'My lifestyle was affecting my health and pocket. I'm so glad I saw the light'
MARILYN REILLY is typical of thousands of single professional women for whom the sound of a chilled glass of wine being poured with friends signalled the start of their reward at the end of a hard working day.
The civil servant from Blanchardstown in Dublin, who was stationed for a few years in London, enjoyed all the social delights it offered to the carefree young person.
'Wine o' clock' usually meant opening the tap on a cheap carton – along with several more – and it was part and parcel of what her circle did every evening.
"Before you know it you have a few glasses and then you head out to a pub for a few more drinks.
"Then you are eating when you are drinking."
When she returned to Dublin three years ago the pattern continued and the habit was already ingrained to have a few glasses making dinner.
"At the weekends you would have wine before you headed out.
"You believe that you are not doing too badly sticking to wine. But when you go out you could move on to cocktails.
"I don't know if people are even tasting drink at that stage. They are drinking for the sake of it. When you are single it gives you Dutch courage as well."
The hundreds of empty calories from alcohol helped push up Marilyn's weight and two years ago, after another Christmas filled with food and wine, she resolved to change her lifestyle.
"I was nearly 20 stone and pre-diabetic. My blood pressure was high and I also suffered from asthma," said Marilyn.
When she joined Weight Watchers in Blanchardstown she reached a turning point.
"Something clicked. Margaret Burke, the leader, worked out my daily and weekly points with me.
"I could not afford to waste calories on alcohol. But it still allowed me to have a life. It was a shock at first to leave all that behind."
Now Marilyn, who lost nearly eight stone, drinks alcohol just once or twice a month. She has coping strategies and goes for a small bottle of wine rather than a glass. Instead of another top-up she has fizzy water.
"I mix things up," she explained.
"I buy a normal size bottle of wine. After a glass or two of that I alternate with fizzy water or soft drink. If I am drinking white or rose wine I make spritzers out of it.
"Obviously, like everyone, I over-indulge at times.
"But I feel so well physically and mentally now with eight stone gone. The old unhealthy Marilyn who over-drank and over-ate is gone."
And of course all that extra money goes towards newer smaller-sized clothes and new pastimes.
"I find alcohol now really upsets my stomach whereas before it would have no effect. The more weight I lost the more confident I felt."