Watch Me Lose 100 Pounds in 1 Year by Quitting Drinking
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Sure, I knew I was gaining weight. But I never expected it to be this substantial. For much of my (healthy) adult life, I had hovered around 185 pounds. But after three different attempts on the scale (and removing my t-shirt and sweatpants…like that would somehow make a difference), the blue LED screen screamed back at me.
I had gained over 100 pounds.
It was the heaviest I had ever been. It all happened so fast, too – or at least it felt that way. It started with frozen pizzas and ice cream at the beginning of the pandemic. It felt as if the world might be ending, so why not reach for some comfort food while my wife and I stayed crammed inside our 650 sq. ft. one bedroom apartment. But that two-week “stay at home” order turned into months on end, and months of unhealthy frozen foods.
Later that year, just as things were starting to open back up, my wife became pregnant with our first child. While we were overjoyed, her pregnancy was filled with challenges and difficulties. Once again, our only salve for our stress seemed to be fatty foods on DoorDash. The scale was certainly ticking up at this point, but I had already stopped checking. Especially after we doubled down on the DoorDash once my daughter was born.
Of course, it was easy to blame all this on the crappy food I was consuming. But deep down, I knew the real culprit came in liquid form…
Alcohol was the true cause of my weight gain.
Prior to all this, I was a social drinker. Go out, have a beer or glass of wine with friends, go home, and forget about booze completely until the next time I went out. I come from a long line of heavy problem drinkers, and I considered myself lucky that I never felt “the urge” with alcohol. I drank, sure, but it was “take it or leave it”. And most of the time, I left it. So much so that in 2019 my wife and I fell in love with non-alcoholic wine. It was the perfect way to take our healthy habits one step further…on those Friday nights when we felt like some wine and cheese, why not swap in a bottle of alcohol-free instead?
We turned this love into a business – YOURS Non-Alcoholic Wine. Decent nonalcoholic red wine was hard to come by, so we decided to make our own. And today we offer a full lineup of alcohol-free wine options.
The ironic thing is that the stress from starting an alcohol-free business, stacked atop the stress of pregnancy, fatherhood, and lingering pandemic craziness, set me down a path where I was drinking more than ever before. An occasional habit turned into a nightly one. And with the nightly beers and wine came the weight gain.
Not only was I easily consuming an extra 1,000 calories a day from craft beers, but this buzzed version of myself was also making all our dinner and dessert choices. A bad version of myself was in control every single night…and his decisions ultimately led me to gain 100 pounds over the last two and a half years.
But no more. I am now on the journey to spend 1 year alcohol free. And in the process, lose the 100 pounds I packed on during the last few years. I will be sharing this journey here in the hopes that it helps some of you who want to do the same. Because weight gain from alcohol becomes a vicious cycle. You drink because you’re unhappy, and you’re unhappy because you drink.
But it doesn’t have to stay that way. Let’s look at how quickly your body changes (and how quickly you can lose weight) when you quit drinking.
- Will I Lose Weight If I Stop Drinking?
- 1 Week Without Alcohol
- 2 Weeks Without Alcohol
- 3 Weeks Without Alcohol
- 30 Days Without Alcohol
- 2 Months Without Alcohol
- 3 Months Without Alcohol
- 6 Months Without Alcohol
- 1 Year Without Alcohol
- The Challenge: 100 Pounds x 1 Year x 0 Alcohol
Will I Lose Weight If I Stop Drinking?
This is the million-dollar question. Everyone wants to know if they’ll lose weight if they give up alcohol.
The answer is yes. But not necessarily for the reason you think.
Sure, there’s simple math involved. A typical light beer has 100 calories, while craft beers can be a whopping 350-400 calories per 12oz. Most mixed drinks with spirits have anywhere between 90-150 calories per drink before you add in the mixers (that sugar bomb of a piña colada from the Mexican joint down the street is most likely more than 500 calories!). And calories in both red and white wines generally fall between 125-175 calories per 5 oz pour.
