My journey to drinking less alcohol
Sharing a bit about my journey to drinking less alcohol and tips for reducing your alcohol intake if that’s one of your goals.
Hi friends! How’s the week going so far? I hope you’re having a great morning so far! I’m here working on content for our 6-week group – ALL of the info will be posted here next Tuesday, so mark your calendars!
For today’s post, I wanted to chat a bit about alcohol and some of the things I’ve done to reduce my alcohol intake over time.
My journey to drinking less alcohol
Let’s take a little walk into the past and my history with alcohol:
– I’ve never really been someone to *overdo* it on alcohol. While I’ve definitely had my moments (in college mostly lol) of overdoing it, I never blacked out or did things i would later regret because of impaired decision-making abilities, thank goodness. While I’ve only drank what I consider to be too much on a few occasions, I frequently had 1-2 glasses of wine or cocktails throughout the week.
– I learned that “too much” means different things for different people. While I wasn’t getting tipsy constantly, there were times (years?) that I had some type of wine or cocktail every.single.day.
– When we lived in San Diego, it was not uncommon for us to drink a bottle of wine every night. While it felt completely normal and like a part of life, I realized that it was too much and wanted to cut back. (PS drinking a bottle every night gets expensive, too!)
(Caro approves of my decision to cut back. )
Some of the main reasons why I chose to reduce my alcohol intake:
– Every.time I drank more than one cocktail or one glass of wine, I slept terribly and woke up feeling exhausted the next morning. It really sucks to start your day on such a low-energy note, especially when you’re chasing after kids all day. I realized that I felt so much better in the morning when I skipped wine the night before.
– I realized that it became a habit more than an enjoyment or pleasure. Drinking wine became something I did each day, not something I truly enjoyed. Like any habit, it took a while to break, and it was worth it.
– For health. I had a gallbladder scare a few years ago and turns out that your liver and gallbladder (BFFs) hate alcohol. It was a good wake-up call to monitor my intake and try to reduce it. Your body views alcohol as poison and will pause other processes in order to try to eliminate the toxin. It processes alcohol entirely differently than food.
Alcohol inhibits deep sleep, as your body works to process the alcohol as you sleep. It increases your temperature and resting heart rate, and also affects your insulin sensitivity. Wearing my Oura ring and the Nutrisense CGM have provided valuable insight as to how alcohol (especially after 7-8pm) affects my body.
– For body composition reasons. When I reduced my alcohol intake (in addition to some nutrition changes I’ve made over time), I noticed a difference in body composition. I felt less bloated and puffy when I woke up, and also like I could finally see some of the muscle I’d been trying to build.
What about social drinking?
This was a huge contributor to regular cocktails, and also as an introvert, I LIKE the warm and fuzzy feeling from a glass of wine as I chat with people I don’t know very well. I feel like it absolutely takes off the edge, and makes it easier for me to engage with everyone in a social setting.
Honestly, I had to get over it.
I had to tell myself I didn’t *need* alcohol to chat with new friends at parties, and it’s true. I don’t need it to feel comfortable in social situations or to have a good time.
I also wondered if anyone would say anything when I chose water instead of a cocktail, and no one has said a word. At the Pilot’s squadron Christmas party, I drank water with a lemon and no one cared. There are other ways that I’ve worked on my social anxiety, especially with meditation, hanging out with smaller groups of people, and a little CBD here and there.
Did I quit alcohol entirely?
No! I still love a margarita or a glass of wine 1-2 times a week, but that’s it. Some weeks I have zero alcohol, and some weeks I have one drink 1-2 nights per week, fully knowing that I won’t sleep as well or have as much energy in the am. I’ve just worked to reduce my intake over time and I feel like dancing in the middle (instead an all or nothing mentality) has worked well for me.
Tips for reducing alcohol intake:
Here are some of the tips that have helped me! Please know that I’m not certified in ANYTHING related to this and I’m just sharing my experience. If you’re struggling with alcoholism, please please get the help and support that you deserve. There are lots of resources here.
– Drink something else that you enjoy. Kombucha and hot herbal tea are lovely substitutes. I also loooooooove the Organifi Gold or Harmony (use the code FITNESSISTA) mixed with warm almond milk, a big glass of water (I aim for around 100 oz per day), LMNT electrolytes, or a giant smoothie.
– Try a mocktail. A bartender can make a lovely mocktail if you tell them what flavor notes you enjoy or how sweet you’d like it to be. There are also so many versions you can purchase at grocery stores and online options for alcohol-free wine and spirits (even though I have yet to try any of these).
