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Alcohol And Weight Loss

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Sure there are light beers and low-cal mixers, but the bottom line is this: if ya choose to booze while you diet, the odds are you won't lose your extra weight.

Hey, Mr. Bad Food would love to raise a glass and toast the fact that drinking and dieting can comfortably co-exist (especially at holiday time). But take it from a guy who's been there, done that: drinking raises your daily caloric intake while it lowers your inhibitions and you tend to graze more than you should at the buffet.

Who amongst us hasn't gone out on the town with every intention to eat light so we could sip a few drinks and not blow our diet? Raise your glasses... um, I mean arms. Just as I thought. Now, how many of us have ended up having those few drinks, then tossed all caution to the wind and wound up eating far more than we intended?

Ladies and gentlemen, there's no reason to beat yourself up over a booze-fueled eating binge. The simple fact is alcohol weakens our willpower to the point we can convince ourself one more wing or scoop of cheese dip won't matter. I used to scoff when the eDiets professionals would write columns warning that it isn't the drink or two that's the problem... it's the melting of resolve that follows those drinks that derails many a well-intentioned dieter.

After one too many mornings awakening with crumbs in my beard or fast food wrappers in my car, I now stand before you and say... IT'S TRUE! By far the best bet to stay the course and keep our calorie-intake intact during this holiday season -- and the happy new year ahead -- is to forego the booze-based drinks.

OK, I can hear the moaning and groaning from all you doubters. Most of us want to have our drink and diet too. The choice is yours, but before you pooh-pooh my point, indulge me by drinking in these facts about your favorite drinks:

  • The experts will tell you that drinking alcohol is not associated with weight gain. However, when consumed in excess it can increase your weight. Any form of alcohol is a "calorie-dense" food. At seven calories per gram, it packs almost twice as many calories as either carbohydrate or protein. This means a 12-ounce beer will provide 132 to 168 calories, a 5-ounce glass of wine has 85 to 145 calories and 1.5 ounces of liquor has 124 calories. Mix a 6-ounce non-diet carbonated drink to your whiskey and you add another 75 calories. This alone is a serious obstacle when you’re trying to lose weight but those bowls of chips and nuts can also be made more tempting when your inhibitions are down.

  • A 5-ounce glass of wine has as much alcohol as a 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof spirits or one 12-ounce beer. So a glass of white wine will have the same effect as straight scotch or a beer. Your brain cannot tell the difference. Alcohol is alcohol is alcohol!

  • The term "light" intends to signify a product with slightly less alcohol and fewer calories than regular beer. In the process of producing a light beer, sugar, which also provides the flavor, is turned to alcohol so there is actually an increase in alcohol content and a reduction in flavor. The beer is then diluted to make the alcohol content slightly lower than regular beer. You end up with a weak-flavored, lower calorie beer with almost the same alcohol content and hence the same "kick" as regular beer. If you think you are going to stay sober choosing a light beer, think again! You are just foregoing taste for a few calories.

  • Coffee, as well as a cold shower or exercise, cannot rid your system of alcohol. The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, so you may feel more alert, but your judgment, vision, hearing, concentration, coordination and muscular activity will remain impaired. It really only makes for a nervous, wide-awake drunk. Only time can sober up an individual. It takes about an hour and a half to eliminate a standard glass of an alcoholic drink regardless of age, sex and size.

  • Food and milk do not prevent the absorption of alcohol, but they do slow the passage of alcohol from the stomach to the small intestine. This means that alcohol "goes to the head" more slowly if one has just eaten or if one eats while drinking.

  • Alcohol has more of an effect on women than men, so there is a lower recommended intake of one drink per day for women, compared to two drinks per day for men. Women have a smaller body size and contain less water so they will develop a higher blood concentration of alcohol and become drunk more quickly than a man of the same weight who drinks the same amount.

My friend Susan Burke, the director of nutrition here at eDiets, says, "Here's a toast to your health: Let's all party hearty, but wisely. Celebrate not only in moderation, but also with drinks lower in calories.

"The beverages you choose to imbibe can make the difference between a memorable occasion and a time you’ll come to regret. Even during winter, Pina Coladas are a favorite. But one of these coconutty concoctions will set you back a belt-loosening 520 calories and 12 grams of fat! Too many Pina Coladas and you'll start looking more and more like Santa Claus.

"So when it's time for another round why not opt for a much more healthy Bloody Mary or even a gin and tonic? With about 125 calories and less than one gram of fat for a tall one, you can shout 'sip, sip, hooray' and not have to worry about hip expansion!

