Thinking about quitting drinking? It can be a bit daunting to think about and dedicate yourself to, depending on your current habits. It’s certainly worth considering, though.
Think about anything else you’ve quit before, whether it’s donuts in the morning, coffee to get you buzzing, or you’re a former smoker. These things all have two things in common: quitting is hard to do, and it’s also very rewarding – often in surprising ways.
Even a glass a day can be problematic. In the 30-day Happy Body Formula program, we cut out alcohol entirely, and for many people, it’s harder than coffee. Think about that!
Quitting coffee often presents withdrawal symptoms like headaches and fatigue, whereas quitting the nightly glass of wine is going to be much more of a mental hurdle.
For many people, getting past the habit itself is the tough part while the physical side effects are the simple part. Considering that, why not put yourself up to the challenge?
Whether you’re doing the program or just want to add a fresh new layer to your healthy lifestyle, we’re highlighting the amazing and exciting things that happen when you quit drinking.
1. Effortless weight loss
If you’re asking why you’re not losing weight and haven’t considered your alcohol intake, you should probably take a closer look. Ounce for ounce, drinks pack in a serious calorie punch without doing much in the way of filling you up.
While one glass of wine may seem like it’s hardly making a dent, it could be what’s keeping you at a frustrating plateau or stopping you from moving forward as quickly as you’d like.
Cutting out your ONE drink per day can make a difference. If the drinking extends far beyond that, acknowledge the fact that drinks like margaritas can have as many as 300-400 calories – that’s a small meal!
You certainly don’t want to replace meals with drinks in order to reach your goals. While regular drinking isn’t conclusively associated with higher BMI, it is associated with higher calorie intake per day in both men and women, ranging from 300-400 extra calories.
This is all you need to cut out to lose weight. Make it easy on yourself.
2. Sleep like a baby
Say what? Some of you might be accustomed to drinking a glass of wine before you go to sleep because it helps you wind down.
While on the surface alcohol acts as a depressant, it’s actually a stimulant, and it will keep you up later. Have you ever woken up before the crack of dawn after a long night of drinking without reason?
This can happen with just ONE drink, too. Even if you’re not waking up in the middle of the night or you’re still getting 7-8 hours, the quality of your sleep is disrupted.
You won’t get as much REM sleep, and that’s the stuff that truly counts. This is because alcohol increases a cerebral activity called alpha wave patterns which generally has an arousal influence.
Consider our 7-Day Sleep Better Challenge alongside an alcohol detox to take things up a notch.
3. You might feel unsupported
One of the downsides (with a hidden positive aspect – we promise!) is that your friends and family might not get it. They might understand your intentions, but they might not take you seriously.
They might tease you a bit and pressure you to drink with them for the sake of a good time. Depending on your lifestyle, you’ll come to realize how many events, social gatherings, and hobbies revolve around drinking.
The positive side to it all is that you can adjust your friendships, hobbies, and lifestyle components to match your new goals. Look for more outdoors-centric activities, fitness-focused events, daytime events, and friends who do support you in your challenge, whether you take on one ‘dry’ month or challenge yourself to go for longer.
In the end, this is a reward to yourself. P.S. if someone calls you “boring,” they probably weren’t a great friend in the first place.
4. You may face other strong cravings
When we eliminate one bad habit, it’s uncanny how another seems to bubble up, ready to replace our old “friend.” This will probably happen if alcohol is a habitual indulgence for you. The good news?
It’s going to be predictable. You’ll know when your “trouble times” are i.e. right after dinner when you sit on the couch or the afternoon weekends when you’ve finished the chores.
Your brain is going to reach for bread, chocolate, coffee, candy, gum, or whatever the heck else it can conjure up as a suitable substitute. These things all have one thing in common: a chemical release in the brain, big or small.
Your body is smart, and it knows where to get that boost or that “cool down” that alcohol was giving you. Instead, find a healthy vice. Go for a walk after dinner instead – even a very short one.
Hit the gym with your time off on the weekends. Break out the seltzer water or hot tea at night to replace the physical habit. Don’t let those tough times get the best of you.
5. Your skin will glow
Considering alcohol’s diuretic properties, it’s notoriously efficient in dehydrating the body. When we’re dehydrated, it shows on our skin… a lot.
Just one drink can drain your skin a bit while adding that infamous rosy flush to your cheeks, but excessive and/or consistent alcohol use is linked to worse problems including rosacea.
It can also cause the face to puff up a bit and inflame the skin, making you look rather bloated. If you’re having sugary or salty drinks, this isn’t helping the cause.
Finally, we know alcohol’s big impact is on the liver – our body’s largest and most reliable detoxifier! When we compromise the liver’s abilities to do its job, our skin suffers.
