To booze or not to booze – that’s the dieter’s question

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From what I’ve gathered by discussing my weightloss experience with family and friends, it seems as though alcohol consumption is one of the biggest issues for people in their 30’s and 20’s attempting to lose weight. I can’t tell you how many times the question “How’d you do it?” has been followed up with “yeah, but can you drink?” This is most likely because a lot of popular clean eating and weightloss advocates maintain that you shouldn’t drink while dieting, a suggestion that is without a doubt merited but seems to scare a lot of younger people away.   


When I first started my weightloss journey I too struggled with the all-important question –too booze or not to booze? On one hand I was well aware that alcohol would likely inhibit my weightloss in more than one way. I’m not going to go into details about the reasons dieters shouldn’t drink because you’ve most likely heard them all—it’s empty calories, your body processes it like a poison, it’s a depressant etc. But on the other hand, I consider myself to be a bit of a social butterfly and found myself asking some questions that can be incredibly important to a twenty-something like “is not drinking going to inhibit my social life? Can I have fun if I’m the only sober one? Can I make room for alcohol in my diet?”

During the first stage of my weightloss, when I was still in college, I drank. I limited alcohol to weekends and made sure to anticipate, calorically, what I might drink on a given night. I stuck to low-calorie drinks like vodka soda water with lime and prosecco and tracked them in MyFitnessPal. To be entirely honest, the alcohol didn’t seem to drastically affect my weightloss. Instead, I found that my biggest inhibitions didn’t happen on days where I chose to drink, but instead the days that followed.

After a night out on the town I would usually sleep in late, be unmotivated to workout, be dehydrated, and allow myself to order take out or eat unhealthy foods because mentally I felt as though I “needed” it in order to fully recover. That being said, when you’re working out and eating well for 6 days of the week, and being hungover for one day, the odds are your weightloss isn’t going to be drastically affected by alcohol.  The truth is, I kind of treated alcohol like a cheat day and it was working for me. While I’m certain it slowed my weightloss and negatively impacted my body’s overall health and wellness, it was something I felt as though was worth prioritizing. While I am by no means suggesting that anyone trying to get healthy or lose weight make room for alcohol in their lives, I do think it’s important to be honest about a time in my life where I couldn’t imagine not drinking but was still able to lose weight.

Now, let’s fast forward to today. I am in graduate school trying to live an all-around healthy lifestyle. Alcohol plays a much less important role in my life as I have become accustomed and more comfortable with not drinking while at a social event or with friends. When I first started turning down drinks I used to blame it on my marathon training, which for some reason I felt my friends would be more likely to understand than just turning down a drink without explanation. As I started to realize over time that they didn’t really care if I didn’t drink and wouldn’t think I was “less fun” because I wasn’t drinking, I began to think less and less about making excuses for saying no.

Again, this doesn’t mean I’ve kicked alcohol out of my life entirely. As much as I am a proponent for keeping your body clean and healthy in every way possible, we all like to celebrate. As a twenty-three year old I feel comfortable with the idea of the occasional weekend night out, although I like to limit myself to two alcoholic drinks per weekend when I do decide to drink. This has eliminated hangovers from my life and all of the consequent poor decisions I would make because of them.

I wanted to share this with you all because I thought it was important to highlight that you can still lose weight and be fit while occasionally drinking alcohol—weightloss is not a teeter-totter, you can come up with your own healthy balance.

Just a few weeks ago a friend of mine told me she wouldn’t be able to lose weight because she couldn’t dream of giving up alcohol. She’s not alone in thinking that not drinking is the only way to ensure your diet and exercise leads to effective weightloss. But you aren’t expected to change your entire lifestyle all at once. Implement healthy eating and exercise into your life now and you will begin to lose weight, start thinking about your relationship with alcohol once you have these two basic aspects of weightloss in order. If you track what you put in your body and you are expending more calories than you are consuming, regardless of whether they are alcohol or not, then you will lose weight. Focus on become comfortable with this basic weightloss equation before stressing over what to do at your club's social event or company happy hour. 

Through trial and error I was able to decide upon an approach to alcohol that works for my social life, my current fitness goals, and me. I’m sure my relationship with alcohol will change as I age and as my interests begin to differ, just as it has changed in the past two years. It may be that there isn’t room for alcohol in my life a few years from now. On any given weekend I trust my mind’s ability to conclude whether to drink or not to drink—so for now let’s not ask any definitive questions.

What are your thoughts on drinking alcohol while trying to lose weight? What's worked, what hasn't? Comment below, I'd love to hear from you.

Work hard and radiate positive vibes,


Meela Dudley

Meela is the founder of health, fitness, and lifestyle blog