How To Keep Alcohol From Ruining Your Health Efforts

Indulging in alcoholic beverages is a behavior that most adults participate in on a weekly basis. If you are trying to watch your figure and eating very healthy through out the week, sometimes these efforts can be cancelled out by your weekend behaviors. In order to curb the negative affects of drinking on your diet, follow these steps.

by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Over the years, many of my clients have confided that too many cocktails on the weekend, followed by alcohol-induced overeating, cancels out their work-week healthy eating efforts. And as a result, instead of seeing results, they remain “stuck” in a weight loss plateau. Sound familiar? This trend is supported by a new UK survey, which found that in a single evening out on the town, 40% of women consume about 1,000 calories in alcohol alone. In addition, more than half say that imbibing makes them hungrier, and four in five admit that drinking diminishes their willpower, causing them to indulge in foods like burgers, pizza, and chips. If alcohol is your diet downfall, try putting these seven tips into action.

Next: Eat before you drink


When your stomach is empty, alcohol is absorbed quickly, which means you’ll feel the effects within minutes. But eating something rich in lean protein and/or good fat, which are both digested and absorbed slowly, creates a buffer. So to curtail your tipsiness, nibble on something like a golf ball-sized portion of nuts, or fresh guacamole with veggies before you take your first sip.

Next: Count your drinks correctly


If you count one drink as one of what you’re served, you may be greatly underestimating your intake. Technically, 12 oz of light beer (one bottle or can), 5 oz of red or white wine (a little smaller than a yogurt container), and 1 shot of liquor all pack about the same amount of alcohol, and each contains roughly 100 calories. But one study found that wine and liquor served at restaurants are about 40% larger than these standard drink portions. Another report, out last week, found that beer and wine contain higher alcohol levels these days, so when you order a drink out, you may be getting 50% more alcohol than you think. In addition, if you order a pint of beer (16 oz), you’ll get four extra ounces than one standard drink, and then there are mixed drinks that contain more than one shot (like those illustrious Long Island Iced Teas!). The lesson: if you underestimate your intake, you may be far tipsier than you think. That means not only more alcohol calories than you counted on, but also a loosier goosier state of mind than may seriously affect your appetite.

Next: Slim down your drink order


If you’re a beer drinker, the type you order can have a big impact on your nutritional bottom line. A bottle or can of ultra low carb beer contains about 3-4 grams of carbs. But a regular version packs at least 10 grams, about as much as 10 mini pretzels. That means three a week adds up to an extra 1,560 grams of carb per year, the equivalent of nearly five loaves of bread. Drinks made with mixers are even bigger carb and calorie traps. Just four ounces (a half cup), of a sweetened mixer will cost you a whopping 25 grams of carb (about 14 gummy bears worth), and decadent drinks like a mudslide can contain over 500 calories, more than the amount a slice of chocolate cake.

Next: Slow your pace


One of the biggest culprits in alcohol-driven overeating is getting too tipsy, too fast. To slow down the rise in your blood alcohol level, order a tall glass of water with every alcoholic drink. Alternate sips, and be sure to finish at least 12 ounces of H2O for every cocktail. This simple strategy may cut your total consumption in half.

Next: Prevent mindless munching


The Scale Isn’t The Only Way To Measure Weight

When you are trying to lose weight or get into shape, it is all too easy to slip into hanging onto what the scale says to determine whether or not your efforts are “working” but studies are showing that this is not only harmful to your motivation but most likely not even an accurate representation of results.

by Jessica Migala

Sure, a bathroom scale tells you how much you weigh, but that number doesn’t always tell the whole story. A thin person can still have an unhealthy amount of body fat lurking beneath their skin. Likewise, a muscular athlete with a low body fat percentage may weigh more than traditional height-weight charts deem healthy. Here are 13 other tests-some common, some trendy, some you’ll remember from gym class-that measure body fat, and how accurately they can tell you whether you’re carrying around too much fat.

