Do you have a squidgy waist that’s getting thicker, a little pot belly that just won’t shift and a bottle of wine in your fridge at all times? Then you could have a ‘wine waist’. Here’s how to lose it and get healthier… without ditching alcohol completely.
Barely a week goes by when we don’t read about the negative health effects of too much alcohol, and the latest expert advice is to have two alcohol-free nights a week. But what’s less well known is the effect alcohol has on our appearance.
Alcoholic drinks are packed with kilojoules. Just one gram of pure alcohol contains 29kJ, second only in energy density to fat at 37kJ per gram.
Consuming three 180ml glasses of your favourite red wine or three 330ml bottles of cider in the evening adds nearly 2000kJ to your day — that’s the equivalent of eating nearly seven slices of white bread. Three 330ml bottles of lager has around 1500kJ — the equivalent of more than five slices of white bread — and three double gins with standard tonic (at 200ml each) a whopping 2200kJ — the equivalent of nearly eight slices of white bread. Any way you look at it, that’s a significant amount of energy, especially when you’re not getting any nutrients at the same time.
So if you think it’s time to cut back, read on for expert help…
How the kilojoules add up
- 330ml bottle lower-carb beer = 430kJ
- Small (125ml) glass wine = 460kJ
- 330ml bottle regular draught beer = 460kJ
- 330ml bottle lager = 500kJ
- 330ml bottle dark ale = 600kJ
- Medium (180ml) glass wine = 660kJ
Your nine-point plan to cutting down
Think about the occasions when you tend to drink. For example, is it when you’ve had a tough day and ‘need’ a drink to wind down? Once you’ve identified those susceptible drinking occasions, consider the following:
- Rethink your social life. If you usually meet friends in a pub after work, change your activities (eg. a coffee before going to the cinema).
- Keep busy. Dedicate two or three days a week to non-drinking activities (eg. an evening class or running group).
- Find a non-alcoholic or lower-alcohol drink you like. Click here for some alcohol-free ideas, and try low-alcohol beers and wines.
- Don’t reach for a bottle as soon as you get home. And don’t pour a glass until after you’ve eaten — you may then find you don’t want one.
- Change how you drink. Be a thoughtful drinker rather than simply holding onto the glass and mindlessly drinking. Put your glass down from time to time. And when you drink, mindfully savour each sip.
- Treat yourself. Work out how much you spend on alcohol every month and buy something nice for yourself with the money instead.
- When you’re out with a crowd, don’t buy rounds. This creates pressure to keep drinking. Buying your own also makes it easier to alternate a soft drink with alcoholic tipples.
- Downsize. At home, use smaller glasses or use a measuring jug to help you keep tabs on how much you’re drinking.
- Get real. If you share a bottle most nights with your partner, you’re drinking too much. If you’re hiding empty bottles, or not admitting how much you’ve drunk, take action.
Look better, feel better: The benefits of saying no
Your eyes will sparkle
Without alcohol dilating the blood vessels, the whites of your eyes will be clear and you’ll be less prone to puffiness and dark circles caused by dehydration and disturbed sleep.
Your skin will improve
Alcohol dehydrates the body, including skin – our biggest organ – so your complexion will look dull and sometimes puffy as your body strives to retain water. It also dilates small blood vessels so that skin becomes red and blotchy.
You’ll be more alert
Alcohol is a depressant, not a stimulant, and affects the chemistry of the brain, slowing it and the nervous system down.
You’ll sleep better
Alcohol disrupts the natural sequence and duration of the sleep cycle. While you may nod off easily, you’re likely to wake easily during the second stage of sleep so you won’t feel alert and energised the following day.
You’ll future-proof your health
Cutting down reduces the risk of cancer, liver disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
You’ll drop kilos
Alcohol is high in energy. There are enough kilojoules in just one medium-sized glass of wine every day for a year to account for eight kilos in body weight.
Press pause on drinking
Febfast is an annual awareness campaign organised by the New Zealand Drug Foundation that invites people to stop drinking alcohol during February. The aim of febfast is to raise much-needed funds to support alcohol and drug services for young people. Participants stop drinking alcohol for the month of February, and raise money via sponsorship from friends and family. The organisers say: “febfast is not about giving up alcohol forever. It’s about ‘pressing pause’ on our drinking to give our bodies a chance to recover after the festive season”.
This year’s febfast ambassadors include HFG editor Niki Bezzant.
“In my job I’m very aware of the health effects of alcohol,” says Niki, “so I know how much good taking a break from drinking will do for me.
“I wouldn’t say I am a big drinker but I am a regular drinker, and for me, wine in particular is very tied in to the enjoyment of good food. I’ll be interested to see how I cope with not having that.
“The drinking culture a lot of young Kiwis are growing up with – particularly young women – also concerns me. The idea of drinking with the sole goal of getting drunk seems to be very common and I would love to see this change.”
For more information about febfast, go to www.febfast.org.nz.
Did you know? There are enough kilojoules in just one medium-sized glass of wine every day for a year to account for eight kilos in body weight.