Dry January – how was it? | Simply Marcia


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Dry January – how was it?

So Dry January is over. I did it! A big tick and gold star to me! I can officially have a swig sip of my favourite gin!

Why the Dry January challenge?

Well … it’s a well known fact amongst my family and friends that I enjoy a drop or two of Mother’s Ruin. I’m not a daily boozer though – usually just a weekend gin indulger – I can’t bear or function with a weekday groggy head. However, December just gone, I certainly kicked back and indulged (almost every day). But by day 29, even I was at the point of ‘NO MORE!’ and made the decision to partake in Dry January (however, I did actually go on to see December’s ginathon through, right up until the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, obviously).

Health
I was starting to worry that my poor liver was taking such a battering, and imagined it shrinking and recoiling back every time a gin was poured – it needed a little holiday from being permanently pickled. But also, a really good friend had just found out that she had breast cancer. Horrible. Breast Cancer Now is one of the charities being supported by Dry January this year so it felt like another super-important reason.

Finances
When my partner and I worked out how much money we spent on a) bottles of gin for a tipple or five, at home on the sofa, plus evenings at our local, it was a bit pretty shocking. Eek. Time to reign it in. The money we’ve not spent on boozing has gone towards our holidays pot (cue smug face).

Willpower
Not one of my strengths. The thing is, open-ended resolutions such as ‘I’m going to get fitter and be healthier in 2018’ just don’t work for me. I’m a deadlines kind of person. So giving myself a finite amount of time to quit, give up or try something seemed much more achievable. And actually, I really wanted to prove to (mainly) myself and others that I could do it.

How was Dry January?
Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought – really. I mean, it wasn’t always easy, but telling EVERYBODY I knew helped massively. I had so much support. Helped no end by the fact that my partner joined me in my Dry January efforts.

I knew that Friday evenings would be the toughest for me. They’d come to mark the end of the working week and the start of the weekend – woohoo! Usually the time for me to let my hair down, head to the pub and sink a couple … So the first Friday was quite hard. In fact, we avoided the pub all that weekend. Instead, we treated ourselves to box set binging (we managed to binge-watch all 4 series of Peaky Blinders in 2 weeks – quite an achievement ha!) and homemade sparkling juice drinks and smoothies.

Once we got through that first weekend, I really felt a sense of achievement. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it was probably my first weekend of zero alcohol for maybe 10 years (hangs head in shame), so to wake up on the Monday morning (hangover free) having smashed it felt really, really good (it’s the little things init?).

Dry January Motivation
The high from having completed one week alcohol free really gave me the motivation to stick to it and see the challenge through for the whole month. We did venture to the pub on a few occasions after that to a) prove that we could go to the pub and not drink and b) because we still wanted to socialise and not hibernate for a month! We stuck to good ol’ soda water and lime or the occasional bottle of Becks Blue (which actually, tastes alright – I mean I felt a bit like a student all over again, swigging from the bottle and all that – but I totally recommend).

Benefits of Dry January
Ok, I won’t lie to you, I kind of expected to feel fantastic within a week. I was expecting to look bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Instead, for most of the month actually, I still felt pretty groggy with a heavy head and was really, really tired – so I kind of felt the same as usual to be honest! Springing out of bed I was not. However, I stuck with it as the thought of all the positive health benefits for my liver kept me motivated.

Initially I really wasn’t sleeping any better than usual – in fact I had real trouble trying to fall asleep. In the last week though, I’ve definitely experienced an improvement in my sleep. I can drop off quite easily, am sleeping through until the alarm goes off and don’t feel the need for a mid-afternoon power nap.

I think I might have lost a couple of pounds too! We don’t have scales in our house so I can’t be sure but I definitely feel less bloated and waistbands are looser (hurrah). Maybe, due to the fact that I haven’t been consuming any empty alcoholic calories but also because, going hand-in-hand with boozing it up, was my late night calorie-laden, case of the monstrous munchies. And that’s just not been happening either.

My skin has always been mostly ok’ish with just the odd flare-up, however, one massive benefit of Dry January has been that my skin has been noticeably so much clearer and my eyes and face much less puffy and ‘angry’ on a Monday morning. Which has made me very happy!

What I’ve learnt from my Dry January experience
Whilst it’s not been massively life changing or transformative, Dry January for me has been a really positive experience. Not only do I feel (and hopefully look) better, but my liver is probably very, very grateful and I’ve learnt I can socialise and not drink at all.

I think the bigger challenge for me going forward will be moderation. I’ve proved I can abstain (and equally I can go all out!) but controlled, non-excessive drinking will be a new learning curve for me; to take my time properly enjoying and sipping a favourite gin (rather than necking it back).

Would I do Dry January again?
I could be persuaded to take a month off the booze again but actually, I have plans instead for mini breaks from the booze. To take it easy on a regular basis. But never say never!

Final thought: I’ve discovered I do have willpower. And I feel that maybe as well as addressing my alcohol consumption, I’ve also addressed and reset my mindset when it comes to challenges. So, I’ve set myself a further 11 monthly challenges for this year. Sugar Free February is next – wish me luck!


Going sugar free this February?

WHY AM I DOING SUGAR FREE FEBRUARY?

As I bathe in the smug glow of having successfully achieved Dry January, and having found I do actually have some kind of restraint and willpower, I’ve decided to throw myself in to Sugar Free February. I don’t think I have a massive sweet tooth (I do love cheese however!) or consume a huge amount of sugar but I’m guessing the truth is that I probably do. It’s hidden in some of the unlikeliest foods …

So, to help boost my health, discover new recipes and hopefully help me make some longer-term sugar-free changes, I’m going to give it a go!

WHAT ARE MY SUGAR FREE RULES?

– no added sugar
– no ready-made or processed foods
– homemade meals and snacks only
– fruit, dried fruit, maple syrup, honey and cacao powder are allowed*

*I want to be realistic and find natural and healthier alternatives to refined sugar on a long-term basis. Plus these ingredients have many health benefits in themselves.

MY GOALS FOR SUGAR FREE FEB

– to experiment with and create some new family-friendly sweet treats – both The Body Coach and Deliciously Ella have some yummy-sounding and easy-to-make sugar free recipes (they will be my lifeline I suspect)
– to make healthy choices and food swaps – so nibbling on nuts and seeds rather than biscuits and the like
– to create sugar free versions of sauces that normally have loads of hidden sugar – things like sweet chilli sauce, tomato ketchup – and baked beans!

CHALLENGES I CAN FORSEE

– two birthdays in our family this month (eek, that will mean the temptations of birthday cake and meals out!)
– having 3 children means there will be sweet treats in our house as usual (I’d love to be able to say the whole family will be going sugar-free but it’s a definite no ha! I will however, be secretly trying to reduce their sugar intake via homemade cookies and fruit crumbles – shhhhh)
– February half term means the kids will be around (needing food – constantly!) and, combined with planned days out will mean lots of food related potential temptations
– Pancake Day and Valentines day also fall within half term
– alcohol – I don’t want to undo all the good work and health benefits from having completed Dry January, however, I do want to enjoy the odd drink – so it’ll be clear spirits – gin! (the alcohol containing the least amount of sugar) with soda water for me this month (I had no idea tonic water has so much sugar in it!)

Wish me luck! During Sugar Free February I’m planning on sharing a couple of sugar-free recipes that I enjoy and have helped me achieve my sugar-free goal!

Are you taking part in Sugar Free February? Let me know if you have any tips!