Cutting down on drink
Do you often go to the pub for just the one drink, but end up stumbling home at 2am plastered? These practical tips will help you stop turning a social drink into a session.
"I'm never drinking again," your friend groans, reaching for the juice and painkillers to fix her hangover from hell. One hour later this has become, "I'll never get that drunk again." By the evening you're out and she's on her third pint, heading towards the next massive bender. Sound familiar? You may not call yourself a heavy drinker, but standing at the bar eyeing up the drinks can make it very easy to forget just how rotten alcohol can make us feel when we've overdone it.
You don't have to go cold turkey. Whether you want to keep drinking alcohol but cut down on your boozing, abstain from time to time or become teetotal, you can try a more gradual change in your drinking habits. At times when temptation kicks in, think about the perks of cutting back on booze, such as losing weight, better skin, no memory blanks, fewer hangovers and more cash to spend on other things you enjoy like tickets to a footie match, music or clothes. Don't be too hard on yourself; the occasional drink does you a lot less harm than regular binge nights downing bottles of beer.
Practise makes perfect
Learn to pace yourself. When you go out try not to consume more than one drink an hour and have a soft drink, like water or juice, after every alcoholic one. Avoid temptation without being a bore. It's a big world out there, so think beyond the pub and the club and do other things, instead. Try having some alcohol-free days and find other ways to relax when you're stressed, like sport, going to the cinema or yoga.
If you can't avoid the pub, put your hands to other uses, such as playing pool or eating, instead of knocking back the drink. Choose high-protein and high-fat foods, like cheese and nuts to keep your blood alcohol content low.
Your mates may be on a mission to get drunk, but you don't have to join in every time. Learn to say "no" on rounds when you don't actually want an alcoholic drink, or ask for a soft drink and a bag of crisps. You don't have to keep up with everyone else and you don't have to take a drink just because someone wants to buy one for you; even if you're skint.
Eat more, drink less
You may think that socialising around meals - whether going out to a restaurant or throwing a dinner party - is the answer to cutting back on drink, but your friends could have other ideas. If you want to keep yourself and your guests from getting legless without being a killjoy, try these quick tips:
- Make sure there are large water glasses at every place, and jugs or bottles of water to keep people topped up throughout the night.
- Use smaller wine glasses rather than half-bottle buckets and don't rush to keep your guests glasses continuously filled up. Often drinking too much at dinner comes from the easy availability of booze, rather than conscious thought. If your guests want to drink more they can top up their glasses themselves, this way you're giving everyone a chance to keep track of their own drinking without placing pressure on yourself - or them - to 'keep up'.
- Lighten up! Serve low-alcohol wine and lite beer, or make up a fruity punch, cocktail or mocktail (no-alcohol cocktail), which can taste fantastic but contain as much - or as little - alcohol as you want to serve.
Expert tips for drinking less
Drink Aware recommends that you keep an online drinks diary on their website to see how often you're drinking more than the Government's recommended guidelines. You can then read about the health risks and consider if you need to cut down. On a night out they recommend the following advice to avoid bingeing and getting a hangover:
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- Pace yourself, there's no rush - drink slowly
- Drink soft drinks in between alcoholic ones
- Don't leave yourself vulnerable - plan your journey home
- Drink plenty of water to rehydrate
- Over-done it? Have two alcohol-free days
Written by Susie Wild
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