RELATED: The Definitive Guide to Body Fat

Next: BMI


What it is: A mathematical measurement that adjusts your weight for your height. Your number will tell you if you fall in the underweight, normal, overweight, or obese categories.

Does it work? Well, sometimes. A 2012 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that 29% of people who were “normal” weight actually had a body fat percentage in the obese range. So it may miss people who look thin but actually carry a lot of body fat. Another issue: if you’re especially muscular and fit (hello, Serena Williams), you’ll naturally weigh more since muscle tissue is denser than fat. That can throw your numbers into the overweight category.

What to do: You can find a BMI calculator here. While the average non-athlete can trust that they won’t get a false “overweight” result, given the limitations, you should still interpret your results with caution.

Next: Waist circumference


What it is: For women, the ideal waist measurement is less than 35 inches; for men, less than 40.

Does it work? Yes, according to a large consensus statement released from a group of organizations like the American Diabetes Association. It’s a marker of excess abdominal fat, which puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. William Yancy, MD, director of the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center, uses waist circumference for patients who are overweight, but not obese.

What to do: Place the tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones, advises the CDC. It should be snug but not too tight. Breathe out and take the measurement.

RELATED: How to Reclaim a Tiny Waist

Next: Thigh gap


What it is: Beloved by Tumblr pages and a hot trend in 2013, fans of this method claim that if you can stand with your legs together and see a gap between your thighs, you’re slim.

Does it work? No. “It’s all based on your bone structure and musculature, not if you’re thin or not,” says Charlie Seltzer, MD, a doctor specializing in weight loss in Philadelphia and a diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. He points to a very lean and healthy figure skater he’s worked with who has muscular thighs and tight hips, but no thigh gap.

What to do: There’s no reason to stand in the mirror and try to stand in such a way you can spot a gap, and critics point out that it can be a knock to your body-image and even trigger eating disorders.

Next: Waist-to-hip ratio


What it is: Women who have a waist-to-hip ratio of above 0.8 have a higher risk of disease.

Does it work? Yes. A study published in the European Heart Journal found that both waist-to-hip ratio and waist circumference were associated with heart disease risk, and researchers recommended that doctors incorporate these measures of obesity into cardiovascular disease assessments. But while it used to be popular, Dr. Yancy doesn’t use waist-to-hip ratio much anymore. The reason: it’s harder to accurately measure two places, especially when it’s sufficient to worry about only one (your waist).

What to do: To calculate your own waist-to-hip ratio, wrap a tape measure around the widest parts of your waist and hips, and then log the numbers into this calculator. ( to pop out your results.

RELATED: 10 Ways to Walk Off Fat Faster

Next: Can you see your abs?


What it is: If you have a six-pack, then you’re fit.

Does it work? Sort of. “The amount of fat you’re carrying under your skin is a reflection of what’s going on inside your body metabolically,” Dr. Seltzer says. But washboard abs require an ultra-low body fat percentage, a serious dedication to daily exercise, and a very calorie-restrictive diet.

What to do: Look at yourself in the mirror. What do you see? If you can make out some muscular definition (and this doesn’t mean you need a six-pack) and you don’t have a lot of fat rolling over your underwear, then that’s good, says Dr. Seltzer. If not, it’s not an indication you should go on a crazy fad diet or try to have a perfect body. Making some small lifestyle changes can help you shed fat in a big way. Whatever you see, the only truly accurate way to determine your health is to see your doctor and get lab work done, checking for markers like cholesterol and triglycerides.

RELATED: 10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away

Next: The “belly button challenge”


What it is: Wrap one arm around your back. If you can touch your belly button, you’re slim.

Does it work? Not even close! Dubbed the new thigh gap, Health debunked the myth in 2015. All it teaches you is how flexible you arms are-not if you’re fit or not. Oh, and not to mention, plenty of fit women can’t “pass.”

What to do: Take your waist measurement with an actual tape measure.

Next: The “collarbone challenge”


What it is: Take a roll of quarters and place them in the space in your collarbone. Do they stay put or do they fall? If you can balance them there, you’re sufficiently skinny.

