How is your January going so far? Yep, it is that time of the year again… We try to get on shape, eat better and drink less alcohol (or nothing at all!)
Dry January is a challenge that I know many people love to take because it is their best opportunity, and excuse, to stop drinking alcohol. To some people, drinking less alcohol (or not drinking at all) without having to justify “why”, feels like a liberation. Drinking alcohol is such a widespread social habit, that not doing it sometimes makes us look like a weirdo.
I must say I really enjoyed my non-drinking months of pregnancy and breastfeeding 24/7, to the point that I am happy to keep alcohol-free most of the time now, except for special occasions, or special drinks – I won’t say no to a coffee with Baileys, an Expresso Martini or a glass of fruity Pimm’s.
Cutting down on alcohol will do wonders to your body. We must remember that, at the end of the day, alcohol is a type of drug/poison and, unlike natural foods and drinks, it is not necessary for our bodies in terms of nutrition.
Drinking is very ingrained in our society however, and that is why it is hard to remove it from our lives completely. The good news is that there is no need to do that, and by simply cutting down on the amount and frequency of our drinking, we can already do an amazing favour to our bodies and kidneys.
Tips to cut down on alcohol
Here are some tips to apply to your daily life if you are attempting to carry on with your Dry January for the rest of the year, or simply want to minimise your alcohol consumption:
Alcohol guidelines from the NHS
- Reduce alcoholic volume with soft drinks – Adding soft drinks to our alcohol, such as having wine with lemonade AKA Spritzer, or simply increasing the portion of the non-alcoholic mixer in our drinks is a good way of reducing the quantity of alcohol without feeling we are “missing out”.
- Give alcohol-free drinks a go – Another good way of feeling we are “enjoying of a drink” but without the alcohol, is having the non-alcoholic version of your favourite beverage. Beer, wine, gin, cider, liquor… the variety is wide, here is the range in Tesco to give you some ideas.
- Spread your units wisely – The recommended drinking amount for women is no more than three drinks in any one day and no more than seven drinks per week. For men, it is no more than four drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks per week. Now, looking at your weekly numbers, spread your units wisely so you don’t abuse alcohol too much, nor feel like you are missing out either. Pacing ourselves and planning ahead is key.
- Feel spoiled with a “non-alcoholic treat” – Finding your go-to soft drink is also a good way of feeling “spoiled” without the negative effects of alcohol. When we go out, we often relate social times with boozing, but there are also numerous drinks that are equally enjoyable. Sparkling water and lemon, Coke, squash, fruit flavoured water, herbal teas, iced tea, chocolate, smoothies, juice, tea, coffee (in all its shapes and forms)… Again, the list is long, and if we find a drink that feels like a little treat to us, we will be able to choose it sometimes instead of going for the obvious alcoholic choice.
- Combine alcohol with food and water – This is a good strategy for events that can easily lead us to binge drinking, such as parties or nights out. We can drink “as normal” but always make sure we have a glass of water in between our alcoholic drinks. Likewise, for big drinking sessions, it is important to make sure we have eaten because the impact of alcohol in our bloodstream is lower if our belly is full of food.
- Download the DRINK FREE DAYS APP – Finally, a good way to be more accountable with our attempt to cut down on alcohol is using an app. The Drink Free Days app encourages us to pick some alcohol-free days and provides us with advice and support to stick with it. You can update and track your drink-free days, obtain practical tips, receive reminders when you need it most and celebrate milestones when you reach your targets.
It’s recommended to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across 3 days or more. That’s around 6 medium (175ml) glasses of wine, or 6 pints of 4% beer.
There’s no completely safe level of drinking, but sticking within these guidelines lowers your risk of harming your health. Try using Alcohol Change UK’s unit calculator to work out how many units you drink.
If you are interested in this subject and want to learn more about it, here are good websites to keep reading: