30 by 30: Happy Weight Vs. Happy Hour

alcohol and weight loss

When people ask me what my biggest obstacle to losing weight is, I can quickly answer with two simple words: happy hour. (I could also use the same answer as the biggest obstacle to staying on a budget, but that’s another story for another day.) I just as easily could refer to the pop culture phrase FOMO, or fear of missing out.

I never want to miss out on an amazing experience or a potential night of great memories. I moved to New York City to have an adventure, and that’s what I try to do. But dieting and date nights with a treadmill severely hamper my social schedule.

And, as you’ve probably heard, alcohol and weight loss don’t make a great mix. As I begin to re-commit to a healthy eating plan and exercise routine, I find myself continuously appalled by the number of liquid calories I can consume at happy hour. Every glass of wine is 80-120 calories, so three glasses of wine becomes the equivalent of eating a candy bar. One margarita is typically around 500, so two of them is more than half of my daily allotment. It’s crazy how quick it adds up, without even a second thought.

But the problem is, I hate saying no to after work plans. (Or anytime plans for that matter!) Happy hour is why I started to work out in the mornings, so I’d never have to say no to fun. To me, happy hour is not just about the drinks (although I love a good drink). It’s about the time that I spend with the people I love, or new friends that I want to get to know, boys I’m seeing or clients with whom I want to deepen a relationship. It’s the unwinding at the end of the day that I look forward to each afternoon at 4pm.

I spent the past week in Vegas; each night’s dinner fancier and longer than the last. By the end of the week, I was exhausted, stuffed and four pounds up on the scale. It got me thinking: Was it worth it? What do I enjoy more: happy hour, or being happy with my weight? Where is the balance?

What would have happened if I had said to my bosses or clients that I was going to head to the gym instead of out to dinner? How would I feel the next morning when everyone had hilarious stories of their Vegas shenanigans?

It’s a constant battle for me. I know you have to say no to some things that you love in order to get the body you want, but it really is hard. My guess is that I would have been fine in Vegas. I would have forgotten about their evening after a few hours and my day would go on. But this week, I chose to play over going to the gym. I chose to sleep in instead of getting up early and run before work. I chose to enjoy cocktails and wine and dessert samples.

And then, when I got home on Sunday morning, I stepped on the scale and saw those four extra pounds staring me in the face. The ones I had worked so hard to lose the week before. And the answer? It wasn’t worth it. Happy hour will always be more fun, but my happy weight is where I want to be and that takes hard work and discipline…and if not those things, at least balance between the two.

This Week’s Progress:

HIGH: Meeting Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas while out at one of my fancy dinners.

LOW: Ordering Brussels sprouts to be healthy and finding out that they were fried. FAIL.

+/-: +4 = 0 total

Photo: flicker user ღ ℂℏ℟ḯʂ ღ

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    • irina

      I was at my skinniest the summer I was most depressed, away from my friends, with a lousy job and living with people I couldn’t stand. Everyone was complimenting me on my weight loss and on how good I looked, but I hated waking up every morning to the pit of despair that my life was at that moment (I may be a wee bit exaggerating).

      The minute I got a better job and my friends back + a better living situation, my weight went back. I don’t regret it. I only wish my social life wasn’t so food centric. Going out means eating or drinking and I can’t say no to it because I’m having the best of time hanging out with people I love.
      What I’ve been trying to do is get the people in my life to enjoy more physical stuff like hiking or dancing. This means we still get to spend time together having fun, but without the side effects.

      • Amy

        My friends and I always try to find active ways of spending time together, even if it’s just going for a long walk. We play softball or soccer or take a new dance/yoga class. Afterwards we usually go to someone’s house to make a healthy dinner together (with wine!). You don’t have to just sit on a bar stool in order to have fun with your friends.

    • Candace

      Ugh alcohol is the worst. The liquid calories, yes, but also the fact that when I’m tipsy eating an entire jar of almond butter seems like a good idea.

    • AD

      If you constantly have to eat out because of client schmoozing and other social obligations, then make a set of rules. I once read advice from a woman who said when she goes out to eat she picks one: bread, wine, or dessert. Try to pick a low carb dinner option, have a (non cream-based) soup or salad to start (no candied walnuts or berries) and give yourself one indulgence! Don’t splurge every single night, you can go out to dinner, limit yourself to 2 glasses of wine and fish and vegetables and not hate yourself the next day. I travel a lot for work and gained 10 lbs the first year. I lost it by just committing to hitting the gym twice during the week (even if it meant getting up early) when I traveled and not feeling obligated to go out with others. Once you make your health and fitness a priority over everything else, you will see changes. I scope out all my travel locations ahead of time for fun gym-type things to do (I even took a pole dancing class once lol, by myself, was a little awkward but fun and burned calories) and also scope out healthy places to eat in the location I am heading too. And like the other commenter, try to make plans FIRST with another friend to try the latest barre studio that just opened, or get someone to join crossfit with you. There are a million fitness options in NYC. Gotta find a friend who is on your same page and limit your drinking to the weekend only if you can. Good luck!