Go Alcohol Free
For several decades, there has been a growing trend towards healthier lifestyle choices, whether focused on reducing weight, improving heart health or maximising longevity. However, the latest trend, found in clubs and dinner parties alike, is the trend of the ‘sober curious’ drinker. 1
Reducing, or even eliminating, alcohol has been a goal for many people, and it’s easy to see why. The benefits to our bodies, minds and future risks make a strong case for popular new challenges like FebFast, Dry in July and Sober in October.
Alcohol is a substance that must be processed and removed from the bloodstream by the liver. In small amounts, the liver can cope efficiently. But when too much alcohol is in the system, the liver can fall behind and we feel the effects. We call it ‘intoxication’ for a reason. The toxic substance, namely alcohol, is affecting our bodies and subsequently our cognition . The World Health Organization considers alcohol toxic enough to classify it as a Group 1 carcinogen, alongside arsenic, benzene and asbestos . Some countries are even adding labels to alcohol packaging to inform consumers of the significant cancer risk !
In the short term, alcohol can affect your health in several ways :
Long term risks of regular alcohol consumption can be even more serious, and potentially deadly. Risks include:
Alcohol affects nearly every system in the body and the more you drink, the more severe the effect. So, if you are not yet ready to give up alcohol entirely, even a reduction will have a positive effect on your health. However, with alcohol consumption part of the regular social scene in Australia, it can be challenging.
So, how do we reduce or eliminate our alcohol use, particularly in a social event? We must prepare! Here are 5 tips to go No/Low Alcohol at your next gathering:
It can be hard to motivate yourself to change a habit without an end date. Set a goal that you are confident you can accomplish to prove that you can function without alcohol when you choose to say no. Perhaps it is just for a week, until the next holiday or involves completing a dry month challenge. Whatever you choose, commit and stick to it, then notice the benefits to your health along the way.
Ask yourself, “Why do I want to go alcohol-free?” and physically write down the answers. This list will serve as a reminder when habits become hard to break. Write down the health reasons and also add at least 2 non-physical reasons, such as, “I’m worth it” or, “To be an example for my kids”. These are the reasons that will truly motivate you.
If you find you drink at the same time regularly, ask yourself why, then find an alternative. If you usually drink to relax after a long week, consider listening to music instead. If it is to get over social anxiety, consider coming up with conversation topics ahead of an event and preparing some amusing stories to tell in an awkward moment. Finding out which needs are met by alcohol, and replacing alcohol with better alternatives or strategies, can be a big step towards success.
Tell your family, friends and co-workers about this new goal. Maybe you will motivate them to go alcohol-free and they can help to keep you motivated along the way! Once we verbalise an intent to others, we are more likely to follow through. Being alcohol-free is becoming a popular trend and you may discover that others also agree with your new lifestyle choice. Alcohol-free pubs and clubs are gaining favour across the globe and others may be willing to join you !
Be prepared for the possibility that others may not support you. Some people feel uncomfortable drinking alcohol while others around them are not. In an effort to change your mind, they may ask what you are drinking and why you choose to abstain. Offer them your reasons if they ask. If they persist, put the conversation back on them. Asking, “Why? Does my decision make you feel uncomfortable?” or, “Why do you choose to drink?” are both great ways to shut down the challenge.
Preparation is important for those moments of peer pressure, as well as for when you are home alone. Let’s face it, water with lemon can get pretty boring and it is easy to fall back into old habits, so plan something amazing! Mocktails are a great option but watch out for the sugar content. There is no point in trying to improve your health if your waistline blows out!
Try these options:
It is always a good idea to decide when you will leave a social situation ahead of time. While staying up until the wee hours of the morning may make sense to some, people who remain sober are often ready to call it quits earlier. If you are attending with a partner, first have a conversation about expectations and agree on a signal to quietly let them know you are ready to leave. Often the person who abstains gets the designated driver duty, so let friends know how long you are willing to stay before anyone else gets too intoxicated.
Whether you are considering changing your alcohol habits to lower your weight, lower cancer risk or to maximise your health, any reduction will improve all of these factors. Elimination has the best effects. So, get yourself some support, break out the mocktail recipes and get started. You will feel better, look better and know you’re lowering your cancer risk factors every day that you stay away from alcohol.
The latest trend found in clubs and dinner parties alike, is the trend of the ‘sober curious’ drinker.
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4. Stockwell T, Solomon R, O’Brien P, Vallance K, Hobin E. Cancer warning labels on alcohol containers: A consumer’s right to know, a government’s responsibility to inform, and an industry’s power to thwart. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2020;81(2):284-92.
5. Lockett E. How does alcohol affect weight loss? Healthline [Internet]. 2018. Available from: https://www.healthline.com/health/alcohol-and-weight-loss
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9. Kim JY, Lee DY, Lee YJ, Park KJ, Kim KH, Kim JW, et al. Chronic alcohol consumption potentiates the development of diabetes through pancreatic β-cell dysfunction. World J Biol Chem. 2015;6(1):1-15.
10. National Cancer Institute. Alcohol and cancer risk. 13 Sep 2018. Available from: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/alcohol/alcohol-fact-sheet
11. Connor J. Alcohol consumption as a cause of cancer. Addiction. 2016;112(2):222-8.
12. Klein WMP, Jacobsen PB, Helzlsouer KJ. Alcohol and cancer risk. Clinical and research implications. JAMA. 2019;323(1):23-4.
13. Zhao J, Stockwell T, Roemer A, Chitritzhs T. Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for prostate cancer? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Cancer. 2016;16(1):845.
14. Allen B. Cocktail trends to watch in 2020. Jan 18, 2021. Available from: https://www.barsclubs.com.au/bars-clubs/cocktail-trends-to-watch-in-2020/
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