December 13, 2017

Alcohol and Weight Loss

(Update: While I wrote this post in 2017, I guess I just wasn't ready to quit drinking. A year later, I decided to set a goal to quit drinking for all of 2019--"Dry 2019"--so I'm including this post in the labels for Dry 2019.)

I have been at a total loss for words lately. I've drafted three posts over the last few days, but they were really just babbling about nothing. I'm hoping that today's will actually be worth posting ;)

I know I've written a little about this before, but this topic has actually been affecting me quite a bit this year as I'm learning more and more about myself and my body.

As you probably know, when I was losing the weight in 2009-2010, I drank a glass of wine just about every single day. I looked forward to having a glass of wine and a sweet of some sort (usually chocolate) every evening. And I lost weight for 52 weeks in a row.

I always measured out my wine, and I'd usually have 4-8 ounces, depending on how many Points/calories I wanted to spend. A 5-ounce glass has roughly 100 calories, so I wasn't consuming many calories from wine. And it worked out fine!

Early this year, when I stopped trying to count calories, I just tried to focus on not binge eating or eating for emotional reasons. Mostly, I was focused on my mental health, and my weight followed suit. For the first time ever, I dropped back down to my goal weight without counting calories.

I also wasn't drinking (much). I went about eight weeks without any alcohol during the summer, but even before that, I only had a handful of drinks over a several month period.

I suspected that limiting or eliminating alcohol played a role in my not binge eating, but I wasn't sure. Over the last month or so, I've really started to pay attention to my alcohol consumption and how it affects me (physically and mentally).

There have been several occasions where I've had alcohol recently, mainly because I've been getting together with friends frequently. I know I don't have to drink when I'm with friends, but it's hard not to. I got together with friends many times over the summer, and I was totally fine always volunteering to be the designated driver.

But then the "special occasions" got more frequent, and I've noticed that the alcohol really does affect my weight and mood in a lot of ways.

Delicious blackberry cider in Portland

To name a few ways that alcohol has affected me this year:

1) I get lazy. It doesn't matter if I have one drink or five the night before, I feel super lazy the next day, and sometimes even two days later. I was so excited about getting back to running, but over the last couple of weeks, I've found it very hard to get the energy to do it. Last week, I only ran twice, and I had planned to run three times. Three times is not too much to ask!

2) It makes me not care so much about doing what is best for me. Again, running is a good example. It's not just that I don't have the energy to run, it's that I don't care if I run or not.

3) I am hungry all the time. And not just "mental hunger" (appetite); legitimate hunger, where my stomach growls and feels like an empty pit. Because of this, I've been eating more than usual; and therefore, my weight is up. Last week, I was at 136, and this week, 136.4. In that way, alcohol does make me gain weight; the only reason I was able to lose weight before, in 2009-2010, was because I was measuring and counting the calories in the drinks. Now that I eat when I'm hungry, and the alcohol makes me hungry, I'm eating more. Result: weight gain.

4) Alcohol causes me a ton of anxiety. I might feel relaxed for a short time after having a drink, but then hours later, I am filled with generalized anxiety. And since I tend to eat when I'm anxious, it has been hard not to eat for emotional reasons. This wasn't an issue at all when I wasn't drinking for weeks (or months) at a time.

5) It makes my moods shift kind of drastically; and for someone with bipolar, that's a bad thing. The goal is to keep my mood stable, and alcohol makes that impossible.

So, it's kind of hard accepting the fact that I really need to abstain from drinking altogether, but I know it's what I need to do. I'm not even going to think too far ahead, because the thought of not enjoying margaritas (my very fave) is just sad. (I'm not saying I will never ever have a drink again--because that's highly unlikely--but I'd like to avoid it as much as I can.)

Good-bye margaritas. It's been real.

Right now, I'll just concentrate on the moment. When I wasn't drinking at all for a while, it was because I really hated the (almost) immediate physical effects on me: swollen hands (literally within 4-5 sips of a glass of wine, my hands feel warm and puffy); racing heartbeat; an uncomfortable hot/cold feeling (I can't tell whether I feel hot or cold, and it's really annoying); and insomnia. I don't sleep well at ALL if I've had even a single drink the night before.

Drinks with Caitlin a few weeks ago

My mental health is the most important task to me right now, and if that means not drinking when all my friends are, then I accept that. I have a Winers meeting (the wine club that Renee and I started in 2009) on Saturday, and it's the most fun one we do all year: Christmas! We bring a bottle of wine and an appetizer or dessert to share with everyone, and we have a white elephant gift exchange.

