Happy Friday! This weekend I am excited because I get to do something I haven’t done in a month—enjoy a glass of wine!
For those of you that don’t know, I decided to jump on the Dry January train this year and not drink alcohol for the entire month. I knew it was going to be hard because a lot of my social life revolves around alcohol—work dinners, happy hours, wine nights with friends—but I also knew that after a very boozy December, I wanted to give my liver a break and start 2018 off on a healthy note.
When I first graduated college, I was living at home and, as a result, my alcohol intake dropped dramatically. I lost weight easily, started a regular exercise routine again, and really only drank on the weekends with friends. Fast forward a few years to 2016 when I was in the midst of grad school. I didn’t have time to go to the gym, which would have been the best/healthiest stress reliever, so instead, I treated myself to a glass or two at night while I was doing my homework as a way to unwind. Once grad school was over, I cut out wine at home during the week, but still was drinking more on weekends than I had prior—who doesn’t love a glass or two of wine on Friday night, right?
Last year, I started exercising three to five times a week and was so happy with all the awesome benefits this new healthy habit brought me—a “third place” with community, decreased stress/anxiety levels, mental and physical strength I didn’t know I had. But no matter what I did, the scale wasn’t moving that much, and when I was honest with myself, I knew it was because my weekend habits were sabotaging my weekday habits.
So I wanted to use dry January as a total reset of my relationship with alcohol—and while it was hard to give it up for a month, I’m so glad I did. I still had a full social life, just without the hangover—which was an awesome realization to come to. While I don’t plan to give up drinking entirely, I do plan to continue to cut it out as much as possible and only have a drink or two for special occasions or when I’m with friends. I’ve shared some more fleshed out reflections below on my Dry January experience that I hope becomes a yearly tradition of mine.
And, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did let myself have no more than two drinks three times throughout the month because I’m only human—first when I went to Kingbird at the Watergate since it was a special occasion, then at Urban Butcher since it was a networking event, and lastly, at my family’s favorite Mexican restaurant because temptation got the best of me after an emotionally draining day. Everything in moderation, including moderation right?! ;]
01. I saved a ton of money.
As a surprise to no one, when you cut alcohol out of your life, your restaurant and grocery bills decrease dramatically! I probably saved between $100-150 this month simply from staying sober at happy hours and dinners, and not adding bottles of wine to my Trader Joe’s runs.
I think the amount of money I was saving was most evident when I went out to dinner with friends who did have wine—at one, my bill was $22 compared to my friend’s $48! That sort of saving really adds up over time, and it’s made me really motivated to stick to one drink or less when I’m eating out.
02. Most people are willing to skip the drinks, too.
My sister and I did Dry January together, and it was nice to have her as a support system! But, I found that most people are also willing to go dry with you when you tell them what you’re doing, even if they weren’t doing an entire dry month.
For instance, Victoria had me over to her house for a little New Year’s brunch with Ashlee, who was also doing Dry January, and Monica. Ashlee was smart enough to give Victoria a head’s up she wouldn’t be drinking so Victoria wouldn’t spend unnecessary money on alcohol. I chimed in and said I also wasn’t drinking, and Monica and Victoria then decided to skip the champs and OJ as well. And you know what—even without mimosas, I still had the best time catching up with them! Similarly, my best friend from middle school and I had a Saturday night movie night, and instead of drinking wine, we enjoyed La Croix on her couch. It sort of felt like we were back in high school since we watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but it was one of the best nights I had all month.
03. I saw more movies in a month than I did in 2017.
This could have been a coincidence because there are *so many* good movies out right now, but since activities that revolved solely around drinking were nixed from my social calendar, I started looking for other fun ways to spend my time.
I use to be the queen of movies in my middle school and early high school days—I swear I’ve seen every movie that came out between 2003-2007, even if it only has a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. (Though, let’s be real, most of my favorite films have a 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.) Yet, as I got older, my social life evolved and I stopped going to the movies as much. Last year, I saw one movie in theaters—Beauty and the Beast. I left the theater thinking to myself I needed to see more movies on the big screen, but then never made it back—even though I only live two blocks from a theater.
This month, I saw three movies—I, Tonya, The Greatest Showman, and The Post—and there are more I want to see, namely Darkest Hour. I’ve loved being “in the know” about the films up for awards and really enjoyed the simple pleasure of going to the movies. Not to mention, it’s often cheaper than happy hour! Here’s to hoping my movie count keeps going up from here this year.
04. I lost five pounds without changing anything else.
While I did a good job of maintaining my weight over the holiday season (as opposed to gaining!), I knew I wanted to shed a few pounds in the new year. During the first week of Dry January, I actually gained weight, which was super annoying. I think this gain was partially because when I first cut out alcohol, I had sugar cravings like no other. I keep an emergency stash of candy in my desk at work, and was breaking into it far too often. So, I went to the grocery store and bought a bag of clementines and ate one anytime the need for sugar struck. About a week into January, the sugar cravings stopped and I was able to get back on track.
After that, I focused on eating filling breakfasts and lots of lean proteins and veggies for lunches and dinners, allowing myself a splurge meal every now and then—which, truthfully, is how I try to eat most of the year. But, because I wasn’t drinking and I was continuing to work out 3-5 times a week like I had been, I was finally able to lose some weight simply by abstaining from alcohol. I have a really hard time losing weight, so this was a big win for me—and super motivating!
05. I slept so much better.
I’ve always been a pretty solid sleeper—I can fall asleep most nights in under ten minutes and don’t wake up again until my alarm goes off the next morning. I can also literally sleep through almost any type of noise, which was a huge blessing that year I lived in my sorority house. However, during the lead-up to the holiday season, I found myself perpetually unable to fall asleep an hour or two past my bed time, which meant I’d wake up super groggy the next day. No matter how hard I tried to fall asleep earlier, I just couldn’t, so the cycle continued. I was only getting about six hours of sleep a night, whereas I’ve learned over the years I need at least seven to function like a normal human. It was not good!
About a week into Dry January, I realized that I was back to a healthy sleep schedule, and even found myself going to bed about an hour earlier than usual, meaning I was getting up to eight hours of sleep on a typical work night (#praisehands). And, it goes without saying—sober sleep is more restorative and it was so nice to not wake up hungover once during the month of January!
06. I felt so much more energized in my exercise classes.
In months prior, I’d hit up exercise classes the morning or night after a dinner or happy hour, and still feel a bit sluggish. It was frustrating to know I wasn’t always bringing my best self to class. This month, however, I found myself having so much more energy in Orangetheory and spin, which meant I was able to push myself harder to really maximize my workouts. And, because I was better rested, I was able to recover more quickly between classes.
07. I missed drinking most at social events.
The most tempted I was throughout the entire month was at a work dinner downtown at one of my favorite Italian restaurants. I wanted so badly to indulge in a glass of wine with my team, but instead, opted for a ginger ale. (I had to treat myself somehow!) Once everyone had ordered and we were onto appetizers, the temptation subsided, but it was at that dinner and other fun social events that I missed drinking the most. I never once missed having wine on my couch because I found other ways to relax—painting my nails, lighting a candle, watching my favorite movie, reading for pleasure.
As such, in 2018, I’m really going to make an effort to drink only at special occasions or social functions with friends and family and focus on other ways to relax after a long day or week of work that don’t involve wine.
Did you do dry January? I’d love to know what you’re experience was—drop me a note in the comments below! x