I gave up alcohol, and here's what shockingly happened...
That's right. You heard me.
It all started on December 2nd. My husband and I took an awesome trip to #Nashville right after Thanksgiving. We took in all the sites, the sounds, and of course the flavors of Music City. (It was amazing, I highly recommend!)
The final day, I was hit HARD by a massive cold, and as a result, duh, I skipped cocktails because, well, I literally couldn't taste anything. haha! We returned home and I got on a antibiotic. TEN DAYS of amoxicillin 2x/day. I decided I needed to be a full-blown adult and not chase the antibiotic with a glass of wine.
I also thought: "Can I actually challenge myself to not have wine for 10 days?"
Ten days later, I proudly made it through, and something surprising happened: I felt clearer, happier and more energized. Right then... I decided to give up drinking all together for the month of December.
Yes, that meant NO HOLIDAY PARTY BEVERAGES. NO NIGHTLY GLASS OF WINE TO DESTRESS.
Uncovering the WHY
I've historically fallen victim to an all-or-nothing mentality with most things in life, and it showed up in my social habits as well. In college, I would hole myself up for weeks at a time working my ass off at studying and performing. Typically one night a month, I would go out, #fullout #nomarking. Drinking seemed to give me a break from my otherwise rigid self, an escape from the rigors of 22 credit hours (#musictheatermajor) and the pressure to be perfect. It felt like freedom to be raw, a little messy and dismantle the control I usually imposed on myself. aka escapism.
I thought drinking actually made me more fun. Read: I believed I wasn't enough.
Moving to NYC certainly doesn't help a person to drink less, since literally every. single. blesséd. social opportunity revolves around grabbing a drink. My early 20's - 30 were spent hustling, and to counter that hard work I definitely had my share of shenanigans. I'm actually laughing right now recounting the hilarious and crazy nights out I've had with friends. But then, I cringe at the times we were not mindful, and put ourselves in possible danger. Maybe some of you can relate, and it can be both nostalgic and sobering to reflect back.
After moving from NYC to Orlando with my hubs a little over 2 years ago, we slowed down a lot. Having to drive vs taking the subway, living in suburbia and having responsibilities like home ownership and pets shifts your priorities. But even still, grabbing a glass of wine at the end of my night stayed a ritual.
And that's all it was. It was a HABIT. And even though it was just one glass a night, a few nights a week, it still was engrained in me like blinking. I didn't like the fact that I felt out of control of this ritual.
Depravity vs choice
I've challenged myself to stop drinking in the past before. Proclamations like "This month, I am NOT DRINKING AT ALL ...to lose weight." The reason wasn't powerful, it felt like a grind, and I counted down the days until I could have a drink again.
This time, it is different. Before, I focused on what I wasn't allowed to have.
Now, I focus on everything that I am gaining from this lifestyle shift. I am actually giving my body so much by skipping even one glass of wine a night*.
*which by the way, is the recommended daily limit for women. 2 drinks per day for men.
5 benefits of not drinking
If you've ever wanted to cut out alcohol, but haven't known where to start: you first need a powerful why. Maybe you'll connect with one below!
1. Better sleep.
A reported 45% of people use alcohol to sleep better. While it may help you initially pass out, alcohol consumption actually disrupts sleep patterns, making it harder to obtain that deep sleep mode (Slow Wave Sleep and REM) which are imperative to a rejuvenating night's sleep. Not getting adequate deep sleep can bring an onset of disease and illness later in life, and in the immediate future can lead to weight gain, irritability and lack of focus to name a few.
2. Younger appearance.
Drinking dehydrates the body, making skin appear less youthful. If you reduce your consumption, you will not only have improved skin tone and quality, less inflammation around the eyes, but also save tons of money on facial products that only provide a bandaid for the real issue: dehydration and lack of sleep.
You also will likely lose weight, since alcohol contains hundreds of empty calories, and slows the metabolism down. You will also be less likely to overeat, since oftentimes drinking is paired with poor dietary decisions (and just poor decisions in general haha).
