What’s Your Best Advice for Drinking Less (Without Losing Your Social Life)?

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Sara Kate Gillingham)

It’s a new year, and while it feels like winter just hit the Midwest, I have a fear. At some point, poncho season will end. No longer will I get away with a shapeless cape and sweatpants (I mean, um, leggings) to cover that holiday weight. I’m not much of a dieter (I love food too much), and I tried the gym thing last year, but we all know what happened there.

The solution? Cut back on booze.

I’ve seen the results. A few weeks ago, at dinner with a pregnant friend, I pointed out that despite growing a child, she seemed to have lost weight. I asked her about it, and she said, “It’s because I’m not drinking a bottle of wine every night.” Hyperbole aside, I thought, I can do that. Avoiding unnecessary booze can help me endure non-poncho season without having to try weird diets or face my (highly disappointed in me) personal trainer.

So far this year, I’ve started with a simple question to myself when presented with an opportunity to enjoy a glass or wine or beer: Do I want the alcohol? Thus far, the answer has been no. Pretty uncomplicated. Usually, when I choose to take in those extra empty calories, I’m not actually that interested in having a drink. It’s just easy — just there.

Here’s where it gets complicated.

At home, I’ve replaced a nightcap with enormous slices of Costco sheet cake (from the freezer), and/or bags of leftover Christmas-colored M&Ms. It’s not booze, right? (I’ve yet to google an M&M vs. IPA calorie comparison.) Those calories aren’t exactly going away, and the only thing that’s going down with the alcohol-for-sugar swap is the frequency of my hilarious tweets.

And then there’s evening socializing and networking. (The former is necessary for my mental health, the latter, for my work and volunteer gigs.) I operate in an ever-present “let’s grab a beer” culture. A gal can only have so many coffee dates — and I’m not one for “let’s chat on the golf green.”

So tell me, fellow January cutter-backers: How do you do it? How do avoid all empty calories, and not just the fermented kind? And how do you bypass booze without becoming a recluse?