Cut Back on Alcohol: 17 Tips to Drink a Little Less

Other than on special occasions, limit your drinking to the level associated with optimal health: up to two drinks per day for men, one for women.

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Limit time spent in bars

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Meet friends, dates, or business associates at a coffee bar, not a tavern. If the point of the get-together is fun, casual conversation in a friendly, loose environment, there are many ways to do that without the alcohol. Other possibilities include bistro-style restaurants, bowling alleys, and even sushi bars. These are things happy couples do (and the places they go!) after work.

Watch sporting events at home

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Watch sporting events with friends at your home or theirs. A night at a sports bar almost guarantees a morning with a headache. Guys, how can you resist the temptation to guzzle beer in a room filled with beer guzzlers? Make your watch party even better with these easy chicken wing recipes.  

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.

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Never drink for solace

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It’s the old stereotype: downtrodden businessman, sitting at the bar, necktie yanked down, clothes disheveled, muttering, “Pour me another one, bartender.” Again, we say, Drink for joy, not for pain. Drink to feel alive, not to feel dead. Not feeling so great? These are the warning signs of depression.  

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.” “Friday night, time to hit the bar with the gang and have my weekly margaritas.” Think through your week to see if you have a specific drinking routine or habit. If yes, commit to finding a substitute for it.

Replace one habit with a better one

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Choose a pleasant substitution for your after-work drink. It could be a nonalcoholic 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. There are the 12 steps to breaking any habit.

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Swap your standbys

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Switch to mixed drinks with a lower-proof alcohol. There are lots of alternatives to the standard, high-power alcohols of gin, vodka, or whiskey. For example, a flavored cognac with seltzer has half the alcohol content of a gin drink, and probably twice the flavor.

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 flavor and the pleasure.

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.

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Try seltzer

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

Drink water first

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When you’re at a party, drink a full glass of water or other nonalcoholic beverage before and after every alcoholic drink. We guarantee that the amount of alcohol you drink will drop substantially.

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.

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Keep a drinking diary

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You can find a sample from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (niaaa.nih.gov). Tracking how much you drink will provide you with some surprising information that will encourage you to cut down or quit.

Decide why you want to stop drinking

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Make a list of reasons why you want to cut back on drinking. This could be: lose weight, sleep better, fewer headaches, get more done, improve blood sugar control, have better sex, perform better at work. Post the list in a prominent place and read through it every time you think about having a drink.

Make a money log

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Track how much money you’re spending on alcohol every week. Now commit to spending half that amount. Put the savings into a special account (or even a jelly jar) and use it for something special for you (not a bottle of 2000 Bordeaux).

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Get your friends on board

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Tell everyone you know that you’re cutting back on your drinking. Hopefully, this will prevent people from urging you to have “just one” or “just one more.”


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