Tips to reduce your drinking

Are you considering cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink? Here’s some tips to help you out.

Whether you’re wanting to cut back because you’ve noticed your one glass of wine every couple of nights with dinner has turned into every night, or you’re wanting to lose weight or feel better overall, cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink can benefit your mind and body in many ways.

Not only will it reduce your risk of alcohol-caused disease such as cancer and stroke, but you’ll see short-term benefits too. Think improved mood and decreased anxiety, increase energy levels, better sleep, brighter skin and a slimmer waistline, not to mention the cost-savings.

Health experts recommend for healthy adults:

  • Drink no more than two standard drinks on any day to remain at low-risk of alcohol-related disease or injury over the lifetime.
  • Drink no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.1

Top four tips

Set yourself a drink limit and count your drinks.

Set yourself a drink limit that is consistent with advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), which is no more than two standard drinks on any day or no more than four in a single drinking session and stop once you’ve reached it. You’ll find you can do without that extra drink after all and your body will thank you for it the next day.

Have a few alcohol-free days each week.

Having a few alcohol-free days each week will help you stay healthy and break any bad habits, such as reaching for a drink each day after work. Take this opportunity to adopt some other healthy behaviours, such as eating well and exercising.

Use our ‘drinking levels and your risk’ tool to see the benefit of reducing how many times a week you drink.

Swap to low or no alcohol alternatives.

Low and no alcohol products are a good alternative for people who want to reduce their drinking – they have the same or similar taste but contain less alcohol. There are an ever increasing range of low and no alcohol products available at many retailers.

Keep up your water and food intake.

If you’re thirsty, reach for water or a non-alcohol alternative instead of alcohol.

And make sure to alternate your alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks. A glass of water, soda water, juice or soft drink will do the trick.

Drinking on an empty stomach will increase the rate that alcohol is metabolised in your body. Eating before or while you drink alcohol will help it be absorbed into the bloodstream at a lower rate.2

Regardless of how much food you eat or water you drink, our bodies only break down one standard drink of alcohol every hour, on average. So sculling a glass of water or having a plate of food after you’ve started drinking won’t necessarily help reduce the effect alcohol has on our body or reduce our blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

If you’re wanting to reduce how much you drink at home, try some of these tips

Limit how much alcohol you keep in the house.

If it’s not there, you can’t drink it! It’s like chocolate – easy access is the ultimate enabler, and if all it takes is opening the fridge then you’re potentially on a slippery slope to being tempted.

If you’re not ready to make your house a drink-free zone, just avoid stocking up on alcohol at the next trip to the bottle shop. Research tells us the more alcohol we buy, the more likely we are to drink it sooner than we had intended. So, while you might have good intentions to stock up for two weeks, you might find yourself coming up empty sooner rather than later.

Keep attractive non-alcoholic options at home.

In addition to the range of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirit options available, keeping your house stocked with good teas, sparkling water, and other non-alcoholic drinks will also help. Substituting alcoholic drinks with tasty non-alcoholic drinks is a good alternative for people choosing to reduce their intake.

Change your “after work routine”.

If you’ve gotten into the habit of reaching for a glass of wine or a beer after work to help de-stress, try changing up your routine by finding some healthier alternatives.

For example, try finding an after work activity, such as going for a walk or run or doing another form of activity, get into another hobby that doesn’t involve alcohol, or if you’re keen for a drink, try putting the kettle on or reaching for a tasty non-alcohol alternative.

Delay that first drink.

The earlier you start drinking, the longer a drinking session can become. If you choose to drink, find a milestone in your day that isn’t until later in the evening such as dinner or after you exercise to have a drink. The later you start drinking, the less alcohol you are likely to consume.

Drink only with dinner.

Rather than having a few drinks before dinner, wait until dinner is served. Aim to only have 2 standard drinks. One full strength stubbie of beer or a glass of wine has around 1.5 standard drinks, so why not only limit your evening drink to only one with dinner?

If you’re going out, here are some things you can do to reduce your drinking

  • If you’re going to a friends’ place, limit how much alcohol you take with you and make sure you have a variety of non-alcoholic alternatives.
  • If you’re heading out for the night, avoid drinking in rounds. Research tells us drinking in rounds results in people drinking more than they planned.
  • If you’re wanting to limit how much you drink, the best excuse is to be the designated driver!
  • Set a budget on how much you will spend on alcohol in any period.
  • Find social alternatives that doesn’t involve alcohol. For example, pick a location to catch up with a friend where alcohol isn’t easily available, such as at the beach, a picnic or the movies.

Need to break the news to your friends or family you’re cutting back or taking a break from drinking? Here’s some tips.

Telling friends or family you’re wanting to reduce your drinking can be tricky, particularly if regular drinking is common.

Try rehearsing a few standard responses – this may be helpful if people are bugging you to drink more. And have a safety/escape plan if you find yourself feeling vulnerable.

Practice saying no. It may be difficult at first, but you will be surprised how quickly it can become comfortable to ‘say no’ and others will get used to it.

  • Some key phrases to respond when caught by surprise or feeling pressured to drink more, “I’m pacing myself”, “I’m on a health kick” or “I’m trying to cut back”.
  • Think about your non-drinking or low-drinking friends – invite them out so you're not the only one not drinking in the group and you can come up with strategies together.

Best case scenario, get others on board to help keep you accountable! You and your partner, friend or family member can enjoy the benefits of drinking less together.

If you’re keen to cut back on your drinking but need some motivation or someone to help you accountable, there are a range of apps or online support groups to help people set goals, intentions, reasons not to drink and track success so far. For example, check out Hello Sunday Morning – online encouragement and support about changing one’s relationship with alcohol.

1

National Health and Medical Research Council. (2009). Australian Guidelines to reduce health risks from drinking alcohol. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia.

2

Paton, A. (2005). Alcohol in the body. Bmj, 330 (7482), 85-87.

Page last updated: 02 September 2020

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