Should dieters beware of alcohol more than chocolate?

alcoholFor all you dieters out there still trying to shift those last few lbs from the festive period, it might be worth considering the calorie intake of all the alcoholic drinks you are consuming as opposed to what is often deemed to be a dieter’s worst nightmare – chocolate.

Bridget Jones, the much loved heroine played by Renee Zellweger in the films, was known to binge on chocolate and ice cream during times of stress in her chaotic love life, but British researchers wanted to find out more information about any potential obstacles to people trying to slim down so that efforts can be made in the future to avoid dieting pitfalls.

The researchers from Birmingham University monitored eighty men and women, all of whom were either attempting to lose weight or keep off weight they had previously lost. Each person was provided with a mobile phone to record an electronic diary of a temptation or craving they encountered.

Their emotions were also assessed, for example how exactly they were feeling at the time of the craving and whether they actually succumbed and consumed that particular craving.

On average, each person was faced with 11 occasions where they had the temptation to abandon their healthy eating over the duration of one week, giving in over half the time. ‘Bad’ foods were unsurprisingly most appealing during times of stress or severe hunger.

Interestingly, those in the study were found more likely to give in to alcohol than binge on sugary treats or have giant servings of meals, indicating that it is booze which could be the main villain in regards to losing weight and keeping it off.

Birmingham University researcher Dr Heather McKee led the study, published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine, and she suggests a reason for this; that dieters often grossly underestimate the number of calories in alcoholic drinks.

Not many people may be aware but just a single glass of wine is equivalent to the calories contained within 4 cookies and a pint of lager is about as calorie-laden as a slice of pizza. In addition, the NHS warn that merely 5 pints of lager per week totals an estimated 44,200kcal over the course of a year – similar to a person eating 221 doughnuts.

Also, did you know that only 2 large glasses of white wine will gobble up around of a fifth of the recommended daily calorie intake for a woman? If you didn’t, you might have to be careful before opening that second bottle of wine in the future.

Dr McKee discovered evening time is when people are more likely to give in to temptations because of willpower decreasing during the course of the day. This could be due to the relaxing environment of a pub or your own home.

Dr McKee believes it will make be easier for dieters to succeed in their goals if more work was conducted into what makes people give in to cravings and temptations and thus abandon their healthy lifestyle.

She said: “Just like a muscle, willpower can become fatigued.  But, with regular practice, it can grow stronger over time.”

Her tips include making sure treats are hidden out of view and not giving up every ‘luxury’ all at the same time, as this can prove difficult.

She says: “You can engineer your environment to make it less tempting. For instance, put the office biscuits out of sight so you don’t have a constant reminder of a temptation that you have to resist multiple times throughout the day which eventually wears down one’s self-control and makes you more likely to give in. Secondly, it’s best that when trying to avoid temptation to try not to give up everything at once. For example, often in January or at lent people give up sweets, chocolate, alcohol etc. all at once. This is too much strain on your self-control and makes you much more likely to lapse than if you focus on training one aspect, such as cutting down alcohol.  When feel confident at that, starting to work on other temptations.”

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