Naturally, cutting out alcohol can restore color, glow, plumpness, and vitality in the skin giving you a youthful look, and helping you feel confident.
6. Better blood sugar regulation
Blood sugar handling is a huge indicator of overall health. It impacts our hormonal health, our energy levels, our moods, the way we handle stress, vitamin and mineral absorption… the list goes on and on.
Basically, it’s the way our bodies use, store, and draw glucose. When our blood sugar handling is good, we can easily eat carbohydrates without having crazy blood sugar spikes and drops, and our bodies will reach for glucose when it needs it.
Alcohol decreases the body’s ability to reach for those stores and to use insulin – the hormone that regulates our blood glucose levels. Actively drinking alcohol each day is a surefire way to mess with the delicate balance.
Good blood sugar handling also decreases risk of diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic disease.
7. Decreased risk of disease
While it’s been said by countless sources that a glass of red wine each night can decrease risk of cancer and heart disease, overall, alcohol is NOT good for us.
It’s damaging to consider alcohol a health food at all, and with wine in particular, we see these claims used to glamorize alcohol use. No – this isn’t an effect you’ll see right away – and you might never actually see them – but it’s good to know when you’re tempted to break your dry spell for a night out or a glass of bubbly.
While moderate drinking might not be a leading cause of disease for you, there is evidence. This study states, “Low levels of alcohol consumption were associated with a small increase in breast cancer risk, with the most consistent measure being cumulative alcohol intake throughout adult life.”
8. You’ll probably feel happier
This can’t be backed by a study, but look at the seven things that come before this one. From better sleep and blood sugar balance which lead to steady, level, and positive moods to more fulfilling social situations and interactions that are no longer clouded by alcohol, you’re probably going to find yourself buzzing a bit… on life!
How to plan a successful dry month
There are a few ways to dial in on these benefits. For one, you could challenge yourself to a dry month. Here are a few tips:
- Set intentions. Don’t go into the month without feeling dedicated to feeling better, challenging yourself, learning how to better navigate the world without alcohol, and see where YOU struggle the most. There’s a lot to learn in a dry month, so don’t lose sight of your goals or Happy Hour is going to come along, and your foundation is going to be too wobbly to resist!
- Plan sober activities. Sure, you could go about your regular nightlife schedule and outings with co-workers, but having to say no ALL the time is going to stretch your willpower. Taking on a few nights out while sticking to seltzer is fine, but don’t wear yourself thin. Arrange some activities that make staying alcohol-free effortless and fun.
- Find some support. Whether you find that in an online community or you recruit a few pals to take on a dry month with you, having people know what your plan is and having people support that plan will make your chances of success much higher.
Lean to practice mindful drinking
Like with any detox or “diet,” we want to focus on the sustainability of it. You can do a dry month and easily slip back into old habits, forgetting what you learnt and felt during that time off altogether just like any elimination diet.
Instead, resolve to practice mindful drinking afterwards. If you’re not ready for an entire dry month, adding a bit of mindfulness to your sipping isn’t a bad idea.
This generation is more health-conscious than ever, so we’re seeing a dip in the amount people are drinking and a rise in people who stay sober altogether – especially after experimenting with a designated dry month.
Because of this, many establishments that serve alcohol are taking into consideration options for those who want to abstain but still enjoy something tasty, sweet, or refreshing to sip on.
Like mindful eating, there are benefits to putting a bit more thought into consumption as a whole. Here’s how you can get started with mindful drinking.
- Go low. Lower alcohol percentage can be all it takes. This helps you to keep your social life intact, feel like you’re a part of the crowd, and manage to still be able to function by the end of the night. You can enjoy the flavor of a drink, the ritual of sipping, and the friendly aspects of alcohol without buzzing too hard. Seek out pubs and bars with low-alcohol beers, kombucha drinks, or non-alcoholic mocktails so you have choices that excite you
- Entertain differently. If the ball is in your court, you can really help control the alcohol intake. If you’re hosting a party, experiment with fun mocktails, fermented drinks, naturally flavoured homemade sodas and juices, seltzer blends, and infused waters. Make drinking non-alcoholic beverages fun!
- Go to a mindful drinking festival. If you’re in the U.K., you’re ahead of the trend! London has a Mindful Drinking Festival taking these things into account, hosted by an organization called Club Soda which rates establishments on the availability and abundance of non-alcoholic offerings. How cool!
Let us know if you decide to take on the challenge. Remember – even if you don’t feel supported, we are there for you in our free community Facebook group dedicated to healthy living!
Cheers (don’t worry – it’s just sparkling water).
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