Should I Quit Drinking to Lose Weight?

There is a close connection between quitting alcohol and weight loss

Close-up of female holding glass with redwine
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Have you ever wondered if you should quit drinking to lose weight? There are dozens of good reasons to monitor your alcohol consumption. You might choose to reduce your booze intake to improve your health, your relationships or your level of productivity.  But some people also quit alcohol for weight loss.

So does it work? For many people reducing or eliminating their consumption is an effective way to lose weight.

If you think it might work for you, consider the different ways that alcohol affects your diet. Then, if you decide to quit drinking to lose weight, use the strategies below to make sure your weight loss plan is successful.

Quitting Alcohol and Weight Loss

Even if you are a moderate drinker, the calories you consume from alcohol can impact your attempts at weight loss.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, moderate drinking is defined as one drink or less per night for women or two drinks or less per night for men.

Depending on what you drink, those calories can add up to a thousand calories or more per week. Consider the number of calories in popular alcoholic drinks.

To make matters worse, we often drink more than a single serving of alcohol without even knowing it.  A single serving of red or white wine, for example, is only five ounces.  Many restaurants serve 6 or even 8-ounce glasses of wine.  And the wine glass you have at home could hold up to 4 times that amount.

  When is the last time that you measured your wine pour?

If your drinking habits go beyond moderate practices, you could be in more trouble.  Binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men or four or more for women in a short period of time.  If a single serving of beer contains 150 calories, then a single binge drinking episode could tally 600 - 750 calories or more in just one night. 

More Downsides to Drinking

It’s not just the calorie cost of the booze that makes drinking bad for weight loss. There are other reasons to reduce your drinking if you want to lose weight.  For one thing, calories are easy to over consume when they are liquid.  Drinks don’t fill us up like food does. So if you’re drinking your calories, you could easily still end up hungry and craving food.

In addition, drinking may derail your metabolism. If you skip workouts to head to happy hour, you're probably going to burn fewer calories during the day. And you may even be more sluggish and less active on days following drinking.

Then the problem gets worse.  According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, when our alcohol consumption goes up, our diet quality tends to go down. Specifically, researchers found that when we amp up the booze, we are likely to eat less fruit and consume more calories from a combination of alcoholic beverages and foods high in unhealthy fats and added sugars. 

How to Quit Drinking to Lose Weight

If you’ve decided to quit drinking for weight loss, there a few helpful strategies you can use to help get you through the bumps along the way.  First, keep in mind you may still encounter social pressure to drink. In her book High Sobriety my year without booze, author Jill Stark explains that it was helpful for her to have a response ready when her friends or coworkers pressured her to drink during her year of abstinence. You may also want to prepare a statement about why you’re not drinking before you go to parties or events to prevent similar social pressure.

Stark also connects with an online community called Hello Sunday Morning. The website connects people who have chosen to quit drinking for 3 months or one year in order to create meaningful change in their lives.  Each participant blogs about their experiences and shares their reasons for quitting. Many people include weight loss as a goal.  The site helps you set a reasonable goal and track your progress.

Lastly, remember that if your ultimate goal is to lose weight, then you can’t substitute one high-calorie habit with another.  In short, giving up alcohol shouldn’t be an excuse to overindulge in other treats like chocolate or junk food.  Even healthier drink substitutions could undo the weight loss benefits of abstinence.  A non-alcoholic beer, for example, can contain 95 calories or more.  A 12-ounce serving of Coke contains nearly 150 calories.  If you can, try to drink water or no-calorie beverages.

Choosing to give up alcohol or to reduce your intake may provide an opportunity for you to look and feel better and to create meaningful change.  If you’re smart about the process, you may also lose weight. Be sure to get support from family and friends to make the journey a positive experience. 


National Institutes of Health Diet Quality Worsens as Alcohol Intake Increases Accessed October 2, 2013

Stark, Jill.  High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze.  Scribe Publications, 2013

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