6 Realistic Tips To Reduce Your Drinking, Without Quitting Altogether

02/05/2017 7:31 AM AEST | Updated 03/05/2017 10:38 AM AEST
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Whether you're guilty of having 'a few too many' on a Friday night or treat the end of each working day as an excuse to unwind with a glass of wine, it's hard to deny that drinking is a big part of many Australians' routines.

From sporting events to weekend getaways and everything in between, booze is more often than not a big part of our plans.

So it's hardly surprising that our tendency to drink is reflected in some less than impressive statistics. Research has shown that more than 75% of Australians believe that we have a problem with alcohol and on average West Australians, each drinks approximately 12 litres of pure alcohol per year. That's 141 bottles of wine a year.

So while you may not feel it's realistic to ditch alcohol altogether, what can you do if you're looking to cut down?

We're all aware of the tried and tested techniques -- a glass of water between each drink -- but what about some tips that are easy to action and can actually reduce your alcohol intake considerably?

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Sometimes the best way to realise that we're overdoing it is by confronting ourselves with evidence. Set up a drink diary on your phone and each time you have a drink, make note of it in your diary.

"Keeping a record can be tough but it's a smart way of confronting yourself with how much you've been consuming," said GP with more than seventeen years experience, Dr Brad McKay.

It's worth remembering that for most people, drinking more than two standard drinks on any day increases your risk of alcohol-caused disease. So a drink diary can be a smart way of proving if you're pushing the limits.

"At the end of the week review your notes and if it seems too much then set a goal to cut it by a quarter the next week," McKay said.

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For many people coming home from work after a long day is synonymous with cracking open a bottle.

"Drinking once you get through the door is very habitual but it's an easy habit to break and will instantly help you reduce the amount of standard drinks you're having," said McKay.

Rather than putting away a few drinks before eating, wait until dinner is served and then have your first drink.

"Consuming food at the same time also helps as it slows down drinking," explained Dr McKay. "It also delays the amount of alcohol getting into your system."

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Going into a shout with your mates at the pub is pretty common practice, but while you may feel you're saving a few dollars, drinking in rounds is also one of the behaviours that is bumping up your booze tally.

"This is an important one because people get drafted into shouts and they end up drinking alcohol that they don't even want," said McKay.

Get on the front foot and buy yourself a single drink when you get to the pub, then tell your friends you're not going to be involved in the round.

"That way you'll be able to drink at your own pace plus you can leave whenever you'd like, as opposed to waiting for someone to 'catch up' on the shout round."

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When it comes to drinking, easy access it the ultimate enabler and if all it takes is opening the fridge then you're potentially on a slippery slope.

"Not keeping alcohol in the house is an obvious and effective method to kerb drinking behaviour," Curtin University's Professor Simone Pettigrew explained.

"Just from the work we do with junk food and obesity it's clear that this is a no brainer, if it's not there, you can't drink it."

Instead of keeping a steady supply of booze nearby, make your house a drink-free zone and only head to the bottle shop if you specifically need drinks for an occasion. The added bonus being that if you have to drive to get drinks the effort required means you'll only go if it's really necessary.

"We're a very reactive species so if something is in front of us, we will consume it," Pettigrew said.


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If you're wheel-y serious (sorry) about cutting back, there's an easy way to reduce your alcohol intake -- driving your friends to and from social events!

"If you're looking to cut down rather then cut out, being a designated driver is a good way of putting the brakes on, so to speak," said McKay.

"Select a couple of dates in your calendar and let your friends know that you're driving and you'll give them a lift, that way you're obligated to others not just yourself!

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Ultimately learning to cut back your drinking is a number game and it starts with realising how powerful your drink of choice is.

"Having low alcohol drinks is a smart way of ensuring you are drinking less and minimising the negative impacts of alcohol," Pettigrew explained. "That way if you're out at a long social function you can drink something with lower alcohol content over a long period of time, if need be."

Rather than ordering a bottle of your favourite full-bodied, red wine instead opt for something with a small alcohol percentage. Check the labels or read up online to find out the alcohol content, and order mindfully!

If you're concerned about your alcohol intake, try this easy 5 minute Drinking Audit -- it's a simple tool from Alcohol. Think Again designed to help you find out whether you're at risk. For further advice on managing alcohol intake, as well as information for parents, young people and adults, visit Alcohol. Think Again.

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