It's going to be so hard to be the only one not having wine at a "Winers" meeting! I've done it before, though, so I know I can handle it. I just wish I didn't like wine so much, haha ;)  Mostly, I just don't want anyone to think I'm being self-righteous or that I'm judging people for drinking. The reality is, I wish I could enjoy it with them! But my body has other ideas, so I just have to do what is best for me.

Out with friends at a brewery in Seattle, and drinking boring water. But I felt good!

When I was abstaining most of the time this year, I replaced a nightly glass of wine with a can of La Croix or flavored Perrier. I looked forward to that as much as I did my wine! I never used to buy it, because it's very expensive; but I justified the cost by not buying alcohol, so it ended up saving me money in the long run.

In the late summer, however, I decided to stop spending my "allowance" money on the water. It seemed like a waste of money to me. But I think that the water and snack routine every night helped me quite a bit. Like I said, I looked forward to it. So, I bought some La Croix today, and I'm going to go back to having one every night.

Sometimes I will have tart red cherry juice in a wine glass--it looks like a very deep red wine and the tartness tastes tannic. I can almost envision that it's actually wine ;)

Anyway, I'm very curious about any of you that may want to share... does alcohol affect your weight, either directly (the immediate calories) or indirectly (like eating for emotional reasons)? Does it affect your mood or emotions like it does for me? Make you unmotivated? I can't be the only one (at least I hope not) so I'd love to hear some other experiences.

I haven't written a Thrifty Thursday post in a while, so I am going to make sure to do that tomorrow!


  1. Hi Katie, you might see if you can find a soda stream on Craigslist to make sparkling water at home for free. I got mine for $25 and love it (it is a slightly older modern).

  2. I to notice that it affects me and not in good days. I get sluggish the next day it affects my mood as well as the not caring so much on what I'm eating. I don't drink very often at all and I'm glad but there are social events where I want a drink and then regret it.

  3. Alcohol has always been a love/hate relationship with me. Unfortunately - well, no. Fortunately, I had to make the commitment of obstaning completely forever. Yes. Really. I know I cannot have just one and it had gotten out of control this last year. Big life changes this year and that decision lifted a veil. As of now I’ve been 5 months completely sober and I’ve realized so much. 5 months ago according to mfp app I weighed in at 140.8 - which for me who’s 5’ - was my highest weight that I can ever remember. I didn’t feel good. I had mood swings (as you do) to an extreme and even a moderate amount of drinking led me to make irrational decisions and say things I can’t take back. The following mornings were always just “bleh” and I would have overwhelming anexity especially as I looked through the house, my phone use, etc (damage control) “I ordered that on amazon?! Cancel!” It wasn’t a black out in the sense I passed out, but more as I went out had fun consciously made the decision to go to bed- yet i’d Find the next day my rational brain asking “what happened?” Foreward 5 months to now. I weighed in at 114. 26 lbs from just stopping drinking alcohol. Nothing else. My body doesn’t constantly feel sore now, My sleep schedule is better and I don’t ever get night sweats as I would when i drank. Sometimes I envy those enjoying drinks and think “that would be nice.” But would it? What good has ever come from me drinking any amount of alcohol? Honestly I may have had a nice girls night out, but at what cost considering how I felt the next day. I look on Pinterest and such sites and there’s so much “drink wine” “wine everyday keeps the doctor away” and such nonsense. You shouldn’t be consuming wine every single day. I honestly don’t believe it does anything as far as improving your health...I would have gastrointestinal issues following a night out, bruising, low blood sugar, dull skin, foggy brain. It never proved itself as medicinal in any positive way. So it’s “no thanks” for me.
    Thank you for this post. I have and Always love your blog Katie

  4. I don't drink because it gives me migraines. Any kind of alcohol, I've tried all types, different low tanin wines etc. Everyone knows it doesn't agree w me, so I don't give it a second thought. I love sparkling water w a splash of grapefruit juice. Of course LaCroix too!

  5. I get anxiety and insomnia too. I love the taste, but I love sleep so much more. I have tried to stop eating and drinking anything really after 7, because eating close to bedtime gives me bad dreams too.

