Weight Loss in Sobriety


Dear Doc,

I stopped drinking 2 years ago. For the first year I maintained my weight because I was banting. In the second year I fell off the banting wagon. On 17th March I also stopped smoking. I will be 60 in September.

So I am now very overweight – I am short, 1.55m, so a small amount of weight gain makes a big difference in how I look and feel. I am trying to practice “self-care” and not beat myself up about it – one thing at a time. But I would like to now get the sugar addiction under control rather than “diet” – which I know will then have a positive effect on my weight.

I am taking Sally Anne Creed products, the collagen and glutamine, to assist with this. I am also on Cilift and blood pressure tablets (a hereditary problem, not health / weight related.) I know I need to exercise more, but have been through the gym addiction before and don’t want to go there again. I have tried yoga but did not enjoy that class. Winter is coming so it is important I find something that really gets me excited to pursue it. Any advice on the way forward for me?


Dear S

Once we stop consuming alcohol, there are a number of changes that happen to us. They are wonderful to experience but can be daunting none the less. Unfortunately the demons we were running away from, and numb with alcohol, remain, and the stark realities of our lives remain the same.

Although stopping alcohol might be the biggest investment in yourself that you could ever make, this does not mean it is easy or that all other areas of your life will miraculously be corrected. Weight fluctuations remain one of life’s biggest struggles. The fact that billions of dollars are generated in the weight loss industry is testimony to that.

As you are aware, there are many factors regarding weight gain/loss, but I do believe that if we look at it with our new fresh set of eyes, we can achieve a lot.

Wine and alcohol are packed with sugars and as much as alcohol is highly addictive, sugar is also a highly physically addictive substance. Our sugar metabolism is an incredible regulatory system in our bodies to starve us from dying of hunger. But unfortunately, this also backfires on us if we begin at a base of high sugar intake. Insulin is a hormone that our bodies secrete to regulate our blood sugar. As soon as our blood sugar increases, our bodies release insulin to help bring down the level of sugar in our blood.

Unfortunately, this sugar gets taken into our cells and, if not used, it is stored as fat. Once our blood sugar drops, we develop “cravings” and we turn into the parent who will eat their child’s packet of sweets they were saving to take to school. How do we fix this regulatory system that seems to have gone haywire? We go back to basics: three healthy low caloric meals a day.

This is like painting the background on a canvas. The colour you want to paint it does not matter, as long as it is painted with the acrylic of healthy caloric intake three times a day. To Bant or not to Bant? That is indeed the question of our era. I prefer a pragmatic approach of low carbohydrates – and if I do consume them, I do it in the wholegrain state.

Blue, yellow, green, any colour you want, but the entire canvas must be painted – not one morning a week and then two dinners a week and 16 lunches that are cheat meals. The background will look like our two year old selves got hold of this painting. Initially it will look like that, but the wonder is that we get to wake up every morning and repaint the background till we get it right one day. And then, just as with the wine, two days … and before we know it, we have a beautiful background of a blue sky. Evenly painted right into every corner.

The uneven painted patches are: skipping meals, caving into our sugar craving, high caloric meals with high fat content. Sugary drinks are the easiest place to stop. Then other sources of external refined sugars. And before you know it, a month has passed and the tiny packet of Smarties goes to school because you did not notice it.

Exercise! It is simple – we must expend more energy than we consume, and then the pounds will melt away and we will become our own inner goddess, otherwise known as Kate Moss….! Exercise is wonderful and it gives us the same “fix” as the sugars. It gives us a Dopamine rush, but without the nasty hangover … other than some stiff body parts.

I understand the “gym addiction” and I think that starting a practice of being mindful and kind and caring is amazing. Listen to your body getting back to moderate exercises such as walking the dog consistently, practicing yoga regularly, or maybe finding a group that hikes over weekends. These are alternatives to pumping iron.

My approach is a health-orientated mindset, with activities that build you up, rather than act as another punitive measure. In recovery, there is so much guilt to deal with – and making food and weight another one, is just setting yourself up to fail. Hiking, swimming in the open water, rock climbing are all outdoor activities that make us focus on health rather than weight.

I have found the wonder in what my body is able to do, rather than what it looks like. Try to praise it for being strong, rather than looking like Kate Moss … or not. I am not suggesting that a too relaxed approach will make the kilo’s melt …. I wish. I do however believe that this is a journey of a thousand steps, and that recovery is a whole body process.

In short:

  1. Be kind and patient with yourself.
  2. Follow a consistent eating plan that is low in calories, but that you are able to enjoy and incorporate as a lifestyle.
  3. Exercise is your friend but see that there are beautiful outdoor activities that are also exercise with far less stress associated with it.
  4. Be consistent in your efforts.

Good luck and be kind to yourself.



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