Are you ready to cut down?
Whatever your reasons for wanting to do so, cutting down on alcohol is something you won't regret.
Ever put your recycling out and wondered how you managed to get through so many bottles of wine and beer in only a week? Or maybe you’ve suffered from one too many mid-week hangovers at work and really regretted having drunk so much the night before. If so, now might be the time to take a look at your drinking.
Reducing your alcohol intake has loads of feel-good benefits. It’s good for your health, great for your relationships and can even have a positive impact on your sex life. And the good news is that there are plenty of practical ways you can start to cut down.
How much is too much?
The first step is to look honestly at how much you already drink. If you’ve come to this page straight from our online unit calculator or MyDrinkaware then you’ll already have a good idea. Getting an understanding of the amount you drink and what that equals in alcohol units and calories, and how that compares to the government’s lower risk guidelines, is a quick and easy way to decide whether it’s time to cut down.
The government advises that people should not regularly drink more than the lower risk guidelines of 3-4 units of alcohol for men (equivalent to a pint and a half of 4% beer) and 2-3 units of alcohol for women (equivalent to a 175 ml glass of wine). ‘Regularly’ means drinking every day or most days of the week.
Stick to these guidelines and you are what the government defines as a ‘lower risk’ drinker. The same guidelines state that regularly drinking over them puts you at an ‘increasing risk’ of developing health problems, and if the amount you’re drinking is usually double or more than the guidelines you are putting yourself at a ‘higher risk’ of developing health problems (1).
The key to successfully cutting down is to make small, but important, changes in your attitude towards drinking. Lots of little changes can add up to big change in your lifestyle. Here are some ideas:
- Begin by looking at how much you drink at home. You might drink more than you think on an average night in, especially if you like to drink in front of the TV
- Try replacing the alcohol in your fridge with soft drinks. Luckily these days the soft option doesn’t have to be dull, since the supermarket shelves are packed with upmarket cordials, smoothies and fizzy drinks. Entertaining guests and want to impress? Go for something a bit different and serve up a selection of non-alcoholic mocktails.
- Remember that home measures are often much bigger than you’d get when you’re out. Be aware of this before you pour your favourite tipple into a gold fish bowl sized glass. Buying small wine glasses or an alcohol measure are good ways of making sure you don’t drink more than you intend to.
Stay in control
Staying within the guidelines on a night out is much easier if you stay in control of what you drink.
- Opt out of rounds. Drinking in rounds can make you drink a lot faster than you’d like or realise. Opt out or try buying drinks with a smaller group of friends instead.
- Watch out for cocktails. They can contain more alcohol than you might think.
- Spread out your drinks throughout the night. This will help your units go further.
- Try smaller measures. Rather than sticking to pints, try sipping halves, go for a bottled beer or if you are drinking wine, opt for a small glass.
- Go diluted. Try a more diluted alcoholic drink such as a spritzer or shandy.
- Space with soft drinks. Have a soft drink or two with each alcoholic drink to help you stay hydrated.
Five benefits to cutting back on alcohol
Keeping an eye on what you drink can have a positive effect on your overall health and well-being. It can help you:
1. Watch your weight Alcohol is heavy on calories. And with 682 calories in an average 13% bottle of wine, cutting down is a great way to stay in shape.
2. Sleep soundly Drinking less means that you get more high quality shuteye because alcohol interferes with the normal sleep process.
3. Reduce stress Some people say that they drink to relax, but in fact excess alcohol can actually make you feel more stressed because it’s a depressant.
4. Avoid hangovers Keep to the daily unit guidelines and you can kiss goodbye to a sore head, dry mouth and that dreaded “what on earth was I thinking last night?” hangover feeling.
5. Stay healthy for longer Cutting down can be great news for your long-term health. Drinking less alcohol reduces the risks of alcohol-related cancers, diabetes and heart disease. It puts less pressure on the liver too.
Health effects of alcohol
From the second you take your first sip, alcohol starts affecting your body and mind. Some of alcohol’s effects disappear overnight – while others can stay with you a lot longer, or indeed become permanent.
The effects of alcohol on your body
Use our interactive infographic to find out what effect alcohol has on your body.Health Effects
(1) NHS Choices website. Effects of alcohol. The Information Standard member organisation. Page last reviewed: 01/03/2012. Available at:http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Effectsofalcohol.aspx
Page updated: March 2015
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Also in this section
Lower risk guidelines
You should not regularly exceed:Find out how many units are in your favourite drink