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A Shocking Discovery About Cake and Booze

Posted Dec 11 2012 8:33am

I kind of hate myself for the timing of this post, because, let’s face it – if there’s a time of year you’re likely to drink more alcohol, it’s the festive season. I’m a particular victim of this, because it was my birthday yesterday – so it’s very easy for December to be less Katie Lowe, more Keith Richards. It’s not good.

Fortunately, I’m still on painkillers from my knee surgery, so I couldn’t drink yesterday. It did mean I was this excited about my birthday cake, though:

What can I say? I love cake. No judging.

Now, that cake was fattening – very fattening – because, as my gorgeous Mum discovered when baking it, birthday cakes for coeliacs tend to be made mostly from chocolate, butter and eggs. It’s a calorie bomb – but it tasted incredible, and it was my birthday, so it’s all good in my eyes.

Now, I’ve worked it out, and I’d say that each slice of that cake contained somewhere in the region of 450 calories. Roughly. If you’re familiar with calorie counting, you’ll know that’s quite a lot – but as a treat, those 450 calories once in a while aren’t going to make you fat. I’m a big believer in having a treat so long as you really, really enjoy it – and any life that doesn’t involve chocolate cake isn’t a life I care to lead, thank you very much.

But say I’d added two large glasses of white wine into the mix. You guys know I love a drink from time to time , and I’m not going to lie – two large glasses of wine certainly wouldn’t amount to my most excessive night out.

For those two glasses of wine – the one, incidentally, that’s on the shelf in my kitchen right now – I’d be looking at 475 calories.

Feel that? That kick in the stomach? That, right there, is betrayal. It’s like finding out your best friend has been slipping butter in your coffee. There are more calories in two glasses of wine than there are in a slab of my super-chocolatey-basically-a-giant-brownie-birthday-cake.

And check this out (from DrinkAware.co.uk):

Drinking alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol. So our systems want to get rid of it – and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place (including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.

So, when you’ve had a drink, your body is less efficient at burning fat, because it’s busy trying to dispose of the booze. Booze which contains, gram for gram, just as many calories as fat. I’m no scientist, but I’m guessing this means the fact that, for me, more than two glasses of wine used to end in a trip to the chippy to “soak it up” was very bad news for my dress size. Just guessing, like.

Fortunately for my sanity, I’m not alone in that. From the same source:

According to the Department of Health… almost one in three people order crisps, nuts or pork scratchings to accompany a drink, while nearly a fifth regularly opt for takeaway food.

More than one in three said they are likely to eat more than they usually would or ditch the healthy diet when they drink above their recommended daily limits. And more than six out of 10 drinkers have a less healthy breakfast if they have a hangover.

I’m not going to lie to you guys. I’m pretty sure I’ve done all of that over the course of one big night out. Crisps at the bar, fish and chips on the way home, and a fry up the next morning… Yep. That’s happened. It was carnage.

And that, for me, is the danger with alcohol. Calories aside, the lack of control over my healthy choices (among other things) is a real issue when I have a drink. A slice of chocolate cake, on the other hand, doesn’t tend to lead down quite the same path – it’s a treat in and of itself, and it scratches the chocolate itch, if you know what I mean.

Let’s be clear – I’m not saying you should replace all those empty alcohol calories with cake. I wish I could offer you guys that kind of awesome advice, but… No. That’s a road to nowhere. I’m also not saying you can’t have a drink – you know I still do, although I do have to reconcile that with the fact that my weight loss is always slower when I’m drinking more often. If I’m looking to speed up my progress, alcohol will be the first thing I drop from my diet – but on the whole, once a week, I’ll have a couple of drinks. It’s not an issue.

But at this time of year, it’s worth understanding the extra calories you’ll be consuming when you’re drinking and eating more – if only so you don’t kick yourself too hard come January. As I said around Thanksgiving , these holidays are meant to be enjoyed – and what with it being the season to eat, drink and be merry, I’m going to go ahead and suggest you do just that. But be smart about it.

Half the reason I managed to hit 290lbs was because I’d just stopped paying attention to what I was eating. I’d stopped looking at the scales, and I’d never, ever look at the nutrition labels. On anything. These days, I don’t deny myself things I want – but I make my decisions carefully, and wisely. Knowing you’ll be eating and drinking more over the next few weeks, and occasionally opting out of another glass of wine, or another slice of cake – or even just deciding to have one or the other, rather than both – is enough to mean you’ll hit January feeling like you kept some kind of control over Christmas.

As you can see from this calculator , there are less “fattening” drinks – choosing soda water or tonic instead of coke as a mixer, for instance, can help you to dodge some extra sugar – and this handy infographic  has the calorie data for most of the big brand alcoholic drinks. Enjoy a drink this Christmas – but enjoy it sensibly.

And if you’d rather have cake… Screw it. Have cake.

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