How to drink less and still have a life

There runs a school of thought that you don’t need to drink to have fun.

And, well, it’s not totally untrue. But it’s not 100% correct either. We live in a city of bottomless brunches, wonderful wine bars and an amazing collection of homegrown breweries and distilleries of which we should be proud. Next month there’s something called London Cocktail Week. There are wristbands. Clearly, Londoners take their drinking very seriously. And while the city’s long-term teetotalling population may have sussed how to have a coherent conversation with someone absolutely off their dick on craft ale, I generally find myself heading home after an hour or so if everyone but me is on the sauce.

Unfortunately, alcohol is very fattening (and, obviously, deadly if you drink too much). It is also incredibly easy to drink a lot of it. I know this because a few weeks ago I managed to accidentally drink 56 units of alcohol in just six days. I didn’t mean to, it was just the culmination of a boozy poker night, an industry event, two drama-ridden meet-ups with two different sets of girlfriends, and, yeah, alright, a couple of nights in splitting a bottle of wine with Mike over dinner.

Aside from the fact that this is four times the recommended weekly allowance, I was also informed via Drink Aware’s online unit calculator that my ‘binge’ amounted to 3,600 calories – an overeat of more than two days for a woman of my height and weight. No wonder all my clothes appear to have all simultaneously shrunk in the wash.

In a panic, my first reaction was to make ten days worth of vegetable slime soup. Next, I made an appointment with my personal trainer, Matt, who I’d been avoiding since I returned from a high-calorie, high-alcohol trip to Berlin at the beginning of September. Matt’s idea of a banging Friday night is half a kilo of grilled meat and an child-sized glass of beer, so he was naturally appalled when he heard the news, and frogmarched me into the backroom at the gym to have all my fat measured with callipers. (Ironically, I had to race home after my session to accept a delivery I’d order two weeks previously from Naked Wines. The box is still sitting, unopened, under the stairs. The box of shame.)

But how to proceed without being utterly miserable? I didn’t want to give up my social life or my blog, but the idea of gaining any more weight was hideous. My poor liver bore an uncanny resemblance to meatloaf (or Meatloaf, even, he isn’t looking well these days), but I didn’t fancy taking up smoking, and I am too much of a fanny to cultivate a nice slimming cocaine habit. So here’s what I did.

Pick your poison with care

I brought up my conundrum with my blogger buddy, Rosie, who eats out even more often than me but somehow manages to maintain the body of a lissome 22 year old. To help reverse, or at least slow, my ever-expanding backside, she recommended getting back on board with spirits. Her tipple of choice, vodka, soda and lime, contains only 55 calories (compared to a large glass of white wine at around 200..!)

A diet G&T is another good one at around 85 calories, though don’t mug yourself off with the vile ‘Slimline’ Schewepps tonic. You may as well drink battery acid. (I like Fever Tree’s Naturally Light Tonic Water – you can get a crate of 24 bottles delivered from Amazon for less than £1/bottle here.)

Unfortunately for me, wine is one of the most fattening drinks at 600+ calories at bottle, but I’ve recently discovered ‘Skinny’ Prosecco, (£17.99), which I haven’t seen in bars but is absolutely fantastic for a night in. It contains 67 calories a glass (125ml) and no added sugar, but, magically, still has a decent alcohol content of 11%. (Read: this ain’t no Baby Cham.) It tastes a little drier than regular prosecco, but it’s lovely and smooth – good for special occasions and Christmas.


Avoid weekday drinking

Habit can be a friend or a foe in the fight against excess. Although I seldom crave alcohol for the alcohol, it had become normal in our flat to crack open a bottle of wine any night of the week. Since I had my bingo wings professionally assessed by Matt at the gym, I’ve tried to get into the habit of only drinking on weekends and special occasions.

Alternate and hydrate

I try, especially when out, to alternate between hard and soft drinks. This is especially important when it’s warm out or when you’re in some sweatbox nightclub and find yourself drinking quickly just to cool down. Inevitably, there will be people who are dicks about you not drinking, so I like to get the barman to make up a soda water to look like a vodka and lemonade.

Keep a record

In the same way that keeping a food diary helps you to register the calories outside of meals (i.e. the lone ginger biscuit you had with your tea, the handful of crisps you cadged off your office BFF at lunchtime, etc.), keeping count of your units helps to keep your drinking in check. I know, it’s terribly boring, but it’s so easy to underestimate what you’re consuming, hence the horror (and subsequent meltdown) when I totted everything up the other week. Now I’m consciously noticing what I’m drinking, my weekly average is much lower, and I’ve already lost 3lbs. So, if you won’t do it for your liver, at least do it for your wardrobe.

Author: Emily Gibson

Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.