"But, beware of Bloody Mary mix. If you’re watching your sodium this is not a good choice! There are about 1,440 milligrams of sodium in just four ounces of mix! So mix your rum with a diet soda, or if you prefer, vodka with club soda and lots of lime! Champagne and wine has about 80 calories per four ounces and beer has about 160 calories per 12 ounces. A light beer only has about 100 calories.

"If you prefer a steaming concoction to take off the chill, you probably will find yourself bundled up near the fireplace with a hot drink in hand. But be warned: That hot toddy or Irish coffee can send your healthy diet downhill... fast. One Irish coffee has at least 240 calories and 11 grams of fat. So why not warm up with a tall cappuccino made with non-fat milk? It has no fat and only about 40 calories. You won't feel bad about adding a teaspoon or two of sugar -- they're just 16 calories each."

Perhaps the best example of a drink unique to this time of year is egg nog. Unfortunately, the traditional rendering, with about 325 calories and 20 grams of fat per glass, is hardly worth celebrating over.

Here’s news deserving of applause -- those enterprising commercial dairy producers now offer a fat-free variety of non-alcoholic egg nog. So you take in fewer calories (about 100 per cup) and zero fat, while you reap the nutritional benefits of this creamy drink, getting about 400 milligrams of calcium per cup. That’s almost half the 1,000 milligram recommended daily amount of calcium for adults 18 years and older.

Sip a glass of rich-tasting, fat-free egg nog sprinkled with additional cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired. Or try it in this recipe for instant holiday flair:

Egg Nog Smoothie: Combine 1/2 cup fat-free egg nog, 1/2 cup crushed ice and 1/2 banana in a blender; puree until smooth. (180 calories, 0g fat, 39g carbohydrate, 6g protein, 1g fiber)

Well, I hope Mr. Bad Food hasn't rained on your holiday parade. Please go out and celebrate a new year and a new you as you see fit. Happy holidays everyone... cheers!

'BIG FOOD' FEEDBACK

Wow... when we raised the issue of "Big Food" being big trouble for the masses, we never anticipated the onslaught of emails we'd receive. Here are a few of your thoughts on this emotional issue:

What is wrong with America? Suing the food industry is crazy. I can (and do) say "NO" when asked if I want my food "Biggie sized". I order what I know is healthy or I order what I know is unhealthy but I still want. Yes I am overweight. Yes I struggle every day with food. Yes I would like to have nutritional information more readily available. BUT I AM AN INTELLIGENT PERSON. I can and do make decisions for myself and I accept responsibility for my actions. The idea of blaming someone else for my extra pounds is ludicrous. Get real!!
B.J. Knauff

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Bad Food! This really strikes a nerve with me. I am an aspiring nutritionist and recently read the book Fast Food Nation. Boy, what an eye-opener. I always knew fast food was bad, but I was appalled to learn just how far the fast food giants will go to lure us in. Particularly disturbing was the fact that they have discovered an easy way into our pocket books -- our children. They have targeted their marketing toward children and sadly it is working! I truly believe that fast food is the root of all obesity today. It's too easy, too high fat, and I think it promotes a sedentary lifestyle. The worst part is that they know it and they are pushing this lifestyle on our kids. Contradictory to popular opinion, I applaud the recent legal action against McDonald's. If we will just look at the bigger picture, this will bring awareness to the issue and begin to put pressure on the fast food industry to provide healthier alternatives. Although I really don't know the parent's motives, I do understand the overwhelming peer pressure that kids must feel to go to these places. And when they get there, what choices do they have? Well, thank you for letting me vent. The fast food industry cares little about us and a lot about money at the sake of our health.
Diane Yates

A woman sues for spilling hot coffee on herself... a fat kid and mother sues for him eating a hamburger a day. The world is going crazy with this suing and people on the jury are giving it to them. Yes, I'm fat too but I know what is good for me and what is bad.
Billye Jean

I find it next to impossible to go out to eat any more. After taking a major look at what I was eating and making an effort to become more nutritionally educated, I managed to lose 30 pounds. When my family and I try to have a Friday evening out, finding healthy, low-fat items on the menu is like finding a needle in a haystack. I cringe now whenever I even drive by a McDonald's, Burger King or Taco Bell. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
Ann Souders

ETC., ETC., ETC.

Until next week, the fridge door is closed. But if you have any questions and/or comments -- or a tasteful joke to share -- feel free to write me, eDiets editor-in-chief John McGran, at john@ediets.com.

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