Thinking about doing dry January?
January sees lots of people signing up for Dry January- a campaign that encourages people to give up alcohol for the month of January. Each year the campaign gains momentum, and in 2019 over four million people took part in dry January!
While January is a fantastic time to make healthy changes, it’s important to think about the benefits of cutting down throughout the year. Having an alcohol free January won’t offset the alcohol consumed over the following 11 months.
Why cut down on alcohol?
Alcohol is high in empty calories, around seven calories per gram, almost as much as a gram of fat! The typical calories found in popular alcoholic drinks can be seen in the table below.
According to the NHS, the average wine drinker in England consumes around 2,000 calories of alcohol every month. While an individual who drinks five pints of lager a week consumes around 44,200kcal over a year. That’s the equivalent to eating 221 doughnuts!
Alcoholic drinks, such as Cider and Alcopops, can also contain high levels of sugar. A pint of cider can contain as many as five teaspoons of sugar, almost as much as the maximum recommended intake for an adult per day.
Having too much sugar in our diet can increase the risk of obesity and obesity related health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey the sugar in alcoholic drinks accounts for around 9% of adults daily sugar intake. Despite their high sugar levels, many people don’t factor in what they drink when calculating daily sugar intakes.
Health risks associated with drinking too much alcohol
- Drinking too much can cause hangovers. This varies from person to person but can include symptoms such as headache, nausea, tiredness, dehydration, trouble concentrating and feeling irritable
- Long term heavy drinking can change the way the brain works, it’s physical shape and structure. This can have serious consequences such as changes in personality, problems in thinking, mood, memory and learning
- Increased blood pressure meaning an increased risk of heart disease
- Fatty liver, inflammation of the liver and scarring of the liver
- Inflammation of the stomach lining and stomach ulcers. Increased risk of reflux
- Overweight and obesity
- Cancer of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus
How much can I drink?
If you drink alcohol it’s best to enjoy it in moderation. The Chief Medical Officer advises that ‘to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level, it is safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week ’.
Note: It is recommended to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy.
The infographic seen here (right) provides examples of what 14 units of different alcoholic drinks looks like.
Download the Dry January app to help you keep track of your dry days, plus the units, calories and money you’ve saved.
Drink Aware have created a fantastic feature on their website to calculate the units, and calories in the alcohol you drink.
Top tips on cutting down
- Set a limit for yourself and keep track of how many units you have had across the week
- Measure how much you drink – it’s easy to underestimate how much you fill up your glass. When outside the home pick smaller sizes e.g. half a pint of beer/cider, a small glass of wine, a single measure of spirit and mixer
- Set a budget – decide on a fixed amount of money that can be spent on alcoholic drinks
- Tell friends and family you are cutting down so they can support you, arrange alternative catch-ups that don’t involve alcohol
- Opt for alcohol free or low alcohol drinks. For example many pubs and restaurants now stock non-alcoholic beers. When out drinking try to alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
- Have a glass of water between each alcoholic drink you consume
- Have alcoholic free weeks or sign up to campaigns such as Dry January
Make small changes for a healthier, happier you!