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Sheila Keilty, Mind-Body Transformation Coach | Optimal Health Reboot | March 10, 2022
With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I thought it would be a good time to discuss alcohol. Being partly Irish American, I have often wondered how a priest working for the Roman Catholic church in the 5th Century to usher in the predominance of Christendom to the Picts and Anglo-Saxons turned into a day to wear green and get stinking drunk. It doesn’t reconcile, but there we are…
Now, I’m not trying to demonize the drinking of alcohol. This is not a commentary on alcohol consumption, the prevalence of alcoholism, nor is there any shame, blame, or critical commentary on the act of drinking or people who drink in any way. Lord knows I’ve had my share of swift blows to my liver in the day! So this is not that type of article.
What I want to talk about has more to do with what I hear over and over again with my clients in my work. As an educated and licensed professional responsible for the guidance and teaching of all issues pertaining to the long-term health and wellbeing of the people I coach, I get asked all the time, “But when can I drink – and how much?” and, “What about just a glass of wine – dry red wine, maybe? I heard that’s healthy!”
The short answer is this. If you want to lose body fat consistently and make good use of the 12 weeks we have together in The Mind-Body Reboot Method program that I lead, it is best to abstain altogether. You absolutely can drink whenever you want to. No one is denying you. That is a choice. But just like chocolate and fruit and baked goods, alcohol is listed as “occasional” on the Reboot plan. Now, that term is a bit of a slippery slope. One person’s “occasional” is another person’s “daily.” This topic comes up. A lot. So here it goes.
The assumption is that liquor is “off-plan” because of the carbs, sugars, and excess calories in one’s alcoholic beverage of choice. Although these are present in all forms of alcohol to varying degrees, this is not the case. And no, there is not a “healthy” version of ethanol to consume to avoid ethanol’s toxic effects on your body.
The primary reason that alcohol is best to avoid when you are attempting to decrease excess fat (belly fat in particular) is that alcohol is a drug. No matter the form, whether a pint of beer or an expensive glass of wine at a shmancy restaurant (or anything in-between whether “the hard stuff” or not), they ALL contain Ethanol. It’s the biggest legal drug on the market. It is an addictive toxin. The body has no use for it and how we metabolize toxins and how it wreaks havoc on our gut microbiome. As the organ responsible for filtering the toxins out of our systems and mitigating toxic damage, our liver takes the primary hit as it tries to do its job and filter ethanol out of our system. This creates visceral fat and a liver packed with fat tissue, which keeps the liver from properly filtering toxins, and the cycle continues to worsen and decline. Voilá! More belly fat.
The first thing you must know is that visceral fat is the type of fat that is produced by the liver when something cannot be properly metabolized, either out of excess of some type or sourcing (like toxins). This is not ordinary fat. Visceral fat is the hard lipid tissue that lodges around your organs and inflicts direct damage. It is what makes a big belly to protrude and can feel hard to the touch. This is particularly the case of how fat is stored in men (picture the otherwise “slim” man with the big, round, hard “beach ball” belly.) But women have lots and lots of dangerous visceral fat stores as well, just a little more widespread and dispersed. Visceral fat is linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure, Type 2 Diabetes, and some cancers. It is nothing to ignore or mess with, and it can be addressed and eliminated with a proper diet packed with a high level of densely nutritious whole foods.
The hard truth is, however, that even with the perfect lifestyle and food choices you make, the damaging effects of consuming alcohol – no matter how much – will put the brakes on your attempts to eliminate excess body fat, in particular the dangerous visceral fat. And this is true no matter how little or how much you consume!
We measure alcohol in units. One pint of beer equals 3 units. 250ml (“large pour” of red common in larger volume red wine glasses) equals 4 units. Our bodies metabolize 1 unit per hour. This is expelled from our system through breathing, urine, sweat, and the liver’s filtering processes. If the liver is already fatty from years of metabolic diet failures and inflammatory diseases like Diabetes, then the organ cannot do its job properly and decreases the efficiency of alcohol metabolism. It is the standard limit of drinking to stay ahead of alcohol metabolism (i.e., to avoid being “visibly drunk”) is 3-4 units total for men and 2-3 units for women. As you can see, even one single glass of red wine can blow the whole budget in one drink. As a woman, everything you consume above those 2-3 units stresses your system even more, thus creating the high probability of additional visceral belly fat.
If you are on a program like The Mind-Body Reboot Method, one of the foundational goals is for clients to achieve a state of Fat Adaptation, transforming one’s primary metabolism from being a sugar-burner to a fat-burner, resulting in myriad of benefits. When using ketones as clean, rich fuel, the Fat Adapted “Rebooter” loses excess fat (including the break down and release of visceral fat around your organs), increasing health and wellbeing, and also reducing inflammation and cortisol. If you are also drinking alcohol, this will stop Fat Metabolism in its tracks and will also put the brakes on achieving a state of Fat Adaption. So no matter how cleanly and nutritionally dense you consume foods and mitigate stress and cortisol in your lifestyle choices, you can spoil all those hard-earned transformative choices with one glass of red wine.
So, what are the specific reasons that alcohol stops fat loss? Unfortunately, it’s not just one thing; alcohol consumption brings with it myriad of reasons why it halts fat metabolism in your body.
Knowing all of this, having a glass of wine with my friends or at dinner is never a regular event. I MAY have a drink at the holidays or on my birthday. Maybe. For me, it’s just not worth the health consequences. I am doing what I’m doing with my life because I see the life and face consequences that I will inevitably have to deal with. I started my own Reboot to optimize my health, and drinking alcohol just has too many saboteurs to deal with. Once you know all of this, the rewards are just not there. Life has enough of a big bag of monkey wrenches that it’s tossing in on me on a regular basis. I don’t need to add another pile of them to my own journey.
Drinking or not drinking is a decision that each client must make for themselves. Is having that glass of wine a couple times a week – or having fun with friends on the weekend – is it really worth the constant destruction and taxing reconstruction of your Reboot program (and your health) over and over (and over)?
It’s a matter of personal choice when it comes to casual drinking vs staying on the Reboot path. I am not in any way trying to downplay or trivialize any addictive tendencies or struggles (which are a whole other category of alcohol consumption and drinking than is being discussed in this article). I have seen alcohol wreak havoc on far too many lives of those I love and cherish to do that. But for casual drinkers, it is a matter of the depth of your toolbox of personal coping mechanisms, how brutal peer pressure is (or is not) at social events, etc. Just remember–you ALWAYS have a choice. You are in charge!
“Because the choices you make today directly dictate the quality of all your tomorrows."
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Mind-Body Transformation Specialist, Certified Diet & Nutrition Coach (PHC), Human Intestinal Microbiome Specialist (HIM) - PHCI Cert: #349773, #735753803
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