If you’ve been thinking about cutting back on alcohol or even quitting completely, don’t wait until Dry January to make this life-changing move, go sober this October instead. You won’t be alone thanks to a national initiative led by Macmillan Cancer Support that offers lots of support and motivation, helped by raising money for cancer along the way.
‘This is a great initiative to help change lives and even save lives by reducing your risk of alcohol-related conditions, such as heart attacks and cancer. If you’re drinking too much, regularly, this is a habit worth trying to break,’ says ZoomDoc GP, Dr Jenny Ellenbogen.
And if you try quitting in October, you’ll see and feel the benefits long before Christmas and New Year come along.
Tempted? Here are some reasons for going sober this October – and beyond!
What is so bad about drinking alcohol?
Alcohol contains a lot of sugar for starters, so the calorific content of alcoholic drinks can quickly make you pile on the pounds causing weight-related health problems.
According to the NHS:
- a standard glass of wine can contain up to 158 calories
- some pints of stronger lager can contain up to 222 calories
- drinking 4 bottles of 12% strength wine a month add up to a yearly consumption of up to 32,400kcal
- drinking 5 pints of 5.2% strength lager each week add up to 57,720kcal in a year.
‘So if you’re carrying extra weight and struggling to lose it, it’s worth looking at what you’re drinking as well as eating,’ says Dr Jenny.
By quitting or cutting down, you will dramatically reduce your calorie intake.
As well as causing weight-related problems, alcohol is the second biggest risk for cancer after smoking.
In fact, long-term misuse of alcohol can increase your risk of a number of serious health conditions, including:
- heart disease
- liver disease
- cancers, such as liver, bowel, mouth and breast cancer
‘And, as well as the long-term effects, some of which are irreversible, there are also more short-term consequences, such as accidents, falls, hangovers etc,’ says Dr Jenny.
How do I know if I’m drinking too much?
Although everyone’s alcohol tolerance varies, NHS guidelines for alcohol intake recommend:
- not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis
- if you drink as much as 14 units a week, it’s best to spread this evenly over 3 or more days
- having several alcohol-free days each week
- not drinking alcohol at all if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
If your alcohol intake is affecting your sleep, your weight, your health or wellbeing, it could be worth taking steps to cut down or cut it out.
Other signs that you might be drinking too much include:
- people commenting on how much you drink or being known for how much you drink
- opening a bottle of wine every evening
- feeling the need to drink to cope with something
- feeling guilty about drinking.
If you’re a particularly heavy drinker or consider yourself dependent on alcohol, talk to your GP before quitting as you may need extra support or medication to help with the process, including withdrawal symptoms, which can be difficult to manage.
Benefits of quitting alcohol or cutting down
‘From having a clearer head to having more energy, sleeping better, losing weight, reducing your risk of cancer and other diseases, there are so many health benefits to going sober,’ says Dr Jenny.
And, if you partner with something like Macmillan Cancer Support, you’ll also raise money for cancer sufferers giving you extra motivation and a sense of achievement, too.
Or for more support with alcohol you can contact these NHS-endorsed helplines: