These days, alcohol is cheap, easy to buy online, from the supermarket or even when you fill up the car. Most of us have it at home and it’s now the norm to “have a few at home” even before a night out.
I know from personal experience and talking to my clients that most of us (including me) tend to kid ourselves about how much booze we get through. Even if we understand alcohol units though, it hard to know how much is too much and “am I overdoing it”?
In case you were wondering, The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.
But guidelines are often proven wrong and many experts will tell you that there is no safe limit for alcohol!
Either way, the guidelines for drinking don’t tell us what effects alcohol has on YOU.
So, let’s forget about “expert” advice for just a moment.
Instead, let’s try gathering some data about ourselves and seeing how alcohol is, or isn’t, working for you using these handy tips:
1. Monitor your drinking habits
Keep track of all the alcohol that you drink in a week, record it as either how many glasses or pints you have in a way you can understand.
There is no need to share it with anyone so you can be totally honest just gather the data.
Next, ask yourself:
Am I drinking more than I thought? Maybe those tots of gin or glasses of wine were much bigger than they once were?
Is my drinking rushed or am I desperate? Glugging the booze back without even tasting it?
Is there a pattern to your drinking? Is it every day when you finish work, or while watching “Strictly” or the match on telly?
Does having a drink help me enjoy life or is it stressful? If you are not sleeping or worried about your drinking, is the cost worth the benefit?
Do I get the snack attack when I’ve had a drink? No coincidence that the kebabs and curry and chips go down well!
2. Notice how alcohol affects you
Do I generally feel good? Simple, but telling.
Is my performance affected? How are you doing at work or in the gym?
How do I feel in the morning? Hangover, upset stomach, bloating, bad wind, feeling like sh**?
Am I gaining weight? Is the alcohol adding too many calories?
What else is my body trying to tell me? How are your blood sugars and lipids? What about BloodPressure, do you get an ache in your lower back or pain under your ribs – if in doubt, talk to your GP or get a health check.
3. Notice how alcohol affects your thoughts and feelings in your relationships and life in general.
How is it working for you?
Are you in control of your drinking? Are you making a deliberate choice or are you just “finding” yourself reaching for a drink?
What kind of person are you after a drink? Do you become more relaxed, argumentative, weepy or darn right angry?
If you had to quit drinking for a week, how would you cope? No big deal or does it fill you with dread?
4. Make a deal with yourself
To discover just what is important in your life, ask yourself:
What am I saying “yes” to?
What am I saying “no” to?
What am I willing to say “yes” to?
What am I willing to say “no” to?
What choices and compromises am I ready, willing and able to make, right now?
There are no right or wrong answers here, it’s your call whether you drink or don’t drink.
5. Switch of the Autopilot
One of the keys to behaviour change is moving from unconscious, automatic reactions, to conscious, deliberate decisions. Try these strategies to reduce your alcohol intake:
Change the drinking pattern. If you usually call in at the bar after work, go to the cinema, visit the gym or go and see your dear old mum. If you buy booze with the weekly shopping, get an alternative instead. Some juice, or flavoured teas.
Savour the drink you have. Sip it taste it enjoy and notice the sensation. Imagine you are at a wine tasting!
Go for Delay the next drink. Just for ten minutes or so and see if you still want it.
Change quality rather the quantity. Cheap booze often has unwanted ingredients or added chemicals. Treat yourself to a drop of the good stuff!
6. Get some help
Its often easier to make effective changes with someone to help, harder to change on your own for the better and dare I say, I have experience.
Talk to your partner. Get your loved one to support your decisions
Talk to your doctor. About your drinking habits and what it is doing to your health.
Get tested. There are genetic testing services that can measure your alcohol tolerances.
Get Nutrition Coaching. At Celebrate Personal Training, I help our clients make better choices for diet and lifestyle habits, with alcohol myself!
7. If you chose to drink, make sure you are enjoying it
There can be no doubt that alcohol influences our bodies and sometimes it is not what we want.
The amount that you drink does affect your performance so how much is all about compromise.
Don’t commit the crime if you are not happy to serve the time!