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Cutting Back on Alcohol


What to drink when you’re not drinking?


Let’s face it: After a long, hectic day with the trials and tribulations of modern life, there are few things more appealing than to unwind with a glass of wine or a G&T on the sofa once the dishwasher is stacked and the kids are in bed. At weekends, we like to let our hair down with some friends, whether that’s down the pub or sprawled on the sofa watching a box set with a glass of vino.


Drinking is so much part of our culture and social life that we barely stop to think about it. Those who decide to drink less or even stop altogether are the odd ones out – and society doesn’t make our lives easy. At different times of the year, I try to abstain for a few weeks or a couple of months as I know how good I feel, both mentally and physically. But with the introduction of popular trends such as “Sober October” and “Dry January”, going booze-free is now creeping into the norm for society. Let’s look at the benefits of this a little bit more.


Why would you not want to drink?


I won’t bore you with all the health reasons to shun alcohol (of which there are many), but I can tell you that – just for starters - your liver, your heart, your brain, and your gut would thank you, if you let off the booze. But you know that already. We all do, and yet we drink – often too much – anyway. Why?


“Because it tastes good!”, I hear you cry. It does, admittedly, but is that why we drink? Think back to your first alcoholic drink. Did that taste good? Probably not; most of us have to keep trying until it grows on us. Odd, if you think about it. Again, why?


Alcohol also seems to help us relax (see above), bestow confidence upon the shy, give us courage, loosen our tongue, and help us sleep. But in the end, we always pay the price, in a variety of ways. While we still think we’re completely in control, we may already be talking too loudly, slurring our words or sway – embarrassing (I cringe at some of my own memories of past times). Our tongue might be slightly too lose, and we end up spilling the beans about our personal life in front of the neighbours or offend them by telling them what we really think of them. What’s more, when we wake up the next day, we may not even remember what happened!


Even with moderate – and in our society ‘normal’ – alcohol consumption the aftermath is not great. A dry mouth, a headache, sensitivity to noise and light, and crushing fatigue are the classic symptoms of a hangover. It isn’t fun, and it will affect our mood and performance the next day. Which we will try and improve by having copious amounts of caffeine – also not good – or even another drink. It is a vicious circle!


Now imagine staying sober, not necessarily forever, but at least more often: Alcohol-induced sleep is not refreshing. Sober sleep is. You’d wake up without a hangover, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and ready to face the day. Going out and staying sober means you can drive yourself home after a night out and can give late-night public transport a miss. The next day, you’ll remember exactly who you talked to and what you said. Your mood will be stable (alcohol is a depressant, did you know?) and you’ll be able to focus and concentrate, perform better at work, as a mum, when exercising, and in anything else you are striving to achieve.


Sober is now cool


Ireland & UK, home of the pub crawl, is sobering up. Alcohol consumption in UK has been falling steadily for several years as people are more "sober curious." Twenty-one percent of 18- to 60-year-olds don't drink any alcohol at all, and among 18- to 24-year-olds the figure is even over 25 percent.


As a result of the new desire to stay sober, the selection of non-alcoholic spirits continues to expand.


"Seedlip," the first non-alcoholic distillate, hit the market in 2016, and there are now around 70 competitors. "Seedlip Garden", with flavours from peas, rosemary and thyme, is delicious with tonic. Even though the drink’s creation doesn’t involve juniper, its taste comes pretty close to a classic gin and tonic.


Something is definitely happening! Gone are the days when water or orange juice were the only options for those who chose not to drink. You can now choose from a variety of alcohol-free drinks, not just in sober bars, but even the menus of more and more regular restaurants and bars, the supermarket shelf and online. Bonus: Those drinks also look like the real deal, sparing you annoying questions such as: “Are you pregnant?”, “Are you on a diet?”, “Are you driving?” – “What’s wrong with you?”. In Western culture, alcohol is the only drug we constantly have to justify not having!


So, what sort of thing do sober people drink?


High-up on the list are botanicals, alcohol-free distillates resembling gin, vodka, rum or whiskey. Once you start googling these drinks, you’ll be amazed at the selection. Most manufacturers list mocktail recipes, illustrated by mouth-watering photographs. The gins, when served with tonic, are particularly close to a G&T.


Brewers were probably the first to try and recreate an alcoholic drink that didn’t contain alcohol. They have had the longest time to perfect their product, and it shows. There are now excellent non-alcoholic beers that are so good that even seasoned drinkers cannot tell the difference.


Mocktails, too, have been around for a long time – think Virgin Mary. Many see cocktails as a particularly dangerous alcoholic drink, as they often taste like juice, but pack a real punch. The resemblance to fruit juices makes them fairly easy to recreate. After all, juice tastes like juice, too. My own personal favourite is a Cosmopolitan.


Alcohol-free wine and champagne, however, may still need a bit of work. Or perhaps you just need to taste your way through a range of them, until you find one that hits the spot. They’re out there though, and vintners are working hard on perfecting non-alcoholic wines.


Like the brewers, distillers and bartenders, they are well aware of this growing trend and not about to lose out. So, watch this space. Delicious alcohol-free wines are probably just around the corner….fingers crossed!


Take the alcohol-free challenge


Okay, Dry January is behind us, but Sober October is coming up, so why not give it another go? Can you last 4 weeks without alcohol? Here’s how to pass the time:


· Sample interesting-sounding botanicals, alcohol-free wines or beers to find your favourite tipple

· Get your hands on a mocktail book and shake up a storm of guilt-free drinks

· Tick-off your alcohol-free days – you’re not going to want to break the chain

· Measure your waist at the beginning and end

· Keep a mood and sleep journal, rating both on a scale of 1 to 10 each day

· List the advantages of clear-headedness as you discover them

· Feel smug because you’re trendy


Feel free to leave your comments below on this article. You can also book a FREE 20 minute health review call with Aine to see how she can help by clicking https://www.goodfoodnutrition.co.uk/free-consultation

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