Do you ever experience any of the following?
• Impulse drinking which was not previously planned
• Frequent memory losses or headaches
• Alcohol disrupting your life, for example taking sick days from work or cancelling social engagements due to hangovers.
• Feelings of regret, guilt, shame and anxiety in relation to your drinking, or what you have done whilst drunk
• Feeling overly dependent on alcohol (e.g. you cannot have fun or relax without alcohol)
• A high alcohol tolerance – being able to drink large amounts without getting drunk
• Drinking to feel better when you are sad, lonely, bored etc.
If so, you are probably drinking too much. Alcohol is a regular part of life for millions of adults in the UK, and you might find the idea of a celebration or even marking the end of a hard week without a glass or two of your favourite booze almost unthinkable.
However, it might be time to consider cutting down. You may already be aware that there are risks associated with even moderate alcohol consumption which can be very bad news for your health.
How much should you be drinking?
According to the NHS, you should not to drink more than 14 units per week, and not drink all your units at once but to spread them evenly over several days.1
You might be surprised to learn that one unit is equal to just half a pint of lager, and there are three units in a large glass of wine. It is easy to see how these units can add up, especially on weeks where our social calendar is full.
How to keep an eye on your alcohol intake
1. Try to avoid basing your social life around drinking. Taking up a sport, even something gentle such as walking, is great for inspiring healthy change in your life.
2. Try to nominate two or three strictly alcohol-free days a week. This will lead to better sleep patterns and helps avoid building up a tolerance to alcohol.
3. Opening a bottle of wine in front of the TV can feel like a reward, but in reality it does little for your relaxation. Try mindfulness which could help you to unwind, become more self-aware and take control of your habits.
4. Consider starting a hobby which requires you to be firing on all cylinders. This is an excellent way to naturally decrease your desire to drink. If you feel able, think about entering a Couch-to-5k race, half-marathon or even a marathon. Think of the sense of achievement as you cross the finish line!
5. Choose lower alcohol drinks such as wine spritzers and shandies. Avoid drinks with high ABV percentages such as whisky, fortified wine, brandy and gin. Make it a personal rule to never order doubles. Alcohol-free versions of beer and wine are widely available and can taste exactly like the alcoholic version.
6. Think of the empty calories you will save if you cut down on alcohol. On average, a large glass of red wine contains 210 calories, which is the equivalent of half an hour on a cross trainer. A pint of beer has 180 calories and a gin & tonic has 140 calories.2
7. Try not to see cutting down as a punishment but rather as a positive step to take charge of your health. If you were previously drinking to excess, you will soon see an improvement in your appearance and energy levels, as well as knowing you are protecting your health in the long term.
Handpicked content: Healthy alternatives to your usual alcoholic tipple
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/alcohol-units.aspx.
2. [Online] http://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/many-calories-alcoholic-drink/.