Dieting and the demon drink

Probably better to store your wine out of sight, I'll admit.

Probably better to store your wine out of sight, I’ll admit.

Step 6: Drink less

In my mission to document my approach to losing weight, we are up to step 6 – cutting down on the booze. I did tell you that steps 1-5 were the easy bits didn’t I?

The strategy starts with cutting out alcohol on weekdays. By which I mean Monday to Thursday. Trying not to drink on Friday nights would be inviting failure. The heart of my approach to losing weight (and not just trying to do it) was to set goals that I would be able to meet and make lifestyle changes that I would be able to sustain. Not drinking on weekdays is a rule which I’ve not tried to achieve 100% of the time. Again, I think this would be unrealistic for me. There are too many work dinners on weekdays. Too many overseas trips. Too many social situations where not drinking would be problematic. But in practice I’ve been managing between two and four alcohol free days a week.

Now for those of you who don’t drink much, this might sound undemanding. The good news for you is that perhaps this part of my weight loss formula will in fact be another easy part. The bad news is that if you already don’t drink much and still have a weight problem, I can only assume you have another high calorie habit, like taking sugar in your tea/coffee, snacking on biscuits or cakes, eating puddings etc, none of which were problem areas for me. If they are for you, you’ll have to substitute no pudding days for no alcohol days.

With a daily net calorie budget of 1,200 and a glass of wine coming in at 120 calories, it is not difficult to see why cutting down on alcohol had to be a central part of my weight loss plan. It was also something I needed to do in any event for the good of my liver. But I was under no illusions that I would need to deploy every possible strategy and tactic if I was to succeed.

One approach to drinking less is to promise yourself to stop drinking after a certain point. “I’ll just have the one”, or “we won’t open the second bottle”. But my first fairly obvious tip is that your sober self is much better at self denial than the person you become after a drink or two. So put your sober self in charge and don’t base any of your plans on your post drinking self sticking to any of the rules.

It is much easier to delay gratification than to deny it. So rather than walking in the door and cracking open a bottle of wine (as I used to do), make a rule that you have to drink a pint of water first. After a pint of water, you drink more slowly. Tell yourself “I can wait half an hour” and go and do something else first. Any delay to starting the first drink means you’ll drink less over the course of the evening. Once the cork is out (or the screw cap removed), keep a glass of water next to you and try and alternate. I reckon it’s possible to cut down your intake on drinking days by up to half through little tricks like this.

One more observation. If you’ve had to get up extra early in the morning to fit in your daily exercise, you may be running short on sleep. If you are using something like the Withings Pulse I mentioned in an earlier post to track your sleep, it will probably be nagging you that you aren’t getting enough. So go to bed a bit earlier. There will be fewer hours in which to resist temptation on non-drinking evenings, and you’ll have less time to clock up the calories on drinking days.

So now we are on the finishing straight. Tomorrow I’ll deal with the “eating less” part and offer a few final thoughts.