This article is in reference to low to moderate drinking. If you are concerned about your alcohol intake, please seek advice and support from a healthcare professional or visit for more information.

I’m always interested to know what prompts anyone to make dietary decisions and over the last couple of weeks I’ve spoken to several different people who told me they had recently given up alcohol. They had several things in common:

  • all male (but in the age range of 35-70)
  • they drank moderately or occasionally to excess but not “problematically”
  • they stopped “cold turkey”
  • they weren’t too bothered about drinking alcohol-free alternatives instead
  • none of them missed it – at all!

Weight loss and potential health issues were a driving factor for some; not suffering with hangovers was another.

I can redress the gender balance a little here by declaring my own almost-alcohol-free status. It wasn’t an active decision to drink less, and I didn’t really drink very often anyway (I think I peaked at 17, sorry Mum, blame the rugby club).

But in the last few years, even before I became a nutrition coach, alcohol has just lost its appeal. I find it physically difficult to swallow the red wine I used to enjoy, and a couple of sips of beer goes straight to my head (I’m a very cheap date). I can still share a glass of champagne but generally I’m as happy with a sexy tonic and ice as I used to be with a generous dash of Bombay Sapphire. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss how that first gulp of an evening makes you relax your shoulders and go “aaaaahhhhhh”, but I can always have a go at someone else’s drink if that’s all I’m after.

Now, back to those chaps…

They reported many of the things I would have expected: clearer head, being more “present” with family, getting weekends back, spending less money. And also something more surprising – the response of other people.

Picture the scene:

“Can I get you a drink, Steve?”

“Thanks, mate. A lime and soda, please”

“What? Why?”

“I’m not drinking alcohol at the moment, so a soft drink would be great, thank you”

“Really? No, go on, just have one”

“No thanks, I’m fine with the lime and soda”

“Don’t make me drink alone! / Why are you being such a p***y? / But you always like a drink! / What’s the point of coming to the pub, then? / When did you get so boring?”

If you thought you’d left peer pressure behind at secondary school, try stopping drinking and see how certain people react. As one of the guys I spoke to said, people wouldn’t react in the same way if you said you’d given up smoking: “Go on, just one, look they’re really nice, I’ll buy it for you, we’re all doing it, you don’t want to be left out, do you?”

So why does a grown adult making a personal choice about their health or habits face a less-than-supportive response from some quarters?

It might be a worry about changes to the status quo: if Steve doesn’t drink, will that change how we hang out together, or how fun he is? What does that mean for our trips to the football or our boozy lunches?

Maybe it causes the drinkers to look at their own habits, which might make them a bit uncomfortable. Or perhaps they feel you’re judging them, suddenly disapproving of something you used to do all the time. Both of these say more about the drinker than the abstainer, and hopefully wouldn’t be enough to sway the newly alcohol-free from their chosen path.

So what to do if you fancy giving alcohol-free a go?

Firstly, this doesn’t have to be hardcore, or forever! Things like not drinking in the week, or not drinking for a couple of weeks are enough to make a difference to how you feel. You might want to carry on for longer after that, or pop the nearest cork as soon as possible, it’s all up to you.

Secondly, be clear on why you are doing it, even if it’s just to see what it’s like. It’s easier to stick to something if you know why it’s important to you.

Then, stand firm. Notice how people react but remember that your choices are yours alone and it affects no-one else but you if your drink is 13%, 5% or 0% alcohol.

Find a soft drink that you like. Coke Zero, fancy tonic water with ice, alcohol-free beer, wine or spirits (there are some great ones out there), the choice is better than ever, so you won’t be stuck with J2O all night.

Enjoy! You’ll appreciate the benefits almost immediately, and if you can cope with the FOMO, you’ll still have a good time and be the smugly perky one the next morning.