As the year ends, I find myself reflecting on my successes and my challenges. I’m proudly checking off accomplished goals for 2017 while strategizing methods to achieve unaccomplished and new goals for 2018.
Last year, I attempted my first ever Dry January. On a whim, I decided to try going dry for 31 days. After months of out of control binge drinking, I willingly gave it a shot (a non-alcoholic one) to give up drinking cold turkey.
While I knew it wouldn’t be easy, the first month was the toughest. Although given the volume of alcoholic consumption on New Year’s Eve, I managed to avoid drinking for the first few days of January. Honestly, I didn’t want to drink; however, once my family and I fell into our regular routine after the winter break, I craved that glass of wine with dinner.
During my Dry January progression, I heard from friends and loved ones over and over “everything in moderation” which just annoyed me. Would you tell an obese person to eat sweets in moderation? Would you tell a person with a peanut allergy to eat peanut butter in moderation?
We all have our trigger foods that snowball into out of control behavior. For me, it’s drinking. I can avoid sweets, chips, fries, but alcoholic beverages are my Achilles heel. There is no moderation.
But I survived Dry January and lived to tell my tale. In fact, I managed to make it to the five-month mark before I had my first full drink and thankfully, I didn’t full back into my old drinking habits right away. However, after a summer full of birthdays, back to school boozing, a trip to Napa and falling into fall festivities which rolled into Christmas merry making unraveled all my “moderation”.
Hence, another attempt to take on Dry January that will hopefully turn into a dry lifestyle. This year, when I attempt my second attempt at going sober, I have my previous experience to reflect upon and the things I learned when I gave up drinking.
Eights Things I Learned When I Gave Up Drinking
One Day at a Time
Experts will tell you, “It takes 25 times to form a habit”. Think of Dry January as forming a new habit of not drinking. When you decide to go dry, just focus on one day at a time. It seems so cliché, but baby steps are key. When your world revolves your next drink or counting down the hours until happy hour, you need to do some serious self-reflection about the whys to your drinking habits.
Instead of filling up a glass, fill that void with a new activity or new habit. Instead of a drink after dinner, go for a walk after dinner. Escape into a book or some TV binge watching instead of binge drinking.
Whether your chosen beverage is beer, wine or cocktails, all alcoholic drinks should be viewed as tipsy sodas or carbs and empty calories. Sure, you can drink a low sugar, low carb, low calorie alcoholic drink, but going dry isn’t about working the system. When trying to form new healthy habits, be honest about your habits. Approach avoiding drinking the same way you avoid carbs or sweets.
However, once you give up the booze, your body starts craving sugars in other forms. For me, it was essential to substitute my “It’s 5:00 somewhere drink” with a piece of fruit such as an apple or a handful grapes to curb the sugar craving. It honestly worked. Adding a bit of protein to the fruit also helped curb the sugar craving and snacking.
Avoid the Trigger Foods
Are there certain foods that make you crave a glass of wine or beer? For me, pizza and wine go hand-and-hand. When my husband discovered a tomato allergy, we avoided pizza with tomato sauce and honestly, that helped with my red wine wanting.
For me, nachos, wings, burgers and beer leads to another bad craving for beer. Now you wonder why would I eat those foods when trying to lose weight? Sometimes I want a burger and that’s o.k.; however, there is no moderation once alcohol is thrown into the mix. Therefore, I just avoid the trigger foods all together and it works for me. After all, who craves wine with a kale salad?
Given that water is such an important part of a healthy lifestyle, this should be a no brainer. Did you know that for every alcoholic beverage you ingest, you should drink an 8oz glass of water? But how many times during a binge drinking session did you NOT drink water. (Guilty. And I love water!)
Sparkling water and fruit infused water are great alternatives to spruce up a boring glass of ice water. Drink water from a wine glass if that helps fool your brain.
Like a rehabilitated alcoholic, club soda with a twist of lime became my chosen drink at events and parties. In the evenings, when I craved a glass of wine to unwind, I replaced it with ginger, chamomile or decaf green tea. Anything besides alcohol to help me relax.
New Coping Skills
As a fit foodie blogger, I receive oodles of invites to tastings which almost always include handcrafted cocktails or locally sourced craft beer. After a few photographs and social shares of the cocktail, sometimes I would give myself permission to take a stirrer straw full of the cocktail and then I pushed it away. But given that one sip becomes a slippery slope, I would simply not take a sip to avoid falling off my dry wagon.
Let’s face it. Adulting can be difficult. Between a traveling husband, flying solo parenting, working combined with housework and homework, sometimes this mama just needs a cocktail to calm down. Instead of finding a need for a drink, I would find center with yoga.
To be real for a moment, there will always a ton of reasons to drink (after an argument, a celebration, a stressful day, a parent-teacher conference, the Trump administration, etc.) but only one really good one reason not to drink – to get healthy and not be codependent on alcohol to deal with every day life.
Strength in Numbers
Last January, my husband decided to attempt a Dry January with me and having that support truly helped. When I felt an urge to drink, he talked me through that craving and vice versa. We had each other to help avoid hitting the bottle which in turn strengthened our bond as husband and wife. While our glasses went empty, our marriage and relationship overflowed with love and support.
Our livers regulate so much of our overall health from bloated bellies to our metabolism. By drinking less alcoholic drinks, your liver will thank you. When you binge drink, your liver works overtime to cleanse those toxins out of your system. As a result, your pee may be a bright yellow. Once you stop drinking (or drink much less), your urine will return to a normal lighter almost clear shade. Clear pee is for me!
When the drinks stopped flowing, so did the invites. Many nights at home offered an opportunity to reflect on my friendships and understand those relationships. By going sober I gained clarity in more ways than one.
Bye-Bye Belly Fat
After years of binge drinking, it’s unrealistic to expect instant results. However, by drinking less alcoholic beverages and drinking more water, I felt less bloated. While my belly fat didn’t disappear overnight, over months my waistline slimmed in time for bikini season.
While giving up drinking isn’t for everyone, the challenge does offer an opportunity to reflect on your drinking habits and your relationship with alcohol. By starting the challenge the first month of a new year, Dry January helps kick start your weight loss goals and a new you in the new year.
Will you try a Dry January in 2018?