Weight Loss Support - Managing Alcohol

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07-17-2011, 02:30 PM
Hi all, is anyone else around here struggling with managing their alcohol intake the same way they manage their food intake?

I'm a pretty heavy daily drinker--most of the 70 pounds I've gained in the last 2-3 years have come from alcohol and attendant relaxed eating--and I'm trying to cut back dramatically so that I can lose weight and become more moderate in my behaviors.

I'm a calorie counter and this past week I've been measuring and logging my alcohol as well as my food. I've been allowing myself 12oz of wine and 2oz bourbon as a night cap. That might seem like a lot but it is way less than usual and I think it's a solid start to cutting back further.

I'm not interested in quitting drinking--only in gaining control over it and managing my intake. Is anyone else in this position? I'd love to talk to others and share strategies and frustrations. :)

(p.s. I know many people will advocate abstinence and use language of addiction in response to this post, and that's ok. Let me just say that I find the language of addiction unhelpful, at least for now. I used to be a heavy smoker and I quit smoking because it was a real addiction over which I had no control. At the moment, I'd rather think about alcohol the same way that I think about food: something that I have a tendency to overdo and over which I need to maintain proper control and vigilance. If I turn out to be wrong about this, I'll figure it out and take appropriate action. For now, I'm looking for help and support and strategies for managing my intake as I do my food. :) )

AZ Sunrises
07-17-2011, 02:40 PM
I love margaritas and a good Bellini. I tend to not drink because there is a predisposition in my family toward alcoholism, and that's not a path I want to follow. However, every now and then...yum.

That said, I allow myself one foo-foo drink every other week in social settings. I think I've actually had a glass of wine over the past month and a half...and that's a far cry from my binge drinking episodes a decade ago.

07-17-2011, 04:09 PM
Alcohol has never been a real problem for me (in other words, I'm not fat because of my drinking). However, when I dine out with my husband, we always have a bottle of wine, and let me tell you, I usually drink half that bottle. Now that I'm watching my calories, though, I try to limit myself to one or a maximum of two glasses of wine once a week. The only daily alcohol I consume is a couple of teaspoons of Sambucca in my espresso at night.

I think your limits sound reasonable at this point. As you lose weight and, consequently, have to lower your calorie intake to lose at the same rate, you may decide to cut back even more. You'll probably not want to "spend" so much of your calorie budget on even those two drinks. It sounds like you're going in the right direction, though.

07-17-2011, 05:31 PM
Have you seen this thread? Some of the posts on there might have the sort of info you're looking for. Good luck!


07-17-2011, 06:53 PM
I think I'd be a heavier drinker if I had time and wasn't a runner:) I was a very heavy daily drinker in college, and that probably hugely contributed to my weight gain. But once I got out of college and got started my career I just didn't seem to have the time or the tolerance for the hangover any longer. I still enjoy a stiff martini, but it's pretty rare these days because like I said I'm a runner and since I run 4xs a week it just doesn't seem to fit in.

Sorry that was a tangent, we're not talking about me. Ok. So if I was do want to drink daily then I would do exactly what you're doing, and plan for it. Measure and count it. I'd also be prepared for the possible effects it'd have on weight loss in general and just accept all that.

My biggest issue is that alcohol tends to make me very complacent when it comes to my food choices so that would be really difficult for me. But it it's not a problem for you then go for it.

My latest mantra is whatever works for you!

07-17-2011, 08:02 PM
I don't have any answers for you. I think you are on the right track. I find counting everything to be stressful, but it is the right choice. Enjoy you drink or two and realize that you may have to exercise more.

Take Care

07-17-2011, 08:26 PM
I know exactly what you are going through. I used to be a daily drinker and the day I stepped on the scale and saw 255 it was a day after sitting on a beach with an 18 pack of Miller lite and fishing all day in the most drunken sedentary way possible. Honestly, having cut down as much as I have I'm surprised I haven't dropped more lbs more quickly. I'm down to 4 oz of read wine and some Kahlua in my coffee. I think you are on the right track, if you are counting your calories and have factored the boooze in. To tell you the honest truth, when I was losing 80 lbs a few years ago sometimes I would forgo dinner all together and just drink a good bottle of wine. I don't advocate that, but...sometimes I just wanted the wine was was going to have it regardless.

