Dry January is Over; Here’s What I Learned.

dry january is over, here's what i learned.

If we’re being honest, I met January 1st with lots of relief, as I knew that a) I was putting together this wellness challenge and would be spending the next three months really committing to my health, and b) I would be taking a full month off from drinking.

Writing about drinking is always a funny thing (and something I typically avoid as it’s like parenting advice, pregnancy advice, etc etc – everyone has an opinion! If you drink too much you have a problem, if you don’t drink you are uptight/not fun.)…  WHATEVER. I’m always totally honest here and am just a regular person (not an expert) just sharing my own personal opinions and experiences. My opinions don’t have to be your opinions… as Amy Poehler said, “Good for her! Not for me!” I guess I get nervous as around this time last year I wrote a post about being healthier and outraged a bunch of people by saying I would never be able to take a month off of drinking.

The thing is, I was just being honest, and at that particular moment in time, taking a month off of drinking sounded totally impossible. That was where I was in life. I was going on dates + blogger events like crazy (and you guys I’m sorry but blogger events are the worst. Everyone is on their phones, no one is talking to each other, I’m always the oldest person in the room.) I can see why I felt like I had to have a drink… maybe I should have just said no to the event… (but that’s something we talked about here. Protect your time, friends!)

My outlook on drinking and dating changed a few months ago, when I went on a really fun date with a guy who was taking a few months off from drinking as he started a new job + got back into shape. We had so much fun. We got coffee and talked for hours and hours. It was probably the best date I went on all year, and it was only a simple coffee and a walk. It made me realize you shouldn’t rely on booze to make a date fun. If you need it, that person is probably not your person. Things didn’t work out with that guy but meeting him definitely brought about this mental switch – it took going on a good sober date to get me there. If you missed it, I’ve since wrote a post about sober dating where I crowd sourced cute date ideas + stories from you guys. All of those ideas are so much more creative and fun than just drinks!

But anyway, I woke up on January first just feeling so relieved to be taking a breather from drinking. The holidays with my family were amazing (but that also involved drinking our way through a LOT of the restaurant’s wine inventory as my parents are kept the restaurant’s wine inventory when they sold the restaurant), and New Year’s Eve was a blast (but I stayed up wayyyy too late and woke up to the most disgusting apartment after playing hostess). My month off was easier than I expected, but some weird/unexpected things happened, which I thought would be fun to share here today.

I didn’t miss it. Like, at all. This was such a shocker. I love playing hostess, and I’ve always been the wine queen. The wine fridge is always stocked, the second a friend comes over they have a full glass in their hand. It took a few weeks to get used to sparkling water or kombucha as my evening “treat,” but once I made that a habit, it just became the norm. There was only one night where I missed it. I still love wine, but I was shocked by how little I missed it.

I became a chocolate fiend. Fiend. I’ve always been more of a savory vs. sweet person, and found myself wanting sweets all the time. I had to really regulate myself (most of the time), for the first two weeks. At the beginning of the month it was really bad, though. I had chocolate almost every night! By the end of the month the chocolate cravings were gone.

For the first half of the month, I was a lot more tired. I found myself going to bed earlier, and wanting naps on the weekends. One of you left an interesting comment on one of the wellness challenges (I couldn’t find it!) saying that this is normal as your body detoxes, but whether that is true or not, I definitely found myself strangely exhausted.

It’s a really good money saver. Okay this is obvious as cocktails, especially in New York, can really add up… but it was fun (to the point where it became a game) seeing how inexpensive going to dinner became! I didn’t just hole up at home because I wasn’t drinking… I probably went out to dinner at least twice a week. Sometimes it was with friends who were also taking a break, sometimes it was with friends who were still drinking. When no one drank, the bill was always so cheap.

