Alcohol was my go-to treat. Now I’m learning new habits

Kay | November 2018 | 7 minutes

I run my own small PR consultancy promoting health. I’ve never smoked and eat well. I nurture my health so well that I should get Brownie badges for it. Yet despite my job, I had always suspected that my drinking habit was one I needed to break.

"I’d long been the classic sociable woman with a well-stocked wine cabinet and a weekend G&T pattern. A glass or two of wine was my prize for any achievement.

"There was the consolation bottle of wine for staff when business was dire. Then the hours in cosy pubs with hub and chums for whom this was always the place – never the coffee-shop or tea-room.

"When told to abstain for medical reasons, I could do it. But drinking had become a habit and when I did drink, I didn’t always know when to stop.

"Yet I have turned this around. Health and the need to lose weight triggered my change, and I now only drink alcohol once a week. I’ve learned to take charge of what I drink, when.

"The trigger was being told that I had fat in my liver. I’d put on a lot of weight, mostly around my tum, during successful breast cancer treatment which saw me taking steroids and stopping HRT – classic factors in weight-gain. My GP said liver fat was common and reversible but suggested I stop drinking or cut down.

"It wasn’t good news and having survived cancer I thought, “What next?”

"Yet, needs must, so I got planning. My liver needed less fat, so I had to burn fat overall. Discovering that obesity could cause secondary cancer was another trigger. I’d managed to abstain during chemo, so hoped I could do it again.

"Four months on, I’d reduced alcohol, lost 10% weight and fitted into old clothes again.

"Alcohol is never just about alcohol. For me, yes it was a treat, but it had also become a social ritual and a habit. It felt like part of being a sophisticated adult."

"Alcohol is never just about alcohol. For me, yes it was a treat, but it had also become a social ritual and a habit. It felt like part of being a sophisticated adult. So when it came to moderating, I only coped by working out my labyrinthine psychology and by creating seven new habits:

  1. Looking forward to alcohol as a Saturday or Sunday treat.
  2. Using an app to monitor my intake and get lots of affirmation for my choice!
  3. Weighing myself daily and recording steady weight-loss in another app.
  4. Filling my fridge with alcohol-free ready-mixed G&T drinks.
  5. Discovering sparking and soda waters and, over time, re-educating my palate to love them with freshly-squeezed lime or lemon.
  6. Drinking lime-sparkling-water at social gatherings (it looks and tastes a bit like G&T).
  7. Appealing to bar-staff for something lovely and alcohol-free. (It inspires them to be creative, and most are very happy to help.)

"For a woman of habit who loves her treats, it has really worked, and I honestly believe that I can keep this up for life. I like learning new skills, and this is my latest."

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