– Drink half. Instead of having a full glass, try drinking half instead. I’ll order wine sometimes when we go to restaurants, and will only drink a third or so of it (and know it doesn’t go to waste because the Pilot will finish it instead of having a second drink).
– Reduce intake over time. Like with anything, full deprivation can backfire and lead to overindulgence later. It was helpful for me to be mindful and gradually reduce my intake. I decreased the days I had alcohol each week until eventually I got down to 1-2. Now when I have it, I make sure to take my time and enjoy it.
So tell me, friends: how often do you drink alcohol? What’s your very favorite drink?
Hope you have a wonderful morning and I’ll see ya tomorrow with a recipe!
Thanks for posting about this topic. I feel like I’ve fallen into the drinking habit instead of really enjoying it. As a result I sleep terrible and am lethargic the next day. Not to mention it has halted my fitness goals. This post is the inspiration I need to really dial it back.
Hi Gina – I agree with Kristin – so appreciative of you for raising this topic! I quit drinking (for good) last year and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I lost 30 pounds, now love the morning and morning workouts and am seeing huge results in terms of my fitness, muscle tone, anxiety, mood…. I know completely giving it up is not what everyone needs or wants to do – but anyone who is thinking about cutting back or quitting should know that life can be just as fun – if not more – without alcohol. Thanks Gina – love your blog and all the work you do in the wellness world:)
I did a dry May last year. It had become a nightly habit and I just didn’t feel my best. Felt so good after those 30 days I kept going. I’ll be one year AF May 1st. I don’t think I’ll be AF forever but it’s so eye opening living without it. Highly recommend reading This Naked Mind.
Longtime reader moved to comment: I want to push back a bit on your use of the phrase ‘got myself into a compromising situation.’ Without making any assumptions about what you meant by that, I want to point out that such language is often used to blame victims (usually women) for assaults when their ability to consent is compromised or completely absent. That language can perpetuate the very harmful idea that victims (again, usually women, though not exclusively) are responsible for sexual assault or other violence, rather placing responsibility with perpetrators to secure affirmative consent only where it can be freely given. Again, I’m not making any assumptions about what you meant to say, and I encourage you to consider eliminating or clarifying your phrasing to be clear about what you meant.
oh my gosh – not at ALL what i meant. i meant doing *silly* things i would later regret because my decision-making ability was impaired. i can update that right now.
I want to echo those who have thanked you for writing about this. I, too, have fallen into the routine of having a drink or two every night or couple of nights, and it’s a habit I’m desperately trying to break. Knowing that others are struggling or have struggled with this helps, as do your tips. <3
i’m happy to hear it was helpful for you <3
I was in the same situation… drinking a glass or two of wine every night. It really started when schools were shut down and I felt like I needed to decompress at the end of the day. It hit me one day what I was doing to my body and I basically went cold turkey. I maybe have a drink a week; I feel better, sleep better, am more productive in the evening and have more money! Thanks for sharing in a time when moms basically feel like they need to drink to ‘get through’ motherhood.
i got really into wine again when schools shut down, too. i drowned my sorrows a bit. you’re totally right, though – i feel better and am a more productive human (with more money to spend) when i’m not sharing a bottle every night
I’m so glad you wrote about this! I was definitely in a similar situation. For me it began in 2020 (probably a lot like everyone else) and it continued. Every year I have always done no alcohol between Halloween and Thanksgiving because I feel like it’s a good reminder of how good I feel without it leading up to the holiday festivities. This year I did dry January and then got *ovid so it’s been easy. All this to say, it’s really made me re-examine my relationship with alcohol and why I mostly use it as a crutch. I’m sure I’ll drink again soon but I feel like I’ll be more aware now.
Thanks for sharing this! I always felt more fun when I have a glass of wine (or 2) but sleep terribly after, which with 3 kids means a less than happy next day. If I have a few drinks to reduce my anxiety of making small talk, it’s replaced by anxiety about what can slip out of my mouth if I’m feeling a little tipsy lol.
I still love a glass of wine with dinner a few times a week but am trying not to make it my crutch at social events any longer ❤️
amen to all of this!
Love this post – I think as society we kind of label drinking habits as alcoholism, fine, or completely sober. Since alcohol does effect health, it makes sense to look at it as one might other treats and find a balance if you want to keep it in your life. Thanks for sharing how you navigate this balance and have found a path that works for you!
you’re absolutely right – we never really hear about the in-between. thank you!