  6. Thank you for writing this today. I totally feel you on this issue. Some of my after effects over the last few years are:
    - hard time getting up in the morning. More tired than usual.
    - moody and short tempered about little things
    - hungry and craving sugar for a day or two after
    - sore muscles (inflammation is probably the cause of that)
    - a sense of mild carelessness and lack of motivation - not huge but it's there
    - aggression/annoyance

    I noticed that all of the above is worse with hard alcohol, sugary drinks and red wine. Prosecco does not seem to have the same negative affect -- but I also tend to drink it mixed with seltzer water (50/50) so I stay hydrated and drink half as much.

    If I don't drink for a while I wake up easier in the morning, feel less sore, and am generally a much happier person. But I love the experience of having a drink with friends or at night or at a celebration. I also use flavored seltzer water at night to feel like i'm having a drink -- and I also put it in a wine glass. I sometimes mix in some Kevita or Bai brand drinks for extra flavor.

  7. I'm a little older and noticed that alcohol (especially red wine) doesn't really agree with me since perimenopause kicked in. GI upset, pounding heart, heart palps, and more. It's just not worth it. I can drink some dry white wines, so sometimes I have a splash of that in a plain or lemon seltzer in a wine glass. I get a little taste of wine, love the fizz and feel like I'm having a drink like everyone else. Try that for your winer's club. Bring along some seltzer and splash it with red wine - fun :)

  8. a little bit....but, I notice sugar and carbs effect me and my mood so much more. Lately I have been eating more sugary treats ~ duh, its the holidays and cookies, treats and the like are just about every where you turn ~ so, yes, I have indulged a lot more than usual and I go into a sugar coma state.

    I get lazy. I crave more sugar and carbs. I get headaches. And I get bloated....yuk. I am so better off sticking to a low carb and lots of veggie diet ....I know this and yet I still cannot go cold turkey on the sweet treats.

    (I feel it is easier to quit drinking ....but maybe that's just my silly excuse...ha!)

  9. It's been 30 years, but I only had to get drunk a handful of times in college to know that alcohol made me less productive and increased my appetite. In the past you enjoyed David's Tea. Your posts encouraged me to try it. They are an expensive, but healthy option too, like the sparkling water :)

  10. I'm not much of a fan of alcohol because it just seems to slow my nerves down and kind of gets me down, which is bad since I have persistent depression. I prefer coffee, black and strong!

  11. There is non-alcoholic wine, if you haven't heard of it. (Everybody knows about near beer). I haven't tried it, personally.

    I do the fruit in a wine glass thing, also. I mix it with sparkling water, though. Fruit juice is too sweet for me. It helps the ritual aspect of a nightly drink.

    I bet you could make a faux margarita that tasted good. At least for the second one of the night!

  12. I have exactly the same issues as you when I drink. It's so sad. I actually own a bar, so it's even more problematic for me. But my doc had me on an Rx last month that I absolutely could not consume alcohol with and in just one month I lost weight, my puffiness and water retention went down, my face cleared up, I slept better, I wasn't as hungry, it was easier to retain a normal schedule, etc etc. It's so crazy to think that alcohol has that much effect on me, but just a week back in to drinking a glass of wine a night and I'm lethargic, swollen, totally broken out, and hungry all the time. It's awful!! Back when I lost the weight with SP, same as you, I abstained from drinking almost completely for over a year. I credit that for my rapid weight loss for sure.

  13. I wake up with a swollen lower abdomen the next day. I can't deny it.

  14. You could always try a non-alcoholic margarita when you're out with friends! I know its not the same but the flavor is good and then you're joining in if you feel left out. But honestly, if I'm with a group of friends, I never notice if one of them isn't drinking. It's their choice! And I'm sure your friends would think the same.

    I'm not a huge drinker so I can't really say if it affects my weight or not. I only drink at social events, like my family Christmas party coming up this weekend. I'll probably have a few glasses of wine. I always tend to overeat no matter what the alcohol situation so I don't think its the alcohol that affects my weight! ;) Haha.

  15. I've always had problems tolerating alcohol -- I feel sick almost as soon as I feel a buzz -- but since having kids it's gotten worse. Now I feel sick for a full 36 hours after having even a partial glass of something. A bad headache and nausea, usually, but also moodiness -- depression and irritation.

    It's hard not being a drinker in a culture of drink but I guess I've had a lot of practice! It was much harder in college.

    Now I'll have a sip or two if it looks good, but that's it.

