10 tips for cutting down on drinking

Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP
12 May 2022
Next review due May 2025

Official health guidelines say you shouldn’t have more than 14 units of alcohol a week. But it can be easy to drink more than this. Maybe you have a drink after work, open a bottle of wine at home, or simply enjoy a few beers at the weekend. Socialising and unwinding can easily become linked to drinking alcohol. And this can push you over the recommended limits. Here I’ve shared my top 10 tips to help you reduce how much you drink.

1. Notice how much alcohol you drink

It’s easy to lose track of how much alcohol you drink, and this can lead you to drink more than the recommended limits. If you drink at home, try measuring your spirits or glasses of wine. This stops you from topping up your glass while you eat or watch TV, for example. There are also plenty of phone apps that you can use to check how much you are drinking, especially when out and about. This video helps you to keep track of the amount of alcohol you drink at home.

2. Reduce the size of your alcoholic drinks

This may sound simple, but it can be tempting to order a large drink. Especially if the price difference is small. So why not try swapping a large glass of wine for a small one, or a pint of beer for a half? Then you can practice mindful drinking by slowing down and really enjoying your drink as you sip it. Try noticing the tastes and textures. This will make it last longer and mean you’re less likely to order more.

3. Watch the alcohol content

Drinks can vary a lot in how much alcohol they contain. For example, beer can range from 4.2 to 9 or more percent. Take more interest in how many units your drink of choice contains so you know how much alcohol is safe for you to drink. You could also consider having some lower- or non-alcoholic alternatives. Non-alcoholic beers taste very similar to alcoholic versions, and most bars and restaurants offer a good range of these drinks now.

4. Take some drink-free days

As well as limiting the number of units you drink a week, it’s also important to aim for at least two drink-free days. Set yourself a target and monitor your progress. Reward yourself if you achieve this, but not with alcohol. Perhaps you could enjoy a trip to the cinema or a spa treatment? Do whatever motivates you.

5. Make a change

If your social life revolves around pubs, bars and eating out, try something new to help you reduce your drinking. For example, you could:

  • take up a new sport or exercise class to socialise with others
  • swap pub lunches at the weekend with a picnic in a park
  • cook at home instead of eating out to reduce your temptation to drink
  • avoid places, or even people, that may encourage you to drink

6. Don’t keep alcohol at home

Rather than having alcohol always available to you, you could just limit your alcoholic drinks to when you go out. You’ll break any regular home drinking more easily this way. If soft drinks seem boring to you, research some recipes for non-alcoholic cocktails. Why not get creative by making some tasty mocktails?

7. Cravings will pass

If you get a craving for a glass of red or a pint of cool beer, remind yourself why you’re cutting back on alcohol. Why not write these reasons down and carry them with you as a reminder? Cravings do pass. Try and keep your goals in sight. Being sober doesn’t mean you can’t still go out and enjoy yourself.

8. It’s okay to say no

If your friends pressure you to drink to ‘fit in’, be true to your goal. The more you say no, the less they’ll ask. It can help to stay out of rounds too, so you stay in control of what you’re drinking. If you’re cutting down, it will also make it easier to have regular soft drink breaks during the night. You can also enjoy the benefits of alcohol-free alternatives.

9. Team up

You’re likely to find it much easier to make these changes if you commit to them with a friend or partner. You can keep each other going and support one another through any cravings.

10. Ask for help

If you’ve been drinking more heavily after a number of ‘bad days’ or to avoid problems, it might be a sign that you need some support. Speak to your GP to talk through the reasons why you might be drinking so much, and better ways to cope.

There are support organisations that can help you too, such as Drinkline and Alcoholics Anonymous.

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Samantha Wild
Dr Samantha Wild
Clinical Lead for Women's Health and Bupa GP

    • Low risk drinking guidelines. Drinkaware., accessed 11 May 2022
    • How to reduce your drinking. Drinkaware., accessed 11 May 2022
    • How much alcohol is too much? Drinkaware., accessed 11 May 2022
    • Low alcohol drinks. Drinkaware., accessed 11 May 2022
    • Public Health England and Drinkaware launch Drink Free Days. GOV.UK., published September 2018

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