Booze and Weight Loss

How to find the balance for success


Losing weight is hard. What’s even harder is losing weight if you enjoy a good drink. Alcohol is the number one source of “empty calories,” that phrase which implies even though it’s not real food, you will gain weight from consuming it. This is especially troublesome for a professional drinker. And when I say “professional,” I don’t mean that I am merely skilled at doing it and do it often, but that I do it for a living.

For years, I was in denial about how much my consumption of alcohol, even just for work, was contributing to my increasing weight gain. This got even worse when I became more interested in cocktails, but still loyal to my first love, wine. What I didn’t realize is this is like having your cake, and then having more cake.

Photo courtesy Nemo's great uncle via Flickr/CC
I finally decided to do something once and for all last December. I’d seen a couple of friends who share aspects of my lifestyle successfully shed some pounds while still able to stay social and enjoy the good life. I could do this. I’d done it before, but back then I also didn’t drink like I was starring in a Thin Man movie.

I’ve lost thirty pounds and counting since I’ve started. Granted, this process has been slow. And subject to fluctuation. But overall, it’s worked and it will stay off now that I have some key information.

The main thing is to triumph quality over quantity. Cutting down portion size, moving around more. Gee, who knew? But it’s not that simple when faced with so many delicious choices, is it? You have to ask yourself again and again, like an inner voice from an After School Special, “Is it worth it?”

Here is what I’ve discovered about the various species of alcoholic drinks, what sort of maximum density they can contribute to, and how to drink them anyway. And please remember to hydrate with a glass of water between each drink, even if you just have one or two, and before bed.

If you’re going to drink, wine will do the least amount of damage, especially dry white or sparkling. But you have to start adding it up. Two glasses (because who drinks only one glass of wine?) is equivalent to a modest turkey sandwich on whole wheat with mustard (hold the mayo). Or a half-cup serving of ice cream. So think about what three will do. And four. Is it worth it? If you are opening a bottle you’ve been saving or really wanting to try, or are participating in a special wine dinner, or gathering with dear friends, or an informative trade tasting, or because it just seems like a good time to reward yourself, then yes it is. Otherwise, after those two glasses, put a cork in it. But if you do indulge, find a way to balance it out over the next couple of days with more exercise and less decadent intake.

One 12 oz. beer is like having a glass and a half of wine, damage-wise. So there’s your mind map for brew. And the reason why Norm on Cheers is so much fatter than Frasier.

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