How to Cut Back on Your Alcohol Intake
Humans started fermenting and drinking alcohol as far back as 13,000 years ago. In fact, evidence of early brewing was discovered in Israel’s Raqefet Cave, thousands of years before wheat and barley farming had even begun in the region. Many ancient cultures celebrated special occasions by engaging in what we would now call “binge drinking.” Thousands of years later, it’s no wonder alcohol still plays such a significant role in cultural and social life around the world.
Before we dig deeper, it’s worth mentioning that not everybody drinks alcohol. There are many factors that play a role in why people choose to drink or not drink alcohol, and these may include cultural, health-related, socio-economic or religious reasons, amongst many others. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 30% of US adults have not drank in the past year, and 45% of people have not drank in the past month. So, the amount of people who drink regularly is just under half.
However, the semi-universal prominence of “drinking culture” throughout most of human civilization has a dark side. With all we know now about the vast health implications of sustained alcohol consumption, it only makes sense that many are seeking lifestyle changes that would moderate alcohol intake.
Alcohol and Overall Wellbeing
According to the World Health Organization, a staggering three million deaths per year are caused by alcohol consumption worldwide. These deaths, and other alcohol-related health issues, are directly correlated with sessions of heavy binge drinking. Specifically, binge drinking is defined as drinking 60 grams or more of pure alcohol during one session over the last 30 days. In most countries, official guidelines suggest sticking to one drink a night for women and two for men, totaling no more than seven to fourteen drinks weekly.
Risks of Excessive Drinking
The guidelines above may seem unrealistically low to some, but the evidence for cutting back on alcohol intake is overwhelming. For instance, alcohol increases your risk of developing six different types of cancer. Heavy alcohol use is also the third leading cause of cardiovascular disease. Not to mention all of the deaths and injuries resulting from drunk-driving accidents and other incidents caused by heavy drinking.
Drinking in Moderation
While drinking presents many risks, that doesn’t mean you need to ditch it for good. Although food and nutrition studies are notoriously hard to conduct accurately, most studies show that moderate drinkers outlive both non-drinkers and heavy drinkers alike. The truth is there are many factors beyond alcohol consumption alone that may cause a decrease in life expectancy.
Managing Your Alcohol Intake
It’s important to consider the whole health picture when you decide what alcohol moderation looks like for you. If you’re a relatively healthy person who eats a balanced diet and exercises consistently, you can learn to manage habits enough to enjoy a drink after work a couple of nights a week.
Find Your “Triggers”
Limiting your alcohol consumption may be hard at first. After all, so many people use alcohol as a reward for getting through a hard day of work. Alcohol is often the first thing we turn to in most situations. This is known as a “trigger,” and the first step to cutting back is figuring out what triggers your urge to drink in the first place. Once you identify your own particular triggers, it’s important to find a substitute. Instead of reaching for alcohol, there may be another drink you can replace it with, like a flavored seltzer or mocktail.
The chances of being offered an alcoholic drink at the next happy hour or get-together are pretty high, so another strategy you can implement is to have a “no” ready to go. Being in control in this way is particularly effective when a well-meaning co-worker offers to buy the next round. Having a planned “no” gives you the strength to turn down the drink when you know you don’t want it.
Do the Math
It may seem a little obvious, but if you’re not actively counting your drinks throughout the night, you may not even realize that you’re binge drinking. The simple act of keeping track when you’re hanging out with friends, or even relaxing after a long day, will help you remain mindful of what you’re consuming.
As with most aspects of life, moderation is the key. Learning how to enjoy alcohol safely and responsibly will lead to a happier and healthier life. If you or somebody you know is struggling with alcohol consumption, you don’t have to face it alone. There are many available resources that can bring you closer to getting the help you need. Please consider getting in touch with your health provider or local health authority. Also, Alcoholics Anonymous offers free resources in many countries.
Lastly, be sure to explore our goals under the Self-Control category, where you will find a dedicated alcohol awareness goal.