Does it work? Ugh, absolutely not. File this one away in the “bogus” file with the belly button challenge and thigh gap. While you’re here, add to it the “bikini bridge,” described as where-as one Tumblr puts it-there’s a “graceful space created by a woman’s hip bones suspending bikini bottoms from their abdomens.”

What to do: “I worry about people tricking themselves into thinking they’re healthy by using any trendy mean necessary,” says Dr. Seltzer. Similarly, just like other trends, this can affect your self-image. Skip, please.

RELATED: 14 Fad Diets You Shouldn’t Try

Next: The string challenge


What it is: A fun way of measuring your waist-to-height ratio. If your waist is less than half of your height, you’re healthy.

Does it work? Yes. A 2014 UK study in the journal BMC Medicine found that the waist-to-height ratio is more accurate than BMI and would account for those people who were “missed” by BMI screenings. Researchers say that it’s cheap, easy, and can be used for every ethnic group.

What to do: Measure your height with a string. Fold the string in half. It should fit around your waist.

Next: Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis


What it is: A fancy term for a machine that sends electricity through your body and back to the machine. From there, the device calculates the percent of fat versus lean tissue you have.

Does it work? Kind of. Weight loss labs use large machines that measure your body composition, and those are accurate. But this technology is also available for at-home scales and handheld devices. Problem is, those are notoriously inaccurate.

What to do: You can still use it if you have one at home. While it may not tell you accurately what body fat percentage you’re starting out with, if you’re losing weight you should see this percentage trend downward, says Dr. Yancy. And just like stepping on the scale, use one of these under the same circumstances every time you do it for the most accurate results, like when you wake up in the morning, after you pee, and not after exercise.

RELATED: The Top Fat-Burning Foods

Next: The pinch test


What it is: Many health clubs still use good old calipers, which pinch areas on your body to determine your body fat.

Does it work? It all depends on the person who’s doing it-if a trainer uses one on you, let’s hope they know how to use it correctly.

What to do: While one measure may not tell you the whole story, if you’re trying to lose weight, the calipers should pinch less and less as you repeat the test over time. Make sure you’re doing it as one measure of progress (coupled with the number on the scale, how your clothes are fitting) and not the only one.

Next: Underwater weighing


What it is: Also known as hydrostatic weighing, a tech submerges you in a water tank, and water displacement measures fat versus lean mass.

Does it work? One criticism is that it’s just not convenient to use. You have to get the air out of your suit and breathe as much as you can out of your lungs, which can introduce error. It’s also hard to find compared to other fat-measuring methods. According to the American Council on Exercise, it has a 2.7% margin of error compared to 3.5% for the skinfold (caliper) test.

What to do: These may be available in a research setting, but there are some mobile labs in limited areas of the country.

RELATED: 30 Fast, New Fat-Burners

Next: The Bod Pod


What it is: The simple explanation is that it looks like an egg that you sit in while wearing your swimsuit, explains Dr. Yancy. It’s similar in concept to underwater weighing, but you stay dry. The Bod Pod taps into ADP technology (air displacement plethysmography, if you want to get fancy), which uses air displacement to measure body volume and calculates lean and fat mass.

Does it work? Yes, though some studies have found it may not be as accurate for underweight or overweight people. Other research indicates it’s as good as a skin fold (caliper) test, but the downside is it’s more expensive (skin fold tests are likely free at your gym).

What to do: You’re not going to buy a Bod Pod for your house, but you can find one at sports and fitness locations near you.

Next: DEXA scan


What it is: Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) is traditionally used to determine bone density and assess osteoporosis risk, but it can also be used to look at body composition, says Dr. Yancy.

Does it work? It’s convenient and quick and DEXA can determine the amount of muscle, fat, and bone-and break it up by body area. The results can also determine how much visceral fat you have, the dangerous fat around your waist that’s linked to diabetes and heart disease. Research notes that it’s accurate with a small margin of error, while a 2015 study found DEXA was better than the Bod Pod, especially for thinner and underweight people.

