How often have you shown up to work feeling like you should’ve had at least one or two fewer drinks last night? Or you’ve gotten the check for dinner and realized those couple glasses of wine added $30 to your bill? While alcohol can sometimes be a nice complement to a meal, there are certain aspects of drinking that can be a bit of a … well… buzzkill.
Reducing how much alcohol you drink will make you feel better overall, help you avoid many alcohol-related health problems, and save you money. Although you don’t have to give up alcohol entirely (unless you have a health condition that prohibits drinking), cutting back on the amount you drink can be of great benefit to your health, well-being, and your wallet, too.
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What Does Cutting Back Mean?
Most health and government organizations recommend that women have no more than one alcoholic beverage per day and men have no more than two.
A standard drink is defined by volume, in ounces, and alcohol content, either the proof or the percent ABV (alcohol by volume):
- Beer: 12 ounces, 5 percent ABV
- Malt liquor: 8 ounces, 7 percent ABV
- Wine: 5 ounces, 12 percent ABV
- Liquor: 1.5 ounces, 80 proof (40 percent ABV)
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Why Should I Cut Back My Alcohol Consumption?
From your health to your physical appearance to keeping more money in your wallet, the benefits of reducing your alcohol intake are nearly limitless.
- Keep your waistline in check. Your average drink has about 100 calories. Many are high in sugar as well, especially cocktails, which can quickly build your beer gut.
- Help prevent disease. Although many studies have supported the idea that one drink a day for women or two for men have health benefits, most research shows that more than that can contribute to disease. Heavy drinking can increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, liver disease, and pancreatitis.
- Look better. One study found that people who had one alcoholic drink were more attractive than those who had consumed none or more than one. Alcohol opens your blood vessels, which can make your face and eyes look red.
- Feel rested. Alcohol, especially right before bed, causes you to miss out on REM sleep. You likely wake up more often at night and may feel exhausted the next day.
How Do I Reduce How Much I Drink?
It can be tough to limit how many drinks you have, especially when you’re used to drinking as part of socializing or an evening routine.
- Don’t drink in front of the TV. As with snacking while watching TV, you’re likely to consume more than you realize when you’re not paying attention.
- Switch to low-alcohol drinks. Although it’s better to reduce the quantity of drinks you have, you can also gain health benefits by choosing drinks with a lower alcohol content. For example, switch from an IPA with 9 percent alcohol to a wheat beer with 4.6 percent.
- Choose quality over quantity. If you’re going to splurge on calories for dessert, do you want to waste them on a convenience store brownie? Or would you rather go for the perfectly baked chocolate lava cake with the rich, gooey center? Treat your drinks the same way. Choose quality, well-crafted drinks from reputable labels or brewers and stop at one.
- Drink more water. Alcohol can make you dehydrated. Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic beverage.
- Take a day off. Look at how many days a week you drink. Do you go out for drinks after work a few nights a week? Do you have a couple drinks every night at home? Choose one day a week to go alcohol-free. You won’t build up a tolerance as fast, you’ll get a good night’s sleep, and you’ll help lower the risk of becoming dependent.
Get a friend or spouse to cut back with you. Pick a few tips to try, and support each other.
Too much of a good thing can drag you down. Consider cutting back on the amount of alcohol you drink to help you look and feel better – and give you more money to spend on things that you enjoy.
UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in mental health clinical care, research, and education. It is one of the nation’s foremost university-based psychiatric care facilities through its integration with the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. UPMC Western Psychiatric is the hub of UPMC Western Behavioral Health, a network of nearly 60 community-based programs providing specialized mental health and addiction care for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors throughout western Pennsylvania.