Ditch the drink: 7 easy ways to cut down your alcohol intake

Alcohol has embedded itself in the Australian culture, as ‘having a drink’ becomes our way of dealing with a bad day, celebrating a good day and marking almost every social occasion in between. For many, what starts as a social habit slowly merges into an almost daily occurrence and before you know it our physical and mental health suffers, along with our hip pocket.

In December 2020, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) set new guidelines and made recommendations for low-risk drinking levels. Created in 2009, the previous guidelines needed updating, particularly due to new research that found strong links between alcohol and cancer.

The rules say we should focus on no more than 10 standard drinks a week with a maximum of four on any one day. A ‘standard drink’ contains 10 grams of pure alcohol, which roughly equates to 285ml of full-strength beer, a can of mid-strength beer, 100ml of wine, or a single shot of spirits.

The Big Starts at 60 Survey 2021 found 60 per cent of readers were hoping to cut back on their drinking this year. While you may feel it’s not realistic to ditch alcohol altogether, there are a few easy changes you can make to continue the latter half of the year in good health.

Find a tasty alternative

Ensuring your cupboard is stocked full of alternatives to alcohol, such as flavoured teas and sparkling water is a great way to make sure you’re not tempted to reach for the drink out of habit. Sparkling water with a dash of lemon is a surprisingly good thirst quencher and alternative to your usual spirits or beer. These alternatives can also help you stay away from alcohol entirely, even if it’s just a few nights a week.

Drink with food

Food and alcohol are a match made in heaven, but only having a tipple when you eat can also help you limit your intake. Rather than having a few drinks before dinner, wait until dinner is served, even that action of delaying that first drink by a couple of hours can mean you end up consuming fewer drinks overall.

Consider low or no alcohol products

The alcohol-free market is having a bit of a moment, with both young and old starting to reassess their relationship with drinking. Recently, Australia saw its very first alcohol-free bottleshop, Sans Drinks, open in Sydney’s northern beaches suburb of Freshwater.

Many people still see alcohol-free drinks as boring, packed with sugar and expensive. This may have been true once, but now an ever-expanding range of premium alcohol-free wines, beers and spirits means there has never been a better time to be a non-drinker.

If you’re not wanting to remove alcohol from your life completely, the range of low alcohol products is expanding just as rapidly. With many well-known spirits, wine and beer producers seeing the opportunity to cash in on the growing trend. Ask your local bottle shop to point you in the right direction and we’re sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Only buy what you will drink

A packed liquor cabinet and well-stocked wine cellar is the pride and joy of many, but it can also be your downfall. It might be harder to stick to, but experts suggest keeping the cabinets bare and only buying alcohol when you plan to consume it lessens the chance of you grabbing a bottle out of habit, boredom, or to cure the bad day blues.

Work out a plan and adapt your habits

If you’re guilty of indulging both at home and at social outings, looking at what you’ve got on each week can help you plan when you will and won’t be drinking. Use this planning to also set limits of how much you’re going to imbibe. If you know you’ve got three big social events, balance your suggested 10 drinks accordingly and ditch the alcohol for the other four days.

A major advantage to planning is that it can also help you identify why and when you feel the urge to drink, highlighting any particular situations you find difficult. Taking time to think about where and when you drink the most and who you drink the most with, can help you change your routines.

Do it with someone

Which leads us to keeping your friends and family updated with what you’re doing. Planning is one thing, but success for some also means getting the help of others. Your friend and family will support your decision and make a conscious effort to help you. Having a partner or a family member join you on the journey is also a great way of keeping you accountable and motivated.

Go completely alcohol-free

Even if you’re just wanting to cut back on your alcohol consumption, taking a week or a few weeks off alcohol completely, can be hugely beneficial. After drinking for a few days, you’ll might notice improvements to your sleep, energy and motivation. With increased energy, you can invest it into making changes to your exercise routine, such as going for walks, riding a bike or doing laps in a pool. Once a healthy routine has been established, you might find your interest in drinking alcohol has waned and even when you do drink you are more likely to be in control.

A wide range of organisations, including the Australian National University and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, looked at alcohol consumption during Covid-19 and found that most households increased their consumption between 14 and 20 per cent. Data from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia revealed CBA card holders had increased spending on alcohol between May 2020 and February.

Every year alcohol leads to more than 4,000 deaths in Australia and more than 70,000 hospital admissions, with Australia’s chief medical officer Paul Kelly saying excess consumption can also increase the risk of many medical conditions.

“Alcohol is linked to more than 40 medical conditions, including many cancers,” he said. “Following the guidelines keeps the risk of harm from alcohol low, but it does not remove all risk. Healthy adults drinking within the guideline recommendations have less than a 1 in 100 chance of dying from an alcohol-related condition.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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