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If you’re looking to lose a bit of excess weight, the first thing you’re usually told is to give up booze, or it’s at least suggested that you dramatically limit your alcohol intake to almost nothing.
And it’s good advice. INSIDER’s very own Chloe Pantazi gave up alcohol for an entire year and achieved impressive results – just over a stone in weight loss, to be exact.
But in reality, with long summer nights and sunny afternoons already upon us, most social activity over the next few months will revolve around pub gardens, rooftop bars, boozy BBQs and prosecco-fuelled picnics, which provides a dilemma if you still want your summer beach bod to stay intact.
So what if you’re just not willing to make the social sacrifice? Is there another way?
We asked clinical nutritionist and dietician Filip Koidis of W1 Nutritionist: How can you lose weight if you don’t want to give up alcohol?
Here’s his six step response:
1. Don’t eat while you drink.
Alcohol on its own is not that calorific – although the calories it carries have almost no nutritional value and are therefore considered “empty” – but its effects on your metabolism might be delaying your weight loss progress.
“When alcohol is ingested, our body’s immediate response is to start removing it from our blood stream, as its accumulation is toxic,” Koidis said. “Therefore, if alcohol is co-ingested with food, our body will first focus on removing all alcohol and then process the food, a procedure that slows down our metabolism and interferes with our weight loss goals.”
In order to deal with this, he suggests eating 2 to 2.5 hours before a night out, and avoiding eating while drinking, “therefore allowing your liver to focus on processing the alcohol and not burdening it with food.”
“You are more likely to go for high-calorie and processed foods when you’ve had a few drinks and forget all about your healthy eating principles, so best to plan ahead and have your dinner early!”
2. Keep it simple.
The empty calories in alcohol can easily quadruple with the addition of fizzy drinks or the sugar added to cocktails/found in processed fruit juices.
Koidis says that instead of mixing your alcohol with the above, you should have it on the rocks with freshly squeezed juice or fresh pieces of fruit. “This way you are likely to have better control of how much alcohol you consume and significantly reduce your calorie intake for the night,” he said.
3. Party hard, but work out harder.
“Following a healthy lifestyle and embarking upon a weight loss journey is not about ‘cutting things out’ but about finding the right balance between your health goals and social life,” Koidis said.
If you have a special occasion or work drinks, he says this is totally fine, but don’t let this stop you from going to the gym or going for a run the next day.
“Studies have shown that exercise improves body composition and liver health of alcohol consumers, so power through your hangover and go sweat it out.”
4. Make a few simple trade-offs.
Alcohol is just one factor to consider when trying to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Koidis advises exercising your willpower on simple things now and again, “whether it’s trading off your daily glass of wine at dinner because you’re trying to improve your sleep (which will help you lose weight), or choosing to drink slower and more mindfully instead of drinking your friends under the table because you’re trying to cut back on your calorie intake, or even choosing to drink at two of the four events you have this week because you know you usually end up overdoing it at the buffet when you’re a little bit tipsy.”
5. Ask yourself – are you really a ‘moderate drinker?’
Koidis says it’s important to understand your drinking habits in order to hit your goals.
“Most drinkers consume a lot more alcohol than they think they do. So it would be good to observe your drinking habits in order to gain a better understanding of how much you’re drinking and how to tailor that on your weight loss goals,” he said.
6. Don’t cut alcohol completely at first.
Finally Koidis points out that his clients who have begun following a healthy regime usually start to reduce their intake gradually anyway.
“From my own experience at my clinic, for many of my clients, once they have been on a healthy pattern for some time they are in better sync with their body and realise alcohol’s side effects better – mood, cravings, poor performance at the gym, etc. – so wanting to cut back or cut it out completely comes naturally, which is the best way to go about it.”