Are You Sober Curious? A Nutritionist Shares Tips on How to Cut Back

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I wouldn’t call myself a big drinker. At best I’d say social drinker suits, but honestly, I’m not even sure if that term is definable these days. The pandemic had many of us situated safely at home and imbibing outside the box. *Insert visions of boxed wine here. Booze delivery services were abundant, the lack of structure made life seem more tolerant of certain behaviors, and any hour could become happy hour with the post-Zoom pop of a cork. Having returned to a somewhat more normal (new normally?) paced life, I’ve certainly mellowed out in the cocktails-before-cocktail-hour category, but it has occurred to me that lately my at-home wine rack is always stacked, and having my bar cart ready for guests is more top of mind than it ever was before. So, I started to look into the sober curious movement and ways to cut back on my alcohol consumption.

It’s made me wonder if booze is on my brain a little too often for my personal comfort. Am I asking friends to join us for dinner but really, we’re mostly looking forward to the drinks? I found myself looking to the beginning of this New Year with goals that exceed my usual cleanse and detox standards. I started to examine all of the “Dry January” goals, memes, gifs, and hashtags on a more personal level. Were these social media initiatives or more of an invitation for me to look inward?

All of this made me sober curious-ish. Now, could this be a reaction to a month of merry ‘tinis and holiday’ing enough in December to be milk-punch-drunk ‘til July? Sure. But even just the fact that the thoughts had started to migrate into my mind made me consider cleaning up my act. In order to make good on my “libation down, level up” resolution, I sat down with health coach and founder of the Healthy + Happy Method, Lauren Sandoval FNTP, to talk about how much alcohol we really should be drinking and why balance is one of the key factors in success with being sober curious. 

Take it away, Lauren…

Photo credit: Joann Pai

Let’s get real: how much alcohol should we really be drinking (max!) each week?

For men, 14 drinks per week, and for women, 7 drinks per week. Ideally, not more than 2 per day. Be sure to compare your pours to a standard pour to make sure you’re getting accurate numbers.

What are some potential health benefits from cutting out alcohol?

Cutting out alcohol can lead to weight loss, improved liver function, reduced anxiety and depression, more stable energy, better digestion, easy periods and fertility, improved immunity, and better food and lifestyle choices. Even cutting back just a little can reduce some of the stress this causes to the body, helping it to heal on its own.

Thoughts on how to develop healthy relationships with alcohol?

I think the first step is awareness. Pay attention to your thoughts and conversations around alcohol. Consider when you feel your best versus when you feel your worst. Create loving boundaries around how much you can safely consume without interfering with your health and life goals. With my clients, we also do food journals and that record allows them to clearly see a correlation between their consumption and feeling worse.

Photo credit: Hannah Haston

What does it mean to be sober curious?

To me, it means exploring your relationship with alcohol instead of an all-or-nothing approach. Being sober curious means that you have the opportunity to find the balance that works for you—there are no hard and fast rules to it.

Do you have tips for how people can reduce their alcohol intake?

There are usually two ways people like to approach change—dive right in or take baby steps. I’d recommend figuring out which kind of person you are and what suits your personality and lifestyle most. For the dive right in people, maybe a Dry January will help you realize how good you feel without it and give you some strict guidelines on how to go about it. While perhaps the baby steps folks need to just drink more water between drinks and stick to no more than two per night. I’d also recommend finding a community to talk about it with. Look for sobriety influencers on Instagram or find a group to join—and take it slow. You don’t have to do it perfectly to see benefits, just be consistent. And don’t self-sabotage when you don’t follow it exactly.

I’d start by just being aware of how your brain operates around alcohol. Most people are pretty disconnected with their body so paying attention to how you think and feel before and after consumption can be pretty eye-opening. Commit to one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage. Take small sips and try to drink slowly. You can also find great alcohol-free alternatives. (More on that below!)

Why is it so beneficial to take a break from alcohol?

A little bit of alcohol can be really beneficial in our lives for stress reduction, antioxidants, pain relief, etc. But too much quickly leads to a whole host of problems. Alcohol can affect everything from your weight and hormones to your mood and gut health. Overconsumption can cause blood sugar imbalances, hormone disruptions, cortisol and stress hormone spikes, liver diseases, as well as affects the gut-brain connection. 

Photo credit: Kristen Kilpatrick Photography

How long should one be without alcohol before they can start seeing results?

Most of my clients feel better within a week. It’s pretty wild how quickly you can feel a difference. The trouble usually lies in keeping up with consistency. But even simply changing some habits with alcohol can offer immediate results. 

How do you stay consistent?

Have a plan on how to refuse when people ask. You could say “I already have one”, “I have to drive”, or simply “No, thank you.” I’d also recommend having a glass in your hand so it doesn’t draw attention—sparkling water with lime in a bucket does it for me. Ultimately it’s up to you how much you care to share. Alcohol is a huge part of our culture so it’s natural to assume there will be comments. Feeling prepared to answer can make things feel less awkward. If you get social anxiety, try a guided meditation or breathing technique on YouTube to help calm your nerves before going to your event.

What do you think about having a ‘mindful drink’ every now and again?

I definitely think you can get to this point, as long as you stay aware that it can be a slippery slope. I don’t believe it has to be all or nothing, you just need to be self-aware enough to know your limits and goals. When you realize the benefits of drinking less it makes it easier to challenge your habits. Equipped with this knowledge you can make smarter choices about how and when to participate.

Photo credit: Kristen Kilpatrick Photography

Fave mocktail recipes and alcohol substitutes?

My favorite mocktail right now is the adrenal creamsicle cocktail with OJ, half & half, cream of tartar, and sea salt. I also like to make virgin White Russians with coconut milk and decaf coffee shaken, then add cinnamon on top.

For alcohol substitutes, I love kombucha, sparkling water with fruit and herbs, and basically anything out of a fancy wine glass.

Speaking of, we hit up the Camille Styles’ editors for a list of their tried-and-true alcohol-free substitutes. Read on for our faves, and tell us what your go-to booze replacements are.

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