I ate a lot more than usual and still lost weight. For the first time in a while, I didn’t really stress about food. I eat pretty healthy/clean on a daily basis, but I pretty much ate what I wanted and still lost weight. (Obviously, I was exercising every day so other things were at play, but still.) I let myself eat things I wouldn’t usually let myself have… like sharing a pizza with girlfriends, or having chocolate a little dessert at night. I will reiterate that I was exercising every day and I wasn’t exactly pigging out, but I definitely let myself eat foods I wouldn’t usually let myself have. Everything in moderation, but this was another realization. For the most part, I think I’d rather eat my calories than drink them.

I’m going to keep this going. Mostly. It really comes down to this. I realized how much better I feel when I don’t drink, and I like feeling good. So is something worth the hangover and/or feeling bloated and groggy the next day? Sometimes it is, most of the time it isn’t. For the foreseeable future at least, drinking is going to be a weekends/special occasions only sort of thing. No more mindless glasses of wine during the week just because I’m tired or stressed. It’s not worth feeling gross the next day, it’s not worth the calories, and so on and so forth.

My skin was better. Everyone said I was glowing which I didn’t really see, but it was definitely more hydrated. My skin is pretty well behaved but it does get really dry (especially my legs and arms), especially in the winter. This could be from a whole bunch of things (working out and sweating more, using a lot of bath oil in the tub) but my skin was noticeably less dry this month and I think not drinking probably played a part in that. I mean it makes sense as alcohol does dehydrate you, but I can’t be 100% sure what was at play.

Overall, I’m really glad I did this. It changed my perspective and made me more aware of bad habits and in turn helped me to jumpstart some healthier habits. If you’ve never done it and/or are feeling like your body needs a little reset I would highly encourage you to try a Dry January or Dry February or whatever… just have sparkling water, kombucha, and lots of good chocolate on hand at first.  😉

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Comments

  1. Congratulations on surviving dry January! It’s nice to see you’ll be continuing this lifestyle and the many benefits that come along with it. 🙂 I didn’t go through a dry January myself since I never drink anyway – it’s a personal choice simply because I hate the taste of alcohol, lol. And honestly, ordering hot mint tea on cold night outs at the bar with my friends is so warming for the weather right now! 😉

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  2. Jess says 2.1.18

    Good for you! Sometimes I feel that if people are feeling attacked by what you are saying, it may mean they aren’t all that happy with something themselves and really have nothing to do with you at all. Despite the negativity you received, you may have secretly inspired some people to give this (or other healthy habits) a try!

  3. Rachelle says 2.1.18

    I use alcohol as a treat and some weekends allow myself some wine or a cocktail or 2. Trust me I love my drinks but I try not to rely on it if I’m having a bad day and such. And yes it does wonders for your skin, my skin is so much clearer and I hardly breakout lately.

    xo
    Pinksole

  4. KM says 2.1.18

    Hi Grace! I left the comment, ha! I’m a huge data and numbers nerd and am always tracking and trying to figure out the “why” of things, so when I noticed all the changes in my body from Dry January, I hopped on the Google and put my scientist hat on. Here’s a huge reason as to why we get tired and it’s even more prominent in women: Hormones. Alcohol significantly increases your estrogen levels, which on the face of it that might sound good, except it’s not. If you’ve ever been on the pill then you might have ecperienced drier skin, belly fat, being overly emotional, etc. Sound familiar? So when you quit alcohol, your body goes through a bit of withdrawal the first two weeks and readjusts. Note: You don’t have to be an alcoholic to go through withdrawal. If your body is used to a glass of wine or two pretty regularly, it’s still a an adjustment to the system if you stop abruptly. Progesterone then comes back into play after your body is no longer getting all that extra estrogen. Progesterone is known for making you sleepy and calm and giving a sense of well-being. Eventually, a few weeks after you quit, your hormones reach its normal equilibrium and the tiredness passes. One other quick note: fat is also a big producer of estrogen. Hence why women going through menopause put on weight. It’s the body’s way of helping your system put out estrogen as levels fall. So when you drink and start to put in weight, the extra fat can further exacerbate the estrogen situation. Normal hormone levels make it much harder to put on belly fat. Basically, too much of anything is no Bueno. Anyway, I found all this fascinating and wanted to share since it explained so sooo much. I’m enjoying Dry January too!!