RJ 1980
07-17-2011, 08:30 PM
Wow, I relate! A big part of my 70+ weight gain over the last 4 years was from alcohol and the binging that happened after. It was a pattern that was hard to break. Last August I got pregnant with my second child at my heighest weight of 195, and during those 9 months I gave my diet and alcohol consumption A LOT of thought. I knew something had to change. I decided to pretty much do what you are doing, b/c I wasn't ready to just give up alcohol (obviously I didn't drink during pregnancy though)- b/c I enjoy it. My problem was that I treated it like food when I binged- I drank as much as I could fit in! So I decided to try to enjoy it moderately, and if I found I couldn't then I'd have to consider giving it up.

I wound up losing weight while pregnant b/c I wasn't drinking and hardly binging. After I had my little girl in April I started my lifestyle change and so far it's going pretty well. I made some rules for myself- drinking 3-4 nights a week instead of every night. Not drinking anything until the kids were asleep, which with an infant winds up being 10PM. I usually have 3-4 drinks, more on the weekend. I measure out wine or vodka usually. 3 ounces of vodka makes two drinks (with diet pepsi) for about 200 cals. Then I'll have one or two glasses of wine. I started buying the mini wine bottles- they come in a pack of four and are six ounces each, so I know that 2 bottles will be about 250 cals.

I still crave food when I drink so I save most of my calories for nighttime. This way I can snack while I'm having drinks or have a late dinner, even if it's at 11pm. This schedule works for me b/c I really can't sit down and relax until late, and I stay up until 1 or 2 am. So during the day I'm running around not thinking of food too much.

Anyway, as long as it works I don't see a problem! I'm not losing as quickly as I'd like, but I'm still losing, so that's what is important! :) Good luck!!

07-17-2011, 08:46 PM
I still drink, mostly red wine but sometimes vodka and I've got this new massive bottle of absinthe sitting here begging to be consumed. I just factor the calories and carbs into my day and take it easy on the food.

07-17-2011, 08:56 PM
Thanks everyone with the feedback and affirmation! I appreciate your sharing your experiences.

I really love wine and long wet dinners with friends and I don't want to give it up. I just need to figure out how to get by with drinking only 3 or 4 days per week or only 1 glass of wine with dinner on most days. I think (hope!) it's ok to cut back gradually as I am with my food. I'm hoping the first 10 or 15 pounds will come off fairly quickly (I'm eating 1800 and exercising 500-800 cals 6 days/week, but about 400 of those calories are for alcohol, not food) and during that time I can get used to the discipline that I'm going to need for the long haul and the pounds that are harder to shed. I'm still in the stage where I'm feeling constantly hungry and constantly anxious about getting more to eat and drink.

I really appreciate the lack of judgement. :)

07-17-2011, 10:24 PM
I consider myself to just be a social drinker. Years ago my mother and I joined La Weight Loss together, I was fastidious about everything and only drank water or crystal light. She on the other hand never cut out her daily wine or beer. She still lost weight.
So I don't think alcohol will stop you from losing weight, but I would count the calories just to keep it in perspective and so that you know how many calories you're drinking as well as eating.
(I was shocked to learn that 1 oz of Berry vodka has 70 calories thats not even counting what it's mixed with!)

07-17-2011, 11:47 PM
I'm young and want to be social - and with my social group, that involves lots of bars and wine. 3 beers last night for me so that wasn't good.

But what I try to do is factor in the calories and then rotate an alcoholic drink with a water or diet soda. You'll still have a glass in hand so you won't feel like you're abstaining, but it'll fill you up and let you consume less alcohol calories.

