My liver wasn’t the only thing that improved.
When the New Year came, on time, I started hearing about all the weight loss strategies and diet tricks that everyone would try to eliminate unwanted pounds. I didn’t really have any weight complaints, but I noticed some friends hashtagging their wine pics on Instagram with #SoberJanuary, #DryJanuary, and #GetMyFixNow. I have heard of people cutting drinks for a month, but have never tried – or really felt like doing so, because I was not sure that doing so for such a short time would bring long-term benefits. This year made me sing a different song. After an indulgent holiday season involving my fair share of eggnog and mulled wine, I decided to try the alcohol-free trend and stop drinking for a month. And let’s say I was pleasantly surprised by the results.
The beginning wasn’t that bad. Everyone warned me that giving up the drink the day after the New Year’s Eve was going to feel like hell (they don’t call it dog hair for nothing). And if not, then I would definitely be ready for a glass of wine after a long day of work. I’m not going to lie – I definitely wanted to give in after a particularly stressful day – but I wasn’t craving alcohol as if it wasn’t anyone’s business. In fact, doing Dry January forced me to stop and really decide if I wanted a drink when I usually got it without thinking twice. Was I just feeling too stressed? Would a race solve this problem as well? Most of the time, cutting alcohol was no big deal. And I pressed more exercises, which was a great bonus.
It was the end of the month that tempted me. You would think that after preaching the non-drinking thing for three weeks, it would make the latter a breeze. But knowing that I was so close to the finish line made the idea of a celebratory champagne glass very tempting. I started to think about the happy hours I could add to my calendar and if I would be on the floor after two drinks. Of course, having several people telling me that I was “close enough” when they could see my resolve wavering didn’t help. However, I remained strong because I had set a goal and needed to meet it to the end. So here is what happened during my Dry January, including some unexpected extra perks.
7 Things That Happened When I Quit Drinking for a Month
Morning workouts no longer felt like #strugglecity.
Early morning sweating sessions have never been easy for me – I need to have everything ready and ready the night before so I can roll out of bed and use my gear before my brain realizes what’s going on. But fortunately, they became less torturous when I stopped drinking for a month. Sure, this could be a residual kick of motivation for New Year’s resolution, but it’s more likely because I slept better. Well, much better. Not only was I ready to fall asleep earlier, I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night or feel dizzy when my alarm rang. Science says it’s because I wasn’t increasing the alpha wave patterns in my brain – something that happens when you’re awake but resting … or drinking before bed. The reason is bad: it leads to lighter sleep and seriously messes with the quality of zzz’s. Which, in turn, makes me want to toss my phone across the room as the alarm goes off (or just hit the nap a lot if I’m feeling less violent that morning).
It was easier to stick to my healthy eating habits.
Although I didn’t lose weight (which is good, since that’s not one of my fitness goals), I noticed after a week or so that I wasn’t so hungry at night. I was able to tell if I really wanted food, needed some water or just got bored (something I solved before with a glass of wine in one hand and my remote on The Bachelor in the other). The researchers found why: One study found that women consume about 300 extra calories a day when they decide to consume a “moderate” amount of alcohol, and another found that when women took about two drinks, they ate 30 percent. more food. Even mild intoxication (feeling a slight buzz after the second glass) increased brain activity in the hypothalamus, making women more sensitive to food smell and more likely to eat. In other words, choosing to curl up with a cup of decaf was better for my waist, as it was easier to say no when my husband made a bowl of popcorn that I really didn’t want.
My liver liked me again.
I know, I know, this one seems pretty obvious. But as my work makes me read the latest studies day after day, it was interesting to find a new report showing that those who stop drinking, even for a short time, see immediate health benefits. Arguably the most important is how quickly the liver recovers. The team at the British magazine New Scientist raised guinea pigs for five weeks, and a liver specialist at the University College London Institute for Liver and Digestive Health found that liver fat, a precursor to liver damage and a potential indicator of obesity, has dropped. at least 15% (and nearly 20% for some) in those who quit alcohol. Blood glucose levels (which may determine the risk of diabetes) also decreased by an average of 16%. So even if they didn’t give up for long, their bodies benefited immensely – which means mine probably did too when I stopped drinking for a month.
My friendships felt more solid.
One thing I quickly realized: Almost 100% of my social life revolved around food and drink. Whether it was celebrating a month of successful happy hour work, hugging a heavy drink at the book club, or relaxing with a few beers while watching soccer, there was almost always a drink involved. My month of sobriety made things a little more complicated because the default options were no longer available. Most of the time, though, my friends were totally cool at proposing alternative plans or just letting me have my glass of water or soda without making me feel weird.
And I admit that was one of the biggest concerns I had before I stopped drinking for a month. Do people find the whole thing boring? Would they temporarily stop inviting me out? So it helped me realize one thing: I really like my friends, and we didn’t need alcohol as a crutch to enjoy each other’s company. And this is increasingly becoming the norm: a recent survey asked 5,000 drinkers ages 21-35 about their habits and found that nearly half of them spared teasing comments and respected a friend’s choice not to drink.
My laziness subsided.
Basically, the “I’ll do it tomorrow” syndrome that I’ve suffered so many times has disappeared. While I was still growing on the couch when my brain needed a rest, most of the time I was motivated to do the work. My husband even realized that one Friday night, I had enough energy to clean our apartment and do the laundry instead of collapsing in bed after work. And as we were not leaving dinner and drinks, we went on a fun date that we never had time to do before.
My skin needed #nofilter.
When I stopped drinking for a month, that was the benefit that most excited me. I have always struggled with acne, and even though I have been able to handle it quite well in recent years, bouts still came more often than I would like (read: never – I wish they would never happen). But after just a week without drinks, there was a noticeable difference. My skin was smoother and less dry, and my tone was more uniform, whereas before it was red and mottled. Joshua Zeichner, MD, dermatologist in New York and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, says alcohol can actually lower skin antioxidant levels, increasing the risk of UV light damage, inflammation. and even premature aging. When I stopped drinking (and started eating antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries and artichokes), my levels probably went back up. “Antioxidants are like fire extinguishers that cause skin inflammation,” says Zeichner. “While more research is needed to be sure, the theory is that maintaining high levels of antioxidants can help suppress inflammation around the pimple follicles.” In other words, hello, a very new skin.
I had a lot more money in my savings account.
Drinking is expensive – and steals to you. Whether it’s a beer at the bar or a bottle of wine to take home, it doesn’t sound like much. But as each salary came in that month, I realized that there was more money in my checking account than usually after paying the bills. My husband, being the supportive guy he is, didn’t drink as often as he normally did, either, and our savings actually increased. By the end of the month, we had built a nest egg large enough to have fun on a weekend getaway.
Now that I’ve stopped drinking for a month, how do I feel? Good. Very good. A month without alcohol helped me push a physical, mental and even social reset button. Although I don’t go on a sober February, I plan to take some of the lessons with me, such as checking in before deciding if I really want a drink and planning fun walks that don’t revolve around the drink.