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My excessive energy, extreme narcissism, and intense love of neon-colored spandex is both managed and fueled by my addiction to fitness. I push myself to extremes and I push other people's buttons. Obviously I needed my own blog.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Weight Loss and Sobriety

Good morning! I am feeling great about my body. Brad took my progress photos this morning and I'm proud of the visible results of my hard work. In addition to looking good, I am feeling better on the inside than I think I have ever felt before. I am happy. I am proud of my behavior. I am proud of the work that I put in at school, at my graduate assistantship, and at the gym.

This is a post about weight loss but it's also a post about giving up alcohol. Last spring, I decided to abstain from drinking from April 1 through June 30. I just wanted to do a challenge and set a big goal for my Gym Gypsy. Once it became clear that we were going to have to follow pandemic and lockdown procedures, I was even more resolute in my challenge. I didn't think it was a good idea for me to be drinking alone at home while I faced the uncertainty of a global pandemic. So while many people drank excessively, emotionally ate, and gave up their exercise routines, I did the exact opposite. I made all my own food at home, started doing CrossFit at-home workouts and running, and had a lot more energy because I didn't have a hangover. I started going to CrossFit classes once my gym opened at the end of April.

This is me on March 7 compared to me today on November 6, 2020. I am definitely hungover in my March photo. I look miserable.

June 24, 2020 compared to today. I feel great in both photos, despite them being taken early in the morning. Fifty plus days of no alcohol for both photos.

August 31, 2020 compared to today. The changes between June and August is the result of weekend alcohol consumption. I stopped drinking on most weekdays when I stopped working in an office when I moved to Georgia six years ago. I just didn't feel the need to go to happy hour anymore since I didn't have any coworkers to go with to a bar. Look how quickly just drinking on the weekends adds up. I was still exercising regularly. My eating habits were the same (cooking at home) unless I was drinking because that means bar food and greasy hangover food.

I stopped attending CrossFit classes on August 31 and switched to working with a coach for strongman training. I put on 1.5 pounds of muscle and lost 4.2 pounds of fat by October 3.

October 3, 2020 compared to today. In addition to changing my training style, my alcohol consumption changed. School started on August 24 and I became very busy with classes, studying, and my 5 days of week of training. I only went out 3-4 times and then gave up alcohol entirely on September 14. 

I decided to stop working with the coach. It wasn't a good fit. If you'd like to know why I came to that conclusion, please feel free to message me about it. I had been doing 3 days of lifting and 2 days of cardio. Then I had a week at my parents and then a week of trying to figure out what to do after I parted ways with the coach and didn't really workout at all. For the past three weeks, I have been following a beginner's Wendler 321 template with some modifications because I have been trying to get a handle on my schedule. I squat and bench press one day and I deadlift and press on another. I fit in a day of CrossFit-esque stuff plus sandbag carries and a day of sprints. I barely workout compared to before and I am still making progress. My recovery is so much better and my food choices are consistent and I know this is entirely because I gave up alcohol.

Some of you are reading this and thinking, Allie gave up alcohol and is now trying to convince the rest of us to stop drinking too. Not at all. I believe adults should be trusted to make their own informed decisions. I just want to share the information that has helped me.

For a long time, I believed that only people who can't drink alcohol don't drink. So basically alcoholics, pregnant women, and Mormons. I kept trying to make alcohol fit my lifestyle when my lifestyle doesn't really have room for alcohol. My longtime readers know that I used to really like to drink. This blog was about getting drunk and then running really long distances and then drinking again. But as I got more into CrossFit, I could easily tell how different I felt in a workout if I had had anything to drink the day before. I now wear a Fitbit that tracks my sleep and one glass of wine or beer drops my sleep score. Most of the athletes I admire rarely, if ever, consume alcohol and that's probably why they're so good. You can find some pretty interesting studies on PubMed if you input ALCOHOL and SLEEP.

I've been pretty transparent about my anxiety, struggles with depression, and panic attacks. What I didn't know was the extent to which alcohol affects your central nervous system. I noticed that my panic attacks stopped and my anxiety lowered in May. We were in the middle of a global pandemic and the Waffle Houses closed and my anxiety was lower than it had been in years. If you're familiar with the Waffle House Index, an informal metric used to determine the scale of assistance needed for disaster recovery, you know that closed Waffle Houses mean shit is REALLY FREAKING BAD. But I was feeling great. My anxiety and panic attacks returned this summer (a little after I reintroduced alcohol) and then I made the connection. Within three weeks of giving alcohol up again, my panic attacks are gone. I haven't had one since September. This reason alone is enough for me to never drink again.

This week we covered alcohol metabolism in my macronutrient nutrition course. Have you ever heard that alcohol is poison? Yeah, so have I, but lots of things are bad for you in excess but totally fine in moderation. Except any alcohol turns into an extremely toxic substance. 

Alcohol is metabolized by several processes or pathways. The most common of these pathways involves two enzymes—alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). These enzymes help break apart the alcohol molecule, making it possible to eliminate it from the body. First, ADH metabolizes alcohol to acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen. Then, in a second step, acetaldehyde is further metabolized down to another, less active byproduct called acetate, which then is broken down into water and carbon dioxide for easy elimination.    source

So I've been scared to eat oatmeal, legumes, and nightshades all these years (thanks Whole30) but I routinely consumed a substance that turns into acetaldehyde in my body and then my body has to convert that toxin into other substances that can actually be used and eliminated? Our bodies prioritize alcohol metabolism over lipid, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism. I spend a lot of time measuring and tracking the food I eat, making sure I get adequate macro and micronutrients. It feels like a lot of work to do only to undo it by drinking each weekend. 

One time a guy passionately argued with me about the evils of white bread and how it was poison to the body but I knew this guy regularly used cocaine. If you're going to be scared of a white substance in that scenario, Wonder Bread shouldn't be it. I spent many years vilifying sugar and soda consumption but drinking a lot of alcohol, and now I'm realizing I sounded a lot more like Mr. Low Carb High as a Kite than I care to admit.

So these are all the reasons why I stopped drinking. Happy Friday. We made it.

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