  16. Even just one glass of wine makes me feel groggier and hungrier the next day!

  17. Without a doubt, alcohol affects me. I'm not an alcoholic and typically in the past if I did have a drink it was just one. When I drank however, I noticed that I ended up with a "what the hell" attitude and would eat whatever I wanted. I really wasn't able to keep myself in check and then I would end up having foods with refined sugar and the problem was just further exacerbated. Bottom line, I have abstained since Feb from alcohol and have been rewarded with getting my weight into my "dream" range. I also avoid refined sugar like donuts, cakes, pies and such and my appetite seems to be manageable. Hooray!

  18. Have you ever tried Kombucha? There are some that have a small amount of alcohol - something like .5 percent, and some that don't have any. They all have a winish/beerish kind of flavor and often when I'm drinking it I feel like I should have put it in a wine glass :) It might be a good substitute (and good for your digestion too!). It can be a little expensive though - basically as expensive as wine or beer.

  19. Maybe for your Winers party, take some cranberry juice and club soda. That looks very festive and feels more special in a wine glass than a can of LaCroix!

  20. I love alcohol! But RARELY have it now for many of the same reasons you mention. It makes me gain weight for the extra calories plus not caring what I eat and letting me let loose and eat whatever I want. It does make me ravenous the next morning and feel yucky. Also, I notice I get middle of the night insomnia. I do miss it. Plus, I'm struggling with the added fact that I notice I am so much more social and have fun with the alcohol, so I think that is because I used alcohol to mask social anxiety, which I really didn't even think/know I had. Thank you for posting this today - it is very timely! I have an event tonight and really don't want to drink. BUT the challenge is once I don't drink everyone immediately assumes I'm pregnant, and that is so annoying!

  21. Well, I have really been craving a glass of wine, but after your post and these comments, I think I'll just pass. LOL! And I agree with Amanda I never notice who drinks or doesn't drink. Doesn't matter to me. But now that all these symptoms have been pointed out, I think I'll abstain, but chocolate on the other hand...that's hard to pass up.

  22. OMG, yes! I am so hungry when I drink. Plus with inhibitions down, it's hard to stick to the healthy snacks, I tend to overindulge in many ways. I am an infrequent drinker for a number of reasons. #1 because I hate to be out of control. #2 Alcohol gives me migraines, sometimes one drink and the next day I suffer horribly for it. #3 I experience some of the same symptoms as you do, the swelling, feeling hot/cold and insomnia (I hate to miss my sleep!). #4 Alcoholism is as issue for a few people in my family and although I know I will never go down that road, I really don't like to drink around those that are sober so that I can support them, and those that do drink, I don't like to contribute to the abusive behavior. For me, it's not generally worth it. it's a personal choice.

  23. Myself, I've noticed that alcohol always makes me eat more. It seems to be just that I'm less likely to say no to anything after I've been drinking. So, I'm more likely to eat food that I would normally be good about avoiding. Not a good pattern, especially as alcohol is a source of calories itself.

    On a side note, your focus on mental health is admirable. Society tends to focus on physical health first of all. But, supporting our mental health is critical for long-term outcomes.

  24. I have abstained from alcohol for many years now due to the reasons Katie. I think it is far more important to take care of my mental health. My 19 year old has seen my struggles with binge eating and recently wrote an essay about my recovery and what an inspiration it has been to her. One of the main reasons why I recovered is due to the fact that I am taking care of my mental health issues. Kuddos to you!

  25. I have a (small) cardiac problem (not dangerous) but triggered by: smoking (I don't smoke), coffee (don't drink any) and alcohol. Since all 4 of my grand-parents died of cardiac failures I decided to stop all alcohol and feel really good about that decision!
    I hope this will make you feel great again!

  26. I’ve found that I don’t feel well after drinking either. I’ve never been a drinker anyway but just a glass with friends on occasion. I bought wine to have a glass at night to relax and just didn’t feel well after. I too find that a kombucha or la croix or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice is a relaxing ritual with no side effects.

  27. I have followed you since 2010, when I originally lost 100 lbs. As someone who has constantly battled with her weight and has finally in the last year maintained within a few lbs of goal, I get so tired of the comments I receive for not having a few drinks at social gatherings. It’s so annoying. I’m with you- it makes me gain, makes my heart race, and gives me trouble sleeping. Overall- in no way worth the temporary buzz. And speaking of buzz, all those people who continuously ask why I’m not drinking need to buzz off and mind their own business, and I’ll continue to be in control of my body and health.


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