3 Sneaky Ways Skinny Cocktails Derail Your Diet
The most wonderful time of year is also the booziest.
For many of my clients—women in their forties who want to lose 10 or so pounds —I have found that focusing on their drinking habits can be an effective way to avoid weight gain during the holiday season. While many of them tell me that they’ve switched to healthier drinks–like lower-calorie wines and cocktails–I have to remind them that the reasons why alcohol is associated with weight gain goes well beyond the calories in their drink.
Without sounding like the Grinch who stole Christmas, diet-friendly drinks can still make you fat. Here’s the sobering news about how women’s wines and spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails can derail your diet:
- “Skinny” wines and cocktails aren’t low calorie
Unlike foods that must adhere to Food and Drug Administration labeling regulations, alcoholic beverages don’t fall under the FDA’s jurisdiction. Alcohol must follow rules set by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Only recently has this bureau announced a voluntary “Serving Facts” panel that will provide calories per serving and grams of carbohydrates, fat and protein. The Bureau doesn’t define what “low-calorie” means, so buyer-beware. The only way to know is look at the label for calorie information or go to the website if it’s not on the label. Since this is a voluntary program, it’s often hard to find accurate calorie counts for alcoholic beverages.
Ethanol provides 7 calories per gram and most standard drinks provide 14 grams of ethanol or 98 calories. One drink is defined as 1.5 oz. distilled spirits, 5 oz. of wine or 12 oz. beer. Some of the lower-calorie wines have 100 calories per 5 oz. serving compared to 120 calories in a regular glass of wine. Skinnygirl spirts, for example, have 77 calories per 1.5 oz., compared to 100 calories in a standard 1.5 oz. of vodka, rum, gin or whiskey.
2. Your drink is more than one drink
There are a lot of factors that encourage us to drink more alcohol than the recommended serving of alcohol. A recent study from Iowa State University reported that wine drinkers consume 12% more wine when they drink from large, wide glass rather than narrow ones or when they hold their wine glass for a refill rather than having the glass on the table. White wine drinkers are also prone to drink more because of the lack of contrasting color that acts as visual cue to remind you how much you’re drinking.
[sws_pullquote_small align=”sws_pq_center” textalign=”left” linecolors=”b3b3b3″ fontstyle=”normal” textcolor=”356e1b”] Research reported that drinkers consumed 20-30% more alcohol into short, tumbler-style glasses compared to tall, highball-style glasses.
3. Alcohol stimulates your appetite and weakens your inhibitions
Studies show that your short-term appetite is stimulated shortly after drinking alcohol while it acts on reward pathways of the brain that reduces your inhibitions while making food seem more irresistible. Diet records reveal that on a day when individuals imbibe, total calories are higher and so too is the amount of added sugars and saturated fat. Another study evaluated the evidence and concluded that alcohol’s impact on driving us to eat is worse TV watching or lack of sleep.
Bottom line: Alcohol and trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight aren’t a good mix.
Wansink B, van Ittersum K. Shape of glass and amount of alcohol poured: comparative study of effect of practice and concentration. BMJ. 2005 Dec 24;331(7531):1512-4.
Walker D, Smarandescu L, Wansink B.Half Full or Empty: Cues That Lead Wine Drinkers to Unintentionally Overpour. Subst Use Misuse. 2013 Sep 12. [Epub ahead of print]