5 Tips for Reducing Alcohol and Losing Weight
If you’re reading this, you’ve already taken a very important first step…you’ve decided it’s time to change.
But with over two-thirds of adults overweight or obese, losing weight in today’s world is not easy. With the change on your nightstand, you can go out and eat more cheesy, salty, delicious calories in one meal than our ancestors would have eaten in two days. But this isn’t even the real issue.
Though diet blogs and fitness influencers like to villainize fast food and processed snacks, the truth is there is a much bigger monster in most our closets that’s scaring off any chance of true progress…
For most adults, alcohol is the biggest culprit in gaining weight and preventing weight loss. How do I know? Because I’ve gained and lost over 100 pounds not once, but twice in my adult life. And both these massive gains came on the heels of long periods of stress and depression where my drinking skyrocketed.
Thankfully, these journeys to and from obesity that were fueled by alcohol have taught me a thing or two. Today, I want to share with you the 5 most important things you can do to get a handle on your booze and start losing serious weight:
1. Address the Alcohol First
If you’ve created a strong habit of drinking most nights a week, stopping will be difficult. Which is why many people begin their weight loss journey by lying to themselves, saying they’ll stick to just a half glass of “skinny” wine or a few light beers instead of their usual IPAs. That they’ll more than make up for this with the calories they’ll save eating healthy.
But the issue isn’t what you’re drinking – it’s that you’re drinking. Calories aside (don’t forget that a single glass of red wine can take one hour on a treadmill to burn off), alcohol sabotages so many important parts of weight loss. It wreaks havoc on your sleep, making it harder to recover from your workouts. It dismantles your willpower, making you more likely to head to the pantry and cheat on your diet. And most importantly, drinking sends a major subliminal message to yourself: I am not truly trying to change.
Pouring yourself a drink is casting a vote for you, right now, in the present. But you’re on a mission to create a better you in the future. So, before you go crazy swapping out all the fats and carbs in your fridge, pour out the booze first.
2. Change Your Environment
Research has proven that you cannot stick to positive habits in a negative environment. Which is why eliminating alcohol from your life and then going about your normal routine is almost always a recipe for failure.
If most evenings involve heading to the couch with a bag of chips and a large glass of pinot once you’ve put the kids to bed, it’s going to be very hard (at first) to spend time the same way without the alcohol. So, create a new routine instead.
Spend the next few weeks reading that book that’s been gathering dust on your nightstand. Take the dog for a long evening walk. Learn how to knit. Call a friend. It doesn’t matter…just don’t spend the same time in the same room in the same way as you did before. If you do, your brain will be screaming for those chips and glass of wine. And sooner or later, you’re likely to give in.
3. Accept (and Celebrate) Small Wins
“The engine of a rocket ship does not fire without a spark first. Get small wins to spark bigger ones.” – David Goggins
For most of us, weight gain did not happen overnight. It came one pound at a time. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. While it’s certainly possible to lose a lot of weight quickly, accept right now that this is going to take you some time. Because getting healthy is a process, not an event.
You need to learn how to celebrate milestones along the way. First night with no drinks? Rent that on-demand movie you missed in theaters. Dropped your first 20 pounds? Go out and buy that new dress you’ve been thinking about (you’re probably going to need new clothes anyways)!
Even if you have 100 pounds or more to go (like I did), you’ll go crazy if you don’t take a little time to celebrate on the way. You deserve it!
4. Plan for Temptation
As the saying goes, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. And when you’re trying to skip the booze and the bad food, it feels like you’re getting pummeled with punches at every turn. Birthday parties. BBQ’s. Even a Tuesday evening out on the deck with your spouse. Life is beautiful, and there are many occasions to celebrate. But unfortunately for you, celebration has traditionally come with bad choices.
You need to learn how to celebrate differently. And that starts with planning ahead. Before you begin each day, think about situations where you may run into temptation, and create a plan for how you’ll fight back. Cake in the break room for your co-worker’s birthday? Stop by their desk early in the day to wish them a heartfelt “happy birthday”, then duck out for a quick walk during the cake and chit-chat later in the day. Date night with your spouse? Pick a restaurant that’s BYOB and then skip bringing your own bottle, so you won’t be tempted by the wine list. Oh, and never be afraid to say “no”. You’re fighting for your life right now…you friends can survive one night at the bar without you.
Start thinking ahead and equip yourself with ways to succeed, no matter the situation.
5. Think About the Future
Whenever we stop doing what we’re supposed to do – eat well, exercise, save for retirement, you name it – we’ve stopped seeing our future vividly. Because often, the things we’re supposed to do are things that make us stronger, fitter, and happier in the future, even if they cause momentary pain in the present.
If you’ve been struggling with your drinking and your weight, you’re not seeing your future self. Alcohol use and poor diet are two of the top five most preventable causes of death in America. Meaning if you’re struggling with either (or both), you’re not doing future you any favors.
Sit down for five minutes right now and write a letter to yourself 10 years in the future. Where you’ll be. Who you’ll be with. What you’ll be doing. And what you’ll look like. Be as vivid and realistic as possible. The goal here is to start thinking about your life beyond today. When you’re done, keep this letter somewhere you’ll see it often. This will be your constant reminder that there’s a you many years in the future, and your choices today affect them gravely.
You Will Do This.
You’ve committed to creating a better version of yourself. Now it’s time to get to work.
I hope these tips help get you started. I’ll be sharing more along the way about how I was able to ditch the booze and drop over 100 pounds (twice!). In the meantime, I wish you the absolute best on your journey.