Full disclosure. I am not an alcoholic. I’m not even an alcohol abuser. What I am is a person that does drink wine and very rarely a couple of vodka and tonics, to set me on my feet again. Just joking about that last part. I couldn’t resist. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is one of my favorite songs. I am also a fitness professional that knows if you are serious about weight loss, increasing your fitness levels, and want to see a real change in your body, then you need to stop drinking the booze. Ugh!! Aren’t I a total bitch and fitness shrew? Probably……Okay, yes.
Before I continue with my post, I want to make it clear that I will be referencing alcoholics. When I do, I’m referring to active alcoholics, not recovering alcoholics. Let me parse that down even further….by recovering alcoholics, I mean someone who is going to AA meetings regularly, is working the program, and knows that they can never drink again. Ever. Listen, I don’t even pretend to understand all the effort it takes to stay off the sauce, but I do know that an alcoholic is an alcoholic whether they are drinking themselves into oblivion and making life tumultuous for everyone close to them OR has not touched a drop of liquor in ten years. For the purposes of this particular post, though, every time I use the word alcoholic, I am referring to someone who is drinking on the regular and fully embracing the disease.
I grew up with an alcoholic father, as many of you who follow my blog already know. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a primer. I’ll wait right here while you get caught up. There are also alcohol abusers in my extended family. I’ve seen the horrors up close and personal styles! Don’t think of Arthur….think Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? All the abusers and addicts I know have a few things in common. Pretty shitty bodies and low fitness levels. Most of them are assholes as well, and a few are mean bastards. Coincidence or conspiracy? To be fair, it’s super hard to run a 10k when you’re sleeping off a bender from the week before and it’s hard to be adorable when you hate your entire life. My blog post is not about fitness and the alcoholic, though. Health and wellness are not uppermost in the minds of those people, which make it super hard to make them stick to a fitness plan and a nightmare to coach. I avoid them like Hillary dodges prosecution from the FBI. In my experience, an alcoholic is much too busy lying to the ones they “love” and themselves to do an effective burpee. Besides, they’d probably just vomit. Nope…my post is about the rest of us poor slobs who enjoy an occasional glass of wine or spirits without fear of enslavement to it. Of course, occasional is a term that many people need to Google.
There are people I’ve known that believe when you grow up with an alcoholic parent you either become an alcoholic yourself or you become a preachy teetotaler who sucks the fun out of every social event. Not true. You do not have to be a teetotaler to suck the fun out of things. Just look at the SJW’s who shame people into dressing as a paper bag at Halloween in order not to be racist. Wait a minute…what about the color of the paper bag?……ruh roh!
I can only address how I turned out after spending just under two decades of my life living with a full blown lover of all things boozy and a weak enabler who allowed the free range terrorizing of three children. I’m not an alcoholic or abuser because I cannot stand to be out of control. That’s my story. It’s the same reason I don’t smoke IQ zapping and lazy ass producing weed, or snort cocaine, or do whatever it is you do with heroin. I do enjoy a glass or two of red wine, (white or rose in the summer), but I can walk away from it. I don’t need it. Most of the time I don’t even want it. I routinely do a clean eating cycle and that includes no booze. Some of my friends have made fun of me for this. It’s okay. I’m an adult. I can take people poking fun at me. Unless it’s about my Star Trek addiction. Then I can get mad. Live long and prosper, assholes!
