Lose the pounds, but keep the beer: One’s struggle with the weight of craft beer 

Lose the pounds, but keep the beer: One’s struggle with the weight of craft beer 


By Donovan Wheeler for Indiana On Tap

Last spring, as I was laying down for a post-op colonoscopy, my anesthesiologist asked a question I had been asked by every doctor, nurse, sleep-maker, and toilet cleaner who had crossed my gurney for months: “Do you drink?”

Every time they would ask me, I felt the urge to lead off with a key disclaimer: “Well…you see…I write for a craft beer website, and I do a lot of ‘professional research…’”  The first time I tried that move my oncologist looked at me with a dumbfounded expression.

“You’re a what?” he asked layering on the condescension in heaps.  On my second try1, she tapped her pen on her clipboard, glanced at me from the top edges of her eyes, and all but said with her expression, “Are you kidding me?”  Embarrassed, I opted for a different tactic with all my future encounters, and I did what DePauw psychologist Matt Hertenstein2 says the average human does 28,000 times in one lifetime: I lied.

“Oh…” I would offer casually, “I have maybe two or three a week.”  Whoppers taste the best with extra sauce, I suppose.

I continued this practice for the months that would follow, until I happened to find myself in that tiny “exploration” facility prepping for my most recent round of “hide the garden-hose.”  Since my cancer had been removed some time before, and since that afternoon’s procedure carried the feel of a routine encore to it, I was less distracted by own fears about my health.  Consequently I became more aware of the silliness of my fib.  I don’t remember the joke I cracked to ease the tension I felt about lying—something about “throwing down a doozie of an IPA the other day.” Abruptly, my anesthesiologist (crossing off whatever it is he crosses off on his chart3) looked my way and shocked me far more than something growing inside of me ever did.

“It’s actually a serious question,” he said.  “We need a good idea of your tolerances so that we give you enough stuff to you keep you asleep through the entire procedure.”

Hospital rooms are cold enough as it is, but when I heard those words the goose bumps elongated through the fibers of my gown.  I was paralyzed by the image of me drowsily waking up, mid-procedure with a dozen feet of Rubbermaid pretzeling its way through my innards fully blocking my exhaust port.

Sheer. Terror.


“Two or three a day!” I half-shouted, propping myself up on my gurney, my hand extending to him in supplication.  “Two or three a day!”

Since my first craft beer a handful of years ago, and further since I began this journey with Indiana on Tap, I have fallen in love with the stuff.  I can’t even look at can of the bright yellow pond water I used to call good beer4.  But I have also increased the amount I drink as well.  Gradually I evolved from a “weekend only” drinker to “Monday, Wednesday, weekend” consumer.  Then, somewhere along that stretch, the bottles spilled onto Tuesdays and Thursdays.

By the time I stepped on the scale last week, and read numbers I had never seen between my feet, I panicked.  I have successfully lost weight two times in my past.  The first attempt required both a divorce and an accompanying bankruptcy.  It’s emotionally disruptive…and it produces frequent episodes of mental instability…and it can be costly for some people…but it’s a very effective weight-loss program.  If you compound the reduced eating with routine exercise, such as the three-mile walks I logged every day coaching a high school golf team, you can end up slim and physically pristine as well5.

The other time I dropped numbers on the scale followed the moderately invasive abdominal surgery alluded to above.  As rotten as “option one” was, I do not want to go through an “option two” anytime soon.  If they ever cut me open again, it’s after I’m dead so that they can donate my liver to the poor orphan boy with that determined gaze in his eyes.  Hopefully that liver, awash with IPA’s and porters will give the kid superpowers: the ability to make friends with total strangers and arch enemies…or the power to make any off-key song sound like Grammy material.

Having exhausted all my “extreme” weight loss choices I find myself staring at the only two remaining moves left for me: diet and exercise.

Exercise!?!  Oh, God!  Why?

Thankfully, Tony Horton is pretty funny6, so I can grunt and do it.  And I’m not that devastated about having to trade in those zesty Taco Chips for a bag of carrot coins.  I’m also not that crushed about swapping the “two cheeseburger meal7” for the grilled chicken snack wrap (no sauce). And I’m even not that demoralized about abandoning snacking altogether…the Fudge Stripes, the slivers of deli turkey out that warm drawer in the fridge, the little square cheese crackers…?  I can toss it all.

Just don’t make me give up the suds.

Crushed by the thought of spending my evenings over lemon-water and Diet sodas, I did what all uninformed Americans do when they’re stressed, worried, and angry8—I turned to the Internet for comfort.  There I discovered that hope is always possible.  If I limit my snacking, exercise, and avoid cleaning off those heaping plates they set in front of me at the restaurant9, then beer can remain a healthy10 part of what I consider a happy and quality life.

And after one week, I’m down a full pound.


1) This was one of many anesthesiologists. 2) His book is call The Tell.  Brilliant. 3) Pretty sure it’s Sudoku. 4) I used to think Miller High Life Light was great!  Don’t mock me…you thought the same thing.  I know it. 5) And if you combined your newly fit torso with that half of a Viagra your buddy gave you for your first big post-divorce date…your life can change forever. 6) He’s actually hilarious.  His workouts are bearable. 7) Seriously…?  Two ******g cheeseburgers for one meal??? 8) I declared myself a Donald Trump supporter. 9) The doggie bags are going to pile up in my trunk this winter. 10) There’s no way that beer can be as unhealthy as those multi-syllabic code names for “poison” written on the side of your diet pop bottle. 

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