What to do: If you’re interested, you can see if there’s a DexaFit near your city. Prices are around $150 for a 30-minute session.


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Tame Bloating

Bloating is a common feeling that most people don’t know how to get rid of. Just like any other dietary decisions, it is important to understand why something is good or bad for you and this article does a great job showing you how to cut out bloat creating foods from your diet and how to determine foods that are good or bad for you and bloating.

by Esther Crain

Sometimes it comes from excess air trapped in your digestive tract. Other times it feels like a basketball is stuck in your abdomen, or your entire midsection has been flooded with water. Whatever bloating feels like to you, one thing’s for sure: it’s uncomfortable. And though bloat rarely signals something serious and typically goes away after several hours (eased up by moving around, drinking water, and just waiting it out), a distended middle can make you feel lethargic, clumsy, and suspecting you’ll never be able to button your jeans again. Welcome back your flatter belly by saying goodbye the habits that are prone to puff you up.

Next: You eat too fast


The pace of life has us all in a hurry, but if that leaves you wolfing down your meals, be warned: besides food, you’re also swallowing gas-producing air, which balloons your belly. Trapped air isn’t the only bloat trigger here. “When you eat in a rush, you don’t chew thoroughly, and that leads to larger food pieces sitting in your gut, waiting to be fully digested,” explains New York City nutritionist Stephanie Middleberg, RD, of Middleberg Nutrition. Another speed-eating danger: you lose track of how much you’re consuming, and stuffing yourself makes your stomach feel, well, stuffed. Instead of eating on the run, carve out at least 20 minutes for a slower sit-down meal. That’s how long it takes your brain to register fullness, signaling that it’s time to put your fork down so you don’t overdo it.

Next: Your go-to lunch is a sandwich


Even the healthiest sammies tend to be packed with sodium. A recent USDA study discovered that the sodium content in the typical sandwich can chew up 20% of your sodium allowance, says Janet Brill, PhD, RD, a Philadelphia-area nutritionist and author of Blood Pressure Down. And a 2012 CDC study listed the top sodium-loaded foods, many of which were sandwich staples. “Bread and rolls ranked as the number-one source of sodium in the typical American diet, and deli meat was number two, with cheese not far behind,” says Brill. The CDC recommends keeping sodium intake under 2,300 mg, and you can stay within that number and prevent sodium-induced bloat by alternating your sandwich habit with other foods or forgoing the bread and wrapping it a crisp piece of romaine lettuce.

Next: You consume your kale raw


Packed with essential vitamins, kale has a well-deserved reputation as a trendy salad superstar. Thing is, this cruciferous vegetable contains so much hard-to-break-down fiber and an indigestible sugar called raffinose that consuming it raw in a smoothie or salad may bring on gas and puffiness, says Middleberg. Kale is not the only veggie offender; other cruciferous greens like Brussels sprouts and broccoli have the same effect. “Cut down on the bloating by eating less kale and cooking the kale you do eat by steaming or roasting it,” suggests Middleberg. You still get the nutrients, but cooking helps soften the fiber and shrink the volume of kale you consume, so it doesn’t take up so much gut-busting room in your small intestines.

Next: You drink through a straw


Coffee beverages, fruit smoothies, green juice drinks-these days, all kinds of adult-friendly drinks are designed to be sipped through a straw. But as convenient as straws are, they force you to suck in lots of extra air, and that makes you feel like an inflatable ball, says Middleberg. It doesn’t make a difference how slowly or deeply you sip; you’re taking in the air already trapped in the upper part of the straw, and it’s impossible to avoid. Whenever you can, sip your drinks from the rim of the glass.

Next: You eat lots of packaged foods


Once again, the culprit here is sodium-it’s used as a preservative for tons of processed convenience foods. You know that crackers and chips are sodium bombs, but even healthy-looking items such as soups, salad dressings, cereals, and tomato sauce can have crazy-high amounts of sodium that easily lead you to exceed the 2,300 mg daily recommended limit. (Read more about surprisingly salty processed foods.) “It’s a good bet that pretty much any product that comes wrapped in a package contains more sodium than you’d think, and you’re unlikely to even taste the salt,” says Brill. Dodge the belly-bloating effects by reading labels and going for packaged foods that contain less than 500 mg per serving. And of course, try to cut back on the processed stuff and fill your plate with naturally low-sodium or sodium-free fresh fruits, grains, and veggies.

