The start of the New Year is a time for many of us to brush away the effects of the festive season’s over-indulgences which also often involves taking time to think about ditching alcohol in favour of a ‘dry’ January.
Alcohol is a causal factor in more than 60 medical conditions, including high blood pressure and some cancers. Drinking too much is also associated with increased weight gain and an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and other long-term conditions. Heavy drinking also makes the muscles of the heart weaker, so it can’t do its job efficiently and may lead to heart failure. So, with more than 9 million people in England consuming more than the recommended daily limits of 14 units per week, Heart Research UK wants to help you modify your drinking habits for healthier you in 2017.
Get unit savvy
Alcohol content varies between brands and types so check the labels so you know exactly how many units are in each glass, bottle, shot or can of your chosen tipple. Think standard glass size when it comes to wine, which will reduce your intake by as much as one unit by switching from a large one. Go online to find easy-to-use unit calculators, mobile apps and alcohol unit dials to help you can track your intake over the week and compare drinks.
Alternatives to Alcohol
Think about developing a taste for alcohol free or non-alcoholic options; there are plenty of alternatives available or try making your own mocktails using 150ml of pure unsweetened fruit juice which also counts as one of your five a day. Mix things up with some sparkling water or tonic water as an alternative to alcoholic bubbles. Find more Mocktail alternative here.
Alcohol is deceptively high in calories, gram for gram containing twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrate and only slightly less than a gram of fat. A small glass of 11% wine instead of a large glass of 13% wine will shed a whopping 130 calories and, with a pint of beer containing around 180 calories, about the same as a packet of crisps or a chocolate cream egg, you will soon add inches to your waist if not careful. Remember too that cider is higher in calories than beer and as you’re more likely to eat higher calorie foods during and after drinking, those extra unwanted calories just keep piling up.
Take a break
Ensuring you have a couple of alcohol-free days each week is a great start to help undo those routine drinking habits like reaching for a glass of wine to unwind after work. This will mean calories saved and also help to guard against your body building a tolerance for alcohol, which could spell trouble long term. Drop a slice of citrus fruit in some sparkling or plain water or diluted fruit juice as a pick up or reach for a cuppa when settling down to watch TV. If stress tends to trigger your drinking, try exercise or practice relaxation techniques for a healthier form of stress relief.
Watch those 2-for-1 or an extra shot for £1 offers; they may seem like good value for money but will be poor value for your waistline and heart. Better still, offer to be the taxi driver for the evening and have an alcohol-free night out.
Drinking late at night or too much alcohol can disrupt your sleep pattern and, as it’s a diuretic you’ll sweat more and need the loo more frequently too. It takes on average one hour for your body to process one unit so make sure your units aren’t taking your liver all night to clear.