In the first month and a half after I stopped drinking alcohol, I lost about 15 pounds. I didn’t go on a diet or start doing crazy workouts. I just lost weight as a result of the calorie deficit that cutting out the alcohol created. I know that not everyone will lose weight when they quit drinking, and I’m not saying that it is guaranteed that you’ll lose weight after you quit drinking by any means! Everyone is different. For example, some people actually end up being underweight due to replacing so much of their food with alcohol, so someone like this may actually gain weight after getting sober and resuming a normal eating pattern. However, if you’re overweight or obese and drinking alcohol on top of eating at or above your recommended daily caloric intake, you may notice some weight loss after you stop drinking. Here are some of the reasons why this can happen….
You’ll be cutting out empty calories. Alcoholic beverages are what dieticians call “empty calories.” This is because the calories you get from alcohol do not supply any nutritional value, just calories. By not drinking, you’re automatically cutting your daily caloric intake. If you drink regularly, you will probably lose at least a few pounds simply by cutting out alcohol. However, that’s assuming that you don’t replace the calories with something else! Stick to calorie-free beverages like sparkling water, plain water, herbal tea, or diet soda to avoid replacing the calories you’ve eliminated.
Let’s do the math! Say you drink 3 beers most nights during the week. At about 150 calories per 12 ounces of beer, that’s an extra 450 calories per day, which is a whopping 3,150 calories per week! It takes creating a deficit of about 3,500 calories each week to lose 1 pound. Therefore, if you cut out your 3 beers per day, you may be creating enough of a deficit to lose about 1 pound each week…just by not drinking!
You can use this calculator to get a better idea of how many calories you’re consuming in alcohol: https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/tools/calculators/calorie-calculator.aspx
Your eating habits may improve. Another way that you may end up ingesting fewer calories after you stop drinking is by eating less. Alcohol can increase your appetite and lead you to make unhealthy food choices. I don’t know about you, but when I used to drink, I would often eat some really unhealthy stuff and often way bigger portions that I ever would when I was sober! For example, sometimes late at night after I’d been drinking, I might make a giant plate of nachos for myself and eat it right before going to bed. The next day, while battling a hangover, I might reach for greasy convenience foods like burgers and fries to help take the edge off.
I don’t eat like this now that I’m sober and I’m sure that that is part of the reason I lost weight early in sobriety. I eat dinner around 6, then usually just drink herbal tea after that plus the occasional cookie or Reese’s peanut butter cup. I make better choices during the day as well because I don’t feel like crap.
You’ll probably sleep better. This is a big one! Alcohol messes with your sleep, which can lead to feeling tired and run down the day after you’ve been drinking. I was always exhausted when I was drinking regularly, so I never wanted to exercise, I never felt like preparing healthy meals for myself, and I sat around a lot. But once I stopped drinking, that all changed. I started waking up with loads of energy, so my physical activity increased. I would keep busy doing things all day, such as housework, playing with my son, and taking long walks. I also started to choose healthier foods for myself and stopped craving all the junk food that I used to eat. I felt like my digestion was way faster and better, too. I think that all of these improvements were due to the fact that I was actually sleeping through the night instead of sleeping a few hours, waking up feeling anxious, and then struggling to get back to sleep. Most of the time, I woke up feeling like I had barely slept at all.
Be aware that it’s normal to experience some insomnia for the first week or two after you quit drinking. It took a few weeks for my sleep to get back to normal. But once it did, I slept great! If you’re struggling with sleep after giving up alcohol, check out this blog post on how to sleep without alcohol.
Remember that weight loss is not a given when you stop drinking, but some people do experience it. If you do lose weight after cutting out alcohol, there’s no way of saying how many pounds you may lose. Everyone is different, and I am just sharing some of the things I experienced.
While losing weight from quitting drinking is an awesome perk of this healthy lifestyle change, there are many other benefits as well, some of which I mentioned, such as better sleep, less anxiety, improved moods, more energy, better digestion, and clearer, brighter skin. The weight loss I experienced early in my sobriety was probably the most encouraging thing for me, though. It made me feel better physically, more confident, and it solidified for me that I was making a healthy change. It reminded me that wasn’t really giving up anything by not drinking, I was just gaining all of these amazing health benefits.
I still have a long way to go in my health and fitness journeys, but not drinking alcohol has definitely made my issues with weight seem more manageable. I feel hopeful that I can reach my goals this year as long as I stay sober, but even if it takes me a while longer I am fine with that. The most important thing for my physical and mental health is to stay sober.
Lloyd-Richardson, E. E., Lucero, M. L., Dibello, J. R., Jacobson, A. E., & Wing, R. R. (2008). The relationship between alcohol use, eating habits and weight change in college freshmen. Eating behaviors, 9(4), 504–508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eatbeh.2008.06.005
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Rethinking drinking: alcohol and your health. rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov
Stein, M. D., & Friedmann, P. D. (2005). Disturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol use. Substance abuse, 26(1), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1300/j465v26n01_01