How to go dry for January

Alcohol use is extremely common in many societies and can be strongly associated with the ways in which we socialise. With so many parties and gatherings of friends and families over Christmas and New Year, many of us drink far more than we normally would during the festive period. If you’re struggling with a figurative post-Christmas hangover, it might be a good idea if you try to cut back a little over January, and give your body a chance to recover.

It is well known that when we drink heavily, whether on a regular ‘social’ basis or occasional binges, we significantly raise our risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as well as other conditions such as liver disease and cancer.

There are numerous short-term problems too, and not just the typical tiredness and upset stomach or headache associated with a hangover.

How you may feel if you cut back on alcohol

Alcohol can have different effects on different people, but cutting back can have a number of benefits to your health. They include getting a better night’s sleep, having more energy, feeling in a naturally better mood, improved concentration, improved skin, and potentially a slimmer waistline.

You may also have a more settled stomach, as alcohol can irritate it and increase the amount of acid it produces. This can cause gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining, which in turn can lead to indigestion or diarrhoea.

You may also notice a significant improvement to your bank balance if you cut back on your drinking.

Top tips for drinking healthily

To drink in a healthy way would mean staying within the recommended limits, avoiding binge-drinking and having two days free from alcohol each week. If you do drink more than the recommended limits one day (14 units a week for men and women) it is a good idea to give alcohol a miss for the next couple of days afterwards to give your body a chance to recover.

There are a number of ways you can help yourself if you do want to cut back, both at home and when you are out and about. Hopefully some of these may come in handy for you:

At home

Try to avoid stocking up on alcohol where you can. That will generally only encourage you to drink more if it is freely available. If you like a drink when you eat, use individual glasses and leave the wine in the kitchen. You may also want to use a stopper for wine bottles to prevent it from going off, rather than feeling you need to finish the bottle.

Another idea is to buy a measurer, as home servings of spirits and wine are typically larger than what you’d buy when you are out. On that note, it may also help if you use smaller glasses, or buy smaller bottles of beer instead of cans to reduce the amount you are drinking.

When out

Setting yourself a maximum limit and sticking to it is a good first step. It can also help if you think about what you’re going to do when you get to that limit, whether it is to go home or even what non-alcoholic drink you may have instead. It may help if you only take a certain amount of cash out with you and leave your cards at home, which should ensure you aren’t tempted to drink any more.

Other options include drinking lower-strength varieties of drinks, having a soft drink in between every alcoholic drink, or drinking shandies or spritzers. Snacking between drinks can give you something else to think about (although salty snacks will make you thirstier) and avoiding buying in rounds can ensure you drink at your own pace, giving you more control. If you normally meet friends at a place that serves alcohol, try something different.

Remember

• It is often advisable to take it slowly when cutting back on alcohol. Set a realistic target and then cut down a little every week until you get there

• Have at least two alcohol-free days a week

• Don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst

• If you have an habitual time for having a drink, try to break the habit and do something else instead, such as a new hobby or exercise

• Let your friends and family know what you’re doing. They will probably offer extra support, especially if you tell them you’re under doctor’s orders to lose weight or bring your blood pressure down.

• If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, you should avoid alcohol altogether.