Sunday 8 January 2017

Reflecting on 'Dry November'

It's been an insanely busy, crazy six weeks - hence the lack of blog posts here. I'm sure as I slip back into routine and the festivities feel like a long lost memory, I'll be back blogging regularly, but the last few weeks were mad with work, social & family life, and splitting my time between Manchester, Bristol & Sheffield!

Anyway. I wanted to publish this particular post during the first week of December, but never got round to doing it. If you know me, then you'll know that I did 'Dry November', and wouldn't shut up about it! I shouted about it loud and clear.

I learnt a lot during those four weeks.

Don't worry, this isn't a lecture on drinking. I still love red wine, gin & prosecco (in that order, please) but I saw a number of benefits of not drinking and it highlighted a lot about our culture so I wanted to share with a like minded audience.

If you're doing Dry January or are a little bit curious about how I was for four weeks without alcohol, keep on reading.

In summary:
- I looked (and felt) a lot leaner.
- I drank a LOT of fizzy drinks
- I slept SO much better
- Energy & motivation levels soared: no groggy feeling from Monday through to Wednesday
- My skin looked the clearest it has done in months
- Nights out are still fun
- People will laugh at you
- But equally, people really don't give a sh*t if you're drinking or you're not.

The main reaction from people when I said I was doing Dry November was hesitation followed by " that a thing?". The very fact I had to justify my abstinence from alcohol as a 'thing' showed to me just how ingrained alcohol is in our lives.

So, in a bit more detail, here's what I found:

What I found...

I didn't change my diet at all, and ate out at least once or twice a week (sometimes more), and yet still managed to look a hell of a lot leaner (especially compared to my current post-Christmas gAiNz). The thought of posting transformation pictures literally still fills me with a cold wash of fear but maybe one day I'll feel comfortable doing so, as I really did notice a difference in my abs and lower tummy particularly!

Sleep & energy
My sleeping improved dramatically. On the weekend, I can't tell you how nice it was to wake up feeling fresh and deeply rested (and the levels of smugness on not being hungover are incomparable). Even if on a Friday night I only had half a bottle of red and didn't think it had affected my sleep or how I felt the next day, in comparison to a month's sleep without it, I realise how wrong I was!

Possibly the best affect with sleep though was how I felt during the week - that horrible hazy, groggy feeling that hung around me on Monday's and Tuesday's was no more. Giving up alcohol isn't going to completely stop you feeling tired, but it really, really helped me.

I'm thinking about doing a separate post on skin as over the past 12 months I've really struggled with my skin, suffering with the worst red blemishes, random lumps and painful spots I've ever experienced. However during Dry November my skin notably improved. It was clearer; less red and 'angry' looking, less grey and hallow. I would definitely say alcohol has a negative effect on my skin.

Why I think our culture falls down in regards to alcohol:

- A lot of what we do revolves around alcohol: celebrating anything, meeting friends for a drink, drinking with food, birthdays, commiserating something (a hard day at work, bad news...), the list goes on. This gets ingrained in our lives as something we 'do' subconsciously, and adds to our intrinsic sense of belonging in our friendship and peer groups.

-  Weather. I know we can't control this, but if you look at places like Australia, South of France, Germany etc which are renowned for their 'outdoorsy' lifestyles, alcohol just doesn't really feature in the same way. Sure, you can find alcohol in these cultures (blush rose at sundown is religion in Europe I swear), but there's so much more to physically do, explore and see. We are very lucky in the UK to live where we do but we coop up in pubs when it rains and go HAM in a beer garden when the sun rears its head. I wish there were more activities for young people that weren't centered purely on drinking.

What I didn't find...

I didn't find that I saved too much money as like I said, I was out a lot with friends in both Manchester and London, and split the bill most times I ate out with those that were drinking. I also didn't save too much as it was the month before Christmas so had to stock up for that...

Fizzy drinks
I struggled to find a good selection alcohol free 'grown up' drinks that weren't full of sugar or loaded with artificial sweeteners (lime & soda water gets a bit boring after a while), so I was conscious that I was still racking up 'empty' calories from the soft drinks (I don't drink them normally, other than very occasionally). I'd really appreciate any genuinely nice soft drinks that aren't ginger beer or elderflower!

People don't give a sh*t! (thank god)
I think I also worried too much about people's opinions of me not drinking. At the end of the day, if someone can't support what you're doing, or consistently takes the piss or makes you feel uncomfortable about it - they aren't worthy of your time, and need to get a grip and reassess their purported ignorance. I found that 99.9% people didn't care either way, which was really refreshing.

Nights out are fine
Since doing a month off booze, it's also encouraged me to have more alcohol free or limited alcoholic drink nights out too. I know that I can have an amazing night without being pissed. When I was on nights out, people didn't even know I wasn't drinking ~I'm just so fun~ but seriously, every one is just out to have a good time - who has the time or energy to give a shit whether you're drinking lemonade or rum & coke?

I want to stress that this doesn't mean I want to be that person raising their eyebrows to people at the bar doing shots, or being pushy with my views on a night out. My point is that no one should judge anyone's reasoning for drinking or not drinking. That person downing their drink 'too quickly' might have had the worst time at home over the past two weeks, and feels like they need it - it's not your place to tell them otherwise, especially right there and then.

November fun ;)
November weekends

Have you done Dry January? Maybe the thought of not drinking on a weekend is something that you just can't see yourself doing, or, maybe you're t-total?! I'm genuinely interested to hear your thoughts!

So as you might have guessed, I'm trying to replicate November and stick to doing Dry January, and thought writing all my thoughts down would help motivate me throughout the month!

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