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By Margaret Kohut, MSW Master Addiction Counselor (Ret.)
Before my retirement as a military officer, I was the director of the alcohol prevention and treatment program at several installations. Because of conflicts in the Middle East, our US military focused on each member’s fitness to deploy to those locations at a moment’s notice. Part of our fitness requirements was meeting a certain weight standard, depending upon our age and gender. It got crazy for a while; with every member whom were a few pounds overweight practically starving themselves to lose weight.
Then there were those who had more than a few pounds to lose and resorted to purging and laxative abuse. Many of my fellow soldiers came to see me because of the high stress levels that resulted from this constant fight with their weight. About 80% of the time, these airmen told me that although they weren’t eating, they were drinking alcohol. Some of them drank more than usual because they thought that drinking made them less hungry because it at least filled their stomachs. Imagine their surprise when I told them it was the alcohol preventing them from losing weight. They could actually gain weight from too much alcohol!
Why Alcohol Abuse Causes You to Gain Weight
If you are drinking heavily or have recently stopped drinking, here is some helpful information for you:
- Sure, alcohol fills up your stomach so you will feel less hunger but the problem is that this induced type of anorexia is caused by feelings of nausea or “queasiness” around food. Food just doesn’t look or smell good. Therefore, you avoid eating and, on an empty stomach, your body becomes more and more intoxicated. Food in your stomach slows down the amount of alcohol that reaches your small intestine where it is primarily absorbed. On an empty stomach, you’ll become more intoxicated and stay that way for a longer period of time.
- Alcohol is a toxin; it has no nutritional value your body can use. It is, however, very high in carbohydrate content. These “empty calories” will cause you to either gain weight or prevent you from losing weight regardless of your attempts to do so. Thus, if you are restricting your calorie intake from food but are still drinking a lot, you’re going to achieve the opposite results from what you intended by dieting.
- Not eating but drinking too much is a very, very dangerous habit. I have seen many hard-core alcoholics who were practically skin and bones, but were still drinking because they had no appetite for food. Here in the larger cities of the US, we have a number of homeless people who live on the streets and ask passersby for money to buy food. One look at them usually is enough to tell that it is not food they want, but more alcohol. Alcoholics usually have a bloated appearance in their face and abdomen that is usually caused by advanced liver disease.
Look in the Mirror
If you drink heavily, look at yourself in the mirror. If you see a roll of belly fat but you don’t diet to lose weight, that roll is caused by the empty carbohydrate calories from alcohol. Beer is the primary culprit in carbohydrate calories, but wine and liquor are close behind. You can lose excess body weight simply by giving up alcohol.
With the holidays rapidly approaching, many people celebrate Christmas and the New Year by increasing their alcohol use, especially in social situations like office parties and neighborly get-togethers. Don’t forget that there’s a hefty amount of alcohol in your eggnog and those luscious brandy Alexander’s are laced with enough alcohol to make you tipsy just thinking about it! By opting for the alcohol-free drinks, you’ll not only save yourself thousands of useless calories, but you’ll not become a complete nutter in social situations.
Learn how to lose extra weight by giving up alcohol or moderating your drinking in the privacy of your own home without going to groups or expensive counseling with the How to Give up Alcohol Course.