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Does Alcohol Cause Weight Gain

You have known you have depression for years, since your middle school days. Being bullied, going through puberty early, and being the awkward tall girl led you to a pretty low self-image. Not to mention you never seemed to lose your “baby fat,” leaving you tall and curvy at the same time. The bullying was harsh and frequent as you continued through middle school, which led to you turning to vices to cope at the young age of 13.

First signs of kidney damage

Your single mom worked a lot and drank a lot, so you knew she wouldn’t notice if alcohol would go missing. As you entered high school, you made friends who shared your interests in drinking and partying. This cycle continued for years, even after you graduated school. You knew that drinking heavily wasn’t good for the body, but it was all you knew how to do. One day, you get the courage to actually look at yourself in the mirror. Your figure has become even more curvy and heavy and you don’t recognize yourself anymore. The scale confirms your image as you have gained over 60 pounds in the last two years. Is this all from alcohol?

In 2019, 10.5% of Hillsborough County high school students engaged in binge drinking at least once over a 30-day period. The percentage was higher among female students, at 11.6%. Clean Recovery Centers understands how teens can see drinking as a way to help their mental health and self-esteem. Our program uses unique therapy techniques including rapid-resolution therapy to help identify each individual’s root causes of addiction. We work to provide education to our Suncoast communities on topics surrounding alcohol and substance use disorders. In today’s post, we will explore the question: “Does alcohol cause weight gain?”

How Alcohol Can Cause You To Gain Weight

Drinking alcohol can wreak havoc on the body in multiple ways. From heart damage to cancer, and liver disease to brain deterioration, alcohol has many physical and mental/emotional side effects. Those who binge drink or drink heavily may see themselves gaining weight, even just gradually. Alcohol causes weight gain through different facets – changing fat processing, hormones, and caloric intake.

Changes In The Body Processing Of Fat

Weight gain and alcoholThe body has a system of breaking down foods and drinks that we take in, known as the metabolic system. This system consists of the liver, kidneys, muscles, pancreas, and different tissues. When functioning normally, this system processes nutrients from food and drinks and converts them to energy for the body. With a balanced diet and exercise, fat is burned by the liver and promotes a healthy weight. When alcohol is consumed, the liver must store fat to focus on processing the alcohol. This means that while the person is drinking, fat is not being processed. Those who drink often will not burn as much fat as those who do not drink, causing an increase in fat within the body. Over time, the fat becomes stored as extra weight, leading to the number on the scale going up.

Being overweight before heavy drinking begins can also affect the liver. One study showed that being overweight for more than 10 years increased the risk of developing a liver disease such as cirrhosis and acute alcoholic hepatitis. When these conditions develop, the liver is no longer functioning properly. Its ability to handle alcohol and fat decreases, which can lead to more weight gain. Stopping alcohol consumption can help restore some liver function, but if the damage has progressed to the cirrhosis stage, the damage is irreversible. The person may have difficulties maintaining weight and processing fats.

Alcohol’s Effects On Your Hormones

Our bodies are full of hormones, all with different functions and purposes. Glands, organs, and the brain all have responsibilities when it comes to hormone regulation and communication with other areas of the body. When alcohol is consumed, it essentially interrupts or interferes with hormones. The hormones that control stress and hunger control are typically most affected by heavy alcohol consumption. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and is released to control stress. Alcohol disrupts the regulation of cortisol, leading to higher levels within the body. This leads to fat redistribution and increased cravings for foods higher in calories.

Can Alcohol Make You Feel Hungry?

In short, yes, alcohol can make you feel hungry even after you have eaten. As stated above, alcohol can interfere with hormones that control hunger, and signal the brain that food is needed even when it is not. Alcohol can also cause changes in blood sugar, leading to cravings for foods high in carbs. Combined with the brain sending hunger signals, the increase in high-calorie/high-carb foods can cause an increase in weight over time.

Increases In Abdominal Fat From Alcohol

One of the reasons alcohol contributes to abdominal fat is the hormone cortisol. When there is an overabundance of cortisol in the body, it begins redistributing fat to the midsection. Also, the liver is not focused on processing fat while alcohol is consumed, causing it to build up around the abdomen. While it can happen to anyone, men are more likely to experience fat build-up in the abdomen from alcohol than women.

Is Alcohol High In Calories?

Alcohol is high in calories with little-to-no nutritional value. There are no versions of alcohol that contain zero calories. Even vodka mixed with soda water will still have around 100 calories per drink. Drinks containing mixers such as sweet and sour mix, flavored syrups, and juices will contain more sugar and calories than an average beer or glass of wine.

It is important to note that despite alcohol having caloric value, very few calories from alcohol turn into stored fat. The consumption of high-calorie mixers and unhealthy foods caused by cravings from alcohol contribute to weight gain more so than alcohol itself. Those who drink moderately and not often will not see an increase in weight from drinking.

Will I Lose Weight If I Stop Drinking?

While stopping drinking can be a start to losing weight, there are factors that can affect the process. Behaviors while drinking can cause increased weight gain, such as drinking often and eating unhealthy foods. When these behaviors are stopped, losing weight should be possible. However, there may be other factors that caused the weight gain in the first place such as:

  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Amount of exercise and physical activity
  • Age and gender
  • Overall health

Overall, light to moderate drinking will not have a significant impact on weight gain. With proper diet and exercise, and limiting alcohol consumption, those who drink heavily can lose weight effectively.

Seeking Help For Alcoholism In Tampa, FL

Weight gain from alcohol can have negative effects on self-esteem, leading to a never-ending cycle of drinking to try to feel good again. Though it can seem scary and impossible, breaking that cycle starts with taking the first step in the right direction – alcoholism treatment. Finding a program that addresses your needs and goals can make all the difference for your success in recovery. Therapy, coping skill development, and wellness classes will prepare you for the next chapter of your life. Living alcohol-free may seem daunting, but surrounding yourself with hope and support from peers will make the transition to recovery seamless and freeing.

If you or someone you love is living with an alcohol use disorder, help is not far away. Clean Recovery Centers has a full-spectrum addiction treatment program that focuses on your unique story and what will work best for you. Our three-phase approach is unlike any around, and addresses all aspects of addiction: spiritual, social, mental, and physical. With locations throughout the beautiful Suncoast, our facilities offer a peaceful environment for healing. Call us today at (888) 330-2532 to learn more about our alcohol treatment programming.

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