After a festive holiday season full of parties and decadent meals, one of the best changes you can make to establish healthy habits for the new year is to cut down on your alcohol intake.

Reducing or eliminating your alcohol consumption can pay off in many ways:

Lose weight

If you reduce your alcohol consumption, you may lose weight. The average alcoholic beverage can contain about 150 calories, whether it’s wine, beer or a cocktail. Sugary cocktails, such as frozen margaritas, can have double or even triple the number of calories. If you’ve been consuming five drinks per week, that’s 750 calories a week – or 39,000 in a year. Since it takes an extra 3,500 calories to gain a pound, that’s potentially 11 extra pounds of weight gain a year.

Eat less

Multiple studies have found a link between alcohol and greater food consumption. In one such study, women who had two drinks ate 30 percent more food than those who drank just water. Another study found that men consume an extra 168 food calories on days when they drink.

Sleep better

Studies show that drinking even six hours before bedtime (that is, even earlier than most happy hours) can reduce the quality of your sleep. Even a moderate amount of alcohol can make your sleep restless, with more frequent wakeups, especially in the second half of the night. The result? Daytime fatigue and sleepiness.

Reduce your risk for cancer

The National Cancer Institute links alcohol to a higher risk of cancers of the breast, esophagus, colon, mouth and liver. Alcohol changes how your body breaks down and absorbs some of the nutrients that help prevent cancer, including folate, carotenoids and vitamins A, B, C, D and E.

Save money

Even if you cut just a $20 bottle of wine per week, that’s a savings of over $1,000 in a year. Why not invest that money in a gym membership, or sign up for a 5k with a friend?

Get started

If reducing your drinking sounds like a good idea, start by tracking how much you’re actually consuming. Look for obvious ways to limit your consumption, such as limiting your total drinks in a week, drinking more water or meeting friends for a walk rather than a drink.

Your Keck Medicine of USC physician can help you get started. Request an appointment or call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273).

Sources:
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
National Cancer Institute
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
National Institutes of Health
Obesity: A Research Journal