  5. Emily says 2.1.18

    Such interesting feedback. So glad to hear that you are feeling better and had a positive experience! Honestly I always feel so much better when I’m not drinking as well. 🙂 The skin benefits are amazing!
    Xo,
    Em
    http://www.organicallyemily.com

  6. For your chocolate cravings– I keep VERY dark chocolate in my pantry. Usually one square of it satisfies me and it’s not too sweet where I want to eat the whole thing. (Plus “they,” whoever they are, says it’s good for you )

  7. That’s really awesome that you stuck with it! It’s much harder to unlearn behaviors than it is to pick up new ones. I’ve never been a big drinker for the reasons you’ve listed, and socially, it’s never been a big issue. People usually don’t even notice that I’ve ordered club soda in lieu of something stronger.

    *Also, you just convinced me to never, under any circumstances, attend a blogger event. At 40, they’ll probably ask for my AARP card at the door.

  8. Marta says 2.1.18

    Congrats on completing the month! I think we should always do what’s best for us because nobody knows our body better than ourselves. If you want to make healthier decisions, it’s your choice and no one should have a saying in it.

  9. Valerie DiStefano says 2.1.18

    Congrats on your decision on drinking. I came to the same decision five years ago when a friend of mine developed alcoholism. Thank goodness through the support of her friends and family she is now sober and working every day on staying clean and sober. I suddenly could not stand the taste or smell of alcohol, and to this day I still cannot.

  10. MarciaMarciaMarcia says 2.1.18

    Congrats to you – and to myself – on a successful Dry January! I had a lot of the same experiences you had – although I never connected my massive chocolate cravings this month to not drinking. I don’t know if I was more exhausted than usual, but I know that my sleep quality is always better when I don’t drink. And at my doctor’s appt on Monday, I found out that I’ve actually lost 3 pounds since I was weighed just before Christmas. I generally don’t weigh myself, but it’s really affirming to know that if I had any holiday weight gain, this took care of it and then some! I had a few Fridays right after work where it was hard to not drink, but as soon as I made myself and espresso or cup of tea or opened a LaCroix, the craving went away. I think a lot of my wine drinking is just habit, and that’s something I definitely want to stop. I’m going to try to limit my wine consumption to weekends, and to try to drink less even when I am having alcohol. And when I am dying for a drink, try something else first to see if that desire passes.

  11. Natalie says 2.1.18

    Hi Grace, Will you let us know into February how Dry January affected your alcohol tolerance? I am already a bit of a lightweight, which is the only reason why I’ve been scared to do a dry month. I almost did one before my wedding and then realized being drunk off of two glasses of champagne would not be a good look! I’ve been loving your wellness series. Happy Thursday! -Natalie

    • Okay! I’m not really planning on drinking excessively… can’t imagine I’ll have more than 2 drinks for a while, which will probably be more than enough.

  12. Cy says 2.1.18

    I’ve always been a person who take it or leave it. I love a good cocktail or glass of wine, but I never drink alone, I just don’t enjoy it. My aunt and cousin were visiting so I made margaritas from my dad’s Ranjpur limes and Meyer lemons, but we had one. If I drink it’s a social thing. It’s so good that you did this for yourself, yes some people get weird and resentful because it freaks them out ( some of those people might have a problem). I have a friend, who says she doesn’t have a sweet tooth, but she has her couple of drinks every night. People don’t realize that alcohol is the purest form of sugar there is, so you crave it in other ways when you don’t drink. Anyway, I’m glad this was a positive experience for you and you feel better for it. I enjoyed reading about your journey.

  13. Cori Schwabe says 2.1.18

    Totally agree. I loved my Dry January experience, and also was surprised at home little I missed drinking. I think I’m going to cut out drinking M-F (or S-Th), unless there’s something important. I feel amazing though! I also went out on sober dates, and they were completely fine & fun!

