This year there seemed to be far more people partaking in ‘Dry January’, i.e. taking a month off from alcohol.
Everyone has their own reasons for participating, but most notable is no doubt the fact that December really is the “silly season” and come January many decide to go on a ‘detox’; a word that’s never resonated with me. I see it more as giving your body a break from having to do its usual function of removing toxins from your body.
I’ve committed to a booze free January since I started doing the Cape Town Cycle tour eight years ago (formally known as the Argus). It’s the world’s largest timed cycling event that covers 110km around the Cape peninsula and usually attracts around thirty five thousand entrants, many from all over the world.
While the health benefits of abstaining from alcohol and certainly regaining my fitness levels quicker might sound like my main motive, training three times a week and cycling around 200km collectively means you spend a lot of time on the bike. When you spend so many hours on that little seat, the last thing you need is your body to be firing on anything other than 100%
This year I’ve decided to try a slightly different approach. Faced with three important birthdays in January alone, including a 40th and a 30th, these special times (I’m calling them lighthouses!) meant I’d break my abstinence.
This got me thinking; why not just keep going in February and March up until race day? I already have other weekends away and bachelor parties that will act as these ‘lighthouses’ to break up the monotony of no alcohol.
I should point out right now that my Achilles’ heel is wine.
I love it.
A cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc after work watching the sunset in Cape Town is heaven. I really enjoy the taste – it’s got nothing to do with the effect of the alcohol. Truth be told I’m more worried about the sugar content of wine than its alcohol effects – 1g of sugar per 100 ml including 83 meaningless calories. This has contributed to my anti-oxidant scores being so low in the past, as well as poor diet and stress, when I was first scanned on the biophotonic scanner* – it was at a dismal 19 %. This machine measures your score non-invasively and takes a mere 30 seconds. Essentially it’s the world’s best lifestyle lie detector. Thankfully my supplements, LifePak Nano, are world class so my score has improved (doubled without changing any other variables) but alcohol definitely played a part in damaging my antioxidants. The proof will be in my future score.
Here’s an interesting question to ask yourself: does taking a holiday from booze for one month make such a difference if you keep drinking the other eleven?
And herein lies my biggest challenge. Balance. Every year I start so well only for April / May to roll around and then the vino begins to flow like the fresh water in Iceland. Maybe it’s the beginning of depression at the onset of winter darkness?
I’ve already made up my mind that when my wife is pregnant I’ll stop drinking with her during her pregnancy that’s nine months. That decision, together with the inspiration of my friend who is not waiting for a baby to dictate stopping for nine months and doing it for herself now, means I’m going to extend my stint this year.
End of August 2017. Sixty six days before I turn 38.
In certain respects I think ‘going cold turkey’ is sometimes where the problem comes in with my balance issue. It never cultivates the right lifestyle. This is where I think these ‘lighthouses’ come in. I think “diets”, “90 day fitness challenges” and “detoxing” are short term strategies and can have really negative connotations for a lot of people and therefore can produce counterproductive results. I think we are treating the symptoms not the causes – which is why most of us default after our ‘challenge’ is over.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking around the habit of drinking – and it is a habit – specifically at night time. And I’ve realised a couple of important aspects:
1. Alcohol is the best friend to an idle hand. When I’m training I really don’t feel like a drink at night, neither with nor after dinner. It’s when my hectic cycling training is over and I have more time in the evenings at home that drinking wine becomes easier.
2. If it’s not fun it’s not sustainable. Whether exercising or drinking you need to find the lifestyle that’s fun in both areas. It can’t feel like you’re punishing yourself.
3. Eating out is a real treat – for your pocket. You more than halve your bill eating out if you leave out the alcohol. That means you have other options. You can eat out more; enjoy more expensive dishes; or, as I’m doing, put that money away for overseas trips instead.
4. You honestly just feel better. Already within the first week you feel the difference physically of not drinking. Will be interesting to see the prolonged effect of drinking far less.
5. You think more. Just like we probably shouldn’t be giving kids phones or iPads for them to learn to be creative and find ways to work through boredom, so too should adults put the alcohol down when they are idle and being lazy. Learn to sit with your thoughts and emotions – you just never know what you may find out.
6 Lifestyle is an infinite mind-set. Diets, detoxes and X –day fitness challenges are all finite terms. Being fit and healthy is an infinite process. No guess as to which strategy matches being fit and healthy.
I really enjoyed this article last year showing the visible differences people shared of what they looked like drinking versus no drinking – check it out here: Before and After Sobriety pictures
What is YOUR reason?
Everything in life is about balance. I’m not saying we should all quit alcohol, but finding a healthier way for alcohol to be a part of our lives is probably the smart option. For me it’s about feeling good and this is what’s key. Everyone is different and we all have varying standards of what being healthy and feeling healthy is. Some people want to run marathons; others simply want to walk 5km without being short of breath; others just don’t want tight fitting pants anymore.
As I get older I definitely feel a shift making it harder to lose weight compared to how it fell off when I first started cycling. I’m not interested in becoming a calorie watcher, but just as I know eating chocolates every day is not going to help the waistline, alcohol needs to start being shown the same consideration.
Let’s see how my nine months go… I’ll keep you updated on my progress and let you know how much my scanner score improves too.
The hardest part is always winter. With less daylight hours to hike, go walking or cycle, staying motivated will be a challenge.
Then again – nothing worthwhile is ever easy, is it?
Otherwise everyone would be doing it.
* For those interested in more information on the biophotonic scanner check out this video or contact me to set up your scan