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Why Is Alcohol Use So Impactful?

When a patient presents for the weekly appointment and there is no weight loss or weight gain occurs and the patient states “Wow…this is disappointing…I followed the plan this week”, one of the first questions I will ask is about the use of alcohol that week.  The reason?  Alcohol ingestion is one of the major derailing behaviors to effective weight control.  

On the surface, a light beer or glass of wine seems innocuous:  the calorie count is not very high.  However, as you are hopefully learning from our program, effective weight control is not strictly a “calories in/calories out” equation.  The types of calories being ingested are the key.  

There are numbers of ways alcohol usage negatively impacts weight control:

  • Alcohol contains “empty” calories, i.e. there is no true nutritional value to these calories
  • When alcohol is consumed, this is used as the primary fuel source for the cells in the body.  Rather than breaking down body fat for the “fuel”, the alcohol is used first.
  • Alcohol contributes to the accumulation of excess body fat…the expression “beer belly” is based on reality
  • Alcohol can impair judgement especially as this relates to food.  When we feel the “buzz” we start reaching for the nachos, pretzels, chips and pizza without thinking much about the resulting weight implications of those foods
  • Alcohol negatively impacts sleep and this results in daytime fatigue precluding exercise and other activities needed for weight control
  • Alcohol can damage the liver and GI tract altering digestion of foods
  • Alcohol usage can lower testosterone levels and this will negatively impact fat burning and muscle building

Clearly, people that ritually imbibe on alcohol are doing so because it provides some sort of “feel good”.  This needs to be reconciled with the even more “feel good” that weight control provides.  I am not recommending that you should never have a drink ever again…I am suggesting that we all take a step back, evaluate our use of alcohol and take the steps to reduce/eliminate the consumption if weight loss is not occurring.

And as far as red wine being “healthy”, the studies about the positive heart impacts are conflicting.  But, here is a way you can enjoy Red Wine and not gain weight…listen to UB 40’s version of an old Neil Diamond classic, “Red, Red Wine”.

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