These questions are probably some of the most frequently asked on Beyond Diet: “Can I have alcohol on this program?.”  Or  “Will alcohol inhibit my weight loss efforts?”

Well, I’ll come right out and say it.  It’s just like asking, “Can I eat chocolate glazed donuts on this program?”  Sure you can.  If you eat just one, usually not a problem.  If you have 2 or 3 every morning for breakfast – usually a problem.  Well, alcohol isn’t much different really, consumed in moderation and occasionally, it shouldn’t inhibit your weight loss efforts.  Daily use, think of glazed donuts.

I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or dietician so I can’t really speak to the chemical reactions or what happens to the body when metabolizing alcohol.  Let’s just say though that the actual alcoholic content of any of our favorite notions are considered a toxin by your liver.  And what that means is that your liver will process the alcohol first, leaving whatever food and nutrition you have to wait in line; potentially leading to fat storage rather than fat or calorie burning for body functions and energy.

We’ve also heard and know that there are many health benefits to many kinds of alcohol; red wine being one them.  These benefits of course are all considered when consumed in “moderation.”  One glass of red wine with a meal for example.

Most of the above is pretty well known and written and discussed in excess perhaps.  But what is the dirty little secret I’m talking about?   Actually, there’s more than one dirty little secret, but since I like things simple I’ll just make it in to one big one.

Here it is.  More drinking = More eating.  Probably not a secret at all, but who really talks about it?  Who is really honest about how much they drink?  Now, before it gets too sensitive, let me say that I’m simply writing from my point of view; my experiences and my opinions.  I don’t wish to label anyone else, but I do hope that as you look to find your way in this overwhelming world of what is healthy, what isn’t and how to lose weight,  I hope in some small way this helps put this in a little perspective for you.

Do you really drink alcohol because you enjoy the taste? (red wine, vodka tonic, IPA beer, whatever…?)  Sure, I love a good ale, perhaps a mild dark beer and I absolutely LOVE the combo of red wine and dark chocolate!  But can we be honest here?  Of course I only speak for me, but I’m guessing many of you reading this would agree under your breath.  It’s the effects of alcohol that we are drawn to; and it many cases addicted to.  It’s knocking that edge off a horrible day, the “beer buzz” or let’s not forget the social aspect of if.  It can be fun, and we all know it can be deadly and devastating.  I digress…

My own personal experience is this.  I’ve always enjoyed a cold, thirst-quenching beer.  I live in wine country and I enjoy wine tasting.  I love a good Port.  I’ve never been a hard alcohol drinker although a Black Russian has been my drink of choice when I do.  I’ve been very fortunate, or unfortunate – that the effects of alcohol on my metabolism are mild.  Many people have varying degrees: silliness, boisterousness, anger, violence, aggressiveness, melancholy and some get sick and or pass out.  None of those things are true for me.  What is true is that the more I drink, the hungrier I get and the more likely I won’t care what or how much I eat.  And of course the worst time is late at night.  The lbs slowly piled on.

This remained true until last year in 2011 I made the decision to change my lifestyle and work on becoming a healthier person.  I continue to talk about choices.  I literally made the choice to no longer drink beer.  I can’t say it any more plainly.  One day I drank beer, the next day I did not.  I immediately started losing weight along with my changed eating habits.  I no longer felt the need to snack or eat late at night.  This was a major element in my weight loss efforts.

What I want to mention now may or may not apply to you; again my experience.  I told myself that I no longer drank beer on a daily basis.  I did not swear never to drink beer again.   I still will allow myself to have an occasional beer; out with friends, a camp trip, a party or celebration of some sort, that’s ok.   Anyone who struggles with their ability to control how much they drink needs to take a hard look at themselves and take some action if they really want to change.

In summary… what is the bottom line with alcohol when one is trying to lose some weight and wants to lead a healthy eating lifestyle?

  1. Alcohol is a toxin and your liver will deal with first, leaving foods and nutrition un-metabolized until the alcohol is processed.
  2. Alcohol can and will alter behavior and potentially cause MORE eating and/or poor eating habits.
  3. Alcohol will inhibit weight loss and actually create the environment for weight gain IF consumed on a regular basis and in excess.
  4. Occasional consumption, a glass of red wine at dinner, a 3-day camping trip or dinner out with friends, is not likely to inhibit weight loss or set you back.
  5. If having one drink results in having another, then three, then more, then don’t have the first one and consider not drinking at all.  IF, you are able to have one drink with dinner or can raise a glass of champagne at a celebration and not have another, then you should be fine.
  6. Be honest with yourself.

Remember folks, keep it simple, eat and drink the right things and don’t sweat the small stuff and you can be healthy and happy knowing you’re doing the right things.