Or just hungry—or thirsty? Connect with me to share your thoughts or follow my food journey on Instagram.
Munch on, Ravens!
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