When you quit alcohol, you quite literally quit hundreds or even thousands of calories per day from your diet! It takes a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories to lose one pound, meaning even moderate daily drinkers could expect to lose at least one pound per week by doing nothing more than eliminating alcohol from their diet.
But here’s why you’ll really lose weight if you give up alcohol. It’s all about Keystone Habits. In Charles Duhigg’s phenomenal book The Power of Habit, he outlines how human beings have a set of Keystone Habits that drive many of our other, unrelated behaviors. For example, those who start going to the gym tend to eat better and wake up earlier. Working out has nothing to do with these other two habits, but once you start putting in the effort to sweat, you subconsciously want to start eating better and going to bed at a decent time as well, so that you’re maximizing your collective efforts and results. Going to the gym was the conscious habit you created (the Keystone Habit) – eating better and getting good rest were the subconscious habits that followed suit.
Drinking (or abstaining from) alcohol is one of the most prominent Keystone Habits. When you drink, you don’t just consume more calories in the moment. Your sleep that night suffers, so you wake up tired, dehydrated, and perhaps even hungover. And when you wake up that way, your body does not want to hit the gym and it craves unhealthy food. And at the end of that long, crappy day, you want another drink to release yourself from the fog of the day. It’s a vicious cycle that repeats day after day, all driven by the negative Keystone Habit of drinking.
But when you stop drinking, your body starts sleeping better within just a few days. This increases your energy, giving you the urge to get more exercise. And when you get more exercise, you start to crave better foods. Next thing you know, you’ve cut out the calories from alcohol, you’re exercising, and you’re eating better overall.
The one keystone habit of not drinking leads to an entirely new health-driven lifestyle that helps the pounds drip off.
Curious to know how fast you’ll start experiencing a difference? Let’s explore the way your body changes as soon as you quit alcohol:
1 Week Without Alcohol
One week without alcohol may not seem like a lot, but in those first 7 days your body is undergoing some incredible changes.
Of course, there are the immediate benefits, such as no hangovers, and the headaches and nausea that accompany them. But there will also be tangible improvements to your health and wellness, including:
· Deeper and more restful sleep
· Better hydration
· Faster recovery for muscles and joints
· Improved focus and mental clarity
Now, it’s important to note that your first week without alcohol can be especially challenging if you were a frequent and heavy drinker (and if you are suffering from alcohol use disorder, be sure to consult a doctor before abstaining completely, as alcohol withdrawal can have serious side effects). You may experience some mild withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, nausea, trouble sleeping, and general anxiety. You may also experience strong cravings for sugar and other comfort foods, which could counteract any possible weight loss from your first week without alcohol.
Just remember that week one is only the beginning. If you can get over this first hump, there are many benefits to come.
2 Weeks Without Alcohol
If your primary reason for quitting alcohol is weight loss, week two is where you can really start to see some progress.
Provided you only indulge in sugar (and other) cravings on occasion, two weeks without alcohol can cut thousands of calories out of your diet, meaning it’s not uncommon to see anywhere from 2-5 pounds lost already. Plus, it’s likely that you’re treating not drinking as a new Keystone Habit, picking up other healthy habits alongside it, including improved diet, exercise, and more…all of which help accelerate your weight loss.
In addition to losing weight after 2 weeks of no alcohol, there are other benefits you may experience as well, including:
· Even more restful sleep
· More energy throughout the day
· Clearer, brighter skin
· A healthier gut
One of the less talked about but most significant benefits you’ll see after two weeks without drinking is more money in your pocket. Depending on how frequently you drank, where you drank, and what you drank, some people easily spend upwards of $100 or more a week on alcohol. Without this expense, after just two weeks you should start to see some cash reserves piling up.
