An Easy Way To Reduce Your Alcohol Intake – Part 1

An Easy Way To Reduce Your Alcohol Intake – Part 1

by Dr Emma Gray - 4th May, 2018


In my last blog I showed you how to identify if the amount you are drinking is potentially threatening your physical and mental health. If you have decided that it is let’s look at what you can do about it.

In the first part of this blog we are going to look at how to reduce the amount of alcohol you are drinking. In the second part we will look at why you NEED to drink to make sure that the changes you make last.

Before you start, if you have been regularly drinking more than the recommended maximum amount of alcohol per week (14 unit for women, 21 units for men) it is worth asking your doctor to perform a liver function test (this is just a simple blood test) to make sure that your drinking has not caused any damage that might need treatment.

Next, follow these steps, trying to be as honest and kind with yourself as possible. Take it slowly and the changes you make will last.

1.  For 2 weeks keep a record of the amount of alcohol units you consume each day (see below) and the time that you start drinking.

1 unit of alcohol (10ml) is the equivalent to:

  • a single measure of spirits (ABV 37.5%)
  • half a pint of average-strength (4%) lager
  • two-thirds of a 125ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine
  • half a 175ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine;
  • third of a 250ml glass of average-strength (12%) wine.

2. Using this information establish an achievable drinking schedule including the number of units you are going to consume each day and the time that you will start drinking. Try not to underestimate how much you need to drink each day, this is a starting point and if you make it too difficult you won’t be able to stick to it and this programme won’t work.

If you can, select one day per week when you will not drink alcohol. On this day make sure that you plan activities that are incompatible with drinking alcohol, this may be a challenging day if you are not used to going without alcohol, so create an environment that is conducive to being sober.

Day and Start Time


Monday 0        Trip to Cinema
Tuesday 19.30 3
Wednesday 19.30 3
Thursday 19.30 3
Friday 19.00 5
Saturday 18.30 5
Sunday 19.30 3
Total = 22

3. If you are able to stick to your schedule for 2 weeks, slightly reduce the amount of alcohol you are drinking each day (e.g. by a maximum of 1 unit) and push back the time that you start (e.g. by a maximum of 15 minutes). Try to play the longer game here and make small changes, if you rush to make big changes you are unlikely to be able to keep them going.

4. Repeat step 3 until your drinking falls within health limits.

Extras Tips:

Take it slow – Each time you reduce your intake and push back the time that you start drinking give your mind and body at least 2 weeks to get used to the change. This will minimise any withdrawal (physical and mental) symptoms and help you to adapt to a new way of drinking. It will also reduce your risk of ‘falling off the wagon’ and bingeing.

Stick to 1 type of drink – This will make it easier to keep an eye on the number of units that you are drinking and will also reduce the risk of binges.

Don’t save left overs – If possible only keep your daily amount of alcohol in your fridge, this will reduce the temptation to have ‘just one more’. This may seem wasteful but the goal here is your longer-term health and well-being so a little bit of waste is maybe a consequence you can bear.

Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleagues once described me as a natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.

Read more about my approach to counselling here...

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