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To Booze or Not to Booze

When I first adopted working out in a serious and regular way into my lifestyle, I didn’t make any changes to my diet and nutrition. A lifetime dieter, I was a defunct weight watchers lifer I  knew what to do it was just a matter of actually doing it. That said, I succeeded in ww on the core plan which involved clean whole foods and minimal counting points. Generally speaking, my diet has always been healthy so I knew when I was ready to really get serious and get fit I would know what levers to pull in order to reign things in.

Working out was serving its purpose. I was getting tighter, had more energy, felt less stress and less anxiety. But I still had that “post-pregnancy belly” that wouldn’t go away no matter how many planks or crunches I did.

In January 2014, I started the Bon Appetit Food Lover’s Cleanse and really cleaned  up my lunchtime nutrition. I was eating salads every day for lunch, shakeology for breakfast, and my usual healthy, clean dinners. I assumed that nutrition plan along with my workout schedule would mean back to my old size in no time!  But I wasn’t. I was getting stronger due to my workouts, my clothes were starting to fit better, I had more energy but the scale was not budging and my belly still had that just after pregnancy look. What was going on?

About 3 or 4 challenge groups later, my coach posted an article about clean eating or something like that from Health Magazine.  There was another article at the bottom if the page about “How to Drink Without Gaining Weight.“ Curiously I clicked through and realized my wine was keeping me fat.  Well, duh, of course if you have a couple of glasses of wine per night and even more than that on the weekends, you should expect that those extra calories would put you over the calorie budget for the day. But I also learned that when you drink alcohol your body spends energy it would have spent on BURNING FAT on processing the alcohol.

Alcohol temporarily keeps your body from burning fat, explains integrative medicine specialist Pamela M. Peeke, MD, author of The Hunger Fix. The reason is that your body can’t store calories from alcohol for later, the way it does with food calories. So when you drink, your metabolic system must stop what it’s doing (like, say, burning off calories from your last meal) to get rid of the booze.

“Drinking presses ‘pause’ on your metabolism, shoves away the other calories, and says, ‘Break me down first!'” Dr. Peeke explains. The result is that whatever you recently ate gets stored as fat.

What’s worse: “Research has uncovered that alcohol especially decreases fat burn in the belly,” Dr. Peeke adds. “That’s why you never hear about ‘beer hips,’ you hear about a ‘beer belly.'”

So all the extra benefits I got from the strength training were being negated by the alcohol. I quit the booze for 21 days during my October challenge group and lost 8 lbs and two inches on my waist. Now if you know me personally, you know I love my wine. It’s generally part of my social life (after work happy hours, drinks in the city on the weekends, a glass or two while prepping dinner and winding down with the husband after a long day). So no, it’s not going away… But it won’t be around very often going forward!

How did I do it?

I first ADDED something new and fun to my evening beverage selection.  I didn’t tell myself “no wine” but I told myself to first enjoy a delicious herbal sparkling water before opening the wine for the night.  I also CHANGED my ROUTINE by not entering the kitchen to cook dinner as soon as I walk in the door (when I would normally pour a glass).  Instead, I get on my comfy clothes, do some stretching, relax with the kids and then start my evening chores. Next, I ELIMINATED TEMPTATION by replacing the wine bottles in my wine fridge with my new delicious fancy waters and moved the wine to a really inconvenient location or made sure to not have wine in the house during the week nights.  Lastly, I’ve been FEELING how it feels on my weeknights to be wine-free and enjoying my successes – I sleep better and snack less.  If I do break my goal, I don’t beat myself up, I allow myself to enjoy my night of indulgence and then back right back to my goal the next day.

I think this strategy could easily be applied to giving up unhealthy sweets after dinner, diet soda, or chips.  What’s your vice?  What worked for you to eliminate it from your diet?


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