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.
The first step is to look honestly at how much you already drink. Take our Alcohol Self Assessment Test to find out if you're drinking too much.
If you’ve come to this page straight from our Unit and Calorie Calculator then you’ll already have a good idea about what your drink equals in alcohol units and calories. You’ll also how that compares to the low risk alcohol unit guidelines.
The UK Chief Medical Officers advises that it is safest for people not to regularly drink more than the low risk unit guidelines of 14 units of alcohol (equivalent to six pints of 4% beer or six 175ml 13% ABV glasses of wine). ‘Regularly’ means drinking most weeks.
If you think your drinking puts you above the low risk level (you’re regularly drinking more than 14 units per week) it could be time to re-think your relationship with alcohol.
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.
Use our calculator to find out how having a little less alcohol can make a big difference to you.
Staying within the alcohol 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.
Keeping an eye on what you drink can have a positive effect on your overall health and well-being. It can help you:
- 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.
- Sleep soundly Drinking less means that you get more high quality shuteye because alcohol interferes with the normal sleep process.
- Reduce stress: Some people drink to relax, but in fact excess alcohol can actually make you feel more stressed because it’s a depressant.
- Avoid hangovers Keep to the low risk alcohol 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.
- 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.
(1) NHS Choices website. The risks of drinking too much. The Information Standard member organisation. Page last reviewed: 01/03/2014. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/Effectsofalcohol.aspx