I thought long and hard about writing this particular post. After all, how can I recommend abstaining from alcohol as part of losing weight when I sometimes drink a fine glass of Cab at dinner? Well, there are two reasons I can opine. One: it’s because I don’t need or want to lose weight. I’m not struggling with an extra hundred, fifty, thirty or even ten pounds on my frame. Two: it’s because I’m not unfit. At 55 I can easily complete a mat Pilates class, do full on proper push ups, do a side plank series without modifications (though I’d probably be grumbling if I’m being honest) and run 10 km in about 56 minutes on an average training run. Faster if I’m in a race and there is an age placement prize up for grabs. The things I’ll do for a gift card! I’ll tell you something though. Much like, but not exactly like, my blogging buddy Jim over at Fit Recovery I weigh myself every day. YES! Every. Bloody. Day. The second my weight is up even two or three pounds, I’m off the booze. I don’t exercise more because I already exercise like a she devil. I don’t restrict my caloric intake from food because that would be stupid. I already eat properly and in moderate portion size. I don’t worry that it is “water weight” because it never is. I am consistent with water. Annoyingly consistent. Like my friends and family make fun of me for drinking hot water consistent. Gosh, I’m making it out that I am constantly mocked. Okay, I am mocked on the regular, but only because I make it easy for people. I drink hot water ‘fer cryin’ out loud. For the enjoyment of it.
So, for the purposes of this post I’m reverting back to every mum who ever told their kid: “because I said so”! The things I am going to tell you about weight loss and alcohol might not sit well with those of you that SAY you’d do anything to lose weight and keep it off. However, in the words of Meatloaf in his classic song: …….you’re really saying: but I won’t do that. No I won’t do that.
To begin with, let’s get all sciencey. It’s boring, but necessary before I get on to the real world info. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, nearly the same as fat (9 calories per gram) and when you eat your dinner and drink wine, the body recognizes alcohol as a toxin and chooses to break this down first over the nutrients in food. When the body gets round to metabolizing the food, it may no longer require the calories, so they get stored as fat. Studies also show that drinking can suppress the hormone leptin, which controls appetite which is why people can overeat when drinking. As a sugar source, alcohol raises insulin and turns on fat storage by increasing fatty deposits in the liver and, in middle age, excess can lead to fat storage around the stomach, a root cause of that wonderful apple shape where all the fat is stored around the belly. God, I hope you’re still with me, because I’m even boring myself….
So, here’s the deal. Without a single exception, when I have worked with someone that tells me they want to lose weight, increase their fitness levels, change their perception of proper portion size and make healthier food choices but in the same breath declares that they will NOT give up their alcohol, the results they achieve are never what they want and expect.
For me, the first few weeks are hell with the people who decide that they will NOT give up their “one” glass of wine. I always have that talk. The one where I say that they will need to cut out alcohol. I wish I could tell you that I immediately get the OKAY GAIL!, but I rarely do. What I get is every excuse in the book as to why they CANNOT give that up. I used to argue. I no longer bother. Not because I don’t love to argue. I really do, just ask my husband. I no longer argue because I get much more satisfaction out of telling them “I told you so” after they are bitterly disappointed in their progress. It’s like telling your kid to stay away from the light socket, but they defy you and do it anyway. After the shock, they aren’t likely to do it again. Real world stuff. I love it.
When they inevitably come to me, dumbfounded that they have not seen the results on the scale or with the tape measure, and have not achieved the benchmarks in their fitness levels, we can finally have that talk about the hooch. The first thing they usually cry about is the fact that they had no idea that there were so many calories in that one glass of wine they are indulging in every day. I always do my best to hide my smirk when anything remotely like that gets spoken. It’s not about the calories, you silly goose! Well, it’s not about the calories in that “one” glass of wine you’re drinking, at least.
This is the part when I look deeply into their eyes, grasp their hands, smile sweetly and gently tell them…..bahahahahaaa…no it isn’t. I never do that. Ain’t no one got time for ‘dat! Nope, this is when I tell them “I told you so” and finally I can be completely immature, and more importantly, we can get real.
