Alcohol and Weight Loss

Should You Quit Drinking to Lose Weight?

Close-up of female holding glass with redwine
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Have you ever wondered if you should quit drinking to lose weight? Alcohol and weight loss generally don't go hand in hand. Of course, there are dozens of good reasons to reduce your booze intake. You might improve your health, your relationships or your level of productivity. But some people also quit alcohol for weight loss.

So does it work? For many people reducing or eliminating their consumption is an effective way to lose weight. If you think it might work for you, consider the different ways that alcohol affects your diet. Then, if you decide to quit drinking to lose weight, use the strategies below to make sure your weight loss plan is successful.

Quitting Alcohol and Weight Loss

Even if you are a moderate drinker, the calories you consume from alcohol can impact your attempts at weight loss. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, moderate drinking is defined as one drink or less per night for women or two drinks or less per night for men.

Depending on what you drink, those calories can add up to a thousand calories or more per week.

Calories in popular alcoholic drinks:

To make matters worse, we often drink more than a single serving of alcohol without even knowing it. A single serving of red or white wine, for example, is only five ounces. Many restaurants serve 6 or even 8-ounce glasses of wine. And the wine glass you have at home could hold up to 4 times that amount. When is the last time that you measured your wine pour?

If your drinking habits go beyond moderate practices, you could be in more trouble. Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men or four or more for women in a short period of time. If a single serving of beer contains 150 calories, then a single binge drinking episode could tally 600 - 750 calories or more in just one night.

More Downsides to Drinking

It’s not just the calorie cost of the booze that makes drinking bad for weight loss. There are other reasons to reduce your drinking if you want to lose weight. For one thing, calories are easy to overconsume when they are liquid. Drinks don’t fill us up like food does. So if you’re drinking your calories, you could easily still end up hungry and craving food.

In addition, drinking may derail your metabolism. If you skip workouts to head to happy hour, you're probably going to burn fewer calories during the day. And you may even be more sluggish and less active on days following drinking.

Then the problem gets worse. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, when our alcohol consumption goes up, our diet quality tends to go down. Specifically, researchers found that when we amp up the booze, we are likely to eat less fruit and consume more calories from a combination of alcoholic beverages and foods high in unhealthy fats and added sugars.

How to Quit Alcohol for Weight Loss

If you’ve decided to quit drinking to lose weight there a few helpful strategies you can use to help get you through the bumps along the way.

Enjoy Booze-Free Cocktails

Before you go to a social event, have a plan in place regarding your drink choices. In fact, you may even want to choose a venue that offers delicious cocktails that are alcohol-free. For example, the Wayfarer in New York City is one of many upscale restaurants who are offering high-quality, hand-crafted drinks without booze.

For example, you might enjoy a Peach and Cucumber Fizz —a blend of cucumber, peach, jalapeno, and ginger beer. Other drinks, like the Berry Fusion or Kiwi Sour offer a non-alcoholic drinking experience that is far more sophisticated than a Shirley Temple and a more flavorful experience than sparkling water.

You may even want to learn how to create festive, delicious, mocktails at home. You can make your own by adding flavored bitters to sparkling water. Or enjoy pre-blended mocktails by brands like SodaStream. Enjoy an alcohol-free Bahamas Pina Colada or a Pink Mojito for just 36 calories when blended with sparkling water. There are also brands like Seedlip, that make non-alcoholic spirits, or Curious Elixers that sell booze-free cocktails

Keep in mind, however, that not all non-alcoholic drinks are low in calories. Even "healthier" drink substitutions could undo the weight loss benefits of abstinence.

Studies have shown that we tend to eat more when we consume even moderate amounts of alcohol. So your non-alcoholic choice may provide the same number of calories as your boozy beverage, but you may consume fewer calories during your drinking experience.

Prepare a Response

You may encounter social pressure to drink. In her book High Sobriety my year without booze, author Jill Stark explains that it was helpful for her to have a response ready when her friends or co-workers pressured her to drink during her year of abstinence. You may also want to prepare a statement about why you’re not drinking before you go to parties or events to prevent similar social pressure.

Get Social Support

Stark also connects with an online community called Hello Sunday Morning. The website connects people who have chosen to quit drinking for 3 months or one year in order to create meaningful change in their lives. Each participant blogs about their experiences and shares their reasons for quitting. Many people include weight loss as a goal. The site helps you set a reasonable goal and track your progress.

Maintain Healthy Eating Habits

Remember that if your ultimate goal is to lose weight, then you can’t substitute one high-calorie habit with another. In short, giving up alcohol shouldn’t be an excuse to overindulge in other treats like chocolate or junk food.  

A Word From Verywell

Choosing to give up alcohol or to reduce your intake may provide an opportunity for you to look and feel better and to create meaningful change. If you’re smart about the process, you may also lose weight. Be sure to get support from family and friends to make the journey a positive experience.

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