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How the Bridget Jones generation became the... Soberistas

A glass (or three) of Chardonnay used to be many women’s way of chilling out at the end of a hectic day, but not any more. Maureen Coleman reports on a new trend

It’s the morning after the night before. You wake up with a thumping head, a mouth like sandpaper and a hazy recollection of dancing on a table to Beyonce’s Single Ladies. Sound familiar?

In the UK and Ireland, binge drinking has become integrated into our culture. Statistics show that drinking among women has almost doubled in recent years, with one in six consuming more than the recommended daily allowance.

But while millions will have suffered a collective hangover over the past weekend, a growing number of young women are turning their backs on binge drinking. While not abstaining from alcohol completely, these “Soberistas”, as they like to call themselves, prefer to mull over the same Mojito all night. You won’t see them downing six pints of lager or falling out of nightclubs after sinking one too many Chardonnays.

When once the only aim of a night out was to get drunk, these girls-about-town are now happy to restrict their drinking to one or two cocktails or glasses of Champagne. The Soberistas still like to party — but know how to have a good time without resorting to Ladette-style intoxication. Where Bridget Jones totted up a scarily high number of units of alcohol, they keep count to keep them in check.

It’s a trend fast catching on among young celebrities, too. Natalie Portman, Leona Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow have been teetotal for years, while Agyness Deyn, Sadie Frost and Daisy Lowe are all reported to have given up booze more recently.

The style editor who loves feeling more fit

Katrina Doran (36), Newry-born editor of online lifestyle/fashion website Sugahfix.com. She says:

When I was younger I guess I used drink as a social crutch. I never really felt confident enough to go out without getting a bit drunk and would never get onto the dance floor sober.

But that all changed when I set up my own business.

I have to approach people all the time to ask them to pose for photos for the website’s Stylespotter section, so that brought me out of my shell.

Plus, I think standing on my own two feet really helped my confidence.

I have to go to a lot of events and fashion shows during the week so I’d be getting up for work the next day and couldn’t drink. I started driving everywhere and got more and more used to being out and about, without drinking.

The turning point for me was a friend’s wedding last year. I drove there and back and drank water all night. But I had a great time and was one of the first on the dance floor. I realised then that I didn’t need to get drunk to have a good time.

I still have a cocktail on a rare occasion but it’s very rare now. I feel a lot healthier, I’ve more energy and my mind is a lot more active.

I haven’t had to rethink my social life — some of my friends have cut back on the booze too, so I don’t feel under any pressure to drink.

It used to be that you were considered a spoil-sport if you didn’t drink, but I think that attitude is changing.

The party girl who was told to stop drinking

Amanda McLaughlin (30), Ballymoney-born civil servant. She says:

I used to be a full-on party girl and something of a binge drinker, but that all changed last June when I decided to get serious about fitness.

I got myself a personal trainer, David Hanna, and one of the first things he asked me was how much I drank on a night out.

I think he was really shocked when I said I could sink 15 gins! He told me to stop immediately. For three months I didn’t have a drink at all and I felt great.

I was actually surprised at how easy it was to go without.

Funnily enough, it was more of a problem for other people, who didn’t believe I could be having such a good time without alcohol.

As I began losing weight I decided to be a bit easier on myself, particularly coming up to Christmas.

Now, I do take a drink from time to time, maybe a few glasses of wine with dinner.

And admittedly, there has been the occasional blow-out, like when I celebrated my 30th birthday.

But for the most part, I can do without. I can still have a great time, I don’t wake with a hangover and I’m always ok to go training the next day.

The DJ who has wine as a special treat

Andrea McVeigh (39), Belfast journalist and DJ. She says:

Alcohol has become a monthly treat for me. Like other women might splash out on an indulgent massage or facial, I opt for a really good glass of Merlot or a luxurious cocktail. The way I see it, if I’m going out for a lovely meal, I don’t want to drink some cheap plonk with it.

I’m happy to spend £9 on a glass of wine. For me, it’s a special treat.

But I am fairly flexible, it’s not completely restricted to once a month. If there’s more than one special occasion in a month I’ll allow myself a couple of drinks.

I was modelling at a ‘Real Women’ charity fashion show recently and quite a few of us weren’t drinking.

We were talking about this growing trend for going teetotal when my husband came up with the name Soberistas. It seemed to fit. We still love getting dressed up to go out and party, we just don’t get drunk.

I am not opposed to drink at all — in fact, I think it’s great — but I began to eat more healthy, organic food a few years ago, so decided to cut way back on the booze as well. I feel so much better, my skin looks really good and I’m less sluggish. It’s definitely been worth it.”

The model who says drink destroys your looks

Louise Davey (19), shop assistant and model, from Carryduff. She says:

I work as a model for Pose Promotions and most of the fashion shoots I do tend to be at the weekend. I take my modelling seriously and don’t want to let anyone down, so I would never come to work with a hangover.

Being a model, I have to look after my skin and hair and drinking alcohol isn’t good for either. I’ve seen other girls out at night who are very drunk and I think they look dreadful.

Apart from the fact I don’t want to look like that, I don’t like what alcohol can do to people, how it can change them into someone completely different. And on the occasions when I am in an off-licence I always seem to see the same people coming in to buy drink. Maybe that’s affected my opinion, too. I might have a glass of wine on an odd occasion but you’ll never see me drunk. My friends don’t put any pressure on me, they know I don’t need to drink to have a good time.

Anyway, the fact I’m sober all the time means they always have someone to look after them.

So, what does alcohol do to a woman’s body?

The bad ...

  • Exceeding the prescribed weekly limit of alcohol (21 units) means a woman is five times more likely to suffer a stroke
  • Drinking more than one unit of alcohol a day increases the risk of breast cancer risk by about 7-11%
  • Heavy drinking is strongly linked to developing depression and anxiety. This can be seen in the 40% of women attempting suicide after heavy drinking
  • Women who drink 1-5 drinks per week are at a greater risk of decreased fertility, compared to women who don’t drink
  • Women who consume over 14 alcoholic drinks a week are 78% more likely to develop hay fever

And the good ...

  • Drinking small amounts of wine is said to increase levels of HDL (good cholesterol), which can the decrease the likelihood of developing heart disease
  • A moderate intake of wine has been suggested to help the body absorb antioxidants
  • Women who drink moderately are less likely to become obese, according to a 2010 study carried out by Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston
  • Moderate drinking has been said to aid the processes of thinking, learning and memory

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