Whether it is summer and you are invited to barbecues, enjoying time at the beach, spending the longer days outside or its winter and you are hanging out by the fire place, watching football on Sunday Funday, or enjoying a cozy night inside with friends; some will always have a reason to enjoy a cocktail.
Drinking comes up often when I meet with clients. They ask questions like, “Can I drink and still lose weight?” or “Do I need to eliminate alcohol”? Drinking falls in the category of “quality of life calories”. We don’t need to drink alcohol to live but for some people it is a part of their life that they enjoy and would like to keep. If armed with some necessary knowledge and if they can drink responsibly then sure they can still reach their goals.
Drinking poses a triple threat. The first is the most obvious, it contains extra calories. Second, those extra calories that the alcohol (and whatever we add to the alcohol) contains don’t satisfy us the same way that the same amount of calories if coming from food would. You see, when we drink our calories, regardless of if it is from alcohol or a caramel macchiato, we don’t register the same sort of satiety as we would if we ate the equivalent in a sandwich. We can drink and drink and drink and those calories just keep mounting and we often eat on top of that. The third threat alcohol poses to us and or waistlines is something we may all know but don’t always want to admit. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions. When we drink alcohol we suddenly forget about our goals or they don’t seem as important to us. We give in to whatever food temptations come our way. Most will graze, eat beyond that satisfied feeling, and eat or order food off the menu they ordinarily wouldn’t.
Now before you “unfriend” me, I have some good news. Researchers found that women who had one or two alcoholic beverages a day were LESS likely to gain weight than those who avoided alcohol. According to this article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine the moderate drinking women took in MORE calories than heavy drinkers and those who shunned alcohol. It is not certain why this happens but it is believed it has something to do with how the metabolism adapts to moderate alcohol consumption allowing conservative alcohol drinkers to stave off weight gain when compared to heavy or even occasional drinkers.
But don’t try to bank those calories for the weekend alcohol binge. People who are weekend drinking warriors weren’t able to manage their weight so well. There is clear evidence that there is an adjustment that goes on and our bodies aren’t able to adapt when the behavior isn’t consistent.
Here are 7 tips and tricks to help you handle your alcohol when you are trying to manage and even lose weight:
- Eat something before you drink to blunt the effects of the alcohol. Learn from my mistakes, make sure you eat before you drink otherwise the alcohol will have stronger affects…and not necessarily immediately, if you know what I mean.
- If eating at a restaurant, order your meal before you drink. This will ensure that you order mindfully before the alcohol goes to your head.
- The more simply prepared the drink the more likely it is to be lower in calories. A vodka on the rocks quickly goes from 100 calories to 200 calories when it is mixed with orange juice and a 100 calorie shot of tequila jumps to 500 calories when made into a traditional margarita. Stick with simple cocktails like wine, champagne, rosé, distilled spirits on the rocks or mixed with club soda or seltzer. And, skip the tonic water, it may be clear and look innocent but 8 ounces of this club soda look alike contains 85 calories per cup.
- Know what one drink is. One drink is either 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits, 5 ounces of wine, or a 12 ounce beer. If you are heavy handed and pour a bigger drink it may be good to start measuring until you are able to eyeball what constitutes a drink.
- Keep healthy snacks front and center. If you know you are going to have a night of drinking make sure you come home to a fridge or pantry filled with figure friendly snacks that are in pure sight. Veggies with hummus or salsa, air popped popcorn, and rice cakes dipped in light spreadable cheese are some popular and delicious options. Too many of my clients follow their plan all day and then when they have a cocktail or two throw all caution to the wind and overeat snacks they bought for their children.
- Slow down. Have a glass of water or club soda in between every cocktail to limit your intake of alcohol. You will be happy you did in the morning.
- Design your own boundaries when you drink. You may not need to drink but restriction is not always the way to go. Sometimes, having healthy and reasonable boundaries makes more sense. If you think you are drinking too often and you rather cut back instead of cut out alcohol compromise and have your own alcohol rules. Perhaps limiting your drinking to the weekends or when you are out to dinner versus eating at home. Tip and Trick #6 above is a good boundary too. Whatever you do, make sure it makes sense to you and it is something you can ease into and stick with. If it is too restrictive you may find yourself rebelling and overdoing it when you engage.