07-18-2011, 03:58 AM
My suggestion is that as well as focusing on cutting down your alcohol, you give some time and thought to what you're going to have instead. If having the nice wine glass, and the taste of something you love to drink is part of an enjoyable ritual for you, can you substitute something low cal but that you really like drinking - use a nice glass, put in a slice of lemon, etc.

For me losing weight only works when I ensure that I am working on really enjoyable substitutes.

I guess the other thing to consider is whether part of what you like about alcohol is the physiological effect in terms of mellowing out/relaxing - since it's a Central Nervous System depressant. If that's the case, you might also want to think about adding in other activities to help with that - e.g. relaxing music, learning some relaxation/meditation, doing exercise to unwind, having a relaxing bath etc. Whatever you find relaxing - mentally and physically.

07-18-2011, 11:53 AM
I found it difficult to lose weight while still drinking sometimes like I wanted to, because ultimately alcohol is extraordinarily high-calorie- I was shocked when I found out how high calorie. Ultimately, though, that kind of helps managing alcohol consumption because it's not really possible to frequently drink a huge amount and still be under your daily calories.

If you have trouble with drunk snacking, one of the most effective things for me to use to curb that was cucumbers with salt. They're actually pretty good- slightly sweet, as salty as the salt you put on them, and very bulky for the calories. I can't make it through more than 95 calories (about two cucumbers) in a sitting.

07-18-2011, 01:21 PM
I think change comes about because it needs to in order to meet your goals. I used to be a heavy social drinker in college but was never a daily drinker. Soon after college (and after a bad hangover), I mostly gave up drinking, other than once or twice per year. It basically became inconsistent with how I wanted to live my life. Now I can understand the challenges with cutting back but I think a lot of those who want to lose weight have found regular drinking to be inconsistent with their weight loss goals and I think you've already seen some of that. I would say think of it as a progression and allow yourself to change to fit your new goals. 2 drinks per day... 1 drink per day... a couple drinks per week, etc. Don't worry now about getting to the 3rd or 4th step, just concentrate on the next step.

I would also say a lot of us who have wanted to achieve some goals have found other things that they once loved and was frequent in their life may not be as frequent due to changes they wanted to achieve. In my own weight loss goals, bread, cheese and ice cream were things that were a contributor to my weight gain/lack of weight loss and needed to be reduced drastically. I no longer eat cheese for other reasons but bread (especially non whole grain) and ice cream (I switched to non-dairy) were things that I absolutely loved but are now infrequent in my diet.

07-18-2011, 07:15 PM
I am a substance abuse counselor, so I am admittedly biased! So I say this just for something to think about, not as any judgment, I promise. I tell many of my clients "If you had the ability to drink in moderation, you would have already done it..."

I wish you luck, and maybe it will work for you, but for most people who struggle to drink in moderation it is a losing battle. You may want to read up on Audrey Kishline, the founder of Moderation Management.

07-18-2011, 07:24 PM
Thanks for your input Cherrypie--and for the reminder about Audrey Kishline: hers is a terrible story.

But re your maxim, I just don't know whether that is true, and if it is true, why isn't it also true of food, which I have also failed to consume in moderation? At this juncture I'm disinclined to believe that I can't gain (and work to maintain) control over both food and alcohol, but I am open and honest with myself (and my therapist!) which I think is important.

Nelie, I agree with your framing--start with 3 drinks per day and gradually cut back. I'm going to give it a try, but it is difficult! Just as with food, I need to find a new normal.

07-18-2011, 07:25 PM
I've had to stop myself from drinking wine because it's so full of calories and I normally want more than one glass. Although I still occasionally have a glass of red with dinner, I try to stick to gin & slimline tonic or vodka and soda water with fresh lime. Very yummy and refreshing. Not everyone's cup of tea though...

