Mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and stress aren’t always obvious. It’s too easy to assume that if someone’s life seems great on the exterior, that their emotional and mental state will match. Cheyne Kobzoff, 34-year-old from California, knows this well.
Cheyne has a supportive wife, two children, and a rewarding job as a chef. But he also has anxiety. And only recently did he admit to himself that he was struggling with alcoholism too. Thankfully, over the course of a year, Cheyne made two simple changes to his lifestyle and ended up being healthier, thinner, and — finally — being truly happy.
Cheyne Kobzoff: A Complete Transformation
On March 22nd, Cheyne Kobzoff shared a victorious post on Reddit (using his Reddit username Klamsykrawl), saying “One year of no alcohol has changed my life. I lost 53 pounds and I’m 1000 times happier”.
Kobzoff says in an interview with Vice that alcoholism runs in his family; drinking had been a part of everyday life for him since he was 15 (1). He had used alcohol as a form of self-medication for his anxiety, but he knew things just weren’t working. He planned on quitting for over a year until March of 2015, when he finally set a date and quit drinking cold turkey.
Kobzoff shared more details of his story in a Reddit Post and subsequent comments with supportive Reddit users (2): “I ended up making a date in my head and planned on sticking with it. I didn’t tell anybody. That day came and I didn’t drink. The first week was hard. I wanted to drink, I couldn’t sleep and I hated my body. I replaced all my drinking with eating whatever I wanted, but at least I wasn’t drinking.”
Then about 1 month into being sober, Kobzoff quite unintentionally took up running. He tells Vice, “Well, I drank to cure my anxiety. But my anxiety didn’t really go away after I stopped. One day I was mowing the lawn and I was engulfed in anxiety, and I just felt this urge to run. I didn’t act on it, but the next night I felt the urge again, and I went. I put on my shoes, ran out the door, and went a mile down the road and back. I had no idea what I just did… but it felt good. And then I came inside gasping for air.”
From that day on, he used running to deal with anxiety instead of alcohol. He started a “Couch to 5k” program to help him stay consistent, and despite a temporary setback due to an injury, within 10 weeks he could manage a 5km run in 25 minutes. Since then he’s been adding strength training to his regular fitness routine. After 1 year of being sober and active, he lost 53 pounds!
But Kobzoff stresses that his success story isn’t just about the weight, it’s about his new quality of life (2):
“I’m more present for my children and family, I get up early, I don’t fake like I’m not hungover and go throw up in the shower. My kids don’t ask me if I need a “brewskie” anymore. They actually have asked why I don’t drink anymore and I’m completely honest with them. They’re very young. Work is easier, I’m more confident. I can stay up later and get up earlier without wanting to die. I don’t plan on what and when I should eat just so I can drink more without getting a hangover. I don’t wake up choking on regurgitated red wine in the middle of the night in my nose. No more heartburn. I always drive, my wife doesn’t have to drive me home whenever we go out. My hair doesn’t fall out. I can do pullups, sometimes I have abs, I can outrun my dog if he gets out. I don’t have white tongue or a bar tan. I don’t stink like a sweet and sour bar mat. Pretty much LIFE IS PRETTY F****** GOOD RIGHT NOW. Because I don’t drink.”
Why Does Alcohol Make You Gain Weight?
Alcoholic drinks can be often overlooked as sources of bloating and weight gain — many people cut out unhealthy food sources first before realizing the full impact of their beverage choices. But unlike protein, carbs, and fat, your body can’t actually store alcohol — this makes metabolizing it the number 1 priority once consumed (setting other metabolic processes aside, so to speak) (3).
About 20% of alcohol can be absorbed from your stomach into your bloodstream, which enters the brain (creating that woozy feeling). The other 80% travels to your intestines where it is slowly absorbed. Your liver is responsible for metabolizing all the alcohol in your body, and there is no way to “sober up” faster than your liver can work (3).
So what? Michael Jensen, MD and endocrine expert, explains, “In general, alcohol intake is associated with bigger waists because when you drink alcohol, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat” (4). That’s where the infamous ‘beer belly’ comes from.
Alcoholic drinks can also have a very high calorie count, which, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle, can result in weight gain pretty quickly. Moreover, some studies have suggested drinking alcohol can increase food cravings and make you overeat (3).
Healthy Alternatives for Dealing With Stress and Anxiety
A drink or two after a stressful day might seem tempting, but it should never be your go-to response for managing stress. Instead, find healthier ideas for stress-management below: