Its easy to shrug off a nightly glass with dinner or even happy hour with friends as a moderate indulgence.

If youre not an alcoholic, whats the problem with a few drinks?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of ustend to drink more than we realize.

A few drinks can easily surpass the window for moderate alcohol consumption, leading to formidable health outcomes, including an increased risk of colon and breast cancer, not to mention the most obvious side-effect: unnecessary weight gain, which can then spur hypertension, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Are you really drinking moderately?

Its tempting to consider your drinking habits as moderate, especially when the only other alternative seems to carry the stigma of alcohol abuse.

When your doctor asks how often you consume alcohol and you answer a few times a week, how many drinks is it, really?

And even if your number of drinks is within the acceptable range for moderate alcohol consumption (8 drinks per week for women, 15 for men), are you sure that what youre serving yourself is actually a single serving?

Research has shown that the majority of us consistently overpour, unintentionally doling out more than a serving size: its hard to eyeball a single serving, especially with goblet-sized wine glasses.

A single serving of beer is 12 fl oz or 1can, 1 bottle or 1.5 cups, while a single serving of wine is 5 fl oz, thats just over cup, and hard alcohol or spirits 1.5 fl oz which is 1 small shot glass or 3 tbsp.

Whether its a New Years Resolution, budgetary issue, or slim-down strategy, many of us have considered kicking the booze to the curb, only to give into temptation after a hard day at work or in the presence of imbibing friends.

In reality, reducing or even eliminating alcohol consumption altogether neednt be a painful or socially damaging experience.

In fact, nixing the booze can provide surprising, enjoyable perks that make you wonder what took you so long to stop paying $10 for a 600 calorie bottle of regret.

Eliminating alcohol can improve your relationships (deeper, more complex conversations tend to occur without beer goggles), your social experiences and memories of those experiences (again, beer goggles), and your waistline.

The following methods can help motivate you to beat the booze. Or at least, you know, practice true moderation.

#1 Remind Yourself of the Caloric Consequences

Our bodies prioritize alcohol metabolism over fat metabolism.

In other words, whenever you have a drink, your body stops actively burning calories, instead storing them as fat in order to metabolize alcohol.

Ever heard of beer belly? Its the truth.

Aside from fat, alcohol is the most calorically dense substance we consume. Alcohol contains a whopping 7 calories per gram, only 2 calories less than 1 gram of fat.

Meanwhile, carbohydrate and protein contain 4 calories per gram.

A single drink- say, 5 oz of wine- contains around 120 Calories.

If you indulge in a single 5 oz pour each day, you could potentially gain 12.5 lbs per year.

If you cut it out of your diet instead, you could lose 12.5 lbs. The choice is yours.

#2 Replace Your Drinks

Alcohol always serves a purpose flavor, relaxation, and social bonding are among the most common reasons for alcohol consumption.

The trick is to understand why youre craving a drink in the first place.

Do you enjoy relaxing in front of the TV with a glass of wine after the kids are in bed?

Cant imagine a better way to unwind after work than the satisfying crackle and sweet fizz of a beer?

Whatever your motivation, find a healthier habit to replace the time that you would normally devote to drinking.

You neednt pursue an entirely different activity, such as Yoga in front of the television or cracking open a novel instead of a beer, although those can be helpful options.

The change can be as simple as switching to a calorie-free beverage, such as seltzer or diet ginger-ale.

That way, youll still be sticking to your typical pattern (unwinding in front of the TV, having a beverage after work), but the negative effects of the alcohol consumption are gone.

The first few times you make the switch are the hardest. You just have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

Remind yourself that you and your well-being, are worth it.

To that note

#3 External Motivation Begets Internal Change

Change is hard for everyone, especially if its a change were less than thrilled by.

Sure, one part of you wants to nix the booze.

But the other part doesnt.

And that makes things complicated.

Relax; thats totally normal, and an important stage of the behavioral change process.

Feeling conflicted about a change is simply our brains way of exploring every possible option.

After all, even though youve resolved to not drink, you could have a beer if you really wanted to, with no real consequence, other than your own disappointment in your poor follow-through.

For actions where the consequences are more dire, we never stew over whether or not to commit the act, as were already convinced of the possible outcome: one we definitely do not want.

Consider driving: youve probably never once thought about veering into oncoming traffic. You always stay in your lane, even though it would only take a quick flip of the wrist to veer off onto a collision course.

Thats because the consequences are so immediate and obvious that your brain doesnt even tempt you to go there.

Of course youre going to stay in your lane the only other possibility is death or injury.

Keep your reasons out where you can see them writing your goal on a post it note stuck to the fridge, or a motivational quote to carry in your wallet when you do the grocery shopping.

Sure, it might feel silly, but in the face of temptation, remembering your why can make the temporary discomfort worthwhile.

#4 Enlist an Ally

Whether its a spouse, friend, family member, or coworker, its important to have support, especially at a social event.

While some people respond well to a simple None for me, thanks! other people try to tempt a teetotaler.

Having an ally to help reinforce your intentions can make or break your experience: whether theyre imbibing or not, they can help you stand firm in your intent, and help remind other people to treat your decision with respect.

#5 Rethink Happy Hour

If you have the option, try suggesting a new, non-alcohol centered activity in place of a booze-fest: dinner at a restaurant, a sports event, game night, local festival, fair, or expo, or an extracurricular group activity are all great ways to meet up with friends and relax after a long week.

Replacing alcohol centered events with more active, engaging pursuits isnt just adventurous, its good plain fun that none of your imbibing peers may think to suggest.

And you can be the fun, forward-thinking friend that has the bright idea for your new go-to Friday night activity!

Thinking about hopping on the wagon?

Still trying to decide whether or not to bring prohibition back into style?

If youre on the fence, consider this: most of us have a lot more to gain (lower risk of disease weight loss, healthier relationships, monetary savings) than lose when it comes to alcohol.

Excuse the pun, but when you look at it that way, alcohol really is wellsour grapes.