The weeks leading up to Christmas tend to be jam-packed, with family catch-ups, work gatherings and friend reunions – many of which include a couple of drinks. However, overindulging in too much alcohol can be hugely detrimental to your health.
“Binge drinking can also have a catastrophic impact on your mental wellbeing.
“As alcohol is a depressant it can leave you feeling low and feel symptoms of anxiety. Heavy alcohol consumption can also make antidepressants less effective, so feelings of low mood can worsen.”
But cutting down on alcohol doesn’t have to mean missing out on festive celebrations.
Instead, there are a number of ways you can enjoy Christmas fun without overdoing it on the alcohol.
Mr Preston said: “Cutting back alcohol intake doesn’t have to mean giving up your social life, yet managing sobriety in a social setting especially during the festive season can be quite a challenge.
“If you have decided to cut back on alcohol, educating yourself on alcoholism and creating a plan to drink in moderation will help you maintain your personal mental and physical health.”
Here are the expert’s top five ways you can cut down on alcohol this Christmas.
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Incorporate alcohol-free days into your schedule
Drinking every night of the week is likely to leave you feeling rough, but it can also be doing major damage to your internal organs.
This is why it is important to give your body time to recover and flush out toxins.
Mr Preston said: “Throughout Christmas and New Year you’ll be exposed to a lot of toxic drinking culture that could leave you feeling inactive and in a low mood.
“The best way to stay social while reducing your alcohol consumption is by incorporating alcohol-free days, doing this will give your body the rest it needs and flush out the harmful toxins from alcohol.”
Monitoring how much alcohol is in your drinks can be a good way of ensuring you are following the Chief Medical Officer’s medical recommendations for drinking limits.
In the UK, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis, which should be spread out over multiple days.
The expert added: “This will allow you to still enjoy alcohol without the risks associated with binge drinking.”
Avoid “preloading” on booze
Mr Preston explained: “‘Preloading’ is a big part of British drinking culture.
“This is the term coined to describe drinking alcohol at home in preparation for a night out, often involving drinking games and mixing drinks.”
However, starting your night off with a few drinks at home can lead to a steep decline into binge drinking.
Mr Preston said: “Instead make sure that you are well-rested, well-hydrated and have eaten a decent meal in preparation.
“You are way more likely to be able to keep track of the amount of alcohol you consume this way.”
Eat a substantial meal before you go out
Having a decent meal before you start drinking is not only a good way of ensuring you don’t get too drunk but can also deter you from having too many drinks.
Mr Preston explained: “Eating a substantial meal before drinking will help to slow down the absorption of alcohol, you will also be inclined to drink less if your stomach is already full.
“Alcoholic drinks, in particular, wine and spirits are very acidic and can cause harm to your stomach’s lining when consumed on an empty stomach or in large amounts.”
Don’t fall for peer pressure
Around Christmas time, it can feel like everyone is offering you a glass of bubbly or a special cocktail.
However, according to Mr Preston, it is more than okay to say no.
He explained: “Even when you are confident in your decision to reduce your alcohol consumption, it can be hard to resist peer pressure from friends and family.
“While Christmas is a time for celebration, this doesn’t always have to be heavily reliant on alcohol. There are other ways you enjoy the festive season minus alcohol.”
Admittedly, there may be times when it is hard to turn down a drink though.
For these occasions, the expert suggests having a non-alcoholic beverage to hand.
He said: “Have a non-alcoholic bottled drink like soda with you during Christmas events.
“Others will be less likely to pressure you into drinking if you’re already drinking something. Then, if they often ask you something you can say that you are already covered.”
There is also the option of being the designated driver, in which case everyone will understand you simply cannot have a drink.
Mr Preston said: “If you feel like the pressure to drink will be too much, offer to be the designated driver.
“But no matter how tempting it may be, never drink and drive, and remember that If you have consumed alcohol the night before, remember that it takes the liver on average an hour to process one unit of alcohol.”
Employ a BYOB rule on gatherings at home
In the past, you have probably stocked up on large amounts of alcohol in preparation for the seasons’ festivities, with the intention of having a selection of different beverages for each guest.
However, according to Mr Preston, this can bring the added risk of over-drinking at home.
Instead, he suggests asking friends and family to bring their own drinks.
He added: “Additionally, purchase a small selection of drinks and a selection of non-alcoholic drinks you have an alternative with.”
Three non-alcoholic drink swaps to try this Christmas
Swap Prosecco for Nozeco: A carbonated flavoured drink based on de-alcoholised wine. The drink is described as having “intense fruity notes” along with hints of elderflower and white grapes.
Swap spirits for Seedlip: Seedlip is a range of non-alcoholic herbal drinks which can be used in cocktails in a similar way some as spirits such as gin or vodka. There are three Seedlip spirits, each with its own unique flavour profiles ranging from orange and spice to hints of floral.
Swap beer for a non-alcoholic version: Plenty of well-known brands of beer have also introduced a non-alcoholic version of their most-loved brews. Brands offering no and low alcohol beers include Heineken, Peroni, Brew Dog and Stella Artois.