3. More energy.
Drinking alcohol not only can lead to disrupted sleep and dehydration which can make you feel sluggish, but it can diminish energy levels. Metabolizing alcohol is hard work for your body, and put super simply, your body has to work hard to process and remove said "toxins". This leaves less time to metabolize other nutrients which are important for fueling your body's daily energy levels.
Plus, dancing on tables until 3am is exhausting.
4. Better fitness.
Multiple Studies (<--- super sciencey read, if you like that sort of thing) have shown that drinking can decrease your fitness levels. Put suuuuper simply, alcoholic intake can interfere with strength gain, aerobic performance, force production and recovery. So basically, you can work out harder, longer, faster and more frequently, and gain better results from said workout if you skip the sip.
5. Improved mood.
Lastly, and most importantly to me personally, avoiding alcohol can drastically improve your mental health. "Unfortunately reaching for a drink won’t always have the effect you’re after. While a glass of wine after a hard day might help you relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health." (For the full article which is a great read for anyone, go to https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/mental-health/alcohol-and-mental-health/).
What about positive benefits from drinking?
In reality, you don't have to cut out drinking all together to lead a healthy lifestyle. Just be mindful, and approach intake much like your diet: everything in moderation. And as for all those studies touting that wine is good for you? Sadly, you can't believe everything you read. Research can be cherry-picked and manipulated by media to sound a certain way. True, red wine contains healthy components like resveratrol, and I'd say it is the better choice if you want to imbibe, but you'd actually gain more benefit from ingesting these antioxidants in the form of actual plant-based foods.
"Resveratrol is a compound that some plants produce to fight off bacteria and fungi, and to protect against ultraviolet (UV) irradiation.
The resveratrol in wine comes from the skins of red grapes. Blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts are also sources of resveratrol, and it is available in supplement form.
Evidence suggests that in some forms, resveratrol may boost cardiovascular health, protect against cancer, and help treat acne, among others.
Red wine contains resveratrol, but it may not be the best way to consume it, because the intake of alcohol brings it own risks." (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265635.php)
How I have benefitted personally
(^^ my cat is so creepy LOL)
1. Fat loss
Even though the intention of this change was not weight loss, I have actually lost 2 pounds, which for me at 5'2" is measurable. I haven't yet tracked bodyfat, but I can tell visually I am much leaner (visible abs, less fatty tissue around my ribcage). Paired with my recent shift to a vegan(ish) lifestyle, I am feeling amazing!
Even though I have a crazy schedule, it has made waking up at 3, 4 and 5am much less difficult. I have more sustained energy throughout the day, which helps me tackle two full time jobs, my own business and my own workouts!
3. Mental health
This is probably the greatest effect I have felt from eliminating alcohol. I struggle pretty badly with anxiety. It sometimes consumes me, and makes daily tasks daunting and decisions really difficult. It can also interfere with my personal relationships at times.
I am OVERWHELMED at how much happier, even-keeled, and energized I feel day to day since this change. I handle stress better, make clearer decisions, and get more shit done faster, which in turn calms my anxiety too!
4. Deeper self-awareness and inner peace.
Of course I'm not hooking myself up to probes and measuring this from a scientific standpoint, but cutting out alcohol for me personally has greatly improved my quality of life and how I approach each day. Even in spite of a 55-hour work week, heavy commuting to and from jobs, and recent other hardships, I still feel uplifted, positive, and strong. Along with a recent shift to a vegan diet (read about that here!), I feel so much more at peace with myself.
Are you seriously never going to drink again, Elizabeth?!
Since I know that I don't succeed with absolutes, I am not DISALLOWED from having a drink. If it feels like an important engagement, or really means something, I will have a well-intentioned glass of wine. This may be once a month. But the point is, it will be 100% intentional, non-habitual.
And the best part about this commitment? Everyone around me benefits from this change, too. My husband, my family, my coworkers. I am able to give so much more of myself because I am a fuller version of me.
And guess what I also discovered?
I am actually just as fun without that wine. ;-)
If you'd like to join the workouts that I do, and try a cleaner diet, check out my 28-Day Lean program!