07-19-2011, 01:07 PM
Oh, I can so relate to your post, my personal choice is red wine, and when I looked to see how many calories are in 5 or 6 glasses I was shocked. When I am trying to lose weight, I save it up for Saturday, drink what I want and eat what I want for dinner only, then it is back on the eating right and no alcohol wagon for me. This works well for me, I have something to look forward to and I don't feel deprived. Saturday morning is my weigh in day, so I have six days of clean eating before I get on the scale. I also count my calories and will actually eat around 1200 calories those six days, kind of like banking calories. Like I said this works for me, some can't do the cheat meal cause it totally throws them off.


07-19-2011, 01:42 PM
I had to move white wine to my list of only occassional foods. Any other alcoholic beverage I can take or leave but one glass of white wine always leads to another for me and snacks of course. Very fattening. I am a lot happier without it but I still miss it.

07-19-2011, 01:51 PM
I have always been a social drinker (at times heavily) and rarely drink much outside of those events. I do really like good red wine, though and will have a glass or two to relax in the evening probably 2 nights a week in the winter and 2 nights a month in the summer. I like wine with food, though. Cheese and bread and steak with red wine - mega yum! (I think these will have to be treats that I work in occasionally because I don't want to go the rest of my life without that taste. If that means completely giving up other treats, then so be it.)

I am also a social binge eater. Put me together with my best friends at a party, flowing booze and a buffet and you've unleashed an avalanche. The factor of being happy with my friends (who are eating also) and being tipsy with alcohol will equal me eating an obscene amount of food that can only be described as a binge. I have no governor once these two factors come into play.

But that's all in my past life.

Now, I will still have the occasional glass of wine but don't drink (or eat) much socially. I know what will happen if I do, so I go and spend time with my friends, but keep it very tightly reined in.

I have also learned a few things. 1. When you don't eat much, your tolerance that day goes WAY down. I had 2 draft beers on Saturday night on a mostly empty stomach and was pretty tipsy. That is MUCH less than what I used to drink. 2. When you weigh less, your tolerance goes down. Even on days when I tried to eat to compensate for planned drinking, I still can't hang like I used to. 3. When you have a lower tolerance, it's a lot cheaper to go out with your friends. My tab that Saturday was $5. WOW! 4. Beer makes me bloated and retain water for days. When I wasn't paying attention to my weight, I missed this.

So, I still eat light the day I plan to drink and keep the alcohol to a minimum. One or two is all I can handle and keep control.

07-19-2011, 06:48 PM
But re your maxim, I just don't know whether that is true, and if it is true, why isn't it also true of food, which I have also failed to consume in moderation? At this juncture I'm disinclined to believe that I can't gain (and work to maintain) control over both food and alcohol, but I am open and honest with myself (and my therapist!) which I think is important.

Being open and honest with yourself, and of course a therapist if you're lucky enough to have a good one, is so important - so kudos for that.

The largest difference between food and alcohol is how your body processes and reacts to good foods as opposed to how it sees alcohol. When you consume alcohol, every single organ in your body, including your skin, sees it as a poison and has a negative reaction it. And, for those who are prone to addiction - and I'm not saying that this is you, I don't know you - the brain actually converts alcohol to a substance that tricks your body into believing that it is necessary to live. Rats that have a drop of this substance placed directly on the brain will drink alcohol until they die. So while there are certain foods that certainly have addictive properties for many of us - especially foods with refined sugar - if we eat the right type of food many of us have no problem in eating in moderation. I mean who will eat brown rice and green beans until they are stuffed and get sick?

Then of course there is the calorie issue - imagine someone coming on here and saying - "I really enjoy eating a large glazed donut with friends 3-4 times a week. Can you teach me how eat this donut and stick to one at each occasion and still lose weight?" Of course it is possible to do that, but most would agree that it is wasted calories and not good for you.

Again, I hope I'm not coming off as preachy or judgmental, because I really, really don't want to come across like that and sometimes it's hard when you are reading words and unable to hear a person. If drinking in moderation works on your plan, that's great. Could you possibly try stopping alcohol completely for say, 30 days and see how you feel?