Saturday, 14 November 2015

Wine Bellies Can Kill!

One of the very best things about quitting drinking is losing the dreaded Wine Belly.

Here's how I described mine just after I quit, eight months ago:

I have a horrible, muffin topped wine belly. As I sit here in my size 12 (US size 8) skinny jeans, a little roll of flab - like a child's rubber ring in the swimming pool - is hanging over my belt. Lovely. If I lie down in the bath (spoiler alert, do not read this if you are eating lunch), and grab my belly fat with both hands it is - ironically - about the size of a bottle of vino.

(For my full post on Wine Bellies click here)

I wouldn't describe my belly now as a pancake, but it's certainly no more than a gentle hillock. If I grab the belly fat in the bath these days, it's about the size of one of those pathetically small, two gulps and it's gone, bottles of wine they serve with your meal on airlines (I always used to ask for two, obviously).

I got the tape measure out again, and my waist has gone from 36" to 33", my belly from 41" to 37", and my hips from 43" to 39". That's pretty incredible!

I have a favourite belt which, for years, I could - with a bit of breathing in - just about fasten on the first hole. It's now, comfortably, on the 4th hole. And nothing spills over the top of my jeans any more. I'm certainly not wearing crop tops, but nor am I scaring the shoppers if I reach up to a high shelf at the supermarket and accidentally expose my midriff.

This is, obviously, great news in an aesthetic sense, but, according to research published this week, it's also amazing news for your health.

It is, apparently, way better to be obese all over than to be relatively skinny with a beer/wine belly.

The study showed that normal-weight adults who carried fat around their middles had twice the risk of early death than those who were overweight or obese but with normal fat distribution.

The reason belly fat is so dangerous is that it doesn't just sit under the skin and wobble (like the bingo wings or thunder thighs), it wraps itself around your vital organs and massively increases your risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

(For more on this see this article by CNN)

To see if you're at risk just divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. The magic number is under 0.85. Mine used to be 0.87 (BAD), it's now 0.846 (GOOD - just).

So, quit the vino and you'll lose the muffin top and live longer. What's not to like?

Don't fret if you've stopped drinking and haven't yet lost any weight, or the belly. It takes time. Plus, to start with you really need to be kind to yourself, and if that means eating a whole mountain of cake to keep the wine witch at bay, then so be it. One thing at a time. Baby steps.

It will shift eventually, little by little, half a pound or so a week, which will all add up to a huge amount of vanishing lard. In eight months I've lost 17 pounds. That's a whole toddler I'm no longer carrying around with me.

(For more on this see Stop Drinking, Lose Weight?)

Happy, sober and skinny Saturday to you all.

SM x


  1. Thanks for this post! I've had a bit of mental struggle, convincing myself not to drink this weekend (31 days sober thus far). After reading your post, I grabbed my stomach, and yep equivalent to approx a wine bottle there. So I raised my glass of soda water, and said cheers to good health, and immediately felt better (an opportunity for better health, with an added bonus of being a bit trimmer, why wouldn't I take that option)

    1. Yay! Go Meg! 31 days is awesome, but beware The Wall! It's the phase when the novelty wears off and everything feels a bit Meh. It'll pass....

  2. I have lost 18Lbs in 9 months, so that's 2lbs a month. All my friends keep asking how I lost the weight and I say a lifestyle change not a diet.

    1. 0.5 pounds per week - exactly the same as me! And I eat way more cake than I ever did :-)

  3. Afternoon. Day 30 something here, have lost count. Have fire lit and drinking lovely ginger beer. V cosy. Interesting post, always assumed middle age spread. Have def developed a belly which has now started to go. Lightest i've been for over two years! Determined to be gorgeous by xmas.

