Can an app help me drink less alcohol?

January 29, 2014 | By | Comments (0)

Several members of our Social Diet group have found the start of 2014 difficult. It’s a challenge to fill in the MyFitnessPal food diary and to maintain the exercise levels (especially with the winter we’re having, even in the South).

Me, too. I did get through almost three weeks of New Zealand holiday travel without putting on more than a pound (much walking and hiking between much food and excellent local wine), but I’ve been on a plateau for more than two months. I continue to run several days a week, but not quite at the pace I kept in the first-blush period of weight loss. It’s unlikely I’ll burn more calories through exercise in the coming weeks than I do now: I like where I’m at. The only way to lose a few more pounds—I want to reach 25 pounds down—is to cut calories.

But I don’t want to eat less. As with exercise, I feel I’m at a sustainable level of calorie intake for the long haul. What’s left? Alcohol.

Because this blog and the Social Diet have necessarily been confessional, I’ll confess to consuming, more often than I like, more than the healthy two drinks a day that medical consensus prescribes for men (it’s even less for women). I want to get closer to that 2X level as my next health goal. As with food, though, I ain’t abstaining from something I love. Cutting the equivalent of a glass of wine per day will move the calorie equation, and other health indices, in the right direction.

And, as with food, it makes sense to track the pinot noir, IPAs, and caipirinhas if I want to reduce the consumption.

Of course, there’s an app for that.DrinkControl App

The one I downloaded a few days ago is called DrinkControl, it’s $2.99 at the Apple app store, and it’s certainly easy to use: Select your beverage from a grid, then pick the size and, if you know it, the proof (the higher the proof, the more “alcohol units” you’re consuming, a unit being one drink). Over time, the app produces one-day, seven-day, and 30-day charts, plotting consumption against the goal. That’s about it, though it also allows you to “share your drinking statistics via e-mail or using social networks.” Nyet, digital comrade, you should not do that, as the app producers themselves warn.

A few immediate requirements, as with calorie counting: Stop the freehand serves, know your utensil size, and look at labels.

Experiments with moderation apps have shown efficacy. Much depends, I think, on the user’s motivation. But the idea of moderating, rather than abstaining, is gaining traction as experts look beyond the comparatively small population of alcoholics to a larger social culture that provides millions of people with billions of opportunities every day, and lots of encouragement, to go beyond the 2X limit.

For a sharp perspective on alcohol and women’s consumption, check out this NPR interview with Gabrielle Glaser, who has written books and op-ed pieces about moderation.

Will the app work for me? I’ll report back.

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