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People drinking moderately at a party

How to Drink Moderately

In this post you will understand what is moderate drinking, how to drink alcohol moderately and my top 5 tips on how to cut down your drinking for the long term.  Behaviour change is a process that requires commitment, learning and reflection.  As I introduce you to tried and tested moderation techniques you will be able to cut your consumption painlessly, and really enjoy the process along the way.  These alterations will improve your: health; emotional wellbeing; relationships; career and bank balance.

What is the definition of Moderate Drinking?


Before we jump into how to cut down on alcohol, lets first look at what it means to be a moderate drinker. There is no widely accepted definition of “moderate drinking”, different countries and medical bodies have varying definitions and guidance on the matter.


The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in the United States defines low risk alcohol use as drinking up to two drinks daily for healthy adult men and one drink for healthy adult women. One drink in the United States is defined as 12 fluid ounces (350ml) glass of 5% ABV strength beer or a glass of 5 fluid ounces (150ml) of 12% ABV wine. The NIAA also goes further and considers that anyone exceeding these limits to be at risk of drinking too much alcohol and may lead to a higher chance of developing health related problems in the future.

In 2016 the NHS revised their alcohol advice guidelines after review by the Chief Medical Officers of the UK.  This guidance focussed on updating the alcohol device for regular drinking, single drinking sessions and drinking during pregnancy.  The NHS guidance recommends that in order to keep the health risks from drinking alcohol at a low level you should not drink regularly more than 14 units per week spread evenly over 3 days or more. 

Moderation Management is a non-profit organisation in the harm reduction field, that helps people address the effects of their drinking in friendly and safe . They define a moderate drinker as a person with the following characteristics:

  • Considers an occasional drink to be a small though enjoyable part of life.
  • Has hobbies, interests and other ways to enjoy life that do not involve alcohol.
  • Usually has friends who are moderate drinking or non-drinkers.
  • Usually does not drink longer than an hour or two on any particular occasion.
  • Usually does not exceed the 0.55 percent blood alcohol concentration drinking limit.
  • Usually does not drink faster than one drink per half hour.
  • Feels comfortable with his or her use of alcohol, never drinking in secret or spending much time thinking about drinking or planning to drink.

These guidelines are helpful in allowing us to think about where we want to aim for, in terms of moderation. A moderate drinker is generally someone who enjoys the relaxing and social benefits of an occasional drink or two, but without the negative consequences. Drinking is in proportion with the rest of their life in that it does not dominate and there are many other sources of interest, joy and stimulation.

2 girls enjoying drinking alcohol moderately

What is a unit of alcohol and how is it calculated?


In the context given above, a ‘unit of alcohol’ is calculated by multiplying the total volume of a drink (in ml) by its ABV (measured as a percentage) and dividing the result by 1,000.

e.g. strength (ABV) x volume (ml) ÷ 1,000 = units of alcohol

So for example a typical can of beer (330ml) at 4.7% ABV would be,
4.7 x 330 ÷ 1,000 = 1.55 units

If you don’t want to calculate the formula manually yourself, then there are many handy calculators and apps you can use in order to quickly calculate how many units are in different combinations of strength and size of drinks. Two of my the my favourite calculators are The Unit Calculator on Alcoholchange.org and the Drinkaware App which you can download on your smartphone via the App Store and Google Play.  The Drinkaware App also allows you to track your alcohol consumption over time (via both units and calories for the fitness conscious among us!) and set drinking goals within the app to keep you motivated on your moderate drinking journey.

Unit Guide in alcoholic drinks

Source: alcoholtest.org.uk

Can alcoholics drink moderately?


The term ‘alcoholic’ is not a clinical term, in fact I was a word used since the middle 1800’s to denote a person who is experiencing alcohol issues. The way in which professionals such as psychiatrists and doctors currently make a diagnosis is with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) which now classifies disorders as mild, moderate and severe substance use.


In my professional opinion those upon the continuum without a physical dependence such as mild to moderate use disorder can, with the right tools, skills and support can learn to drink alcohol at safer levels. It is a fantastic opportunity to begin a moderation journey to increased health and wellbeing. In my practice I work with a great many people who fall into the mild to moderate alcohol use disorder spectrum who bring their drinking down to much safer levels on a permanent basis and live much happier and more fulfilling lives.

People drinking moderately at a party

Can you drink moderately with a fatty liver?


The liver is one of the most important body parts in processing alcohol. Your liver is the largest visceral organ in your body. It helps you to digest food, store energy, and eliminate toxins in what you eat and drink with one of the toxins being alcohol. A healthy liver can process about one standard drink (using the US measurement) or 1.75 units (using the UK measurement) per hour.