    1. And you will be, Sharon! Xxx

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  4. Dear SM. My first time posting to a blog. I found this wonderful, kind space through Mumsnet. I fit the "educated, privileged, first world problems, feeling guilty because I have so much, but am totally lost" cava-mum caricature to a tee. I binge read your blog and had so many "Aha" moments of self recognition, I felt like Alan Partridge on speed. The hangover til mid afternoon, half a bottle before DH got home, hiding the evidence, falling out of taxis, alienating friends, embarrassing family. 2 days of wondering if I would need to get myself to ER after Halloween excesses. Scared myself silly.I finally admitted that my relationship with booze was out of control & needed sorting out. A classic type A personality, I was on a mission. Over 5 days I read the books you listed - Alan Carr, Sober is the New Black, Drink, the Intimate Relationship..., half way through Mrs D is Going Without and I listened to audio books on walks with the dog. I also watched "Amy" & 2 Russell Brand documentaries & that Horizon doc on binge drinking. Woke up 2 days into this anti booze horrorfest without a single craving for booze. Kept waiting for it to hit - nada. Wine o'clock on Monday - still nothing. We had wine in the house & for ages I had been daily knocking back at least a bottle every night during the week, double that at weekend. Monday night husband had a glass - I wasn't interested. Same Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. Friday he poured me a glass of champagne. I was really curious to see what was going on, if I would suddenly revert to type, werewolf style once I tasted alcohol. I drank the glass during dinner, but wanted no refills. Next evening, out to dinner in a new fancy restaurant. 2 glasses of champagne over 3 hours. No desire for any more, in the restaurant nor at home ( I would normally polish off a few more glasses watching tv). 6 more days passed without the slightest craving. We had wine in the fridge, open, and DH was enjoying a glass over dinner most nights. Not a sniff of a craving. Tonight we went to the comedy club - 2 drink minimum. I didn't touch my 2nd glass. Now at home in bed, enjoying a cup of tea. I have no idea what is going on - but I'm really happy about it! I was totally open to abstaining, and thought I probably would not have another viable option, so I'm kind of looking over my shoulder expecting a sly sucker punch. Has anyone else experienced this total 180?

    1. Hi Freespirit! Welcome! You sound just like me....except for that whole moderation thing! Good for you if you can keep it going! But, I would always find that within a matter of weeks I'd be back to drinking more than before (just like diets!). If that is the case, then please don't despair or lose momentum, just give alcohol free a go. Please let us know how you get on! Love SM x

    2. Hi SM - I really understand the danger of relapse with moderation. That's why I am kind of tentative around the premise. I found your blog after my annual physical - which didn't turn out how I expected at all. I was very anxious, expecting awful results, as I knew I was drinking far too much. I eat really healthily & exercise every day. My weight never fluctuates outside of a 10lb range - except during my 2 pregnancies. But I knew this wouldn't cancel out the effects of my drinking. I was expecting a big slap on the wrist. However, my labs came back "excellent" with every single result in the normal or optimal range - even liver function & cholesterol! My doctor even wrote "Well done - keep up the good work!" at the bottom of the page! That got me thinking - how much could I improve on this if I got the only negative aspect of my lifestyle under control? So I guess I saw it as a challenge (type A!) I found your blog, did all the reading & research & it was like a switch was flipped. All the planning, obsessing, focus on drinking - poof! Gone! I'm kind of stunned. One thing I have consciously changed is to really listen to my body. I'm really mindful of whether I'm enjoying the taste & effect of a glass of wine, or whether I'm not really into it, and just picking up a glass because it's there & it's a habit. The habit aspect is key for me, I believe. I find it so easy to fall into habits - good ones and bad. Great when it comes to healthy diet & exercise, terrible when it comes to wine o'clock. So I am not at all complacent about this change in behavior, how it seems too easy. I determined to be super vigilant - any sliding back at all & I will kick the drink to the kerb. I've had 3 standard units of alcohol over the last 2 weeks, and not hankered after any more. I'm loving the wide awake, early starts, the extra energy and no longer being anxious over whether people can tell I've been drinking. I'm 48, with 2 kids & it's kind of tragic to be so uncool around alcohol - I'm really enjoying feeling back in control - but I'm prepared to be honest with myself & go AF if I start to slip.

  5. Hi SM,
    I lost weight, too.
    Just 5 lbs, but it feels so much better.
    I used to binge eat when drinking.

  6. My tale is similar. For a year I have deprived myself food-wise, eating protein every three hours and weight training four times a week to lose a stone that mysteriously (not) appeared when I started a new, boozy, relationship two years ago. I even cut the drinking back to twice a week!!! Shock, horror. But could I lose weight? Not even a smidgeon. I was stuck at 33% fat as read by personal trainer with tongs. Then 10 weeks ago I stopped drinking. At the same time I cut back on the gym, ate more cakes and stopped trying to lose weight. Thought with Xmas approaching, I'd join a six week challenge so personal trainer pinched me once again, and lo and behold, I am down to 26% fat. How on earth did that happen?!!!! I am still flabbergasted. The postscript to this tale is that I fell off the wagon this weekend and write with jelly like tummy and sore head. I really am a good example of the inability to moderate. Two glasses on Friday led to four on Sunday. Planning to crawl back on the wagon now but fear the wine witch is going to start jumping up and down and twerking in my face...


  7. I didn't lose weight, as I starved myselfwhile I drank. Eating disorders and drinking go hand in hand.
    But overall I lost my puffiness. I can wear rings I didn't wear for years. My fingers were always swollen.

    Sobriety, for me, has become so much more about loving my body as it is. Not looking like a fitness add, but healthy, flexible and firm.