Thursday, June 7, 2012

Do Booze and Weight Loss Go Together?

For a number of years I've been overweight.  Not grossly obese but carrying around much more weight than is healthy.  December of last year I came to conclusion that it was time to stop playing with my health and get serious about getting in shape.

I've gone through exercise and healthy regimens before but my expectations were, in my opinion,  unrealistic.  In this day and age of immediate satisfaction, I wanted the weight to come off and come off quick.  To achieve that, my plan was to work out like a maniac and cut out anything that hints of high calories or fat.  This time around I took a more rational approach and set my expectations at a more moderate rate of success.  The way I look at it, as long as I'm progressing, that's what's important and if it takes 1 or 2 years to reach my goal weight and fitness level, then so be it.

My approach encompassed three prime areas.

1. Modify food intake and eat responsibly
2. Exercise program will include a form of metabolic workout providing three dimensional vs. one dimensional exercise.
3. Continue to enjoy guilty pleasures

January 2nd of 2012 was a miserable day.  I began tracking my food intake on a daily basis using the Livestrong website.  The food database is robust and allows one to enter a missing product, food or recipe into the database to use in your personal profile.  The truth is, if you don't know what you're eating, how can it be managed?

So, looking at #1, I modified my caloric intake in order to achieve a weight loss of 1-2 lbs a week, which is 3500-7000 calories.  I also modified what I eat.  My whole life I've pretty much hated vegetables and seafood.  I disliked both of these food items because to be honest, my Mother was a horrible cook and would cook veggies until they liquified and seafood, well Lord knows how she ruined that but she managed.   So now, it's mostly veggies, fish, chicken and on occasion, a small helping of a carb like rice or potato.  At present, my intake is about 1850 calories a day.  I also track my fat, sodium, carb and salt intake as well.

January 2nd I also began my workout regimen as defined in #2 above.  It was killer.  By definition, I consider running or elliptical training to be one dimensional.  Something like Metabolic Training or HIIT to be three dimensional.  My exercise program consist of three dimensional movement using a 20lb weight that includes high intensity activity with short rest periods in between. I still run but that's in addition to the other exercise.

What does this have to do with booze?  I'm coming to that.....

Guilty pleasure, again, in my opinion, must be part of the equation.  We all have cravings and knowing myself, I wasn't going to set myself up for failure.  Pizza? Check.  Hamburger or Philly Cheesecake.  Check again.  You get the picture.  I haven't cut those thing completely out of my diet, but those are the exception now where they used to be the rule.  I still have the occasional sweet but again, in very limited quantity.

Now, about the booze.  Obviously, I like whisk(e)y and beer and those are still part of my diet.  Whiskey is actually fairly low in calories so that's one thing that has stayed a part of my almost daily intake (I typically don't drink every day).  Beer on the other hand has gone from maybe 1 a day or every other day to 1-2 a week.  On the days that I want a beer, it's also a day I work out so I bank some calories to offset the beverage.

I'm now almost 2 shirt sizes smaller and 2 pant sizes smaller.  Because of the high intensity work outs, some of the flab has turned to muscle so the weight loss hasn't been as dramatic as I would have hoped but in all I'm 30 lbs lighter.

Moderation is the key to my success.  My workouts are still killer but later as I sit and sip on a dusty Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, a MacCallan 18 year or maybe a Founders Kentucky Bourbon Stout, I do so with no guilt. 


  1. Awesome! Good for you, Greg. I'm very proud of you. I, too, am on a weight loss journey. Mine is from up in outer reaches of the morbidly obese range down into a lower region of still morbidly obese (I've lost 75 pounds from 375 to 300). I took a break for 6 months but kept it off and am now losing again. I'm going to lose another 75 and then take another break. In the end I want to be 210 lbs. I'm doing Weight Watchers and exercise. I, too, leave room for whiskey. I generally don't drink more than 2-3 ounces 3-5 times per week. 2 oz of whisky is 5 WW points+. That's less than a candy bar. It's an important part of my diet equation.

    No way I'm going to live without whiskey.

    1. Josh - I'm pulling for you because I know how hard it is to gather the motivation and keep it going. I think it's awesome you dumped 75 lbs. Keep it up.

  2. Sounds like you're taking a good approach. Slow lets your metabolism come along for the ride, instead of rebounding later. Since it sounds like you're doing a fair bit of strength training, which, as you point out, will put on some muscle as well, maybe it'd be helpful to get body fat percentage measurements to have another metric? Overall, good luck.

    1. Thanks Jordan, that's not a bad idea. I guess I didn't do that because I wanted to avoid the horror of knowing. I've leaned up quite a bit but the middle is the stubborn area. I know it's working because I've turned over my whole wardrobe.

  3. Great topic. I've been thinking about this one a great deal as I've been intensifying my own fitness pursuit after kind of neglecting myself for far too long. I think to some extent if you partake regularly it's hard not to have the thought that you're probably working against yourself in the longer term.

    I started a year ago with an interruption when my son was born and I couldn't keep up with the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn, but I've been back at it with max intensity for several months now and a vast degree of learning.

    I'm a fan of My Fitness Pal for tracking; you can scan barcodes and it's easy to subdivide portions. The database seems great - though I've heard the same on LS. You're also able to set your macronutrients to meet your nutritional goals, which I think is a key component of things.

    For me, the food part of the equation has been an interesting laboratory and as I've gotten tighter on it, I've found I really have just lost taste for a lot of unhealthy stuff. Sure, I'll enjoy a slice of pizza here and there, or some ice cream, but I honestly have lost my taste for a lot of starchy stuff (hold the french fries, please...)

    I tend to go for a whole-foods heavy diet, big on protein (50% of my diet) with 30% falling to carbs (mostly fruit and naturally-occuring carbs in other stuff) and the remaining 20% from fat. Sometimes it's closer to 50-25-25 or 40-40-30, but I have my ballpark and it works phenomenally well.

