Monday, April 4, 2011

To Your Health!

Last Monday, I shared with you the first of some of the things I've been learning lately in regards to my health and fitness.  Or I should say "re"learning. What's old is new again and all that jazz.  Don't get me wrong, this is an ongoing learning experiment, but I've always felt that in order to keep on keeping on you have to keep educating yourself and figuring out what works for you.

I am hypothyroid.  My doc had a devil of a time balancing my thyroid.  In fact, that took almost 18 months before we could get it to read balanced several months in a row.  Just when I thought everything was dandy and I was only 10 pounds away from the goal I had set for myself, it went out of balance and I started regaining some of the weight I'd lost even while still trying to lose weight.  18 months after that, I started writing Doing A 180 trying to find a way to keep on keeping on.

Just imagine here I am right at the time in life when women in particular seem to be hit hardest by midlife hormones. Even the thinnest and hardest excercising of my friends suddenly find themselves wondering how it is they haven't changed a thing and yet their pants fit differently! Challenging.  Add to to that a sluggish thyroid and it's a bigger battle than most.

However, I have never been one to excuse my weight gain because of my thyroid or my mid life.  I know if I keep working at it I will find the right combination of things that will lead me and my body to just exactly where it should be. Which brings me to another of my recent discoveries.

Alcohol is not my friend.

Let me state right off the bat I am not an alcoholic.  This has been confirmed by an alcoholic friend who, once when I told her that I had put some "leftover" martini in the freezer to be consumed at another time said,
"Oh, you're definitely not a friend of Bill's.  Leftover, what is leftover? That's not even possible is it?"

Still in recent years I have found myself partaking more often.  Some of this, I'm sure, is because of where I am in my life.  Kids are grown and gone, lots of free time for Mr. Helen and me to go out for nice dinners or to concerts or to other social events where it is quite easy to partake.

The trouble with alcohol is that it is easy, even for a non-alcoholic, to have it become a habit.  Just like overeating can be a habit, so can having a drink.  There was a stretch in my post thyroid where I was so depressed from the weight gain and what it was doing to my running, not to mention a bunch of other stuff that was going on in our lives, that each night I would come home, pour 1 glass of wine and drink it while I cooked dinner.  Almost overnight that became a habit.  Just one glass, every day.

When I initially was able to lose some weight post diagnosis, the first thing the doctor told me to do was to remove all sweets, "whites" and alcohol from my diet for two weeks.  It was then that I realized the alcohol had indeed become a habit.  For those two weeks, I ate lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and when I went back to the doc to get weighed was shocked to find those simple changes had allowed me to lose 9 pounds!!  I'm sure I wasn't eating that much less in terms of bulk. However, I'm also sure that my caloric consumption was way down simply because of all the calorically empty sugars removed by removing the sweets and alcohol.

Over these last 5 years I have experimented with this many times and the one thing that is true for me is that reduction of intake of alcohol equal weight loss.

Well don't you know that scientific studies have shown that alcohol slows down metabolism.  This is how it works.  Alcohol is full of sugar and calories which restrict your metabolic rate. The metabolic rate is restricted because too much sugar overloads your body and causes your blood sugar levels to rise rapidly. This in turn makes your body go into conservation mode meaning that you will store extra fat and burn less calories.   It's a vicious cycle.  This doesn't even take into account that alcohol also lowers your inhibitions. Each and every time a study is done they find that when alcoholic beverages are consumed, people eat around 30% more calories.    That doesn't sound like a lot but add that 30% up time and time again and it will equal weight gain, I promise.  Especially in a middle aged hypothyroid woman! 

Also alcoholic beverages are dehydrating.   Dehydration equals slow metabolism.  Peeps, I don't need a slow metabolism.  I need to figure out how to get mine to work normally and then hopefully speed up!

So, my solution to this issue is that I allow myself to consume alcoholic beverages on one day per week, usually Saturdays as that is when we tend to have social gatherings.  I also prepare for this the same way I prepare for when I want to participate in Bagel Wednesday:  I exercise a little bit extra.

Even then, I pick and choose my indulgences.  This past Saturday I went to a baby shower that was held in a hall.  There was a full bar.  I could have had a glass of wine, but I chose not to.  I chose to save my little indulgence for a martini later on with Mr. Helen.

