New Year, Less Beer: Cutting Back on Alcohol in 2021

As the new year approaches, you might be one of the millions of people who decide to make a new year’s resolution. Approximately 60% of Americans will make a resolution this year, and, typically, these resolutions revolve around becoming healthier. One way you can become healthier in the new year is to reduce your overall alcohol consumption.

While cutting out alcohol completely (abstaining) is a great option for some, it is not always the easiest solution. Reducing your consumption, even slightly, can have a huge impact on your health. Cutting out some alcohol can improve sleep, increase energy, and help manage weight. If limiting alcohol consumption is something you would like to try to become healthier in the new year, here are some tips on how to achieve your resolution:

Become aware of how much you are currently drinking. Spend some time measuring, counting, and tracking your weekly drink consumption to find an average. For every standard drink you consume, write it down. At the end of the week, count up how much you drank.

  • Remember Standard Drink Sizes:
    • Beer – 12 ounces
    • Hard alcohol/liquor – 1-1.5 ounces
    • Wine – 5 ounces

Set a realistic goal. Now that you know your average consumption, plan to reduce it by one or more drinks. Plan to stick with this goal for at least a month, then reevaluate and consider adding additional months.

Of those that make resolutions, only about 8% will achieve their goal. The best way to achieve your new year’s resolution is to make a plan! What does reducing your alcohol consumption look like for you? What would make you feel healthier? Consider the following when setting your goal:

  • Set a weekly drink limit. Keep in mind that moderate consumption of alcohol is defined as no more than 7 standard drinks in a week for women; 14 drinks in a week for men.
  • Set a nightly drink limit. If you know you’ll be drinking, decide the maximum number of drinks you want to consume in one setting. Keep in mind that binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks in two hours for women; 5 or more drinks in two hours for men.

Track. Each time you drink, track your consumption to keep yourself accountable. Tracking could be a drink journal, an app, or even just the note section in your phone. Make it easy to track so you are more likely to do it.

Avoid Triggers. For many of us, certain places or people elicit certain behaviors. If you know of these triggers ahead of time, you can be prepared. Consider avoiding gatherings that tend to increase your likelihood to drink. Talk to your friends about your plan to reduce consumption so that they do not unknowingly pressure you to drink more.

Find alternatives. If reducing your consumption impacts your social life, find healthy alternatives to replace that time. Some healthy hobbies to consider in the new year:

  • Join a new club
  • Exercise or join a athletic club
  • Volunteer or mentor
  • Learn to cook
  • Learn to garden
  • Craft
  • Play video games or board games
  • Learn to whittle
  • Go stargazing

Reward Yourself. Changing habits and getting healthier is hard work! Congratulate yourself for accomplishing your goal!

Happy New Year! Bring on 2021!

If you find it hard to reduce your consumption, do not hesitate to reach out for support. Check with your campus counseling, wellness or health center. There may also be resources in the community that you could try.

Tips to try when cutting back on drinking

Written by Amanda Harmel, Assistant Director, Alcohol and Other Drug Programming, Washington University in St. Louis

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