Over the course of four months, I initiated a lifestyle change that has resulted in a weight loss of thirty pounds, and it included craft beer. This has not been one of those crazy, fad diets in which beer was my only sustenance. That kind of foolhardy approach is not something I would ever recommend. In fact, you will not find me condoning any diet that takes you into the world of extremes.
Living on liquid bread alone is not healthy. If you have any doubts, read Diary of a Part Time Monk by J. Wilson. Monitored closely by his doctor, J. sustained himself with nothing but doppelbock and water during a Lenten fast as part of his research into the sacrificial lives of Paulaner monks circa the 16th-17th centuries. Although he completed his fast, his diary reveals that beer lacks specific dietary elements necessary for good nutrition.
But craft beer is essentially good for your health, made of natural products. Sparkling water, sourced from glacial palaces or filtered through age-old rock formations, serves as the base. Grain and hops spring from the soil. Wort converts into beer through the action of yeast rich in B vitamins. Beer is sometimes aged on fruit, or enriched with the addition of spices that benefit the nervous system. Liquid gold is full of isoflavonoids and phytochemicals, giving it the chutzpah to ward-off disease.
In moderation, beer serves as a relaxant and social lubricant. As a source of dietary silicon, it assists as a building block for bone formation and benefits the body’s system of connective tissues. The yeast in beer increases vitamin B6 in the blood plasma. High-density lipoproteins or HDLs – the good cholesterol – increases in the bodies of moderate beer drinkers. This is important because HDLs help to remove LDL cholesterol – the destructive cholesterol – from the bloodstream. In fact, those who develop regular beer-drinking habits enjoy better heart health than those who completely abstain. So why would anyone eliminate beer when embarking on a journey toward better health?
One of the best ways to lose weight is to fully enjoy the things you choose to keep in your life, and craft beer is my chosen pleasure, the reward for a job well done. When I set about my course of action, I reviewed the essentials of a healthy regimen. Several years ago, Jeff Lakomski, Executive Pastry Chef at Orso and Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage Alaska, impressed me with his advice, “You have to understand portion control.” This phrase is a key to success, whether you are serving others with culinary delights or designing your own package for good health.
I confess. My habits had declined to constant calorie consumption without much thought to flavor, texture, or balance. Somehow, I had convinced myself that driving through a fast food restaurant was not so bad. I would order the cheap-o burger, sundae, or a salad with dressing, never looking at the calories or ingredients. Here’s a hint: Even the “fat free” dressings are loaded with sugar or unnatural sugar-substitute, so high in calories that they require the burn-off of a jet engine. When you begin exercising on a treadmill that measures calorie burn, you realize how much effort it takes to burn those little extras that you never thought about. High fructose corn syrup is a killer and a fat magnet, so avoid it at every turn.
I love things that are au natural – the sun, the beach, natural cottons that lay across my breasts in thin layers – so I decided to parallel my lifestyle along those same natural lines. Oatmeal, bananas, mandarin oranges, pineapple or grapes launch my day. Some people are put-off by oatmeal, but it reminds me of a chunky mash just before the sparge, so I’m good with that. Gluten-free rolled oats have more texture than those little instant packets, and 3 minutes in the microwave is perfect.
I give myself as much bulk as possible during the day, with almonds and walnuts, carrots, celery, more mandarins, melons of every kind, baked potatoes, lowfat milk, beans, broccoli, sugar peas, corn, dark chocolate, and 2 portions of lean meat or poultry, tuna, shrimp, fish, or seafood. I love playing Poker or Black Jack, so it’s easy to remember that a portion of protein is about the size of a deck of cards. When you eat this way, the bulky foods are fully satisfying but use up more calories when processing through the body, and the low-cal foods leave plenty of room for any style of beer you desire. It’s a great trade-off.
I keep track of my beer calories with a slick little formula. As a base, an average beer is 12 ounces at 5% alcohol by volume and equals 150 calories. For beers that vary in alcohol, use this formula:
Multiply the ounces of beer by the ABV. This gives you the beer’s potency. Divide that by 60 to get your “Beer Factor.” Multiply that by 150. The result is a close calculation of how many calories are in the beer.
Let me review:
Ounces of beer x ABV = Potency of beer/60 = Beer Factor x 150 = Total Approximate Calories Consumed
If I crave a bottle of Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA at 7.2% ABV, the formula is 12 x 7.2 = 86.4/60 = 1.44 x 150 = 216 calories
If I want a Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter at 3.5%, the formula is 12 x 3.5 = 42/60 = .7 x 150 = 105 calories
If I allow myself 2000 calories per day, 1500 calories can be from my meals, and I can have two bottles of IPA or nearly five bottles of Bitter. Chiswick is no lightweight in flavor, either. As a great session beer, it was the go-to beverage of Beer Hunter Michael Jackson for many years.
I often meet people who begin diets by cutting beer out of their daily menu. This just is not necessary. Instead, add 30 minutes of exercise per day, mixing cardio with strength training. Be creative – drive your stick shift through stop-and-go traffic for an hour, enjoy 10 minutes of vigorous sex three times a day, park across the lot at the food market, paint the house, or carry resistance bands in your pocket and play with them at traffic lights. These are great stress busters, burn calories, and make room for beer.
Allow yourself some slack, too. If you go all-out at a beer fest eating cheese, chocolate, sausages, and desserts while tasting every beer in the festival hall, take a vacation from the scale for three days. Get back on track; then, do a weigh-in. You’ll avoid the sting of a temporary setback and still look foxy in, or out of, a bathing suit. Remember this is a lifestyle – not a “temporary” diet. You want to keep beer in your life, so choose well. Drink the good stuff.
Keep track of your weight ... easily:
EatSmart Precision Digital Bathroom Scale w/ Extra Large Backlit 3.5" Display and "Step-On" Technology [2013 VERSION]
Track your portions:
EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale, Silver