I Quit Drinking And Gained 10 Pounds
But here's how intermittent fasting saved me and helped me shed the weight.
After my husband confessed his unfaithfulness four years ago, I began a slow but steady slide down the slippery slope of alcohol use — ultimately plunging broken heart first into a deepening dependency on the drug. I didn’t hit a rock bottom with booze. Rather, I treated it like a crutch without which I couldn’t possibly hobble past my pain.
My increasingly precarious relationship with alcohol — from virtually nonexistent until my 30s to troublesome in my 40s — gave me serious and somber pause. After repeatedly failing to moderate my use of the highly addictive drug, on New Year’s Day 2019 I decided to quit trying to stop drinking too much and for all the wrong reasons in favor of stopping entirely.
Surprisingly, deciding to no longer drink at all was easier than entering constant negotiations with myself over drinking only to rarely hold up my end of the bargains I made with myself. Not up for the effort it would take to make and hold myself to another 365 decisions about whether or not I’d drink each day, I opted to stop drinking altogether.
Later, I’d learn this effective method of quitting alcohol is called spontaneous sobriety.
I quit drinking with the goal of going alcohol-free for a year — an arbitrary amount of time I’d deemed adequate to completely overhaul my relationship with alcohol. In forgoing booze, I anticipated some immediate and positive results, such as clearer eyes and increased energy. What I didn’t expect was to promptly gain 10 pounds, which sounds backward and inexplicable, until I disclose I replaced alcohol with pie. And cookies. And cake, donuts and all their bread cousins, too.
On top of ballooning from swapping one set of empty calories — and crutches for coping with life — for another, I experienced unexpected and extreme lethargy that lasted for months.
So what did I do? Cue intermittent fasting, or IF, which changed everything for me.
I’d read about IF in the past and remembered its link to multiple health benefits, including weight loss, and that IF wasn’t a fad diet but a sustainable way of eating to achieve high levels of health and energy. IF is about eating to live as opposed to living to eat. And for me, the golden ticket into the realm of IF was how it partnered seamlessly with the all-or-nothing aspect of my personality.
I’m not an expert on intermittent fasting, and as with anything health or fitness related, I encourage everyone to check with their doctor before making a significant dietary change. I can tell you the basics, though.
According to Healthline.com, intermittent fasting “is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It doesn’t specify which foods you should eat but rather when you should eat them. In this respect, it’s not a diet in the conventional sense but more accurately described as an eating pattern.”
The most common modes of IF are 1) daily fasts — usually 16 to 18 hours long, or 2) one to two 24-hour fasts per week. Healthline.com reports that many people find the 16/8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable and easiest to stick to.
Although there are no prescribed restrictions during an eating window, the only things IF — in its purest form — allows for during a fasting period are unflavored water, black coffee and plain black or green tea.
I wanted to quickly correct my 10-pound swing in the wrong direction, so to begin IF I chose to fast daily for 18 hours. This meant I had a six-hour eating window each day — referred to in the IF world as an 18:6 or 18/6 method. I ate all I wanted to each day within my eating window, and nothing during my fasting period. On a typical day, I ate between the hours of noon and 6 p.m.
Over my first three months of IF, the extra weight I’d gained after eliminating alcohol came right off, as did the extra inches I’d put on.
I began to feel energized, motivated to exercise and empowered by my body again. The heavy bags camping out under my eyes faded away and I could button my favorite jeans again.
Was I hungry while doing IF at first? Yes. The hungriest. In response, when my eating window opened each day, instead of reaching for whatever was fast and easy and thus likely devoid of nutrition, I found myself craving real, whole, healthy foods. I used my time spent fasting to thoughtfully plan my next meal; ensuring it was tasty, satisfying and full of the nutrients my body and brain need to function well.
If it’s beginning to sound like I adore IF and its plethora of health benefits, I do! It’s the same way I swoon over how my quality of life has improved by abstaining from alcohol.
Learning to control alcohol so that it no longer controls me, along with a better way of eating, has taught me how inherently strong and capable I am in the very ways I used to believe I wasn’t.
Why do we take note of who we are and decide ourselves to be lacking and less than? Why do we believe we’re unable to change for the better? I’m not certain where those tendencies come from, but I’m positive we don’t have to continue to buy into them simply because we once did.
In flipping the script to better reflect my power over things that hold me back in life, I no longer look in the mirror, stare back at what my creator made and think, How weak you are. How incapable of using your pain for good purpose. How inept at learning from your life experience and growing because of it.
I know better than those old thought patterns now. And so, I do better, too, which means I am better. It’s the same kind of better that’s available to you.
Jodie Utter is a freelance writer & creator of the blog, Utter Imperfection. An awkward dancer who’s tired of making dinner and can’t stay awake past nine, she flings her life wide open, telling her stories to connect pain to pain and struggle to struggle in hopes others will feel less alone inside their own stories and more at home in their hearts, minds, and relationships. You can connect with her on her blog, Utter Imperfection and on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.