A fatty liver refers to a build-up of fat in the liver with anything over 5% of the total organ size being defined as a fatty liver. The build-up of fat damages your liver cells and causes inflammation which can lead to an increased risk of more serious conditions such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver disease or even liver cancer.  There are many causes for a fatty liver and the condition is not always alcohol related.

Picture of the causes of a fatty liver

Source: Mountelizabeth.com

The good news is that your liver is the only organ in your body that can regenerate itself by replacing old, damaged cells with new ones.  Currently there is no medication that can reliably treat fatty liver but making certain lifestyle changes may reduce your risks or help you reverse your liver to a healthy state.

My top 5 tips for drinking moderately


So, if you have decided you want to cut down on alcohol then read on as I have compiled a list of my top tips that will help kick start your moderation journey!


Tip 1 – Limit the amount of alcohol you drink on any one occasion

If we follow the guidelines around moderate drinking, then you really should be limiting the amount of alcohol you are willing to drink on any one occasion. You should try to decide on what this limit will be before you start drinking, maybe you will follow the NHS guidelines and not drink more than 4.6 units (just less than 3 cans of 4.7% ABV strength beer we used in the earlier example) or maybe you just want to stick to less – its entirely up to you and what you feel comfortable doing. But ensure that you decide on what this amount is before you start and stick to it!


Tip 2 - When drinking alcohol try to alternate with non-alcohol drinks and/or food

One of the easiest ways to help limit the amount of alcohol you are drinking in anyone one session is to mix in non-alcoholic drinks or food. This will help not only lessen the effects that alcohol may have on you short term but also make the experience more manageable and enjoyable. There are so many alcohol-free beers (typically defined as 0.5% ABV or less), wines and even spirits on the market today more than ever that look and taste very similar to full strength drinks. Not only that more pubs and restaurants now are offering these as alternatives instead of just juice and soft drinks.


Tip 3 - Do a risk assessment of a situation before you drink – can you even be sure you will be able to drink moderately?

Understanding you triggers or what situations, people or feelings might make you drink more than you planned will help you to ensure you will be able to moderate alcohol successfully. You may want to review any situations in advance (if possible) to decide if drinking at certain times/circumstances or with certain people will enable you to stay within your moderation limits. You may just have a feeling about what situations you are able to moderate successfully and some that you won’t be able to. Remember you don’t have to put your moderation journey at risk with an event or situation you aren’t comfortable you will be able to moderate in, if this is the case its best just to decide on a sensible strategy beforehand and stick to it.


Tip 4 - Plan alcohol free days each week and reward yourself for keeping to them!

When I first ask client to plan in alcohol free days in their week after drinking regularly, they are continually worried they won’t be able to at all, especially if they have been drinking a bottle of wine with dinner most nights! You need to see alcohol free nights as a reward for all your hard work and plan in rewards to make you look forward to them every week. Maybe these rewards might include a nice long bath, a special takeaway, your favourite ice-cream or even an alcohol-free dinner with your partner. Whatever it is that is special to you remember to see it as a reward for all the hard work you have been putting in towards your moderating.


Tip 5 – Keep a record and learn from the inevitable slip-up(s)

The time might come that no matter how much work and prior planning you put in that you inevitably slip up one time when you were moderating and ended up drinking too much. Maybe this was just one drink more than you planned or maybe it was many drinks that then lead to an embarrassing moment in front of your friends or work colleagues and then a terrible hangover the next morning. Whatever happened during this slip-up it is important not to write off alcohol moderation as not for you, if you have seen progress to date. If you keep a record of your days you moderated and/or alcohol free days using a diary, spreadsheet or app (like Drinkaware) you will be able to track your progress and see that this one occasion is just a small dot in your journey. While it is great to plan for no slip-ups and to be perfect all the time, but this is not realistic and you have to be honest with yourself that this might occur when moderating – which is fine as long as you learn from each experience and then work out how you can avoid the situation happening again either by updating your drinking rules or better understanding your triggers.

Write down your drinking rules


Where to get more help on your moderation journey


So now you know some of my favourite tips on how to be successful at drinking moderately.   Remember nobody is perfect and gets it right all the time so don’t be afraid to ask for help and get support if you need it.  There are many online support groups such as the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Facebook group can be a useful source of support, members sharing tips, experiences and what moderation means to them personally.  If you feel like you want to read up more about alcohol moderation I have recently listed my list of the best books for alcohol moderation.

Finally maybe you want to work one-to-one with me I am offering new clients a 30 day alcohol moderation plan so they can become the healthiest, happiest and most productive version of themselves in just 30 days. 

