Top Tips for Reducing Alcohol
Every so often, data emerges on the worrying level of alcohol consumed by women. It would appear that our children are not hitting the bottle. Their mothers are far more likely to exceed the 14 units the government recommends as an upper limit. And many are exceeding it by miles.
So why are we women over 45 getting a reputation for being boozy?
- Alcohol is more available. When we were in our twenties the cost of wine was relatively higher than now.
- We treat alcohol as a relaxing treat and not a poison. We associate a drink with end of work, company, relaxing, friendship, comfort. To many, a drink is the boundary between stress and relaxation.
- It is hard to refuse. If a friend offers you a glass of wine it can seem hard to say no and not feel as if you are rejecting an offer of kindness. If she said would you like a glass of liquid which will kill a few hundred brain-cells and harm your liver, it would be so much easier.
- We do not measure and monitor. One unit is a small glass of wine (yes – small. Not the whopping gall in your cupboard which holds a ¼ of a bottle). It is a small measure of spirit – not the normal finger level we do at home.
So, when should you assess your relationship with alcohol and do something about it? If you can answer yes to any of the questions below, then it is time to step back and address your habit.
- I have alcohol every day of the week.
- I drink alone as a treat or to relax.
- I can only settle down after work/dealing with the kids/my evening chores if I have a drink.
- I worry about how much I drink.
- I think I keep to 14 units but I am not sure.
- When I have a drink I want another and another.
- I regularly feel tipsy or drunk.
- I hide how much I drink from friends and family and my GP.
- Friends have mentioned or spoken to me about how much I drink.
- Feeling sluggish in the morning is the norm and I know it is a slight hangover.
If you need to pull back on the tippling, then you need to take steps to change your relationship with the bottle.
Note: If you answer yes to many of these questions and suspect you have a real issue with alcohol or you think you are addicted then you should seek professional help immediately by talking to your GP. There are wonderful organisations who will assist you in getting back to health and out of a downward spiral into alcoholism. The organisation Drink Aware gives a great list of organisations which can help you, visit at https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-support-services/
Step One: Face facts
Your first step is to face up to what you are doing to yourself. A few facts about alcohol:
- It is a poison. Too much will simply kill you.
- Alcohol damages your liver. While this is a very hardy organ and the only organ in your body which can regenerate, it cannot do this indefinitely. If you have been drinking for years at a rate which exceeds the health guidelines, you are likely to have already damaged your liver.
- Long term alcohol consumption has been associated with breast cancer, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer and dementia.
- It is associated with high blood pressure.
- Even moderate drinking can decrease the production of adult brain cells by as much as 40 per cent. So stop blaming menopause – it is the wine!
- Alcohol is empty calories. One glass of wine gives you as many calories as four cookies. A bottle is like having an additional meal. If you have a stubborn layer of belly fat while on a healthy diet, then this might indicate a liver which is under pressure.
- Alcohol ages you. It is a dehydrator and also reduces elasticity your skin. The result is wrinkles.
- If you are not convinced – then consider this. Your body eliminates alcohol through the liver, skin and breath. So if you have a hangover, you probably smell too.
Step Two: Create your positive reason
If you are going to happily change your relationship then you need to be moving toward something better. If you tell yourself you need to stop in order to stop hurting yourself then you are keeping yourself in the negative. Think of the positive things you want to achieve by reducing intake. A few examples
- I want to lose 5lbs of belly fat.
- I want to look in the mirror and see the whites of my eyes look young
- I want to wake up in the morning with energy
- I want to feel in control and stop worrying
- I want to be a role-model to my kids
- I want my friends to speak of my personality not laugh at my boozy pranks
Step Three: Set parameters
Reducing alcohol does not mean giving up completely, unless that is your chosen goal. However, reducing your alcohol is easier if you set up a few simple rules. Good rules to keep to are:
- Have four nights a week, alcohol free to give your liver a rest
- Only drink in company
- Move to lower alcohol drinks. If you like spirits move to wine; if you like wine, move to light beer
- Do not drink to relax. Do something else such as mindfulness (see our article on mindfulness)
- Limit the hours in which you drink
Step Four: Actively reduce your alcohol on days you do drink
When the wine is flowing it is harder to say no and keep to your healthy rules, especially if you are in company and having a great time. Try some of the following tips to reduce your alcohol and the chance of a hangover:
- Dilute your alcohol into a long drink – use tonic, soda water, still water to make every drink of wine or spirit up to a tumbler-full.
- Always drink to the bottom of the glass and never top up. It is impossible to measure your intake if you just keep adding to a drink.
- Avoid salty foods – they make you thirst for more drink and add more calories.
- Keep telling yourself, as you drink, the calories you are clocking up. One of the best tips I ever had was to look at the glass and label it ‘liquid fat’.
- Alternate alcohol with soft drinks or water. Ensure your non-alcohol intake is at least equal to your alcohol intake.
- Drink beer at parties – you will fill up quicker and your stomach will limit you.
- Never let others press you into drinking more than you want. It is probably their discomfort at their own drinking and they want you to drink to make them feel better. Let them live with it!
Step Five: Monitor and reward yourself
Reducing alcohol is something to be proud about. You will feel healthier, look better and know you are protecting yourself from long-term debilitating health issues. So pat yourself on the back. Choose your own rewards – is it losing weight? Bright eyes? Sharp mornings? Whatever it is – make sure you notice it. If you want to reward yourself – make it special.
Step Six: Keep going to create a lifetime habit
It is very easy to go a month of reduced alcohol and then feel you are in control and no longer need to stay alert. If you have over imbibed for years then the typical pattern is to build back up to unhealthy levels. It takes a few months for a new habit to be established, so keep going until reduced alcohol is your norm and not your project.
Final word – alcohol is linked to friendship but it is not your friend. Control it and you control your health, your well-being, your relationships and your looks. It’s a no-brainer.