Can I consume a beer or two if I’m trying to lose weight?

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Can I consume a beer or two if I’m trying to lose weight?

As a registered dietitian who works in a fitness facility, this is a very common question that I receive regularly. I have been helping clients lose weight for close to 20 years. In that time, I have not once swayed in my firm belief that all things can be enjoyed in a sustainable manner when done in moderation, even when you’re trying to lose some unwanted pounds. 

I teach my clients the best diet to be on is the one you don’t feel like you’re on. Less restriction, less cheating, less guilt = more long term success.

When choosing your daily food and beverages, my rule of thumb is following the 80/20 rule. Why not make wise, healthy productive choices 80 per cent of the time and keep the remaining 20 per cent for YOUR own choices? You will make more headway in the weight loss game if your 20 per cent is fairly smart and your success will go a longer way if you don’t feel so restricted to be perfect all the time.

However, if you have more than 10 per cent of your body weight to lose, you’re on a deadline or have specific health risks, your 20 per cent of choices may be more like five or 10 per cent - even if it’s just for the first little few weeks or months to get a productive kick-start. Every individual is unique to their goals, their commitment level, their body type, their physical health, exercise level and so on. Perhaps a quick visit to your physician for a physical and some routine bloodwork will put you on the right track to get started. 

So, can you have a beer or two and lose weight? Yes, if you want to lose weight slowly and realistically, you can consume an alcoholic beverage or two while doing this. Beer is a reasonable choice as it is a controlled portion beverage. When you’re finished your serving, the bottle or can is empty. Most people, who are serious about their goals, are less likely to open another. This can be more challenging to do when consuming some other types alcoholic beverages, such as wine or spirits, because after you measure out your serving (which is comparable in calories to a bottle of beer), you may be adding another liquid to it. Often times a person may consume more than one serving as it’s arduous to get the exact serving sizes with these types of beverages.  

It’s also important to keep in mind Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines which recommends: 
•    No more than 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than 2 drinks a day most days. 
•    No more than 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than 3 drinks a day most days.  

Note: these guidelines were established for the population as a whole (not the individual) and do not include stipulations for those who are trying to lose weight.  

Kerri Sherk is a registered dietitian and yoga teacher at The Fitness Firm, Burlington, Ontario’s fitness club. Her main expertise is weight management. 

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