Ways to lose weight – part 3. Drinks

Drinking is something a lot of people do very badly. Not enough water and too much alcohol are the main culprits.

In part three of this series of article on weight loss and healthy eating, I’ll look at drinks.

Drinking is something a lot of people do very badly. Not enough water and too much alcohol are the main culprits, as are treating items such as milkshakes or smoothies as if they were drinks, when actually they’re foods. This is a ridiculously easy way to pack on a lot of pounds, so here are some tips for healthy drinking.  

1    Cut out the booze. There are hundreds of calories in it and alcohol does you no favours. Yes, some wines have good antioxidants, but so does grape juice.

However, we are what we are, and a couple of times a week a small glass of wine with a meal won’t kill you – but make it small. If you have a tendency to fill your glass, which you shouldn’t (you’re meant to use the air space), stick to a sherry glass instead of a wine glass. My Victorian wine glass is tiny, but the average pub measure has crept up from 125ml to 175ml to 250ml in the past ten years, with some white wine glasses now holding over 360ml – no wonder there are now calls for cutbacks in the interests of public health: the UK is becoming a nation of alcoholics. 

Personally, I’d generally avoid beer and cider, and I’d avoid spirits altogether. It’s hard to drink a small amount of beer or cider, and pure spirits are nothing but bad. Again, however, one beer on a Friday night won’t kill you. 

2   If drinking is a big part of your social life, think about getting some new friends. OK, I’m kidding, but just as fat friends make you fat, drunk friends make you drunk. The average age of patients at the famous Priory clinic has dropped from 45 to 35 and under, inside the past decade, and reseachers say these patients are mainly social drinkers with no real background problems – it’s simply that boozing has become a way of life in the UK.

If you want to cut down your alcohol consumption or cut it out but you’re worried about peer pressure, try the following:

* Switch to mineral water and a slice of lemon – it looks exactly like a G&T and no-one will nag you.  

* Try non-alcoholic beer. It’s pretty rubbish, and not good for your health, but as an interim measure, it may get you off the real stuff.

* Red or white grape juice looks the same in a glass as red or white wine.

* Try doing things in the evening that don’t necessarily involve drinking – watching a film, going bowling, going to the gym, going for a walk.  Meeting your mates down the pub every night is a recipe for disaster. 

3    Don’t drink fizzy drinks (soda), including Coke, Pepsi, Tab, bitter lemon and all the rest of this filthy tribe. Packed with aspartame and other carcinogens, this stuff is pure poison. If you like the fizz, wean yourself off it with a flavoured water such as lemon or lime Perrier, then onto plain fizzy water, then onto non-fizzy water.  

4    Drink your drinks at room temperature, not ice cold or piping hot. Why shock your digestion in this way? You might think that a cold glass of water is more refreshing, but in fact you’ll drink more, and more easily, if you take your fluids at room temperature.  

5    Drink only a few fluid ounces with meals – just enough to moisten your food and no more. Don’t swill your food down with liquids – it impedes your digestion. Also, if you can, don’t drink for 20-30 minutes before a meal, nor a couple of hours afterwards. Allow your digestive juices to do their job properly without being diluted.  

5    Cut out the caffeine. Here’s where I fall down, because I drink one cup of black filter coffee a day, for breakfast, and I LOVE it. But that’s that. For the most part, if you want a pick-me-up, instead of caffeine you should stick to herb teas (proper, single ones such as camomile or peppermint, not made-up versions such as Red Zinger).  Roobios is quite good too, if you like it (I don’t), while white and green tea are much lower in caffeine than black tea, and are packed with antioxidants. But don’t keep falling back on caffeinated drinks out of habit – if you’re thirsty, drink water, and if you need a mid-afternoon boost, eat instead of drinking.

6    Drink water. And I’ll repeat that. Drink water. It is one of the best favours you can do for yourself. If your skin is dry, if you have a headache, if you’re tired mid-afternoon, if you have a sore throat, if you’re  constipated, more than likely dehydration is the cause. Don’t rely on thirst alone – it’s a poor indicator, but if you are thirsty, don’t ignore it – your body wants water so give it what it needs. Keep bottles by your bedside, on your desk, where you cook, by your armchair…

As a rough guide, you need to drink half as many fluid ounces a day as you weigh in pounds – I weigh 122 pounds, so I drink about 60floz (three pints) a day. You don’t need to go overboard on this if you’re eating a lot of fruit and vegetables, because they already have a high water content, but if you’re taking in alcohol or caffeine, you need to drink more to make up for it.

Tomorrow: the phases of the day and how to eat accordingly 

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