Sobriety & Weight Loss
It’s a well-known fact that alcohol causes weight gain. Not only is alcohol loaded with calories, but it causes us to make poor food choices as well. Logically, therefore, you might assume sobriety and weight loss go hand in hand.
While many people stop drinking and lose weight fast, unfortunately, that isn’t always the case for everyone who tries.
And how you can do it too!
Losing Weight And Drinking Less
At just over 7 months sober, I’d like to provide an in-depth discussion of the relationship between alcohol and weight loss, largely based on personal experience. This post will be broken into three parts:
- Why You Might Lose Weight If You Quit Drinking
- Why You May Not Lose Weight If You Stop Drinking
- Sober Weight Loss Tips & Tricks
You May Lose Weight If You Stop Drinking
First, I’d like to start with reasons you are highly likely to lose at least some weight if you stop drinking alcohol.
1. The reduction in alcohol calories
Perhaps the most obvious reason you’re likely to lose weight if you lay off the booze is the reduction in alcohol calories. With 150 calories in an average can of beer, 123 calories for a 5-ounce glass of wine, and around 100 for an average shot of vodka, it’s easy to see how the pounds stack up.
I don’t know about you, but drink for me never meant just one glass of wine or one shot. I could put away an entire bottle of wine by myself on a moderate night… 635 calories. Boom.
That’s literally more than an entire meal’s worth of crappy calories. Then I’d still need to eat.
2. The reduction in poor food choices/hangover recovery meals
When I binge drank I’d often forego eating. I’d be ravenous after my hangover and would eat like crazy. Fatty, greasy, unhealthy foods always pack on the pounds.
It’s easy to see why if you are a regular drinker – even just on the weekends – then take away those drinking sessions you might naturally shed a few pounds.
3. Other physical improvements make you want to be more fit
Another reason you might expect some sober weight loss is you start to see other physical improvements that make you want to care for yourself a bit. Your skin clears up and looks suppler, your eyes get a little brighter. Your body feels more hydrated and you just look and feel more “put together”.
Looking in the mirror and liking what you see a bit more makes you want to like what you see even MORE!
You also just feel better inside. You have more energy, you sleep a little better and your head and thoughts get so clear. It’s only natural to go on a quest to further improve your physical appearance and health.
You may naturally gravitate toward a healthier lifestyle once you quit drinking alcohol, which aids in weight loss.
4. You have more time and energy
One of the most intense aspects of quitting alcohol for me was just how much more time I seemed to have. Less time spent thinking about drinking, purchasing alcohol, drinking alcohol and recovering from drinking alcohol meant more time to do everything else.
All that time and energy has to go somewhere, right?
Many who quit drinking turn to fitness or sports as a new hobby. This would clearly cause weight loss.
5. Your palate changes
Perhaps a less obvious reason you may lose weight when you quit drinking is that depending on how much you drank your palate might change.
I still don’t have the perfect diet, but I’ll admit some of the lower quality food I thought was decent before is completely unacceptable now. I much prefer home-cooked foods prepared with quality ingredients and less added oil, sugar, and salt.
Over the past 7 months, I’ve found myself completely put off by some of my old-time favorites. And the flavors of fruits and vegetables is much preferred.
Should this happen to you, you may find you effortlessly drop a few pounds just because things taste different.
Who knew all that whiskey could burn off your taste buds?
You May Not Lose Weight If You Quit Alcohol
While you may lose a bit of weight without changing much else outside of quitting alcohol – not so fast! There are a few roadblocks that could get in your way. You might even gain some weight if you’re not careful.
1. Sugar cravings kick in
Sugar cravings after quitting alcohol are notoriously problematic. I’ve yet to meet a recovering alcoholic who hasn’t fallen victim to this phenomenon.
When this happened to me, I let it flow. “Anything but alcohol” in the beginning, was my motto.
I still feel that’s fine, you know. I wouldn’t change a thing. If I have to choose between sour patch kids or shots, give me the gummy candy.
But you have to understand this will prevent you from attaining the sober weight loss you seek.
For me, I got lucky when I tried intermittent fasting for a month. I don’t know exactly why this happened, but my sugar addiction went away completely pretty much immediately and never really came back.
I do eat sweets, sometimes even two days in a row, but it’s not compulsive and it’s not threatening my waistline anymore.
I’m not saying to try fasting if you have sugar cravings once you quit drinking. I’m just sharing my experience and how I overcame it. But I want you to know that sugar cravings after you quit drinking are very much a real thing, and if you fall victim to them you may not lose the weight you think you will.
2. Emotional eating replaces alcohol as a pleasure activity
If you’re truly addicted to alcohol, it’s not unlikely that you’ll stop drinking and just transfer the addiction. Some move to cigarettes or coffee, others move to food.
I hate to admit it, but I’m currently working through this and it’s been a bit challenging. I still think it’s better than alcohol but relying on food for comfort or to relieve boredom is also unhealthy, definitely not ideal, and thwarts weight loss for sure.
Once again, though, intermittent fasting has helped me immensely. I hesitate to go too deep into it because I don’t want this to seem like I’m promoting fasting. I swear I’m not. It’s just the reality of my experience.
The bottom line though is if you transfer an alcohol addiction to a food addiction, expect to gain – not lose – weight.
3. You’re still the same person as you were before
Finally, you may not lose weight once you quit drinking because alcohol doesn’t change who you are.
Some people are just more physically active than others and/or more health conscious. There are skinny alcoholics out there.
While many quit drinking and turn to health and fitness as a new lifestyle choice – that won’t be the case for everyone.
