Could Reducing Alcohol Be the Key to Weight Loss?

This month I am featuring an article by Health and Wellness Writer, Helen Young.  Over the years many of my clients have wondered whether a healthy diet is compatible with occasional or regular alcohol consumption. I hope you find this guidance helpful–Sharon 

If you are committed to eating a healthy diet and are still struggling to lose weight then it could well be that instead of focusing on what you eat, you should also focus on what you drink. Research has shown that consuming just three ounces of alcohol reduces the efficiency of your body’s ability to burn fat by a third: not only does this mean that your consuming extra calories when you consume alcohol but also that you will be less able to process those extra calories. So how exactly does alcohol consumption inhibit weight loss? Well research shows that alcohol temporarily inhibits your “lipid oxidation”; this means that your body finds it harder to oxidinate the fat in your lipid system, making it much more difficult to burn any fat that your body already contains. This means that that glass of wine that you consume each evening, or the cocktail or two that you enjoy at the weekend could contribute to preventing your weight loss.

The Calorie Content of Alcohol

While the calorie content of your favorite drink viewed in isolation may not be particularly concerning, many alcoholic beverages contain high amounts of sugar: this is true if you favor cocktails which tend to be mixed with sugary fruit juices or syrupy sodas. Cutting out alcohol isn’t easy, particularly if it is your only vice. Like pulling off a band aid, you simply have to go cold turkey and make the decision to stop your alcohol consumption entirely, detoxing your body of the harmful chemicals that alcohol contains. (Separately, but related, is the importance of detoxing your mind while you are cleaning up your body:  click here for a fascinating article.)

You may well be surprised by how many calories you are consuming each month purely in the alcohol that you drink: individuals who consider themselves to be average normal wine drinkers actually consume an additional 2,000 calories a month. That’s the equivalent to eating 141 ice cream cones over the course of a year. If you would be reluctant to consume such a large amount of ice cream and are focusing on achieving your weight loss goals then you should certainly consider cutting alcohol from your weekly diet.

The Health Impact of Alcohol Consumption

With so much research surrounding alcohol consumption, it can be difficult for the average consumer to know what to do. We have been told that excessive alcohol consumption can increase your cancer risk, while moderate alcohol consumption (particularly consumption of red wine) can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Additional research has shown that alcohol can lower your risk of developing diabetes, can increase the risk of fetal anomalies during pregnancy, and can have a negative impact on both your long term and short term memory when consumed in excess.

The fact is that occasional consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol should not cause any long term damage to your health, however it will also not aid your weight loss goals. When under the influence of alcohol, some individuals are much more likely to make bad food choices, or forgo regular exercise. If you’re serious about losing weight and maximizing your physical and mental health then it might be worth evaluating whether less or no alcohol would benefit you.

By Helen Young

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My Favorite Seasonal Recipe for Chili

Prep Time

10-15 Minutes

Prep Notes

I like chili because it is dense and textured. Like many soups, chili provides an opportunity to add precooked or raw vegetables that you have on hand to complete the soup. You can add your favorite hot spices as well. Try a new variation of the original recipe every time you make it.

Cooking Time

20 Minutes

Yields

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

½-¾ lb. ground turkey

1 teaspoon salt

1 14½ oz. can roasted diced tomatoes

¼ cup tomato paste

1 medium onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup carrots, sliced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 15 oz. can kidney or cannellini beans

3 cups water

2 cups shredded kale leaves, stems removed

Directions

1. Preheat a large skillet coated with 1 tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the ground turkey and salt to the pan and cook, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and heat through on low heat.

2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large soup pot on medium-low heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for 3 minutes.

3. Add the carrots, chili powder and cumin to the soup pot, and sauté for 2 minutes.

4. Add the turkey and tomato mixture to the soup pot.

5. Add beans and water and cook on medium heat until boiling. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes.

6. Add kale and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Notes

Seasonal Recipe Variations

Celery, broccoli and corn could replace, or be added to the pot at the same time as, the carrots.

Collard greens could replace the kale.

Any precooked vegetables could be added to the pot at the same time as the leafy greens.

Ground beef could replace the turkey, or 1 additional cup of beans could replace the meat.

Credit

Sharon Goldner, The Recipe for a Healthy Life Cookbook

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My Favorite Snack Food