We've all heard the cautionary tales about alcohol and weight loss - mainly that the two don't mix.
As it turns out, this is good advice. There are some very sound reasons to avoid alcohol when you're trying to lose weight. There are also plenty of healthier options for dieters who like a little drink now and then.
Here is a list of the reasons why alcohol can slow your weight loss and affect your weight.
* Alcohol is high in empty calories.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. By way of comparison, protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram.
The difference is that proteins, carbohydrates and fats pack nutrition into their calories. Calories from alcohol do not provide nutrition and will not satisfy your hunger. This makes it easy to keep drinking - and racking up a high calorie count.
* Alcohol delays the fat-burning process.
According to Dr. Robert Atkins, the human body burns alcohol before any other fuel source. That means your body will burn off all the alcohol you've consumed before turning to its store of carbohydrates and fat.
This can delay your weight-loss efforts, especially if you drink frequently.
If you can't bring yourself to abstain from alcohol, try sipping wine instead of beer or cocktails. Dr. Atkins considered the most diet-friendly drinks to be wine, hard liquor or either of the above mixed with seltzer or tonic water.
* Excessive alcohol consumption is linked to higher BMIs.
There is a direct correlation between the amount of alcoholic drinks a person consumes during a day, and that person's body mass index (BMI).
According to a study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), study participants with the lowest BMIs drank three to seven times a week but had only one drink during those days.
Participants with the highest BMIs drank alcohol less frequently, but consumed several drinks at a time.
As with any food, alcohol isn't disastrous in small quantities. The real danger lies in overindulgence.
* Alcohol ads are misleading.
The latest alcohol marketing campaigns refer to certain alcoholic beverages as low-carb or zero-carb. These campaigns are obviously targeting dieters, who have long avoided alcohol in their quest to shed pounds.
While it is technically true that hard liquors are distilled and therefore contain no carbs, they still contain plenty of calories - about 65 calories per ounce - and have no nutritional value.
Beer and wine do contain carbohydrates, which can lead to cravings and bloating. Mixed drinks are the worst of the lot as they contain all sorts of added sugar and calories.
* Alcohol lowers inhibitions.
When a dieter's inhibitions are lowered, they may find it difficult to say no to overeating or eating rich foods that are high in calories.
Intoxicated dieters might be susceptible to friends' urges to try just one bite or to give in to mindless snacking.
While the occasional planned splurge can actually help you stay on track to lose weight, alcohol can lead to an unplanned splurge followed by guilt and discouragement.
It's up to you.
The bottom line is that any diet boils down to how many calories you consume versus how many you burn.
In small quantities, alcohol can be an occasional part of your weight-loss plan. Just tread carefully, limit to one or two drinks except for special occasions, and factor the extra calories into your daily total.