Cutting back on the booze can help with all your New Year ambitions
If you are one of the millions of people who plans to make resolutions for 2010 then the chances are that they include getting fit, losing weight, being more organised and generally feeling better about yourself. But however well-meant your intentions are, changing your lifestyle can be tough ? especially after the initial feel-good New Year glow has faded.
However, if you?re looking for help making your resolutions a reality, there?s one simple step that can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing: cutting back on alcohol.
A recent Drinkaware survey found that 6.7 million people will set a pledge to drink less in the New Year, with over four million adults intending to give up completely during January. So you certainly won't be alone if you make a concious effort to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink in 2010.
Effects of alcohol
If you regularly drink too much alcohol it can make you feel anxious (1) and interfere with your sleeping patterns, both of which will stop you feeling and being your best. And don?t forget the calories ? a bottle of wine can contain over 500. That?s not great if you?re committed to losing weight and getting fit.
Over 90% of the people interviewed during our survey put either health or losing weight as the main motivation behind wanting to reduce the amount they drink.
Where to start
The Government?s daily guidelines are a good place to begin if you?re looking for a way to measure how much you drink. The guidelines recommend that women should not regularly exceed 2-3 units daily and that men should not regularly exceed 3-4 units daily. Need some help working out if you?re sticking to the guidelines? Then our online drink diary can help.
Meanwhile, if you?re serious about reducing the amount of alcohol you consume, then it helps to work out why you drink in the first place. Edmund Tirbutt, co-author of ?Beat the Booze? believes that a stressful day can often be the trigger for seeing alcohol as a ?treat?.
?Many people see alcohol as a reward,? he says. ?If this is why you drink then it?s worth finding something else to reward yourself with, like a massage or a hot bubble bath with some candles. Then you?ve got something to look forward to at the end of the day.?
Edmund adds that if you?re trying to reduce your alcohol consumption, making other positive lifestyle changes, like taking time for exercise, or getting up an hour earlier to get more done can help give you the inspiration you need.
?Introducing new habits into your life means that you?re more likely to be receptive to the idea of change,? he says.
Drinking less doesn?t magically make your new year?s resolutions easier to achieve, but sticking to the guidelines might be your first step towards a healthier and happier 2010.
Simple steps to reducing your alcohol consumption
Cut down together. It?s much easier to stay motivated if you make a commitment to drink less with friends, family and colleagues ? that way you can remind each other of the benefits if your motivation wanes.
Ditch the rounds. ?When you get involved in ordering rounds you have to drink at the speed of the fastest drinker,? advise Edmund. Which means you could be drinking more alcohol than you really want.
Go for quality over quantity. If you?re into beer then order half pints or bottles, or choose a small glass of wine instead of the large option. Ordering a drink with a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) than your usual tipple means you consume less alcohol overall.
Choose the soft option. Ring the changes at your dinner table by having juice, soft drinks or a smoothie with your meals rather than a glass of wine. Non-alcoholic 'mocktails' can also be made easily at home, or ordered instead of an alcoholic cocktail on a night out.
Organise designated alcohol-free days. If you feel like you've overdone it, give your liver a rest by marking a couple of days every week on your calendar to stay booze-free.
(1) Cornah, Dr D 2006, ?Cheers? Understanding the relationship between alcohol and mental health?. Mental Health Foundation