If you would like to find out more about my NEW 30-Day Moderation Plan then click the link below.

RELATED BLOG POSTS

Best Books for Alcohol Moderation

Best Books for Alcohol Moderation

Self-help books are a great way to kick start your alcohol moderation journey and an excellent resource to read on your own or in conjunction with hypnotherapy sessions.  The last few years has really bought the mindful drinking and alcohol moderation approach to mainstream attention.  There has been increased focus on alcohol moderation and reduction in the media from documentaries such as 'Drinkers Like Us' by BBC journalist Adrian Chilies to breweries now catering to moderate drinkers by manufacturing a growing number of 0% and 0.5% ABV beers.  I have compiled a list of my top three favourite books to help you begin your alcohol moderation journey.

What to look for in a book to help you moderate your alcohol? 

Like any self-help books there can be both good and great books out there, so what makes a great self-help book for alcohol moderation? Here are a few key points I like to look for when choosing a book to help you moderate your alcohol,

  1.  Has the author taken this journey themselves?
  2. Does the author give you actionable steps to take or tools to use to aid in your alcohol moderation journey?
  3. How has the author gained their experience in this field? Is the author a practising therapist or conducted research on alcohol moderation or reduction?
  4. What do other readers and book critics think of their book and techniques they advocate? 

So, with the above points considered you can find my favourite books for alcohol reduction. Please remember to take notes along the way through each book and try to do any exercises that are detailed in most of them. You might find that a book you end up purchasing doesn't really resonate with you, please don't despair I have read many books on changing behaviours and you will resonate with some authors and their strategies or tools and not others. The key is to not give up on your alcohol moderation goals and try another book from the list below or from the many books that are released each year.

Looking to quit alcohol instead of moderating?  Why not read my review on my Best Books for Quit Drinking Alcohol too.

My best books to help you moderate & cut down your drinking 

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By Frederick Rotgers


The author takes a more scientific approach to explore the effects of alcohol consumption on the reader by using tools to help them discover the severity of their drinking issue. Frederick uses research based-techniques to inform his readers of how drinking problems can develop and if they should pursue a moderation or abstinence strategy, finally providing readers with a definitive set of tools to help them adopt goals that they can tailor to their needs.

The book has detailed exercises where readers make a commitment to be a responsible drinker, examine the negative effects of alcohol use, identify their own triggers as well as learning to take control of their behaviour. I really like this book for its research driven approach in conjunction with practical exercises.

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By Rosamund Dean


Rosamund does an excellent job of articulating a straightforward and realistic approach to moderation, while intertwining humorous personal stories along the way. She has researched and conveys the psychology of drinking and behaviour change for the reader to help them to become what she terms to be a 'mindful drinker'. The author also incorporates expert advice and mini-interviews throughout the book.

I love the fact that she shares smart, practical tips in helping to curb excessive drinking through her own experiences and personal rules that have turned her into a mindful drinker. 

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By Donna Cornett


Author, Donna Cornett gives a candid account of her own struggle with alcohol issues and her frustration at a lack of options for others who face a mild to moderate alcohol use disorder. The book is based on the Drink/Link programme she first developed in 1988. The reader can assess their position on a continuum of alcohol use then apply a common-sense method to lower their intake.


Her approach is practical and is written in an upbeat style covering topics such as managing drinking urges, pacing drinking as well as honing the art of social drinking. Cornett succinctly helps the reader to pinpoint their own ‘drinking personality’ and to break the habitual drinking cycle with motivational tips and tools along the way. Cornett believes that early intervention is crucial to prevent more severe alcohol abuse and to and improve health and wellbeing.

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By Shahroo Izadi


Shahroo has a wealth of experience working as a behavioural change specialist at some of the UK's leading health and social care organisations.  This depth of experience permeates through her knowledge and techniques presented throughout the book.  While the book itself is not strictly targeted towards alcohol moderation, it does instead give the reader a set of tools that can be applied to any bad habits that may require changing.  At the heart of the book's ethos is addressing the problems you have with yourself, asking you to look carefully at yourself, your life and your habits and how you might be able to re-frame them.  


Ultimately the book left me feeling empowered and motivated to make lasting changes in my life across many areas of my life, not just moderating alcohol and forgo the 'quick fixes' that other books might claim.  I believe it is one of the best books out there in creating health habits that you can stick too!

Do you have a favourite self-help book for alcohol moderation or reduction that you found really useful too?  Please leave a comment below and I will try to include it in another future blog post.  

Amazon Associates Disclaimer: I am an Amazon Associate and may earn from qualifying purchases through the links in this post.

