Tips for giving up or limiting alcohol

It’s Sunday morning and some of you might be feeling a little tender from the night before, so I thought I’d share this with you.

Someone asked me the other day, how I gave up alcohol for good… here goes:

Here are my tips to give up alcohol:

1. Write down the reasons you drink.

Is it out of habit on a Friday and Saturday night?
Is it to relax?
Or because your other half is doing it so you feel you should too?
Is it a social thing?
Ask yourself, do you really need it?

2. Write down the pros and cons of drinking:

It helps you relax.
It helps you to wind down and have fun.
It helps you have a ‘good time’ with friends and family.
Any more?

It gives you a hangover from hell.
You end up eating way too much of what you shouldn’t when you’re drink or hungover.
It prevents you getting up to train or prevents you training at your best.
It makes you sick.
You don’t like the ‘drunk’ person you become.
It opposes all of your hard work by adding empty calories to your intake / preventing weight loss.
You lose control.
It can cost a lot of money.
Any more?

For me, I stopped because it was becoming an obstacle in my life. I’m a kind of ‘all or nothing’ person, and my lifestyle of drinking was getting in the way my fit and healthy lifestyle I was trying to follow.

Giving up alcohol was hands down the best decision I ever made. Five years on I’m fitter, healthier and happier (and I’ve saved lots more to spend on holidays etc).

However, even though it was the best decision for ME, I wouldn’t tell anyone else that they must give it up, or that it’s the best thing for them.

You need to decide what’s right for you based on who you are, your lifestyle and your goals. What’s most important to you?

3. Look at your list of pros and cons, and decide one of three options:

A. Drinking is ok, I don’t do it that much and when I do, I’m in control and having fun. I might be more considerate of it and reduce your intake, but I don’t need to change much about alcohol in your life.

B. Drinking affects me (health, money, fitness, goals, control) and it would be good if I took some time off it to support my goals. Try two weeks, alternate months, six weeks or six months off it. Save drinking alcohol as a treat on special occasions. Think about how not having alcohol in your life will support your goals (health, fitness, weight loss, finances).

C. I hate the way alcohol makes me feel. Sick, embarrassed, out of control. I hate the ‘drunk’ me and I never know when enough is enough. It’s all or nothing for me, and drinking alcohol is making me sick, and preventing you from training, being fit and healthy and achieving my goal. I’d like to cut it out all together.

4. Change your lifestyle for good.
If you want to take time out of drinking alcohol, or give it up all together, this is where you should look at your habits, and change your lifestyle for good.

You can do a few things to put you off drinking:

A. Think of drink as the enemy. Empty calories, that get turned into energy and ultimately (if excess calories) get laid down as fat in your body. Poison. Nasty stuff. Think about what it dues to your insides, your liver, kidneys and brain, the dehydration, tiredness and sickness. It’s not worth the buzz or supposed ‘good time’ you get. You can do without it easily.

B. Try a weekend or a few weeks off it first. Do other things to keep active and off drink: cinema, out for dinner, family days out. Then try longer, alternate months, six weeks, three months.

C. Substitute your usual beer or wine for a soft drink. Drive home without the need for a taxi, and think about how well you feel the next day.

D. Note down all of the benefits of not drinking, so that you can remember then when you’re tempted to drink again. Fresh head, feeling good, string immune system, no colds for ages, saving money, feeling great, less late nights, no taxis home, no stupid behaviour…the list goes on and on.

E. Think about your habits and change them. Try other things to help you relax, listen to music, play with the family, watch a movie.

F. Get support and buy in from others. This us a hard one as so many people see alcohol as a bit part of their lives. So if you say you want to give it up, or that you’re off it, they can sometimes look at you as if you’ve got two heads.

If it’s really important to you, tell them how you feel and why you’re doing it.

If it’s your partner you could ask them to come off it too, but the main thing is that they support you, much like they would by not offering you chocolate if you were trying to lose weight.

I remember one person trying to be so forceful in offering me a drink when I didn’t want one, that I ended up saying I wasn’t well, and made up some condition. People should just accept your choice, and move on.

5. Decide what’s more important to you.
I most definitely was a frequent and binge drinker. I’d drink sort of in moderation every weekend, for 4-6 weeks, then I’d get blind drunk and forget my name and everything else every now and again.

It wasn’t healthy or pleasant and prevented me from doing what I really wanted to do: get in the best shape of my life ever. I tried ‘moderation’ but I kept going back to the binges, and drank far too often too. It just wasn’t working for me, so I chose to give it up instead.

Now read this and think of it (from Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, by Tom Venuto):

Binge drinking has no place in a fitness lifestyle, and hangovers aren’t conducive to good workouts. If you drink frequently or in large amounts, don’t complain about your fat loss plateau. Look in the mirror and admit the truth: ‘I’m not that serious about getting in shape. It’s not a high priority now. I don’t want it that bad.’ At least then you’re being honest with yourself.

6. Finally, life is all about choice: do what works for YOU.
Many people drink because it’s what they usually do, and it’s what their friends and family do.

However, we’re all individual and we can all make choices which make us even more individual: the way we eat, the way we work, the way we exercise and the way we live. Drinking alcohol (or not) is just another thing we can chose to do differently (lots of it, in moderation, on and off it, or off it all together).

Find out what works for you and your life and goals, and do it. Think about what’s most important to you, and if alcohol fits into that lifestyle and your goals, then chose to do it.

But if alcohol doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle or goals, write down the reasons you want to limit it or give it up and stick to it.

If you want to limit it, think about drinking lower calorie drinks or taking weekends, weeks or months off it. Plan it in with your life, drink when you’re on holiday relaxing, or for birthdays. When you choose not to drink, you can and do still enjoy yourself, so don’t think that goes away.

After 18 years of drinking (I started way too young!!) I gave it up, and I can honestly say it was the best thing I ever did.

(Now, I wonder if I’ll ever be able to give up ice cream or bars bars!!?)

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