It’s very common for us to develop a craving for sugary snacks once we stop drinking alcohol. I didn’t used to have a sweet tooth and could go over a week without even eating chocolate, cake, ice cream etc. I’d always choose savoury over sweet too!
That’s massively changed since entering recovery in February 2021. My love for cake, chocolate bars, ice cream and biscuits has gone through the roof and it’s got to a point where I’ve decided I need to address it.
Let’s not forget, drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat our body burns for energy. Our bodies can’t store alcohol so when you drink it your body wants to get rid of it. All of your body’s other processes that should be taking place, like burning fat, are interrupted while it does that.
When I entered hospital to begin my rehabilitation and detox I was 16 stone (102 kgs) – the heaviest I’d ever been. Throughout my 20s and early 30s I’d consistently been around 13.5 stone. Within 90 days of being alcohol free I’d lost two stone and seemed to plateau for a while at that constant weight. I lost the swollen look around my face and my mid drift was clearly less bloated.
But over time as my desire for sugary foods developed and became a daily purge the weight started creeping back on – this despite me being a regular runner and generally somebody who will manage 70,000 steps per week which isn’t too bad for someone who works 37 hour weeks from a desk.
Once the scales started reading 15 stone plus I knew I needed to do something about it. Time to cut out the daily sweet tooth submission and see if this was in deed the reason for the steady weight gain. It’s not rocket science that weight gain is caused my consuming more calories than we burn so for a fairly sedentary day to day office worker it was time to cut the calorific intake.
So what’s the medical explanation for all of this?
Well, Heavy Drinking Can Cause Low Blood Sugar. The liver, the organ that processes any alcohol you drink, is in charge of releasing glycogen into your blood. Alcohol stops this from happening, causing your blood sugar to drop. That’s why alcohol withdrawal and sugar cravings happen frequently. It’s not actually because there is ‘loads of sugar in alcohol’ – The sugar is actually lost in the fermenting process so you’ll find that alcohol free beer for example, contains more sugar in it than an alcoholic beer.
So I’m writing this at 7am on ‘Day 4’ of my Sugar reduction exercise. In the last three days I’ve had no chocolate, biscuits, cake, ice cream or sweets. I’ve replaced these with fruit which I appreciate has sugar in them but I’ve sure an apple or bowl of mango is a lower calorific value than a family size bar of chocolate or a couple of cookies. When I say I’ve replaced the confectionary with fruit it’s not even been a like for like swap to be honest – I’m not snacking as much because I’m consciously managing my intake of food. Im a black coffee (no sugar) drinker so if I’m a little hungry between meals I’m having a coffee or a glass of water. This fills the tummy and seems to suppress the hungry feeling.
I’ve had to apply a similar approach to not eating sugary snacks as I have with abstaining from alcohol. It’s likely to be tough some days especially when I’m hormonal or tired but my plan is quite simple – I want to get to get through eight days because by Day 9 (next Friday) I’m running an evening road race in Durham City (10km distance) and I’ve decided a post race treat should be a sweet treat. Not a complete binge but maybe a bar of chocolate. Hopefully I’ll appreciate the treat knowing it’s an infrequent reward. Beyond that I’m thinking of restricting my sugary treat to one day a week – maybe on a Saturday for example, and enjoy something on an evening after dinner. It’s all ideas at the moment and I’m open to suggestions if you’ve battled this in the past yourself.
I haven’t been on the scales yet and I’m not going to obsess day to day over my weight because that’s never been my approach. Our weight fluctuates through the day each day so for me it’s about seeing the visual change over time. I’m certainly nowhere near the same mirror image of that alcoholic in early 2021 with a bloated look but to feel a bit lighter on my feet would be a lovely feeling in the coming months.
When we enter recovery from alcohol dependency we quite naturally put all of our energy into staying sober and rightly so. It’s a horrible addiction and a killer. To rid ourselves of alcohol is a huge positive and certainly in those early months our body starts to show and feel differently. It kind of gives you the subconscious hall pass to eating what you like because ‘well, I’ve given up alcohol’.
Sadly that’s no excuse long term. Food is one of the most dangerous addictions on the planet and obesity / diabetes are two very common killers in the developed world. What’s the point in giving yourself the gift of sobriety if you’re then going to live with the mental and physical burden of overindulging in another dangerous ‘substance’ – Sugar and Fat!
I hope this post resonates with those in various stages of recovery – from you in early sobriety to maybe those who have gone full circle over the years and overcome the sugar monster!
Always keen for tips or feedback. I’m very early in my latest journey – oh, and I’m still off the booze (and will continue to be) so let’s not forget that wonderful life decision.