Furthermore, even if that is the change you make in the beginning, it may not stick.
During the earliest weeks and months of sobriety, the pink cloud kicks in. You’re over-the-moon about your new life, experience a burst of energy and everything is amazing. You tackle new projects, become the best version of yourself you possibly can, and feel unstoppable.
When the pink cloud phase ends, though, you can find yourself bored, listless, frustrated and a little sad. These new great habits may fade away and you realize you’re still the same person as before, living the same life – just without alcohol.
This is okay, but it’s a huge reason why sustained weight loss after sobriety may not be as easy as one might imagine.
7 Tips To Lose Weight After You Stop Drinking
As you can see, there are factors working both for and against you when it comes to sober weight loss.
My experience has led me to the conclusion that overall there really are no quick fixes. Both sobriety and weight loss individually are big, huge, complicated life changes that take time and real work. There’s no quick fix to sobriety, and there’s also no quick fix to weight loss. The only way forward is consistency. You have to make good decisions, stick to your choices and take it all one day at a time.
That said, here are some quick tips for losing weight after quitting drinking.
1. Get accountability buddies for exercise
It took me quite some time to figure this one out but having someone to be accountable to is helping my consistency a great deal. I’ve been doing 30-Day Fitness Challenges every month and so far it’s been the #1 thing that gets me moving every day even when I don’t want to.
2. Find new active hobbies that you enjoy
Finding new active hobbies you enjoy is a great way to sneak more activity into your life. It doesn’t have to be anything too intense, either. I’ve made a conscious effort to take my toddler out to the park more often and play with him, and just that little bit of extra movement is helping me in a consistent way.
Like it’s not the same thing as hitting the gym for an hour every day, but it’s fun, it’s more bonding time with the baby, and it’s better than lazying around watching TV for that same 1-2 hours we’re outside running around.
It’s sustainable, and I feel like it’s adding up. Can you think of something similar you might add to your life? Like walking your dog a little more, or taking nightly strolls with your significant other and chatting about your day?
3. Come up with a diet plan you can stick with
When you quit drinking things can be all over the place. Personally, I’ve tried a bunch of different diets. I went vegetarian for a while, I tried ketogenic/low carb dieting. Though intermittent fasting isn’t exactly a diet, I’m lumping that in here because it’s a similar lifestyle change.
I think it’s okay if it takes time and effort, but I think it’s important – especially if emotional eating is a problem for you and/or you had serious poor eating habits when you were drinking.
I’m totally not being preachy here. As I said I still struggle with this a bit, but it’s getting better. It’s just really important to get proper nutrition – not only for weight loss but just to be healthy overall.
4. Find healthier versions of things you love to eat
Something that has worked really well for me is finding healthier versions of things I enjoy. For example, instead of calorie-dense pasta, I’ve switched to shirataki noodles – zero carbs, nearly zero calorie pasta noodles made from yam. They taste enough like the real thing to make me happy, and I’ve lost over 30 pounds to date eating them many times monthly! I’ve also taken to making my own salad dressing. Much healthier, more delicious, lower calorie (and cheaper!) than store-bought. Small changes like that really will help you reach your sober weight loss goals a whole lot faster!
5. Drink more water, especially before meals
As I write this, we’re in the middle of a heat wave in my town. Thus, I’ve been drinking an insane amount of water. I mean I have consumed over 100 ounces already (and it’s 9 am).
We all know drinking water is important for overall health and it’s something we hear all the time when the topic of weight loss comes up, but I think it’s easy to forget just how important it is.
Drinking all this water this past week has made me FAR less hungry. I think so much of the time we really do think we’re hungry or want to eat when if we drank more water we’d be fine.
So, I know you’ve heard this before, and maybe it’s even been beaten to death, but really drinking lots of water WILL help. Here are some delicious infused water recipes for you to enjoy!
6. Address underlying issues, such as emotional and binge eating
If you have issues with emotional or binge eating, you need to identify them and address them. Again, I’ve been struggling with this myself. This is not meant to be a “how to address emotional/binge eating” piece. Just like, be aware. Know it’s a real thing, and keep it on your radar.
7. Don’t make too many changes at once
Finally, the last piece of advice I can give is to take it easy. Losing weight is hard work. Sobriety is hard work. Doing both at the same time is seriously doubly hard!
There may be some people out there who quit drinking, lost 50 pounds while doing nothing extra, and now they’re supermodels. Let me tell you that’s highly unlikely.
This is just my opinion, of course, but if you have to choose between prioritizing your weight and prioritizing your sobriety, your sobriety should come first.
True, obesity can also cause health problems. But alcohol can ruin your life a whole lot faster. You won’t get a DUI because your BMI is too high. Your love of cupcakes won’t cause your marriage to dissolve. One too many burgers won’t get you fired from your job.
I’m not advocating an unhealthy lifestyle, by any means. I’ve just been to hell and back with alcohol and I believe wholeheartedly that maybe in the beginning just focusing on staying clean for a good long while is okay. Getting your sober legs beneath you first, then prioritizing weight loss and other major life changes later has been good for me.
Will You Lose Weight If You Quit Drinking Alcohol?
So… will you? If you really want to, yes. Maybe not immediately. Or like me, may immediately you will, then you’ll gain some back, then lose it later.
It’s just important to understand that while quitting drinking may make weight loss a bit easier in some ways, it’s not a magic bullet. It will still take work and effort.
But quitting drinking does free you up to make consistent, sustainable changes to become the best version of yourself you possibly can be. Losing the weight can definitely be part of that – all in time.
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