July 24, 2013

“But isn’t a glass of wine now and then good for you?”

For years the wine industry have promoted selected studies that suggest that red wine has an ingredient (Resveritrol) that has a heart-protective effect. This has provided many of us with an extra excuse to partake and justify something that many enjoy. Be aware that having all your daily serves of veggies has a far greater protective effect.

Although there are now studies coming out that question whether wine (or any alcohol) does us any good, this article ignores all that and only discusses the effect of alcohol consumption on weight loss. It is too easy to be influenced by “Confirmation Bias” where we only pay attention to studies or information that concur with our beliefs or habits.

Have a look at the weight loss graph below of one of our members in her 40’s. To protect her privacy, we’ll call her Judy. She is following our Reset weight loss program and has been impressively diligent in writing down EVERYTHING she eats and drinks, regardless of whether it was “on plan” or not. We carefully reviewed her Daily Planner for her daily food, drink and alcohol intake. We then graphed her weight from the recordings from her “Check Ins” at the centre.

Before you form a judgement, be warned that a perfect diet and perfect compliance will still show up-down progress. It is never a dead straight line. But this graph does show clear trends. When alcohol was consumed (mainly on weekends) the weight loss did not just stop, but weight increased. The net effect is that her weight loss journey is far slower and longer than it would be if she abstained. We’ve seen many cases where alcohol stopped all weight loss.

As an analogy, imaging you are walking along the crest of a long sand dune. You’re making pretty good progress travelling about 3 km every hour. But then you decide that it would be fun to run down the dune every half hour or so. It’s fast down and a long slog back up to the crest, where walking is much easier. Now you are only travelling 1 km every hour. It’s so slow, you may be tempted to throw in the towel!

For this member, the lesson she learned was absolutely clear. If she drinks (alcohol) her weight goes up for a few days and it takes the rest of the week to get her weight loss back on track.

Now this article is NOT about any moral, legal or health issues to do with drinking. But when it comes to weight loss, sometimes we have to be careful of our self talk.  Knowing that you’ll achieve the best weight loss results if you don’t drink any alcohol, does not mean that you’ll never be able to enjoy it… ever.

We often quote the saying by St Augustus who said “I find total abstinence far easier than perfect moderation.”

Now different strategies work best for different people. For most, abstinence while they are losing weight is the best strategy. They know that they are more likely to stick to their weight loss journey when they are getting the best results.

For others, they’re happier choosing to have “a” glass of wine with their meal on Friday and Saturday night – in the knowledge that they won’t lose weight as quickly as if they abstained.

Whatever path you choose, here are 10 tips that may help.

  1. Pre-plan what you are going to eat and what you are going to drink. Use your Daily Planner.
  2. If you deviate, write it down. “If it’s in the mouth, it’s in the Planner.”
  3. Attend all your agreed Check Ins at the centre where your weight is monitored. This way, your body’s response is your teacher. You’ll learn if you can get away with it or not.
  4. Be aware that your habits and rituals gave you the body and health you currently enjoy (or not). It’s the development of new habits and rituals that will give you the best health and body shape. One ritual might be “I don’t drink until I’m sitting down and having a meal and never before 6:00pm.”
  5. If you plan to drink, select dry white wine and use small slim glasses.
  6. If you plan to drink, always drink water for thirst and wine for flavour. Always have a glass of water in front of you.
  7. If you feel social pressure to join in, but want to limit your intake, leave your glass full! Nobody can fill a full glass.
  8. If you’re out at a restaurant, try ordering a sparkling mineral water. We know it costs more than water, but for some it seems socially acceptable that you are drinking something that costs. We know someone who goes to the wine shop every week, buys a bottle of wine and a dozen expensive San Pelegrino mineral waters. They try to drink one of these every night, dressing it up with ice, mint and a lemon slice.
  9. Make sure you have some AFDs (Alcohol Free Days). Each morning, write down how well you slept. Notice if drinking alcohol helps or worsens your sleep.
  10. Ask yourself “If I was stranded on a desert island with no alcohol but with loads of fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, coconuts and water, would I live or die?”

Three of the guiding philosophies of our Reset Program are:

  1. “One diet does not suit everybody.” We’ve found that even if you put two sisters on the same diet, one may do well and another not.
  2. “Your body is the expert.” By making week-by-week food and drink adjustments, and carefully monitoring and recording the results of each adjustment, we can discover what works best for and is the most sustainable.
  3. Having a process and a coach works way better than “winging it”.

Stay the course. Good luck!