Easy wins: cutting down on alcohol – ‘your heart, liver, stomach and brain will thank you’

Sometimes on a Monday or a Tuesday after work, I could really do with a G&T. Or a solitary chilled beer. Sometimes it’s just that kind of night.

But if it’s a Monday or a Tuesday, the rule is this: no. Not after a hard day. Not out with friends. Not if there’s a half-full bottle of impeccably chilled pinot in the fridge. No.

Which isn’t to say that Wednesday to Sunday is a raging bacchanalian festival of booze. Rather, designating two unchanging, no-excuse-accepted alcohol-free days a week has had positive knock-on effects through the week. There are fewer times I drink alcohol at all, even on my “permitted” days, and on those days I do have alcohol I drink less. I thoroughly enjoy a glass of this or that, but sticking within the government’s not-long-ago revised down alcohol guidelines is easy.

Drinking alcohol in Australia is often an all-or-nothing affair: teetotal rates (up until last year) have been steadily climbing, while a quarter of us exceed the single-session recommended limits at least once a month.

It’s the latter kind of event which often leads one to swear off the stuff – particularly after the revelry of the new year. Abstinence, surely, must be the answer! An alcohol-free January! No – dry July! And so the months roll.

But, for those who do not have problematic drinking levels, yet want to reduce their alcohol intake, what of a half-arsed abstinence?

“Any reduction in alcohol consumption can have short- and long-term physical and psychological benefits,” says Dr Nicole Lee of the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University. “With people who drink regularly, when they reduce their drinking many find they sleep better, they can think more clearly during the day and they lose a bit of weight. Your heart, liver, stomach and brain will thank you.”

While any reduction is good, Lee says that we should probably aim for a little better than my two-day rule. Ensuring three or four days a week are alcohol-free would make keeping within the recommended weekly intake easier.

“Everyone is different,” she says. “Whatever helps you to maintain a reduction in drinking days is a good thing. You might need to try a few different strategies before you find one that’s right for you.”


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