    I'm a fan of heavy activity; I've been doing P90X for mine. It scratches an itch that very little else has... in a word, variety. If you push hard on cardio you can easily float along at high heart rates and get huge burn (and increased endurance). The resistance is its own reward and produces pretty visible results. 6 days a week plus an hour stretch on day 7, and honestly, I don't think I'd change it.

    On the flip side, I've considerably curtailed alcohol. I try to have 2oz tops of whiskey and I'm done. Beer is becoming a sometimes thing as it's an absolute calorie bomb, and I tend to reserve it for heavy cardio days. Honestly, the workouts are so draining (and the temperatures warming up) that I generally am not in the mood for a big barrel-proof whiskey.

    Not to mention the metabolic short-circuit effects of alcohol. Much more than a drink will suppress your body's fat burning for a while. Why bother? Again, sure, it's a sometimes thing to do a tasting, but that's enough excess.

    My biggest change was getting rid of the concept of "cheating'" or the notion that this was in any way a time-bounded change. If I want to have some pizza or a burger, then I need to adjust my intake elsewhere appropriately. Once in a great while (Memorial Day most recently, probably the first time in 4 months) I'll just enjoy the day, but the rest of the time it's on the rails.

    I too have seen some success and it's nice... and as you pointed out, when the drinks are less common or in lower volume, you tend to enjoy them more. I think slowing down and enjoying is a good thing.

    1. Nice reply Tim, thanks for your insight. In the end, it comes down to lifestyle change and that's where I have to live going forward.

      Your comment about losing the taste for unhealthy foods rang true as I've actually found the same thing. Any craving for cookies and such really isn't there anymore. Folks at work will bring in home baked goods or stuff from the Grocery and I walk right on by without giving it a second thought. I actually thought that would be the hardest thing but it hasn't.

      I've looked at PX90 but don't think I'm ready for that now. The program I'm on is working and I really feel like I've had a butt kickin' workout when I'm done. My wife and I work out together and I know she wouldn't be able to do a high intensity workout like PX90.....I do have plans to move to it in the future.

    2. I really do not need to loose much weight, but, due to some health problems, the Dr. wanted me to cut back on my drinking, which was more than was good for me I admit at around a pint a night. So I gave it up all together for about 4 months, with only a little nip on the weekends. Well, I felt crappy the whole time, I have drank like that for years with no problems, and I figured, what the hell, maybe I will shed a few pounds. Boy was I wrong. I put on 16 pounds by just stopping my daily intake of whiskey. Made no sense to me or the dr, so I started back, I feel much better and have lost about 10 of the 16 pounds. Wierd. I have know people that drink like that thier entire lives and live to be older and give up drinking, and die of some heart related thing within 6 months. Hang in there, sounds like you are on the right track.

    3. Yeah, the change in taste is interesting and I find it keeps going. I lost my taste for salty quite a while ago, and starchy keeps slipping now. Sure, I'll enjoy the occasional handful of chips (and literally, just a handful) or a small scoop of mashed potatoes once in a great while, but I just don't have the interest. I'm finding the whole foods based eating just self-reinforces because everything tends to taste fresher and more vibrant anyway. If I was eating out of boxes or something, I think it'd be so much harder.

      X is definitely something to be worked up to. It took me a year to get to where I was ready and it was a long year of facing a a lot of weakness and doing a lot of foundation level work. The best way to judge without spending the cash on it is to try the fit test (which is easily available online if you search for "P90X Fit Test"). If you can't pass it, I don't care what anyone says, you shouldn't mess around with it. There are programs that are more appropriate at that point. If you can pass it though, it's a hell of a ride.

      I'd love to hear how this continues to progress for you... as I said, this is a real heavy interest for me right now and I think I'll be writing about this at some point in the future. If nothing else, it's a heck of a fun journey that's changed me pretty substantially.

  4. Throughout my life, I've always been "the skinny guy". Well, for some dumbass reason, I got tired of that about 10 years ago and started making goals to put on weight. Talk about a snowball that turned into an avalanche! I weighed myself at Christmas time last year for the first time in awhile and was shocked at how much I weighed. My photos showed me with a rounder face and I'd gone up a shirt size for the first time ever.

    I live a life on the road so "no eating out" is not an option for me. Same with "no alcohol". I love my whiskey too much to say bye bye. I have a hard time with books or programs that tell me what to do so instead I started my own regimen of exercise (previously I was doing absolutely nothing, nada, ziltch, zippo). I do some lifting and try to run at least 2 miles or more every Tues, Thurs, and Sunday. I've been at it 3 months and have lost 12 pounds to date and feel a helluva lot better. I hope to lose another 15-20. I really don't enjoy beer anymore. Well, I lied. I enjoy it but I can't enjoy more than 1 or 2. Just too filling for me. I'd rather a few whiskeys instead. I've even found that adding a couple drops of whiskey to my water after a run makes me feel better hahaha.

    The only time whiskey is not my friend is when I have 1 too many and want to eat something bad like pizza or chips. Avoiding carbs is real hard but I've found that to be the key ingredient to keeping the weight off. I still eat carbs but avoid stuff like chips, crackers, and any snacks. I eat berries or something healthy instead now or just pour a whiskey and go to bed haha.

    Congrats to you, Greg. Weight loss is NOT easy, even for a previously skinny puke like me. It's really all about discipline and being able to control urges. It's mind over matter, being able to know what you really want for yourself and self happiness and saying "F YOU" to all the garbage that will keep you from getting there. Keep up the hard work and thanks for sharing this post. It's good to know my whiskey brothers are finding ways to enjoy their drams while sticking with a goal to stay healthy.

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