Alcohol is not your enemy! It makes me so upset to see the fitness and wellness community shaming women for enjoying an occasional glass of wine or a marg or two when out with friends. Every instagram influencer these days seems to be pushing the idea that you cannot drink alcohol, even in moderation, and still reach your goals. I am here to let you in a little secret, yes, you can drink alcohol and still live a very healthy and well balanced lifestyle. None should feel shamed or be littles for their choices whether that is to partake in drinking or to abstain and we need to stop living in a space where we feel guilty and shameful of our decisions and lifestyle choices because that will further lead to negative self talk.
In the process of working to break out of the “good” and “bad” food mindset we need to address alcohol. One of the hardest parts of my weight loss journey was unpacking my rigid mindset about alcohol. When I first began cutting and counting my calories my senior year of college to lose weight I would literally save myself 200-300 calories a night on the weekends just so I could drink with friends. This led me to severely under eating and depriving myself of valuable nutrients. While this worked in the short term and helped me to lose weight, I quickly re gained a few pounds as soon as I stopped siphoning off calories for alcohol and just stopped tracking it all together.
So I went and swung the complete opposite direction after being brainwashed by every fitness influencer who convinced me there was no way for me to maintain good body composition while also enjoying a few beers during my week. Nearly every “fitspo” account I was following was telling me that alcohol was “bad” and full of evil empty calories that would be the ruin of my body composition goals, cause me to gain belly fat and would lead me to living a less than healthy lifestyle. I then spent the next roughly 5 months avoiding alcohol as much as possibly because I was terrified that having more than 1 “skinny” low cal vodka soda a week would make me balloon up. Cue the shame and anxiety around social events, that eventually got so bad that I distinctly remember bawling my eyes out to my roommate that I simply could not go to a wine festival with her because it was basically an orgy of drinking empty calories and “bad” foods. It was then that I realized, this had to stop, and that this was no way to live my life at 22 years old, so I stopped tracking my alcohol, and I stopped associating alcohol with hindering my body goals and progress.
Slowly I began to integrate wine and margs back into my life and stopped trying to be “perfect” all of the time when it came to my eating and exercise habits. Trying to be “perfect” is freaking exhausting and will only lead to disappointment and frustration. I was putting so much pressure on myself to always be eating perfectly, crushing all of my workouts and saying no to alcohol and treats that I felt extreme guilt anytime I felt like I had “failed”. Allowing myself to be human and perfectly imperfect really helped in removing the anxiety I felt around alcohol. There were weekends I drank 4 drinks in one sitting and there were also weeks I didn’t drink any alcohol at all and as I let myself just live my life, I stopped seeing those two choices as “bad” vs “good”. Removing that pressure I was putting on myself helped me to make more mindful choices and allowed me to live in the moment more. The more I exercised my ability to say yes or no to alcohol the more empowered and in control of my choices I felt, and slowly that voice in my head saying alcohol is bad began to fade.
Allowing yourself to enjoy alcohol is so important for having a healthy relationship with food and your body. No one food causes fat or weight gain, and no one food causes weight loss either. Labeling foods as good or bad is one of the quickest ways to mess up your relationship with food and your body. Alcohol is no different than food when it comes to negative labeling. If you hate vodka sodas, stop drinking them! Vodka soda does have less sugar than say a glass of wine or a fancy cocktail, however no one type of alcohol is particularly more nutritious than another. Pretty much all alcohol lacks vital macro or micro nutrients/ overall nutritional value and is non essential for sustaining a healthy diet so there is really no reason to ban one type of alcohol versus another. Alcohol does contain calories, and yes if you consume more calories than you are burning (thus being in a calorie surplus) you probably will gain some weight. But maybe the weight you need to be focusing on is not the weight on your body due to a few margs with friends, but the weight of your expectations and the weight of diet culture that is crushing your happiness.
A few of the ways I enjoy alcohol in a healthy and mindful way is stopping myself and asking, “Do I want another drink” before immediately ordering another round or pouring another glass. I no longer not let social pressure force me into making choices that do not serve me and my goals. Some nights that looks like having 2 drinks and some nights that looks like having none, and both of those choices are equally healthy and valid!
Learning that alcohol is not the enemy of my body composition goals was such an amazing experience and has allowed me to live my life with less guilt and more freedom and is something I wish someone had told me sooner. Let go of the “all or nothing” and “good” vs. “bad” mindset around alcohol and you just might find that you are reaching for that wine bottle less and less! Our bodies are incredibly smart and the more we focus on listening to our body’s cues and needs the more we can truly be focused on overall wellness and positive lifestyle changes.