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Drinking Habits

Wine Belly: What Is It and How Do I Get Rid of It?

July 3, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 3, 2023
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 3, 2023
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 3, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 3, 2023
9 min read

Quick, what word goes with “belly” if we’re talking about the effects of alcohol? For most of us, “beer belly!” is probably our automatic response. But did you know that your beloved glass of chardonnay or cabernet could also be contributing to an ever-growing waistline? We aren’t talking about a “beer belly” — women and men who drink wine might get a “wine belly” instead. The “wine belly” — sometimes humorously called a “grape gut” — isn't just an urban legend: it's rooted in science. Let’s talk about what it is and how to get rid of wine belly fat.

Meet the Wine Belly

Does drinking alcohol cause belly fat? The term “wine belly” typically refers to the belly fat that some people accumulate after regularly consuming wine or other types of alcohol. While the name might suggest that this phenomenon is exclusive to wine drinkers, it actually applies to anyone who drinks frequently. And yes, even your beloved craft beers or sophisticated cocktails can lead to the same result of alcohol belly. So in the end, the wine belly and the beer belly are both essentially “booze bellies” under different names. But we want to know how to lose alcohol belly.

Belly Fat Facts

But what exactly is belly fat? And what does an alcohol belly look like? In scientific terms, belly fat is so-called visceral fat located deep inside your abdomen, surrounding your organs. It's different from subcutaneous fat, which is just under the skin and can be pinched. The bad news? Visceral fat is associated with an increased risk of health issues like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

The Science Behind the Wine Belly

Why does alcohol, especially wine, contribute to this belly fat? And how does wine make you gain weight? The answer lies in how the body processes alcohol. When we sip our favorite merlot or cabernet sauvignon, our bodies prioritize metabolizing the alcohol first, before anything else. Why? Because the body perceives alcohol as a toxin and wants to eliminate it ASAP, other metabolic processes are pushed to the sidelines. The downside of this biological rush is that the other calories we consume end up being stored as fat instead of being burned for energy. This is what contributes to the alcohol belly fat that many of us may want to lose. 

Sneaky Calories

Does wine cause weight gain? It definitely can be a factor, and we can start by looking at its calories. Now, you might argue that wine doesn't have that many calories. While it's true that wine isn't calorically dense like fast food, it's easy to overlook how much we’re drinking. An average glass of wine holds about 120-150 calories, with some reaching up to 200 calories. So sure, we’re not talking the levels of an entire pizza or box of donuts here, but if we’re drinking multiple glasses a day, those calories can add up quickly

It's not just the calories from alcohol — wine also contains residual sugars that can add to your caloric intake. And let's not forget the late-night cheese platter that often accompanies wine and adds an extra calorie punch: alcohol tends to stimulate our appetite, which causes us to consume more calories than we would sober and leads to weight gain.

Genes and Wine Belly

You might have noticed that some of your friends can drink like a fish and not develop a wine belly, while others aren't so fortunate. This discrepancy is often due to genetic differences.

Our genetic makeup plays a significant role in determining where we store fat. Some people are predisposed to store more fat in their abdominal region, leading to a more prominent wine belly.

Hormones and Fat Storage

Our body’s hormones also play a crucial role in fat storage. Unfortunately for wine lovers, alcohol consumption can interfere with these hormones.

Insulin is a key player in our metabolism, regulating blood sugar levels. High alcohol consumption can lead to insulin resistance, leading to higher blood sugar and increased fat storage — especially around the midsection.

Moreover, men are more likely to store fat abdominally than women, leading to the classic "beer belly" or "wine belly." Women, on the other hand, are more likely to store fat in their hips and thighs. However, after menopause, women's fat storage patterns become more similar to men's due to hormonal changes — and their wine bellies can reflect that change. To get rid of alcohol belly, women, especially post-menopausal women, can use some of the same strategies as their male counterparts. To combat alcohol belly, women who have already gone through menopause can consider hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but that can come with its own issues, so talk to your doctor first.   

Yeast and the Wine Belly

Another part of the story has to do with yeast: the microscopic fungus that plays an instrumental role in the winemaking process. Its main job is fermentation, converting the sugars in grapes into alcohol and carbon dioxide. 

While yeast doesn’t make us store belly fat, it expands the stomach as we digest wine, making the belly puff out more.

Illustration A person's silhouette with a protruding belly, symbolizing a wine belly

Deflating the Wine Belly

What’s the best way to lose alcohol belly? If you've realized that your wine habit may be contributing to your wine belly, don't panic! There are several strategies for how to get rid of alcohol belly you can adopt to tackle this issue. 

  • Practice moderation. One of the most effective ways to prevent a wine belly is to moderate your drinking. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
  • Choose your drinks wisely. All wines are not created equal when it comes to calories. dry wines, like cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, and chardonnay, have fewer calories than sweeter wines. Being mindful of the kind of wine you choose can help control your calorie intake.

  • Engage in regular physical activity. Regular exercise can help reduce belly fat. Consider integrating activities like walking, cycling, or yoga into your daily routine.
  • Eat a balanced diet. A diet rich in whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, can help you manage your weight and reduce the risk of developing a wine belly. Try to limit processed foods, which are often high in added sugars and unhealthy fats.

Begin Your Adventure With Reframe!

Considering giving alcohol the boot? The Reframe app is here to help you! Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), our app serves as a trusted buddy, helping you reevaluate the place alcohol holds in your life by using cutting-edge neuroscience research. Our approach has helped countless people worldwide in redefining their relationship with alcohol. You can do it, and we're here to support you!

Reframe’s mission is to provide you with the right insight and tools, not just to get by with less alcohol, but to genuinely thrive. We share daily nuggets of wisdom rooted in neuroscience research that unravel the science around alcohol. Our integrated Toolkit is filled with useful resources and activities to help you tackle any hurdles.

When you join, you’ll have access to a global community walking the same path through our 24/7 Forum chat, where you can draw motivation from folks worldwide who are eager to share their stories and advice. Plus, our accredited coaches are always available for personalized advice and guidance.

We're always introducing new features to our app to optimize your experience. Say hello to Melody, our latest in-app chatbot. Built with the help of the latest AI technology, she’s ready to guide you towards a life with less (or no) alcohol.

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Try the Reframe app for an entire week at no cost! You've got nothing to lose — and a world to gain. Are you eager to take the reins and discover what life is like without alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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