Why You Should Consider Cutting Back on Alcohol
By: Cōpare Health
BENEFITS OF REDUCING YOUR ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION
Did you know that alcohol consumption rose dramatically during the pandemic, especially for women? Have you ever thought about cutting back or even quitting drinking? This month is Dry January and many drinkers are starting the year by abstaining for the month. Research shows that heavy drinking is associated with an increased risk of obesity, in addition to a multitude of other health issues including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and decreased immunity, to name a few. While light to moderate drinking is not associated with these health issues, there are a lot of benefits to limiting or avoiding alcohol.
First of all, please note that if you’re currently a heavy drinker and considering quitting, talk to your healthcare practitioner before doing so. Quitting cold turkey can be dangerous, potentially resulting in seizures, delirium tremens, hallucinations, and in rare cases, death. Be sure to talk to a medical professional to discuss your options and a plan for cessation first.
So exactly what is heavy drinking? The CDC defines excess drinking as 4 or more drinks at one time or 8 drinks per week for women, and 5 or more drinks at one time or 15 drinks per week for men. The 2020-2025 American Dietary Guidelines recommend either avoiding alcohol or limiting intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink per day for women.
Even one drink can pack on a lot of extra calories. Although one glass of wine is defined as 5 ounces, a typical glass of wine is actually about 10 to 12 ounces. One ounce of wine contains 24 calories, which means one 14-ounce glass of wine holds as much as 336 calories. That’s as much as what one might eat for a light lunch! If you’re trying to lose weight, that’s not insignificant. Alcohol overuse can also result in nutrient depletion, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance.
The benefits of reducing or eliminating alcohol intake are many. For one, you get a better night’s sleep. Excess alcohol intake has been linked to poor sleep quality, insomnia, and sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation is associated with weight gain due to the disruption of hormone activity. Specifically, the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin become imbalanced, and at the same time, growth hormone is reduced while cortisol levels increase. You may have noticed that on days when you feel tired, you feel hungrier; this hormone disruption is the reason why. In addition to weight loss, improved sleep quality, and a reduced risk of health conditions like metabolic syndrome, other benefits to cutting back on alcohol include improved mental health, improved brain function, and increased energy. Who doesn’t want that?
WAYS TO LIMIT OR AVOID ALCOHOL
So what are some ways to reduce alcohol?
- Try substitutions. You can substitute alcohol with a non-alcoholic drink like seltzer water. Add some ice and a refreshing slice of lime, and no one will know the difference! Flavored, no-sugar options are also great and will keep you hydrated – Waterloo and La Croix are excellent brands. There are also lots of nonalcoholic wines to choose from, like this one from Ariel. You can even get nonalcoholic spirits and of course, nonalcoholic beer.
- Consider kombucha. Kombucha contains probiotics that support gut health, contains a small amount of alcohol, and some even have the flavor of alcohol. It’s important to be mindful of added sugar in kombucha, so be sure to read the label. Remedy has some tasty options like these and can be found in most chain grocery stores.
- Reduce your portions. Drink half a glass of wine instead of a full glass. Maybe even get smaller wine glasses like these mini glasses on Amazon.
- Try something different. If eating out and drinking is the way that you socialize with your friends, consider something different. What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to? In the wintertime you might consider ice skating, bowling, or indoor mini-golf. In summer explore outdoor activities such as arts festivals or outdoor movies. Even just shopping or running errands can be a fun way to socialize with friends.
- Remove alcohol from your home. If moderating is difficult for you, or if you want to only drink when you go out, avoid keeping alcohol at home where its easily accessible.
- Avoid triggers. If certain situations often result in reaching for a drink, try to avoid those triggers as much as possible, and think of alternatives instead.
- Prepare to say no. If you know you’ll be attending an event where alcohol will be served, plan ahead. Decide that you want to have just one drink and be prepared to say no after that. Be firm and polite. It’s no one else’s business whether you drink or how much you drink, and you don’t need a reason for saying no. You simply choose not to – that’s reason enough. If that bothers someone else, that’s not your problem.
You may be surprised at how much better you feel after limiting or even eliminating your alcohol intake. Give it a shot and learn for yourself. You may even lose weight!