Just four short weeks ago, I told you about my plans for 2018, and more specifically my plans for January. Over this month, using the super useful Drinkaware app, I’ve set goals, logged every glass of wine (and every gin), noted every unit and every calorie, every drink-free day and lot of other associated stuff. And now, as we’re finally saying goodbye to January (or should I say good riddance?), there’s time to reflect upon how it’s gone, the lessons I’ve learned, the bits I’ll take with me into the rest of the year, and the bits I’ll leave behind. And so, in no particular order, here are my thoughts:
The results are in…
So my total drinks over the last 28 days were: 29 (but remember it’s very rare that one drink = 1 unit: my total units consumed were 52.3), and I had 15 no drink days. Overall, that puts me in the low risk category. And seeing as we’re talking about numbers, I’ve lost 4lb too!
That Friday feeling
All this month, we’ve avoided alcohol during the week, and that’s worked really well. Come Friday, though, the anticipation of that first glass of wine is almost too much, and I can’t wait to open the bottle. I’ve logged more alcohol units on each Friday than any other day during the week. I’m not really sure what the answer is: maybe, as Drinkaware actually suggest, it’s better to spread your alcohol free days more equally across the week, rather than abstaining, then drinking at the weekend.
It’s all about the ritual
As I think I mentioned when I was talking about ideas for non-alcoholic alternatives, sometimes it’s not even really a drink you need. What you need is the feeling of relaxing, letting go and ‘treating yourself’ after a long day. A lot of it is about the ritual of that first drink. I’ve found that it’s remarkable easy to trick yourself with a lovely glass, a couple of ice cubes, few slices of fresh orange and something deliciously cold and fizzy (or fruity, or whatever). If I’ve got a glass in my hand with something lovely to sip, I don’t generally feel like I’m missing out. I’ve even started getting into fruit teas, which are lovely if you’re not a fan of fizz.
All those wasted calories
I know, calorie counting is boring (and probably not very effective if you’re trying to be more healthy – 200 calories of chocolate and 200 calories of avocado all being equal), but use the Drinkaware app for a few weeks and you’ll start to really resent the calories that you’re drinking. Over the last 28 days I drank 3231 calories worth of alcohol. Can you believe that? That’s nearly 12.5 Mars Bars, or 18 Cadbury Creme Eggs. I bloody love Creme Eggs, but would have I have eaten 18? No way! Still for some reason I think it’s acceptable to drink the equivalent calories in booze. What a waste. Also, at least a couple of times I think I’d rather have had the Creme Egg!
I sleep so much better when I’m not drinking. When I’m drinking, I fall asleep really easily and had convinced myself that a g&t or two helped me sleep. Research has shown that as the night goes on, though, alcohol will cause you to spend less time in deep sleep and more time than usual in the less restful, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep. This explains feeling like I’d had a bad night’s sleep, and waking early too, feeling dehydrated and headachey. I found that it’s not until you start to have several alcohol free days in a row that you realise how badly your sleep is affected.
Also, now I’m running three days a week, I actually ping out of bed and want to go running. Running with a hangover is not fun.
It’s all about mindfulness
Every time you open the app and log the drink that you’ve just poured, it makes you think about what you’re doing. I challenged myself never to log than three in one evening (I’ll be honest, I didn’t always succeed), but rather than mindlessly sloshing a top-up into your glass, all of a sudden you’re thinking ‘wait, was that 125 ml or 175 ml?’ (actually, if you could add 150ml measures to the app, that would be lovely, please, Drinkaware), and ‘is this wine 13% or 14%?’ or whatever. It’s just a very clever mind trick to slow you down and make you aware of what you’re doing, and more importantly, it works.
So in conclusion…
Will I keep drinking? Yes, in moderation. I love wine and I love learning about and tasting wine, and I don’t think I will completely give that up. We actually choose better wine now and savour it. Will I keep using that app? Yes, definitely. Every time you add a drink to that app, it makes you think about what you’re doing. This month has taught me so much, both about alcohol itself and my attitude towards it. I’ve got to the end of the month feeling so much better about everything: I feel like I’ve taken positive steps towards better health and wellbeing, and while I’m saying goodbye to January, I’ll continue to focus on everything I’ve learned this month: about nourishing my body and my mind, but not beating myself up if I have the occasional wobble.
For more information, support and advice, visit drinkaware.co.uk.