Over the past 18+ months, I’ve worked on weight loss and body transformation and I’ve achieved solid results with the support of FIT4MOM's Body Back program. Along with a commitment to exercise, I’ve made many positive changes to my diet as well. Despite that, I am an emotional eater and have struggled with the nutrition aspects of getting healthy. In my experience, it’s true that ‘abs are made in the kitchen,’ and mine were a mirror reflection of those hard habits to break. For the past 12 months, I’ve been unsuccessful at losing weight and my alcohol consumption was the biggest elephant in the room.
Speaking of animals…in early September, I finally admitted to myself that my daily chardonnay fix was an albatross around my neck. Not only were the alcohol calories a deterrent to weight loss, but with the 1-2 drinks per day I was consuming (often 3-4 on weekend nights), I often let my guard down when it came to sampling the merchandise as I cooked dinner—or enjoying candy, ice cream or other savory treats late at night while I packed the kids’ lunches.
Although losing weight was something I was certain would happen if I gave up my daily drink, more than one good thing came out of my 7+ weeks on the wagon. Here are the top 6.
1) I lost weight.
Over an 8-week period (during which I stayed alcohol-free for 7+ weeks), I lost 8.4 pounds. It’s less than I was hoping to lose, but still a respectable showing. Alcohol is just one component, and I’ve still got some work to do when it comes to my food choices and the sheer volume of what I’m putting into my body.
2) I gained a more positive attitude.
Although it might make us feel happy, alcohol is a depressant.
Over the past few years, I’ve devoted a much larger portion of mindshare to thinking to negative thoughts and feelings. Most prominently, dying. Sounds as morbid as it gets but I would actually lie in bed at night and worry that I might die in my sleep… or feel like I was starting to have a panic attack because I may not see my kids grow up. Though life holds no guarantees, not drinking alcohol created an almost immediate change in my outlook and I wasn’t even aware of it right away. One day I just realized that I had stopped thinking about dying all the time. In fact, I wasn’t thinking about it at all. Instead, I was focused on finding ways to live better and make more positive choices the next day.
That’s not to say that every day was easy. There were a lot of times when I wanted to have a glass of wine. Like when the kids got home from school and the whole house felt crazy or on a Saturday night when it was time to wind down. But I realized as the days passed by that alcohol wasn’t going to change anything, except make me feel like I failed at achieving my goals. So I stuck it out and it got easier each day—and each day I felt less dependent on that delicious cup of happiness to turn my frown upside down.
3) I broke two habits (almost 3) for the price of one.
For me, alcohol was just one albatross standing in the way of a healthy lifestyle. When I made the commitment to quit alcohol for 7 weeks, I decided to kick some other bad habits to the curb as well.
For starters I managed to avoid any episodes of binging and purging (bad habit #2)—a behavior I’ve been doing regularly, with periods of off and on and varying degrees of intensity, for 17+ years. In the very few times where I overate during this timeframe, the urge to ‘eliminate’ was certainly there but my overall commitment to a healthier lifestyle and loving myself won out every single time. With alcohol in the picture, I can’t say the result would have been the same.
The third bad habit I almost broke was getting on that ‘value meter’ 10+ times a day. I’m talking about the scale. For more than four weeks, I managed to avoid looking at the number on the scale entirely…something I have NEVER done in the past 30 years. My workout coach checked and recorded my weight each week but kept the number to herself, and it was incredibly empowering to live without that number ruling my life. Not getting on the scale was also a major catalyst in sending bad habit #2 packing without a return flight.
4) I lowered my blood pressure.
For the past few years, nearly every time I got my blood pressure checked at a doctor’s office or on one of those machines in a store, it would typically read somewhere in the neighborhood of 132+ over about 82. It was a mild cause for concern but I thought if I continued to work on weight loss, those numbers would magically go down.
After just two weeks of avoiding alcohol, my reading at the grocery store was 111/65 and those numbers have consistently stayed right in that neighborhood throughout this entire process. Now that’s something to celebrate! I have to admit that at first I was mildly disappointed because the blood pressure readings are undeniable feedback that my ‘innocent’ little alcohol habit was affecting my health more than I cared to admit.
5) I saved money.
I’m no wine snob and I couldn’t afford to be, especially at the rate I was taking it in. But a bottle of Edna Valley Chardonnay (like my other favorite lady, Simi) typically runs about $11.99 at the local grocery store. I was downing about a half a bottle every day and sometimes more on weekends, so conservatively, I saved at least $250 in ‘grocery’ bills over that 7-week period. Over a year, that would be close to $2,000! I never intended to stay off the bottle forever, but kicking my daily drinking habit will continue to save our family money over time.
6) I encouraged someone else to change too.
I can’t tell you how many times my husband has proclaimed at the start of a new week, “let’s only drink on the weekends from now on” or “we should only drink on the weekends and if there’s a special occasion during the week.” I would always reply that he can do whatever he wanted and I would ‘support’ him but that I intended to continue with my nightly glass because it wasn’t a problem for me. My wine was a habit that I was completely unwilling to give up.
My decision to quit drinking for several weeks gave my husband an opportunity too. Instead of watching me indulge, he saw a stronger, healthier person emerging before him and was able to avoid the temptation to drink quite so much as well. While Wednesday had always been his ‘drinking night’ since he didn’t go to CrossFit on Thursday mornings, he didn’t seem to care about drinking anymore. When the weekends came around, he would have a few drinks but without his drinking buddy it just wasn’t as fun anymore.
We both began to talk about how we actually liked this ‘not drinking’ thing…no hangovers, no guilt from overindulgence, and fewer short tempers with the kids in the mornings. A win for the entire family!
Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from this exercise is that I am much stronger than I ever imagined. Taking ownership of bad habits is hard and scary, but that’s the first step. When I finally accepted the fact that the results I wanted to see weren’t going to happen unless I altered my most sharply ingrained habits, I was able to take control of some of those habits and finally see results. Consistency and incremental changes are the greatest tools to self-improvement, and I’m in control of whatever happens next.
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