Hand pushing an alcoholic drink away.

What starts with an A and ends in a hangover?

Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed drinks by Australian adults. Lite n’ Easy Dietitian Sarah Cinar explains why we can all benefit from reassessing how much we consume and even our decision to consume alcohol in the first place.

Why do you choose to drink alcohol? Is it for social reasons, peer pressure, to unwind from a long week or just for fun? Do you have one or two and leave it at that or do you end up drinking way more than you had originally planned? If you are looking to reduce your intake, then understanding your habits around alcohol can help to create a plan on how to pull the reins in.

There are many benefits associated with reducing the amount of alcohol you consume including improvements to your physical, mental and emotional well-being. Whether it is febfast, Dry July, Ocsober or similar awareness fundraising campaigns, let’s take a look at why and how you can reduce your alcohol intake – whether that’s for a month, a year or maybe even forever.

What are the benefits of reducing your alcohol intake?

Improved mood

Friends on a bushwalk together.

By reducing or avoiding alcohol you won’t experience the low mood, anxiety and tiredness associated with the day after drinking. When you are feeling more positive overall you will have time for things that make you feel good like catching up with friends for brunch, an exercise class or enjoying the great outdoors.

Better sleep

Man snoozing his alarm clock.

Alongside a healthy diet and exercise, sleep is a key component of good health. Whilst alcohol can make you sleepy, the quality of sleep is reduced because alcohol interrupts your sleep cycles. It decreases the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is essential for learning, retaining memories and your general well-being.

Reduced risk of disease

Play dough liver with a help sign.

In the long run, cutting back on alcohol can also reduce your long-term risk of serious illnesses like cancer and liver and heart disease. Even though it is a little harder to see day today, this is one of the biggest reasons to reconsider how much alcohol you are consuming.

How much, is too much?

To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harm the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends no more than 10 standard drinks per week and no more than 4 standard drinks on any one day.

What is a standard drink?

It is important to understand what a standard drink is to put these recommendations into practice.

A standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol. The type of alcohol makes no difference; 10 grams of alcohol is 10 grams of alcohol, whether it is in beer, wine or spirits. It does not matter whether it is mixed with soft drinks, fruit juice, water or ice.

Many people are surprised to learn that a single glass of wine or schooner of beer usually provides more than 1 standard serve of alcohol. If you’re trying to keep your alcohol intake in check, it really pays to understand the alcohol content of what you’re drinking and choose your portion size accordingly. Take a look at the infographic below to see how much of your favourite drink provides 1 standard serve of alcohol.

Infographic showing percentages of alcohol in different beverages.Image credit: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/health-advice/alcohol

 How can you cut back on drinking alcohol?

Once you have reviewed your habits around alcohol, it is time to create a plan so that you can make sure that reducing your alcohol intake becomes an actionable lifestyle change. Here are a few questions that might help guide the process:

  • Will it be easier for you to stop drinking completely or reduce your intake slowly? For example, having a few alcohol-free days each week, limiting how much alcohol you keep in the house, not buying rounds or swapping to low or no alcohol alternatives can be a great start.
  • Am I taking an all-or-nothing approach? It is possible to enjoy yourself without going all out.
  • What will you enjoy drinking instead of alcohol and what is your game plan for situations that may make it difficult to say no to a drink?
  • What are other ways you can socialise with friends instead of grabbing a drink? A walk or coffee are always great options.
  • Have you let your friends, and family know you want to cut back? Telling others about your plan can keep you accountable to your goal and allow them to provide the support you need.
  • What are your SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals and how will you reflect on them)? This will help to make sure you stay on track and help celebrate your progress.

As creatures of habit, behaviour change can be difficult at the best of times. Once you have made the decision to cut back on alcohol and created a plan of action, make sure you remember to celebrate the small wins. Even if your progress isn’t linear, reducing your alcohol intake is a big step in the right direction and at the end of the day the choice is yours to make.

How can Lite n’ Easy help?

Lite n’ Easy meals are a great foundation for a healthy life. Our meals take the hard work out of meal planning and preparation, and it means you can focus on other things you enjoy for your well-being. Give us a call on 13 15 12 or order online now.

 

Sarah Cinar, APD Dietitian at Lite n' Easy