Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dry January

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was taking part in "Dry January".  I didn't make a big song and dance about it, but I decided to go for a calendar month or so with no alcohol.  A few people have asked me about my experience, so here are a few points.

Why take a break from drinking?

Alcohol is an interesting topic.  As a drug it is widely accepted in society, central to so much of our socialising and leisure.  There seem to be lots of health benefits - so we are told - yet there are also a lot of problems in terms of health, relationships and lifestyle that come from drinking.

Over a few years I'd begun to become aware and then concerned that I was drinking too much and too regularly.  I am in a busy and stressful job and sometimes a glass of wine after work to relax is really helpful.  But over time, one glass became two.  Two glasses became ....I might as well finish the bottle.  A habit got established....and was starting to get too entrenched.  

I'd tried to impose a few rules - the glass ceiling for example  - but I usually ended up breaking my own rules.  Realising that I needed to cut back and break the habit, I started reading some "sober blogs" like The Sober Journalist and Gray's Grog Blog  In mid December I cut out alcohol for a couple of weeks and then focussed on cutting it out totally for at least the whole of January.

Dry January

Dry January is a campaign run by Alcohol Concern in the UK with the aim of having a short break from drinking to let you reset your habits.

With Xmas excess gone, banish the booze this January and make a healthy start to the new year.
By taking on the challenge you’re sure to lose a few pounds while saving a few quid. And with no hangovers you’ll find time and energy you never knew you had, oh and your skin will look nicer too.
So go on, take time out, get thinking about your drinking and prove to yourself that you can say no to a tipple or two.
It is a simple little challenge -  no alcohol for a month. I don't like all the martyrdom about it - it shouldn't be a trial -  but I decided to ride on the back of it for my own purposes.

There is a similar movement - Hello Sunday Morning - which has similar aims but more of a hipster feel to it.  Lots of cool dudes being very cool about not drinking.


What happened?  I actually found it pretty easy.  Drinking had become a habit.  Yes there is a psychological release from some stresses, but so much was just habitual.  As soon as I decided that I was not a drinker...then I wasn't.  Occasionally a nice glass of red with a meal would have been nice but it was no great sacrifice.

Specific benefits:

  • Better sleep - waking up fresh and rested in the morning.
  • A clearer head - I found my thinking to be getting much sharper, my writing much better, my speech more articulate.
  • Less money spent
  • Less non-specific guilt - those mornings when you wake up feeling like something bad has happened.
I didn't lose any fat which was strange given the reduced calories

What next?

At the end of the month I didn't find myself desperate for a drink.  I didn't rush out on 1 February and get some wine.  I left it until my birthday - 8 February - where we went out for a meal with wine.  Had half a bottle.  Felt fine.

I've had a couple of glass this week, but I am not looking to get back to where I was.  I've considered going totally tea-total but let's try moderation for a while.


tess said...

as part of an elimination trial, and times when i've wanted to reduce fat more efficiently, i've reduced my wine/spirits intake a few times. two tricks:

*it's EASY to limit myself to one glass with a meal. two glasses makes it harder -- the disinhibiting effect of alcohol!

*a cup of tea in the late afternoon is as relaxing and revivifying as a cocktail -- the Brits have had it right all along. ;-) case some of your readers can use tweaks you haven't mentioned....


Neal said...

Surprised you didn't know that alcohol is expelled by the body as a toxin and isn't a factor in fat gain.

Chris said...


Surprised? There is more to wine or beer than simply alcohol.

Pesky Blubber said...

Chris, I had the same experience of not losing any fat during a five-week alcohol-free stretch. (My spouse was in the last month of her pregnancy and I didn't want to be buzzed when the baby decided it was time to see the world.) It surprised me: I'm not a heavy drinker, but even 1 or 2 beers or glasses of wine a night would seem to add up.

rajesh said...

Hi, just completed an infographic on conditioning. I think, it complements this article pretty well... have a look:

Matthew @ Lasik for Your Surgeon said...

Interesting! I'm going to try this too said...

I read an article about how a 3/4 glass of alcohol not more just that amount is actually beneficial for the body. They really made an experiment and study of it. Even though they claim that it's beneficial but they failed to cover the addictive trait of drinking. It's better to just eliminate alcohol intake for the body to avoid complications of becoming an alcohol addict. Kudos to you, my friend for your new journey to soberness.