January is a return to normality and for most of us, an acknowledgement that we have overindulged and need to rein it in. Nowhere is that more apparent than in what we eat and drink – a recent survey revealed that the majority of Brits set new year’s resolutions and the majority of those relate to eating better, exercising more (to make up for what we ate in December, presumably) and cutting out alcohol, because after Christmas it’s no longer cool to start on the Baileys at 11am.
But oh, it’s hard to come stumbling out of the warm hug of Christmas into the soulless cold shoulder of January. But needs must, and – looking on the bright side – if you’ve overindulged at Christmas, January is the perfect time to reset, as boring as that seems. Alcohol is one of the main things we want to cut back on, and doing Dry January is a good place to start – one month, no booze. As simple as that.
Although anyone who has tried it after drinking heavily throughout December (and indeed, maybe throughout the rest of the year too) will attest to how it’s really not that simple. But Alcohol Change UK, which runs Dry January, reports that 88% of people who do it save money, 67% have more energy, and 58% lose weight, so it’s most definitely worth it.
Get some sober support
As with any new habit, a little support can go a long way. If your mates aren’t interested in cutting out booze for a month, you’re probably not going to get much support from them. That’s not to say that your mates aren’t nice, supportive people – I’m sure they are (because otherwise, they wouldn’t be your friends, right?), but the people who are best placed to help get you through it are the people who are also doing it. Find likeminded guys over on the MAN v FAT Forum, or there is a myriad of Facebook groups you can join. For Dry January and beyond, Reddit’s Stop Drinking subreddit is a treasure trove of success stories, tips and support.
Make small changes
If alcohol is an integral part of your life, as it so often is for so many of us, you need to find ways of incorporating your newfound sobriety instead. If your default place to see your friends is in the pub, can you do something else instead? It is a cliche to suggest this, but if you can persuade them to catch up over a coffee or if you can find something active to do together, it takes away the temptation of drink and you can still socialise. Although you might get laughed at for suggesting it in the first place, going for a walk is the perfect thing to do while talking.
Embrace the non-alcoholic options
If you’re used to socialising at the pub and feel that you can’t get away from that, that’s ok – pubs are a handy meeting place and we’re not suggesting that you become a hermit in order to stick to being booze-free. Stick to soft drinks or see if your local has any alcohol-free beers or ciders. Companies are catching on to the fact that there is a huge rise in the number of people who don’t drink – there are loads of decent alcohol-free beers, and Wetherspoons, if that’s your local of choice, sell a variety of non-alcoholic beers and ciders as well as soft drinks, tea and coffee. SteadyDrinker recently compiled an article for us about the best low-alcohol, low-calorie beers, which you can find here.
There are always going to be people who don’t support your decision to ditch the drink. It’s a bit of a mystery when what you’re drinking doesn’t affect them, but still – unsupportive people exist and you might encounter a bit of resistance to your decision. It might not be obvious and will probably take the guise of little digs here and there (“Barry won’t get the pints in because he’s teetotal!!”), but rise above it. You’re not doing this to please anyone, you’re doing it for you – for your health, your waistline and your wallet. If you’re feeling yourself wavering in the face of peer pressure, remember that no is a perfectly valid answer. No, I don’t want a beer. No, I’ll have a Coke instead. They’ll soon get the idea.
Fake it til you make it
If you’re really struggling because of peer pressure and don’t feel strong enough to stand up to it, that’s ok – it is a difficult thing to face up to and to try and change the status quo. Offer to drive, say you’re on antibiotics or make it your turn to get the drinks in (might get a bit expensive, this one, but non-alcoholic beer looks the same as actual beer, so no one will know). Alcohol Change has a few tips for alcohol refusal strategies on their blog here.
As with anything, the more you embrace the sober way of life, the more likely you are to stick with it. We’re big fans of the book This Naked Mind, which is all about controlling your intake and changing your life (if it sounds like hippy nonsense, don’t worry, it’s not) and their podcast which tackles common problems those who go sober face, like how do you overcome your social anxiety without alcohol? MAN v FAT founder Andrew was featured in one of the podcasts too, talking about his unhealthy relationship with food and alcohol and how they were connected.
Being able to visualise how well you’re doing is a very motivational tool too. Dry January has an app, which you can get more info on here. The app is free and available for Android and iOS. It lets you record your alcohol-free streak and will tell you exactly how much money you save by staying off the drink. There are plenty of other apps available, so you can always have a reminder of how well you’re doing in your pocket.
A few websites you should add to your bookmarks are Steady Drinker (which features reviews of low-alcohol and alcohol-free beers), Hip Sobriety, Club Soda and The Sobriety Collective. They all feature interesting articles about going sober as well as advice and stories, so you can see that despite what that random friend of a friend thinks, being teetotal is not for squares or losers. It’s a huge movement and people from all walks of life are shunning the booze and reaping the benefits of waking up without a hangover, and there’s no reason why you can’t do so too.
Are you doing Dry January, or aiming for a dry 2019? Let us know how you’re getting on over on the forum.