Do You Have to Ditch Alcohol to Lose Weight?

PHOTO: Forgoing alcoholic beverages can help your diet succeed.

Country singer Miranda Lambert recently unveiled a sexy, slimmer figure that looks like she did a lot of hard work to achieve it—but she didn't go cold turkey on everything to reach her goal weight. While the country singer was willing to give up Cheetos, she told People, "I didn't give up drinking. I refused."

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Bad move? Maybe. "Alcohol actually provides no nutritional value," says Katie Rickel, Ph.D., a psychologist at Wellspring at Structure House, a weight-management facility in Durham, North Carolina.

"It is neither carb, nor fat, nor protein. It's in a class by itself, so it doesn't provide nutrients. Alcohol is just wasting calories." In other words, when you're limiting the number of calories you consume, you want to take in those with the most "bang for their buck"—calories from filling protein or fiber, for example.

And it's not just the lack of nutrition that makes booze a belly buster. The same lowered inhibitions that allow you to bust a move on the dance floor could also compel you to order the cheesy nachos. "When you drink alcohol, it's easy to lose your determination and fall into 'a little won't hurt' thinking," says Rickel.

Her advice: Commit to a set period of alcohol abstinence—say, three months—at the beginning of your diet. That way you'll find it easier to establish your dieting rhythm, without the interference of alcohol.

If that's not an option, decide exactly how much you'll drink—and stick to your limit. "That might be one drink a day or one drink a week," says Rickel. "Whatever it is, it's predetermined—not left as a decision to make in the moment." (Since that will just leave you susceptible to making poor diet decisions.)

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