10 strategies for mastering alcohol moderation and feeling great

10 Strategies for Mastering Alcohol Moderation and Feeling Great!

Alcohol Bottles in Bar

Would you like to drink less? Maybe you are sick and tired of feeling exhausted by hangovers? Or maybe  anxiety and the ‘beer fear’ is an all too common experience for you. 

Big cities such as London provide ample opportunities to drink with work and busy social lives, combined with the fast pace of life and associated stress that this can bring. Within the UK during 2017, those who drank alcohol a whopping 27% were classed as binge drinkers.

Alcohol is an extremely effective short-term solution, to problems such as anxiety and stress, but in the long run it simply compounds them and makes it worse. Regularly drinking more than what is healthy, can mean that your days are spent in a self-loathing hangover and you get caught in a regular cycle which, left unresolved can end in a tailspin.

For some, over time this all resembles groundhog day and it can feel like alcohol is actually hijacking their life not to mention their liver! The fact is that quitting altogether is not what the majority of people want to do. In some cases this may be the only way forward, however in my experience this isn’t the best approach for most people and a structured approach to lowering their alcohol intake is the perfect solution.

My top ten strategies for moderating alcohol!

1 - Discover your ‘why’ and keep in mind all the benefits

So, to get you started and feeling super motivated write down two lists;

List 1 - All the future benefits of alcohol moderation 

Many clients discover wonderful benefits of alcohol moderation such as losing weight without effort, clearer skin, greater self- confidence, more success in their careers and deeper more meaningful relationships with others. Some people discover that they actually prefer to socialise without alcohol in many social situations. Other benefits include the fact that you can still enjoy alcohol without the numerous drawbacks, enjoy improved health, sleep and an increased ability to eat healthily without alcohol playing havoc with your blood sugar.

List 2 -  Ideas of other things you would like to do more of in life

It might be planning that trip you have always wanted to go on, taking a photography course or getting into fantastic shape through sport or exercise. It can be more low key such as having more time for yourself to practice self- care. This technique lets you take an element away that used to be your focus -alcohol- and add something in that is greatly enjoyable and rewarding. This makes the process feel less like a punishment and more like reclaiming your life. 

Man writing a list on a notepad

2 - Set goals around drinking limits

Many clients aim for the recommended 14 units per week, as advocated by Drinkaware and feel a great deal better for it. Spacing them over three or more days is important too. Writing down your goals down means you are more likely to be able to change your behaviour successfully, which neuroscience research has shown. You can also use your written goals as a bench mark to see how you are progressing over time. 

Many people find that they adjust their goals at some point on their moderation journey as new information and experiences come to light. Frequently my clients actually find that the less they drink, then the less they actually want to drink so correspondingly reduce their limits. The reason being is that they start to fill their lives with other non- drink related activities and new relationships with those who are not heavy drinkers as a result. Their interests then broaden and alcohol takes a less significant role in their lives.

3 - Decide on ‘Drinking rules’

You may decide to add in personal ‘rules’ about only drinking at certain times/circumstances or with certain people to help you stay within your limits. You may just have a feeling about what situations you are able to moderate successfully. When you mentally rehearse future situations you have three options;

  • Feeling confident I can safely moderate in this situation
  • One in which you should avoid drinking or apply extra caution
  • Avoid the situation completely

I had a client who realised, if it was a longer event such as a wedding (where he had previously over indulged) it was simply better to stick to soft drinks.

4 - Track your progress

Use a diary/spreadsheet/wall planner/app to track your progress and you will be surprised how pleasing and motivating it is to complete week’s clean record of moderation. You might also see patterns emerging if you do have any slips which might inform you of possible triggers that you can address. Oddly enough, the thought of having to record a mishap on your tracker may even keep you from accepting that extra drink on some occasion. You can also use the Drinkaware app to calculate units in particular drinks and the best thin is its free and really easy to use!

5 - Get support

It’s a totally personal choice as to who you tell about your moderation goals. Choose your support network carefully and remember that talking about your drinking goals may bring up emotions for others around their own drinking behaviour. Others may seek to minimise the situation in order to keep you as their drinking buddy!

Move towards spending your time with supportive, non-judgmental people that make you feel good. If you feel that there are people in your life that drain you, then you may wish to try an emotional shielding technique to enhance and protect your self- esteem. One of my clients felt uneasy and unsupported around her mother who often judged rather than supported her effort’s so she employed this simple technique to protect herself.

Online groups such as the Club Soda Mindful Drinking Facebook group can be a useful source of support, members sharing tips, experiences and what moderation means to them personally.  Club Soda also organise events such as  mindful drinking festivals and informal lunches around the UK. Moderation management is another international organisation that has online tools, resources as well as meetings for those looking to maintain their healthier lifestyle.