It’s so refreshing to see people discussing the way alcohol is used as a social lubricant. That’s what I did for years and years. I’ve dealt with social anxiety for as long as I can remember and alcohol was a way of dealing with that. The result was more relaxed social interactions but the anxiety just presented itself in different ways…without me really realizing. My therapist urged me to give up alcohol for 6 months and to use other forms of anxiety reduction. I was amazed at the results. No more panic attacks, evening anxiety, Sunday scaries…the alcohol was like pouring gasoline on my anxiety and lighting a match. So almost 4 years later, I’m alcohol free. And the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. Thank you for being so honest about such a touchy subject!
wowwww that is amazing to hear and very inspiring. i agree that i feel so much more balanced and happy when i’m not drinking consistently. it’s worth it <3
and congrats on 4 years - that's huge!
I appreciate your honesty in this post. I did my first Whole30 last fall, and was surprised what a difference eliminating alcohol made for me. But of course, once the holidays rolled around, I got back into the habit of it. I still struggle with wanting to drink socially and feeling weird not ordering alcohol in social settings (my own issues to work on).
Also, I noticed you mentioned the LMNT electrolytes. I am starting to see those more and more. I’ve read a little bit about them and they seem high in salt and designed for people who are working out heavily. I’d love more info from you at some point to understand what they are and how/when they should be used. And on that note, are there any water flavor packets that are not nutritional bombs? I drink a lot of water, but would love to put some flavor in from time to time. Thank you!
Very seasoned Whole 30-er here 🙂 alcohol was always the hardest to give up but always the best to give up for each and every round. The results in doing so are just awesome!
yes, it really does make a huge difference!
i asked mia to do a full post on electrolytes, so that will be up soon, but many people actually have mineral imbalances and are low in salt. typically sugar is the problem, not salt (even though doctors will say the avoid all salt). if you’re eating a whole foods diet, you may actually be low in salt and the nutrients. it can help with a lot of different things, like thyroid function. (of course, if you have a specific health concern and your dr said to monitor salt, listen to your doctor). i have half an LMNT in my water bottle every day (more if i do sauna, a super hard workout or hot yoga) and love it.
i haven’t found any other water packets i truly love with ingredients i’d want to drink every day
Loved this post – thank you for your honesty! I can so relate. I have a comically low alcohol tolerance and get epic hangovers from drinking amounts that wouldn’t even intoxicate some people. At the same time, I have major social anxiety and get carried away when drinking in social settings. It’s bad news bears all the way around, and better for me to not drink at all at parties. I end up drinking too fast just to have something to do with my hands and my mouth. After one drink, there’s about a 10 minute window where I’m charming and hilarious, then the 2nd drink hits, I cross the rubicon, and become insufferable. Or revert back to being insufferable. One of those things.
the last part of your comment made me lol. i feel the same way!
Great post! I’ve never struggled with drinking daily, but tend to overdo it on weekends or at social events. I hate the way it makes me feel the next day and I definitely don’t sleep well. Drinking is very common with my family and friends and things seem to be planned around alcohol.
I’ve done dry January a few times and ‘cut back’ from time to time, just as a reset. Sadly, I continually get asked why I’m not drinking, why I would want to not drink for a month, etc. (like it was unheard of). It was uncomfortable at first, but I find that says more about them than about me. I was once even asked why I was there if not to drink!? Um, because I like watching football with friends! I don’t need to drink for that.
Like you, I found I was drinking to feel more comfortable in social settings. But I actually like being sober at events now! I still drink alcohol, I just have a better balance with it now (for me).
amen to all of this – i feel the exact same way
I feel like I could’ve written this post myself! I, too, have cut wayyy back on alcohol over the last, say, 6 months or so. I am 37, almost 38, and I feel like some of it is definitely the aspect of getting older. My body just can’t handle it that well anymore and I really just got sick of feeling terrible the next morning – even after only one glass of wine the night before! It was a gradual change, but eventually I started feeling really good without it and now only indulge maybe 1 night a week – but often times every 2 (sometimes 3!) weeks or so. When we go out to dinner (seldomly) I will have a couple drinks. But at home, it’s really just occasionally now. Also, much like you I am somewhat of an introvert and have some social anxiety. I know exactly what you mean by that “warm fuzzy” feeling and I also love that feeling haha.. but I am learning to socialize and basically live life without relying on the alcohol now though – and feel so much better!
it’s so true! it can be hard to cut back when you use it like a crutch in social situations, but definitely worth it. also we are the exact same age and my body just doesn’t handle it nearly as well as it used to
Yeeesss- I knew there had to be a link between why I’d have a glass of wine and feel like my heart was RACING all night long. worst feeling ever!! <3
yes! it happened to me last night and i was like NOT worth it