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Drink Less

Expert advice on how to cut back on alcohol…

By Karen Kwan

There’s nothing like cracking open an ice cold beer on a hot summer day, or kicking back with an expertly made old fashioned in the evening (and many of us have had a chance to perfect our mixologist skills in the past year of working from home). But if you find you’ve been reaching for a glass more often during lockdown life and are keen to dial back how much you’re drinking (if you need a reason, consider that alcohol is the leading preventable cause of cancer), this mindful approach will help you ease back into a healthier routine.

Start by assessing how much you are drinking
Chances are, what you are serving yourself at home is more than the standard pour at a restaurant or bar. In Canada, a standard drink is a 341 mL (12 oz) bottle of 5% alcohol beer, cider or cooler; or a 43 mL (1.5 oz) shot of hard liquor; or 142 mL (5 oz) glass of 12% wine. And keep in mind that a high-alcohol beverage will contain more than one standard drink.

Make note of your drinking habits
Keep a journal (it can be as simple as a note on your smartphone) of when and what you’re drinking. Dr. Bryce Barker of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addiction says you should also write down a note on your mood and the situation when you reached for a drink. This can help you identify the triggers that make you feel a need for alcohol.

Establish limits
If you discover you’ve been drinking at least four drinks a night on a pretty regular basis, set a max of one drink per night from now on. You may need to work your way down to that, so start out by setting a limit of three per night for a week and then cut out one more nightly drink each week for the following two weeks.

Consider setting no-drinking days
You may find it helpful to establish certain days of the week as abstinence days (for example, Monday to Thursday), or you could approach it by scenario (for example, no drinking at lunch, if working from home has meant a tipple at lunch has become the norm).

Slow down your pace
Dr. Barker recommends eating while you drink. This can help in two ways: it will help slow down the absorption of alcohol, and as you start to feel full, you may also drink less. Another way to slow down your pace: alternate your alcoholic drink with a non-alcoholic drink such as a glass of club soda or one of the growing number of non-alcoholic options on the market. This may be especially helpful in social settings, where often we want something to do with our hands.

Seek help
If, after taking a hard look at your habits, you discover you’re relying on alcohol more than you realized, speak to your doctor about it, especially as they may not be asking you about it at your annual checkup. There’s little in terms of Canadian stats on this, but an American survey found that only 30 per cent of doctors were regularly asking about alcohol use.

KAREN KWAN is a freelance health, travel and lifestyle writer based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter at @healthswellness and on Instagram at @healthandswellness.

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