3 Weeks Without Alcohol
They say, “21 days is all it takes to form a new habit”. While there’s been some debate as to whether this is true, one truth you cannot deny is that after 3 weeks without alcohol, you’re going to see some serious changes in your life. And habit or not, at this stage it’s going to start getting a little easier, as you now have some serious momentum.
If weight loss is your main goal for not drinking, you’ll be happy to know that many folks have already dropped 5-10 pounds after three weeks without drinking. And with increased energy and better sleep, finding that motivation to hit the gym is a lot easier than it was while drinking.
21 days without alcohol is a lifetime if you were a daily drinker for years prior. Take a minute to appreciate how far you’ve come, and know that a major “no drinking” milestone is just around the corner: 30 days without alcohol.
30 Days Without Alcohol
Going an entire month without drinking is a major milestone. Celebrate yourself! It’s not easy to go a full 30 days, which is why some studies suggest that as many as half of the participants in month-long “no drinking events” such as Dry January and Sober October find themselves failing to make it the entire month without having a drink.
When you reach 30 days without alcohol, the benefits of not drinking are no longer subtle. Here’s a closer look at all the changes happening with your body and mind after a month alcohol-free:
There’s no denying it now – if you wanted to stop drinking to lose weight, you should absolutely be seeing results after 30 days. Depending on how much you drank, your starting weight, your age, and how you’ve treated diet and exercise since you stopped drinking, it’s not uncommon to lose anywhere between 6-15 pounds after a month without alcohol.
While most people think of alcohol as a stress reliever, the science disagrees. Alcohol is clinically proven in study after study to worsen anxiety. After 30 days alcohol-free, you may notice your general levels of stress and anxiety starting to stabilize.
Sleep is a constant theme with quitting alcohol, because so few people realize just how badly it disrupts our rest. While it may seem like you “pass out” right away after a night of heavy drinking, your brain is unable to get the same levels of deep sleep and REM sleep when intoxicated, meaning no matter how many hours you sleep, you’ll never wake up as refreshed or restored as you do when you sleep in sober.
Better Energy and Focus
With better sleep and less anxiety, you’re naturally going to feel like you have increased energy and focus. You may even feel yourself needing that morning cup (or cups, who are we kidding) of coffee less and less.
Alcohol dehydrates your entire body, including your skin. Like all your organs, your skin needs water to survive. Water gives your skin its elasticity, strength, and glow. After 30 days without alcohol, your skin will be radiant!
Lowered Risk of Major Health Issues
It’s no secret that alcohol is one of the leading causes of preventable death in the Western world. The NIAAA reports that an estimated 95,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes in the U.S., making it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the country. Of course, much of this is driven by accidents, violence, and other emergencies brought on by excessive alcohol consumption. But it’s also driven by the immense health problems caused by the substance, including cancer, heart disease, mental illness, liver cirrhosis, and diabetes. After not drinking for a month, you’ve started well down the pathway of reducing your risk of all these fatal diseases.
Of course, the most important benefit is the personal satisfaction you get from setting out on this journey and seeing it through to completion (or at least to this major milestone, if you intend to push past 30 days). Quitting alcohol is hard. Even if you don’t believe you have a drinking problem, the multi-billion-dollar beer, wine and spirits industry has spent decades convincing you that alcohol is the fuel necessary for a good time. And without it, many can feel quite lost and lonely.
But by making it a month without alcohol, you’ve proven to yourself that you can live a full life without the need to numb your senses. The only question now is if you’ll keep going…
2 Months Without Alcohol
After two months of not drinking, you’re reaching the point where you might not even recognize yourself anymore. If consistent with diet and exercise, you will have easily dropped anywhere from 15-25 pounds by now, which is a noticeable weight loss for anyone of any size (you might even start to hear some encouraging comments about “how great you look!” from friends and family).
After two months without the booze, your body will have undergone a massive internal renovation as well. Organs like your liver will have had the time to recuperate and begin the repair process for damage done during your drinking days (of course, it’s always recommended you check in with your doctor to check for any potential long-term damage that cannot be reversed solely by giving up alcohol).