Related: 13 Foods That Are Saltier Than You Realize

Next: You choose diet or low-calorie products


Artificial sugars such as aspartame and sucralose have been added to everything from diet beverages to gum and candy. But the low or no calories come at a cost. While the FDA has recognized zero-cal sugar substitutes as safe, they’re serious bloat inducers. Artificial sweeteners hang around your stomach a long time because your system doesn’t digest them well (or at all). Makes sense, considering that they contain nothing your system recognizes as actual food, says Middleberg. “Banish them from your diet, and you’ll feel instant relief,” she says.

Next: You can’t give up your soda habit


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Kidney, pinto, black, red-beans (plus their legume cousins, lentils and chickpeas) are an awesome source of high-quality plant protein. Unfortunately the carbohydrates in beans tend to be indigestible, and that’s what gives them their gassy, belly-bloating reputation, says Brill. Thing is, beans boost the health of so many dishes, from chili to soup to burritos, that it would be a nutritional crime to dump them out of your diet entirely. The solution: take an over-the-counter anti-gas product such as Beano along with your beans. “These contain the enzyme we’re missing that makes the carbohydrates digestible,” says Brill. “It’s safe to take, and it prevents the uncomfortable puffy feeling.”

Next: You chew gum or suck on candy


Gum and hard candy keep your mouth occupied, which can help you lose weight or quit smoking. But they too cause you to inadvertently gulp lots of excess air. And as with using a straw and eating too fast, excessive air can lead to belching and that beached whale feeling. Try giving up the gum and suckers and instead take frequent sips of water-that will keep your mouth busy too. There’s a bonus to H2O as well: plain water helps keep your GI tract moving, and that gets rid of excess air and water bloating out your system, explains Alissa Rumsey, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Next: You eat dinner too close to bedtime


If you eat a typical-size dinner within an hour or two of hitting the sack, you’re setting yourself up for morning muffin top. Lying down impairs digestion, so if you hit the bed with food in your stomach, it won’t be broken down as quickly, leaving you bloated in the a.m., says Rumsey. It’s not always easy to shift your schedule, but try having supper at least three to four hours before turning in for the night. Stay on your feet as much as possible to keep things moving before you fall asleep. If you have no choice but to eat right before bedtime, make it something small, like a piece of fruit or yogurt, and refuel with a bigger meal at breakfast, when your metabolism is running high again and your body will benefit from the energy jolt.

Next: You ignore food allergy symptoms


Despite all the attention food allergies score these days (gluten-free mania, anyone?), most of us aren’t affected by them. Still, some allergies and sensitivities are a little-known reason for belly expansion. People with a wheat allergy who can’t digest gluten often deal with digestive issues and bloating, and if you’re lactose intolerant, you’ll also experience lots of distention and discomfort, says Rumsey. If you find yourself frequently feeling like a bowling ball, and none of these other factors seem to be the cause, check in with your doctor and ask to be tested for food allergies and sensitivities.


Are You Catching Enough Sleep?

Sleep is one of the most important things that you can do for your body in order to keep it healthy. It is very interesting though, how little we understand sleep and dreaming and why it is so essential. New studies are showing however what lack of sleep or too much sleep can do to the body and this is another step on the way to demystifying sleep.

People who sleep fewer than 6 hours or more than 10 hours per night suffer from low-grade inflammation more often than people who sleep 7-8 hours per night. Earlier studies have found a relation between reduced sleep and low-grade inflammation, according to one of the study researchers. Furthermore, low-grade inflammation occurs in overweight, depression and diabetes. This new study is the first to analyze the association between sleep duration and serum micronutrient concentrations in a large sample, and it found a link between high serum copper concentration and long sleep duration.