I'm not saying what works for me will work for you.  I'm only saying after some years of going round and round, this is what is working for me, at least for now.

So here's a toast to each of us as we find our way.  To your best life and to your health. Cheers!


  1. Cheers! It's all about finding the balance in what works, what's livable, and what allows the appropriate amount of enjoyment without going overboard. Here's to priorities!

    Have a great week, Helen.

  2. This is a very helpful post to me. I'm not an alcoholic either but I do drink about 1.5 bottle of wine per week. Usually from Thursday till Sunday, then it's empty. But I do know all the things you've written about alcohol in regard to weight loss. I've read about this too. But I guess I needed this post to open my eyes again and stop with the alcohol. I had planned to go back to one glass a week but still haven't done that. But after reading this I will definitely do!

    Thanks Helen, for the reminder.

  3. For all those reasons you listed, I think you've made a wise choice - limiting your martooni (and WHY I always hear it pronounced like that in my head, I don't know!) to one evening a week will be helpful in so many ways. Plus, that makes it extra special!

  4. Yep, count me in on the glass of wine while making dinner, which almost always leads me to another glass with Tony while watching t.v. While I count points for it, I actually decided this morning (after having THREE glasses of wine last night) that I need to kick it to the curb during the week.

    I like your one day a week plan - I'll join you! :D

  5. I understand the depression from weight gain and the alcohol habit. Last summer was when I was depressed and got the alcohol habit going. It wasn't a lot but it was nice to numb myseelf slightly. Then the thyroid news came.

    So once a week, us bloggers will toast to each other's health with a beverage of choice: wine, tequila, martini or even a glass of water. Cheers! To us and health. :)

  6. Sounds like a well thought out plan. Also really interesting stuff about how alcohol slows metab and is dehydrating. One of the things I appreciate so much about you, Helen, is your thoughtful openminded perseverence in pursuing optimal health and fitness. The thyroid thing is a bear to deal with when the change of life stuff is co-occuring!

  7. Hey, just wanted to mention something to think about and consider. I have a couple friensd who had thyroid problems, one even developing cancer and they found out later it was related to gluten.. celiac disease. Just thought it would be something worth checking into. Not a lot of people know about it and from knowing so many people who are going through a variety of problems because of gluten, it's something I try to pass on to others just so they can look into it. ;) I blogged a bit about if if you want to check it out

  8. Cheers to that!!!! And to good health!!!!

  9. Funny, I love the Dutch weather. As soon as it gets here above 77 degrees I don't like it anymore. The climate is not nice for these temperatures.

    I must say that when I'm more south like in Italy I can cope much better with 77 degrees or more.

  10. I keep telling my hubby that if he wants to lose weight he needs to up his exercise and cut back on the wine!

  11. So many helpful things in this post! You're right, it does become a habit. Thank you for all the points you made about it slowing down our metabolism; I usually just think about the bloating and the loss of inhibition/willingness to eat more that goes with it, but there are other things in play too. Great reminders all around.

  12. P.S. I LOVE that you incorporated some of my Spring Transition ideas in your outfit this weekend! I bet you looked hot.

  13. I love that you are able to make a decision and stick to it. (?) for thought. As for alcohol, nope! I think it goes back to the Jewish genes, take it or leave it, but did you say you had some cake???? I'll be right over.

  14. I have a few beers on the weekend and what I find is when a beer is cracked - here come the chips!

  15. well, thank GOD I can't stand the taste of alcohol...however, since I cut the sugar out of my coffee, my urge for chocolate has picked up something fierce. lol.

  16. Oh I can so relate to this post! I know I used to drink way too much way too often. I don't know if I'd call myself an alcoholic or not...back then I think I was well on my way. But then things changed and now I can't have more than one or two glasses of wine without all kinds of bad things happening. And so I don't. Like food, I have learned how to keep wine in moderation, as well.

  17. So well written Helen! Even though I don't drink, the part about HOW alcohol slows your metabolism down was really interesting to me. It'll be interesting to see if a few pounds come off with the once a week trick!

  18. I never drank - not worth the calories.....
    Plus when I was heavier, it took soooooo much
    for me to even feel it!
    Now once shot is good to help me sleep at night.
    Almost like a liquid Xanax.
    But yeah, we all end up finding our way.
    Thank goodness!