Mentally, you should also feel like a brand-new person at this point. Anxiety may be lower than you ever realized it could go, you’ll be happy with new (health-oriented routines), and your life will be stabilizing after the very difficult first 8 weeks of quitting alcohol.
Congratulations…you’re officially becoming a new person!
3 Months Without Alcohol
Remember when you thought 3 weeks without alcohol was a major achievement? Well after 3 months without alcohol, you’re going to feel like a rockstar.
We mentioned earlier that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Truth is, this is based on a much older study. More recent evidence suggests that habits are formed somewhere around the ~60-day mark. Meaning at this point, your habit of not drinking – plus any additional healthy habits you picked up in its place – are becoming part of who you are. It only gets easier from here!
From a weight loss perspective, you could have easily lost 25 – 35 pounds by now. Depending on your starting weight, body type, and gender, you may have even reached a healthy goal weight, and can now shift to focusing on maintaining and building some more muscle strength. Which will come easier with the alcohol, since muscle development requires proper energy, sleep, and vitamin intake – all things that will be dramatically improved at this point thanks to quitting drinking.
In total, here’s a look at all the benefits you can expect by going 3 months without alcohol:
· Lose upwards of 25-40 pounds
· Easily save $500-$1,000 (or more) on what you would have spent drinking
· Significantly improved sleep
· Reduced anxiety
· Better general mood and ability to cope with stress
· Healthier immune system
· Brighter skin
· More confidence
After 90 days without alcohol, you’ve put the train firmly on the tracks. All that’s left to do is keep pushing forward.
6 Months Without Alcohol
6 months without alcohol is a huge milestone – be sure to stop and take a minute to appreciate how big this is!
If you had substantial weight to lose and have been sticking with healthy diet and exercise habits, you could have easily dropped 50 – 75 pounds by this point. Energy and mood will be through the roof as your body has adjusted to this new, healthier lifestyle (and is getting great, restful sleep to support it). Also keeping you smiling is the fact that you have saved thousands of dollars on drunken nights out.
Six months after quitting drinking, you may start experiencing some drastic changes in your relationships. You’ve possibly had to let go of a few friends or family members who have not been supportive…and that’s ok! If someone is not going to support your efforts to become a new, healthier you, it’s common to question whether you truly want that individual in your life.
While the early days of not drinking were likely filled with trying out all sorts of new routines and activities, by the six-month mark, you will have likely settled into something consistent. But don’t be afraid to keep trying new things. One of the less talked about benefits of quitting drinking is that you will have so much extra time on nights and weekends to try new things (since you likely won’t be spending those evenings in a bar). Of course, if you’re missing the ritual and are comfortable with the idea, you can always seek out a bar with great non-alcoholic wine, beer, and cocktail options.
1 Year Without Alcohol
After 1 year without alcohol, you will feel invincible.
There will be changes in nearly every area of your life. Some subtle. Some pronounced. But there will be no denying that you are now a completely different person than where you started. Here’s a short list of the many ways your life has improved over the course of the year:
· You’ve lost weight – perhaps even a substantial amount (100 pounds or more)
· You’ve saved thousands of dollars
· Your anxiety has plummeted
· Your general mood and reaction to stress have never been better
· Your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease is significantly reduced
· You’re sleeping like a baby
· Your skin is tight and radiant
· Your immune system is significantly stronger
While the physical benefits of not drinking for a year are dramatic (and in some cases, can even be lifesaving), arguably the most important benefit is how you feel. Even if you were an occasional, moderate drinker before, starting out on this journey and sticking to it for an entire year is something most will never do. You should be so proud of what you’ve accomplished, and optimistic about what lies ahead in the future.
Cheers to the new you!
The 100 Pounds x 1 Year x 0 Alcohol Challenge
As you can see, there is no shortage of reasons I wanted to start my own 1-year journey without alcohol.