I don’t believe someone when they tell me that they just have one glass of wine per day. Perhaps for many people that is true, but I don’t give the benefit of the doubt often. Most people have no idea what an actual GLASS of wine looks like, and it ain’t this…
And it’s not just the one large glass they are pouring. Chances are, it is actually two or more glasses of wine one night, perhaps none the next, perhaps one the next, perhaps two the next, maybe half the bottle the next day. Who really knows? It’s like when your doctor asks you those questions about your health habits. Do you smoke? Do you exercise? How many drinks do you have in a week? Many people have memory loss. Probably due to excess drinking…
My point is, and I do have one, is that I am not concerned with the calories in any alcoholic drink at all. Could not give a tinkers ass. What I am concerned with is the behavior associated with drinking and the way it affects your thinking, your willpower and the way your body functions. Those are the things that will ultimately decide if you will have the results you desire when you embark upon your journey to wellness.
The problem with having a glass of wine with that super terrific kale salad alongside a lovely piece of salmon accompanied by some steamed asparagus is not that you’ve added perhaps 150 boozy calories to your dinner. Nope. The problem is that your inhibitions have been lifted and you might talk yourself into dessert, and a second glass of wine. Perhaps a bowl of chips might be tempting an hour or two after dinner. You get where I’m going with this? Put this in a blender with the science stuff I laid on you earlier and now your metabolism has slowed because you’re not breaking down the food you ate into an active energy source. Nope, it’s getting stored as stubborn fat. The very fat you’re trying to get rid of in the first place!!! If you’re an average “over 40” year old, your metabolism is not all that nimble to begin with, so the fact that your body has to deal with toxins before it can address your actual nutritional needs is not optimal.
Let’s say that the next day after this dinner with wine extravaganza occurs, you have an exercise session to accomplish. You’re likely going to be dehydrated because of the alcohol you had which means you are going to struggle with your intensity levels. You’re going to feel off. You might even decide to bail on the workout. This may be a cycle that repeats itself over and over as your once steely determination to finally address your health gets tossed to the side once again.
Getting fit is not just about the physical. It is about the emotional and mental as well. If you are not firing on all three fronts in a consistent manner, then you’ll quit. You’ll decide it is not worth the effort. Many, many people require only the smallest of excuses to dump that plan for that banging body because even after all the crazy workouts they do, the results are not happening. It’s easy to get angry about that. It is easy to just give up and not address what the real problem may be. It could just be that the ONE glass of alcohol you are indulging in is completely sabotaging your commitment to get fit.
I always tell people one simple thing if they come to me for advice when their consistency and commitment starts to falter. I ask them to get rid of alcohol for just one month. 30 days. If you can’t stay away from your Malbec for 30 days, then you have a bigger problem than your weight and fitness levels. Anyone can give up anything for 30 days. If you find yourself freaking out about that, then you need to look long and hard at what that glass of wine actually means to you.
A very large portion of people I’ve worked with, or just given advice to about this, have gone on to have a complete turnaround with their mindset concerning alcohol. They don’t suddenly become abstainers. They simply become aware of the fact that their Chardonnay had more power over them than they wanted it to have.
If you want to make a complete change about how you think about fitness and how it relates to you, you’ve got to be willing to give some things up that might be holding you back. Not forever, but while you are making those changes. Making a positive lifestyle switch can be so difficult for so many of us. If it was easy, we’d all be doing the right things for our health, but we don’t. By removing alcohol, which is a mood altering substance, you’re setting yourself up for a better outcome. You will be better prepared to be consistent. You’ll feel capable. Now, go guzzle some water instead of alcohol for a month and let me know how you fare…..
Dear readers: Are you a Facebook user? If you liked this post, and my style of writing, please share this blog post on your Facebook timeline. There’s a FB icon button just below this post that you can click to do that. Thank you!
I also invite you to go to my Capable Fitness with Gail Facebook page and click the “like” button. That LIKE button is right there on my cover picture of me and Seamus O’Malley. You can instantly go there right now by clicking this: https://www.facebook.com/capablyfit/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel. You’ll find doable exercises, delicious recipes, actionable fitness advice, inspirational messages and some laughs as well, all delivered to you on a daily basis. I’d love to have you on board as one of my “fans” and hearing what YOU would like to see on my page.