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Tips for curbing alcohol consumption without sacrifice or deprivation

Posted Dec 15 2010 6:06pm

In my blog on Monday I wrote about how different foods satisfy the appetite to different extents, and in particular how eating a ‘primal’ or ‘Paleolithic’ diet appears to be effective for helping individuals avoid over-eating without undue hunger. In today’s blog my aim is to offer advice regarding some simple strategies that can help cap our alcohol consumption. Again, the aim here is not to use willpower. Using the right strategies, it is entirely possible that you may find yourself drinking considerably less than you otherwise would, without any conscious cutting back on consumption.

1.     Match each alcoholic drink with one of water

One tactic that generally works wonders to quell alcohol intake is to match each alcoholic drink (e.g. glass of wine) with a glass of water. This usually leads to less wine being drunk, and also ‘dilutes’ any negative effects the alcohol may have.

Many people find that this one tactic not only leads to less being drunk, but also dramatically reduces the after-effects of alcohol the following day. At least some component of a hangover is dehydration. Hangover’s may also be induced by toxic elements within the drink (e.g. toxic ‘congeners’). Drinking water alongside alcohol helps combat dehydration and may also speed the elimination of toxic elements. In short, matching alcohol with water is a simple but effective way of curbing alcohol intake and reducing the ill-effects alcohol may have on the body.

2.     Do not start drinking when you’re thirsty

It stands to reason that the thirstier we are, the more we will tend to drink. I know it’s obvious, but the less thirsty we are, the less alcohol we will tend to drink. It makes sense, therefore, to ensure we’re properly hydrated prior to starting drinking. The aim should be to drink enough water to keep our urine pale yellow, and there should be no sense of thirst prior to starting drinking any alcohol.

3.     Do not start drinking when you’re hungry

While the fact the thirst can stimulate drinking is quite obvious, what is less well recognised that hunger can be a factor here. Alcohol can provide ready fuel for the body, and at least some people will find that hunger can stimulate the desire to drink. Some people will, for instance, crave alcohol if their blood sugar level drops below normal levels.

One common manifestation of this phenomenon is a tendency to drink a glass of wine, beer or short with mixer prior to food in the evening. Individuals coming home or entering a restaurant in a quite-hungry state will often reach for the alcohol before anything else. I’ve found in practice that when individuals manage their appetite better, they almost always drink less without thinking.

One simple tactic here is to eat something properly sating such as some nuts at the end of the afternoon or early evening.

I’ve found in practice that just following these simple rules will, overall, roughly halve the amount of alcohol individuals drink. The important thing here is that these techniques require no conscious cutting back, hence no sense of sacrifice or deprivation.

Two other strategies for containing alcohol consumption are to avoid getting too hungry or thirsty. Avoiding thirst is an obvious tactic, but it is less well recognized that hunger can be a major driver of alcohol intake, particularly early in the evening. Many people look to alcohol to get themselves out of the low-sugar hole dug by eating a sandwich for lunch and then nothing more before dinner.

Matching each alcoholic drink with one of water, and avoiding undue hunger and thirst, are all effective tactics for reducing alcohol intake without feeling deprived.

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