Below is a look at my progress so far, including a daily weigh-in spreadsheet and some before and after photos as they come along. You can also follow the journey on Instagram @100pounds1year0alcohol.
Daily Weigh-In Tracking Spreadsheet:
One Week Without Alcohol
Starting Weight: 286.3
Finishing Weight: 279.9
Pounds Lost: 6.4
Tough first week, but the results are promising. Of course, with so much weight to lose, a big week one loss is expected. The trick will be staying motivated when these numbers return to a more regular and healthy 1-3 pounds per week.
Only one day this week where I really felt like I missed drinking, and that was after a long, stressful day at work. But that feeling passed after an hour or so, and I was able to enjoy my evening afterwards. I think for most people it's more about "moments without drinking" than "days without drinking". Really, it's about fighting a specific feeling at a specific time, and when that feeling passes, so does the urge.
Excited for week two. Lots of challenges, including 3 holiday events with booze that I'll need to turn down. But it'll be good to take on these challenges early, and give myself some motivation that there's no alcohol-fueled celebration I can't navigate with non-alcoholic drink in hand instead.
Two Weeks Without Alcohol
Starting Weight: 279.9
Finishing Weight: 276.7
Pounds Lost: 3.2
Total Pounds Lost: 9.6
To be honest, this week was frustrating. After such a large drop in weight the first week, I was hoping to continue the momentum (though I realize losing 6+ pounds last week was not normal or sustainable). Have been on a plateau most of the week, but the scale finally started moving again the last few days.
On the plus side, the urge to grab a beer after work has all but disappeared. It’s honestly amazing how much I don’t think about it anymore. Only time this week I really wanted to drink was lat Saturday when I spent the day visiting an old college roommate. We hit up several breweries to watch football, and it was a struggle. Two had a single NA beer on hand, which was helpful. The third place actually had a decent selection of NA beers, but by the time we got there I was thoroughly over being at a brewery. But I held strong, which is all that matters.
Two holiday celebrations in the coming days, which I know will be challenging, but after that I am mostly in the clear!
Three Weeks Without Alcohol
Starting Weight: 276.7
Finishing Weight: 274.9
Pounds Lost: 1.8
Total Pounds Lost: 11.4
Not a super strong week on the scale. Actually popped back up for a bit, which was frustrating. Food cravings are definitely starting to creep in without the alcohol, but thankfully I’ve been able to get back on track the past few days.
I attended 3 major holiday parties this week, including one with family and a black tie gala. The urge to drink was incredibly strong, but I’m starting to notice a pattern. I would have thought that these urges would stick around the entire time I’m at these events, but that’s not the case. Actually, the urge is like getting a shot at the doctor. I anticipate all this pain, but in reality there’s really just a brief moment of discomfort. And once you’re past that it’s totally fine.
For me, that discomfort is right when I arrive at a party. That thought to head straight to the bar and grab a drink is still very strong. But if I sit in that discomfort - even for a few minutes - it disappears. This is becoming a helpful new frame for me. I don’t need to amp myself up to go “an entire night” without drinking. I just need to go through those first few moments when I arrive. After that, I’m good.
Four Weeks Without Alcohol
Starting Weight: 274.9
Finishing Weight: 273.4
Pounds Lost: 1.5
Total Pounds Lost: 12.9
Feeling good this week. 4 weeks in and the routines of not drinking are getting easier. Even with the craziness of the holidays, cravings were limited. Had some non-alcoholic wine to fill the void when they were there, but with continued progress on the scale, I’ve been feeling pretty motivated to keep going.
All that said, I definitely thought I’d be further along with the no alcohol weight loss by now. After such a huge first week, I set (unrealistic) expectations that each following week would be that easy. No dice. But the current rate of loss is much healthier, and still keeps me on track to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.
Can't believe that 30 days with no alcohol is right around the corner!