Do you tell yourself that you’re doing your bit to support local business every time you go down the pub? When we blokes are trying to lose weight, we often feel guilty about having a drink and feel the need to justify it. But, while it’s true that some tipples are very high in Syns, moderate drinking can be compatible with slimming success. ‘At Slimming World, nothing is off limits, be it a packet of crisps, a bar of chocolate, or your favourite bevvy,’ says Slimming World nutritionist Jenny Barber. Here’s how to enjoy alcohol and still lose weight, by recognising its healthy limits – and knowing your own!
The Weight Loss Guide To Drinking Photo Gallery
Beer, beer everywhere…
Every week we’re faced with dozens of drinking opportunities – and it’s no longer just the usual suspects like going for a quick one after work with colleagues or having that ritual couple before the big match. The availability of alcohol has increased to the point where you can even knock back a beer or wine at the cinema, and many of us will pick up a bottle of plonk (or three!) with our weekly shop. Add in the fact that wine glasses are getting bigger, spirits increasingly come as doubles and lagers are stronger than they used to be, and it can be easy to slip into habits that endanger both your health and your chances of whittling down your waistline.
‘I found it really useful to have a plan when it came to alcohol,’ says Alex Rowlands, 27, from Solihull, West Midlands, who lost 11st 1lb with Tina Bishop’s Slimming World group in Shirley. ‘At my heaviest, weighing over 26st, I’d put away at least eight pints of beer or cider at a time when I was out drinking.’ Alex identified his drinking sessions as part of the reason he’d gained weight, and started to look at alcohol as a real slimming danger zone for him. ‘It wasn’t long before I realised that, if I was serious about losing weight, I couldn’t be so flexible around how much I drank on nights out,’ he says. So why is booze such a problem for slimmers? ‘Being a liquid, alcohol doesn’t fill you up in the same way that a meal will,’ says Jenny Barber. ‘It’s also very high in calories and Syns, so just a couple of drinks can contribute significantly to your day’s energy intake.’ For example, a pint of higher-alcohol beer (over 6% ABV) is around 18½ Syns, while a 175ml glass of red wine at 14% ABV is 9 Syns. So it’s easy to see why alcohol can derail the most determined slimming plans – and why it’s important to nail down your strategy before you hit the bar.
Knowing your limits
Arming yourself with the official health advice is a great place to start. The latest guidelines issued by the UK’s chief medical officer state that men (and women, too) should drink no more than 14 units a week. That’s around six pints of averagestrength (4.8% ABV) lager, around seven 175ml glasses of lower-strength (11% ABV) wine, or around five 175ml glasses of stronger (14% ABV) wine – and these should be spread evenly over three or more days to limit health risks. Research also shows people who engage in binge drinking seem to be more at risk of obesity than low-to-moderate, frequent drinkers – so cutting down the heavy drinking sessions could give your health and weight loss a boost. The next step in building your action plan is to understand how alcohol affects you personally. Research from Slimming World identified that most of us have a ‘tipping point’: the moment when alcohol begins to affect our ability to make food and drink choices that support our weight loss.
Drinkers who pass their tipping point go on to consume up to 2,829 extra calories in food and 1,476 calories in alcohol the same day, the research found… Then up to another 2,051 extra calories are consumed the next day, as hangovers are nursed with all-day breakfasts, fizzy drinks and sugary teas and coffees. And because they feel groggy the day after, Body Magic is likely to be replaced with time on the sofa watching box sets. ‘This was definitely the case for me,’ says Alex Rowlands. ‘I decided to break the cycle and find something to do with my friends that didn’t involve alcohol. So rather than meet at the pub, I’d suggest we meet at the five-a-side pitch or at the cinema, which really helped.’ Slimming World research found that the average tipping point is at 9.3 units of alcohol (around three to four pints), so sticking to recommended limits and spreading drinking out across the week means you’re far less likely to pass your tipping point on any one night. (Take the interactive quiz at slimmingworld.co.uk/ tippingpoint to discover yours – you can share the results straight to social media so that your fellow drinkers know you intend to stick to a particular limit on a night out!)
Getting buddies on board
In the festive season, well-meaning peer pressure is as common as Cliff Richard on the radio. That’s why Alex Rowlands found it was helpful to get his friends and family behind him. ‘I made sure they knew that I was still enjoying alcohol, just within my chosen limits,’ he says. ‘I thought that way, they’d be less likely to put me under pressure by proffering drinks, especially on special occasions and at Christmas.’ Alex also did a bit of research about what to drink – always a great idea, says Jenny Barber. ‘When it comes to alcohol, there are definitely some choices that use up Syns a little more slowly than others,’ she says. ‘Spirits with diet mixers have fewer Syns than beer and wine, for example.’ For Alex, it was about swapping his pint for new favourites that used his Syns in a smarter way. ‘Now I go for rum (3½ Syns per 35ml) and diet cola rather than beer or cider,’ he says. ‘I’ll admit I got a bit of stick from my mates the first time I ordered it. Once I told them why, though, they quickly got used to it. Now they always know what to order for me when we’re buying rounds.’ So if you’re slimming down, there’s no need to go into social hibernation for the winter. With your plans in place you can enjoy getting a little merry, without worrying about your weight or your health.
Christmas – cracked!
Five more strategies for parties or the pub
1 ‘Bring a bottle’ doesn’t have to mean alcohol. You could always opt to be the designated driver and take along a Syn-free fizzy drink – you’ll find lots of ideas.
2…Or, if you’re not getting behind the wheel, take two bottles, alternating your alcoholic drink with your Syn-free choice – twice the tipples, half the Syns!
3 Whatever you decide to drink, look up its Syns in advance and make a plan for your evening. You’re much more likely to stay on track with plans in place than if you leave the house thinking, ‘I’ll see how I go…’.
4 If you’d rather not tell friends you’re cutting back the booze, a tall glass with diet lemonade, ice and a slice looks just like a G&T or vodka tonic. Of course, this only works if it’s your round!
5 If you end up drinking more than you planned one night, don’t panic. It takes a while to get into new habits, so cut yourself some slack and just get straight back to Food Optimising.