Finally another excellent support resource for me has been reading books on alcohol moderation and abstinence.  I have compiled a list of my top 3 books for alcohol moderation as well as my Best Books to help you Quit Alcohol.

6 - Alcohol free days

As you learn to moderate you are likely to have more alcohol free days. Plan ahead for some enjoyable and/ or relaxing activities to enjoy. A nice long bath, cooking a really nice dinner or going for a massage or trip to the cinema. I’m sure you can think of many more! You will create a space unclouded by alcohol to further develop your resolution for a brand-new lifestyle, to clarify any drinking ground rules and control strategies and keep them firmly in mind.

Furthermore, you will start to tune in to the positive experiences in life that don’t involve alcohol and this will give alcohol a smaller role in your psyche. You will also learn to say no to alcohol which further strengthens your resolve. You will also witness how people actually act whilst over drinking. And wonderfully, abstaining restores your sensitivity so that less is enough and you get the relaxation and enjoyment from smaller quantities.

7 - Stop Judging yourself

Your past is your past so leave it where it belongs! Learning to deal with life is a learning curve and we all have the right to move on. Furthermore the habit of shaming yourself for past decisions might be what is making you want to drink in the first place. When you decide that you are worthy, loveable and enough despite your mistakes it gets a lot easier to moderate. By not adding additional shame into your life which makes many want to buffer their emotions in the first instance. 

You can raise your self -esteem by using affirmations speaking them aloud or writing a positive statement somewhere that you can see it every day. An example such as ‘I am feeling stronger and more confident everyday in my choices around alcohol’ or ‘I truly accept and honour my feelings’.  

8 - Managing Triggers

An important step is to get a clear understanding of the situations that lead you to over drink. For the majority of clients there is a clear pattern. Factors include times of day, particular people, days of the week, places, activities, money issues, your physical state, relations with other, life-events and particular feeling states. Consider whether your pattern is generally for fun or to relieve stress or bad feelings. Addiction Psychologist Dr Jeremy Frank advocates developing healthy coping strategies instead of drinking on negative emotion states which will often lead individuals to use alcohol as an emotional crutch. 

Also pay attention to the people in your life who make you feel good, happy, excited and motivated about your decision, and conversely about those who make you feel uncomfortable, drained, angry or triggered. Exercise extreme caution with those people, you have to put your emotional needs to the forefront.

9 - Plan to handle urges

Having a psychological urge to drink at certain times is completely normal. If and when this happens you can reconnect with your ‘why’ and remind yourself your reasons for changing, you can even carry them with you on paper or store them in your phone. Or perhaps talk it through with someone you trust. Alternatively, distraction can work very well such as a physical exercise or hobby.

The concept of ‘Surfing the Urge’ was developed by the late Alan Marlett, Professor of psychology at the addictive  Behaviour Research Centre at the University of Washington. He suggested that it’s important to remember that all cravings pass if you accept them and ride it out, safe in the knowledge that it will soon crest like a wave and pass, making you stronger for the future!

Man surfing on wave

10 - Get back on track after a slip up

Slips are very common, especially in the early phase of learning to moderate your drinking but there are many ways to get back on track. Remember that new and positive habits can take time to get fully established meaning old habits die hard! Furthermore Marlett suggested that ‘black and white thinking’ can be harmful in behaviour change efforts. 'Don’t say, ‘I can’t do it.’ People make mistakes, it’s how you react to the situation that matters. If you keep working at it, you’ll get better over time. That’s what the research shows.

Be proactive, slips can be stressful but also great learning tools. Try and figure out what didn’t go right and plan a corrective action. If you think that a slip happened because you broke one of your rules then perhaps you have to be more alert to that type of situation in the future. Alternatively if the slip uncovers a trigger that you haven’t uncovered before then maybe you need a new rule to deal with that particular trigger.

How can hypnotherapy and hypnosis help with alcohol moderation?

With the aid of hypnotherapy, I teach my clients how to instill a beneficial positive outlook relating to moderate drinking. It works at the subconscious level within your mind, to ensure that alcohol becomes less and less important in your life and increase your ability to think long term about developing a good relationship with alcohol. One to one sessions also provide the space and time to discuss issues around drinking that are personal and specific to the individual. Many of my clients see a dramatic improvement in relation to drinking in a short space of time.

I can reassure you that drinking is a habit you can change so you can enjoy life much more.  There is growing support for the use of moderation programs that can be very effective for a large proportion of problem drinkers. The techniques are based on solid scientific evidence of moderation techniques that work, together with my personal and professional experience.