Want to turn January's good intentions into sustainable change? Then read our 'How to' guide.
The beginning of the New Year can be a great time make a few changes – especially if you’ve overindulged over Christmas.
Many people choose to avoid alcohol altogether for all of January, others prefer to make smaller changes that they aim to keep doing throughout the year.
If you’re planning to make New Year’s resolutions, here are some hints, tips and extra motivation to help you stick to them.
“I’ll cut down the amount of alcohol I drink”
In the run-up to Christmas, it’s easy to find yourself drinking more than you usually do – and more than is considered healthy.
The UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMO) guidelines for both men and women state that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis. Find out more about alcohol unit guidance in the UK here.
And drinking more, more regularly means your alcohol tolerance grows, which means you need more alcohol to get the same ‘buzz’. Plus the risk of developing a range of health problems increases the more you drink on a regular basis.
But there’s good news. “Most people can ‘reset’ their whole system by having an alcohol-free period,” says Dr Nick Sheron, a liver specialist from Southampton University.
“I’ll have a few nights off from drinking during the week”
Having several alcohol-free nights each week will help you drink less overall, give your body a break and help prevent your alcohol tolerance growing.
And it will be much easier if you and your partner do it together. That way, one of you won’t have to watch the other pouring themselves a big glass of wine!
Finding non-alcoholic drinks boring? Why not learn how to make delicious mocktails, with our mixologist videos.
“I’ll watch how much I drink when I’m out”
Even when you set out with good intentions, it can be really hard to keep track of how much you’re drinking on a night out. Here are our top tips:
- Download the Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units app, then simply tell it what you’re drinking and it will track the alcohol units.
- Beware of rounds. They may be very British, but they’re not necessarily healthy – you can end up trying to keep pace with the fastest drinker and drinking more than you intended. Buy your own or form a mini round with just one or two friends.
- Choose low-alcohol drinks (with an ABV of between 0.5 and 1.2%) or smaller drinks, e.g. half pints and small glasses of wine.
- Don’t forget to eat. A healthy meal before you go out, plus snacks between drinks, can help you stay in control.
“We’ll cut down our drinking together”
When you live with your partner, drinking a bit too much can become a shared habit. So it makes sense to cut down together too. Read our top tips:
- Talk to your partner about when you tend to drink together and what you can do to change your habits.
- Find something else to do together at times when you usually drink, like going for a walk together and talking about your day.
- Instead of drinking wine every night, why not save up and buy a special bottle to have with an occasional candlelit dinner?
- Support each other to stick to your goals.
“I’ll exercise more and drink less”
If you want to feel the benefits of being more active, it makes sense to understand the impact drinking alcohol can have on your performance.
Trying to exercise too soon after drinking alcohol can cause two problems:
- It can make you dehydrated, which will worsen as you start to sweat.
- Alcohol interferes with the way your body makes energy, making you slower and tired more quickly.
Experts suggest avoiding alcohol the night before exercise. As elite sports nutritionist Matt Lovall explains,
Exercising the day after drinking alcohol can mean you have an all-round lower quality training session or sporting activity.
“I’ll lose a few pounds”
If you’re looking for an easy way to cut down your calorie intake, it’s worth thinking about what you drink. Because alcohol is made from sugar or starch, it contains almost as many calories as pure fat!1
So here are some things to remember:
- A pint of 4% ABV beer can contain 197 calories – as many as a slice of pizza.
- A glass of 13% ABV wine can have as many calories as a slice of sponge cake (195 calories).
- Alcohol makes up 10% of the calorie intake of adults who drink2!
- Drinking alcohol actually reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy.3
Nutritionist Matt says;
If you’re struggling to lose fat, often the biggest factor is your alcohol intake.
For an easy way to track the calories in your drinks, download the Drinkaware: Track and Calculate Units app.
5 tips to help your resolutions last
To really see the difference, your New Year’s resolutions need to last beyond January. So don’t rely just on your good intentions – try these tips:
- Small changes are easier to stick to, e.g. swapping an alcoholic drink before bed for a hot milky drink.
- “Don’t try to make too many changes at once – build it up week by week”, advises Matt.
- Identify your own personal drinking triggers, like a bad day at work. Then find other things that make you feel better, like calling a friend, unwinding with a yoga class or taking it out on the enemy in your favourite computer game!
- Celebrate your progress – notice any improvements to your face, your skin, your waistline and how you feel in the morning after an alcohol-free night’s sleep.
- Don’t forget to get support from those around you. Remind them what you’re trying to achieve so they can encourage you to keep going.
Above all, try to focus on what you’re gaining, not what you’re giving up. And look forward to a happier, healthier 2018.