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Should you be cutting back?

Should you be cutting back?
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Does alcohol have health benefits? Possibly, but it is also known to raise the risk of several medical conditions (including certain cancers), particularly if consumed in excess. If you want to cut back, there are a number of things you can do to help make that easier.

Make this one a rule: Never drink alone

Make this one a rule: Never drink alone
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Not because it is so evil – indeed, there are plenty of times when a glass of wine by yourself is appropriate. Rather, do it for the discipline. If you learn to drink alone, it makes it too easy to begin drinking in excessive amounts. “Make it something you enjoy while out for a nice dinner or out with friends instead of the thing you reach for in the fridge out of convenience after a hard day at work,” says Ashley Jones, a certified nurse practitioner.

Never drink for solace

Never drink for solace
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It’s the old stereotype: downtrodden businessman, sitting at the bar, necktie yanked down, clothes dishevelled, muttering, “Pour me another one, bartender.” Again, we say, drink for joy, not for pain. “Avoid drinking alcohol when feeling down or upset,” Jones says. “Alcohol is a depressant and can worsen mood.”

Don’t have a habitual drink

Don’t have a habitual drink
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You know what we mean: “Seven o’clock, time for my martini.” “Done with cutting the lawn, time for my beer.” Think through your week to see if you have a specific drinking routine or habit. If yes, commit to finding a substitute for it. “If the goal is to decrease alcohol intake, schedule the alcohol-free days for the week as well as set a limit for the number of drinks to be consumed,” Jones says.

Replace one habit with a better one

Replace one habit with a better one
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Choose a pleasant substitution for your after-work drink. It could be a non-alcoholic drink, like a spiced ice tea or a fruit smoothie. Or it could be a walk, or a hot bath, or a sliced peach. Do this for two weeks until it becomes your new habit. “Find activities that are fulfilling and you enjoy,” says Jones. “This may limit excess consumption due to boredom.”

Swap your standbys

Swap your standbys
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Switch to mixed drinks with lower-proof alcohol (or even better, an alcohol-free spirit). There are lots of alternatives to the standard, high-power alcohols of gin, vodka, or whiskey. For example, a flavoured cognac with soda water has half the alcohol content of a gin drink, and probably twice the flavour. “Be sure to incorporate non-alcoholic beverage in between alcoholic beverages,” adds Jones.

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Drink water

Drink water
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Always drink double-fisted: your drink and a large glass of water. Don’t use alcohol to quench your thirst. That’s what water is for. Sip on alcohol for the flavour and the pleasure. “Space out your drinks,” Valentine suggests. “Drink one alcoholic beverage, then have a glass of water or soda so you are still having fluid and drinking, but you just cut alcohol intake in half.”

Keep the wine off the dinner table

Keep the wine off the dinner table
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Instead, keep a pitcher of water on the table. It makes it too easy to keep pouring until it’s empty. Instead, pour one glass, then cork the bottle and put it away, Jones suggests.

Try mineral water

Try mineral water
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Discover the glories of mineral water. It mixes with wine, whiskey, vodka, cognac, indeed almost any alcohol other than beer. Making your drinks with soda or mineral water cuts down on alcohol consumption, in part because the bubbles in the fizzy water help fill you up, Dr Sturmi adds.

Create a list of rules for drinking

Create a list of rules for drinking
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For instance, no more than one drink a day. Only drink on weekends. Only drink wine spritzers. Only drink when you’re dressed up in your best clothes, etc. Post the list near the liquor cabinet/wine cellar. “Only allow yourself one drink per hour,” Valentine says.

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