By: Madeleine St. Marie

I saw a former coworker recently, and was pleasantly surprised to see that he had lost weight since the last time I saw him. He had been struggling with his weight loss goals for the better part of two years, but had clearly figured something out while I had been living in Tennessee.

He told me that he mixed in more salads in his diet and started to work out, which had helped. But, he said, the biggest changes for him weren’t in his food choices or in his exercise regimen: he decided to give up soda and beer.

Show of hands: how many of you, when you were writing your food journals for Stacey’s Shred, included what you had to drink as well as what you had to eat? You’d be surprised how many people don’t realize that the liquids they imbibe can be detrimental to their weight loss and health goals.

Or, more importantly, they don’t realize that beverages can contain a massive amount of calories on their own. The Freshman 15 (or in my case, 25)? I initially blamed that on the all-you-can eat dining halls, the weird eating hours (I could eat an omelet at 1:30 am. Of course I was going to eat an omelet, they are delicious), and the sub-par food choices. Then, I realized that the sudden addition of sizeable beer consumption might have more to do with it.

(And yes, I know there are some health benefits from certain types of alcohol, like wine, but that’s a different post for a different time. )

Alcohol, in this regard, can be something of a no brainer, especially since several macrobreweries are touting light beers that only contain 64 calories. Think of it this way: Bud Light has 110 calories in it. No big deal, right? Say over the course of a week, you have three of them. That’s 330 calories. And what’s worse, it’s probably 330 calories that you didn’t account for when you exercised for that week. To zero this out, you’d have to engage in a serious cardiovascular activity, like running or racquetball, for 30 minutes.

“But Madeleine,” you say, “I don’t drink beer. I know that many popular beers are essentially empty calories with no additional nutritional benefits!” High five! Let’s go grab some coffee. I’m going to get a small skim milk latte, which is like 190 calories so I don’t feel guilty, and if I don’t get some caffeine, there’s going to be prob – what’s that? You’re getting a medium double chocolate chip blended coffee drink?

Dude. That’s 500 calories. And that’s not even the largest size they have. To burn 500 calories, you’d have to do some serious cardio for about an hour, like Zumba. Hmm. Maybe you guys should all drink these ice blended coffee drinks after all.

By the way, do you know what you could have had instead for 330 calories? A Double Double. For 500? Broiled salmon with asparagus. Essentially, you could have had an entire meal. So pay attention to your liquids: they could be a seriously easy way to lose weight without making major dietary concessions or becoming a marathon runner.