  14. Kellie says 2.1.18

    I pretty much only drink on Saturday evenings, hanging out with my husband at home. Some weeks it might be twice if I have book club or a girls’ dinner- crazy! I didn’t cut down on purpose but after my second child it just naturally happened as I end up too tired in the evenings to even want a glass of wine. Plus the next day effects even from one drink make me too tired- up at 5 to work out, go teach high schoolers, then be a mom…. I end up just wanting to be an old lady & read in bed !

    I’m the same age as you so maybe this is getting wiser? Definitely not older 🙂 But I just am too tired the next day if I have a drink to make me even want one during the week!

  15. Kristine says 2.1.18

    I love this! I did a dry month last year and I actually felt the same – I didn’t miss wine (but then once you start having little nips here and there it kind of becomes routine again!). I’m with you about making the drinking occasions “worth it”. If it’s a dive-bar and a bunch of friends are just hanging? I go club soda and lime. If it’s a great dinner with REALLY good wine? You can bet I’m indulging! Also you’ll be amazed at the quality of your regular workouts once you bring booze back into play. I can instantly tell in my AM run or SoulCycle if I’ve had wine the night before – even a glass!

    • Totally agree – a really good dinner with really good wine always means I will indulge, too! xx

  16. Theodora says 2.1.18

    I will just straight up admit: I know I drink more than I should…and I’ve totally relied on it somewhat as a crutch in these past few difficult months, but I also recognize it only makes me feel worse. I turn 35 next week and am going to Sonoma to celebrate, so I’m not going to do a total dry February (because hi, Sonoma), but am going to figure out parameters for myself to cut way the eff back the rest of the month.

    • I think it’s fine to indulge from time to time especially when you really need it to cope! After Sonoma, just think about how you can cut back and make healthier habits!!

  17. Becca says 2.1.18

    Congrats! I’m also always the one saying “I couldn’t not drink for a month” mostly because as a craft beer girl we are always going to new breweries as well as sporting events and weekend trips. It is great that you were able to do it!

  18. Stacy says 2.1.18

    I did a dry month about a year and a half ago, and I’ll say while it was easier than I feared, it was still difficult for me. First, I did it in May, so it wasn’t like I was coming off the holiday parties or anything. Also, the weather was getting nice, and living in Portland, that means sitting outside at breweries all the time, haha. I ended up cutting the month a bit short (for a Memorial Day weekend camping trip) but I definitely learned a lot during those 25 days! And gained my La Croix addiction lol.

    During February I’m doing a Paleo/kind of-Whole30 diet, and while I’m choosing not to totally forgo alcohol (straight up: I don’t want to!) I am limiting the types of alcohol (no beer, dark liquors or anything containing added sugar) and when I drink (not on weeknights at home). I’m interested to see how I do in forming healthier drinking habits and choosing different drinks (I’m a whiskey/craft beer girl, which are two of the worst for the waistline haha). Really appreciate you sharing your journey! It feels so vulnerable to talk about alcohol, but I think it’s great to have the conversation

  19. Courtney Brandt says 2.1.18

    I’m here for this! I didn’t quite go completely dry last month, but cut back significantly (as a food blogger, it’s tough not to drink when reviewing). I think the most interesting thing has been the reaction from some ‘friends’ (versus actual friends). I was more or less bullied the other night to go out and drink, when I had specifically said, ‘Hey, I’m really cutting down this month, please respect my decision.’ Who knew something as simple as making a healthy decision for myself would reveal a toxic nature in others?

    • KM says 2.2.18

      Oh boy! Same! People HATE to drink alone. Like you’re ruining their fun! I think people like that just don’t want (in their mind’s eye) the sober scrutiny of witnessing their dysfunction, which it probably isn’t even close to that. Even if they perceive 3 glasses of wine as dysfunction (which it’s not) but maybe they don’t want to have to consider whether it is or isn’t, so they just try to shame us into joining them to avoid it entirely.

    • Oh god that is so immature!!! I hate that. People can be so rude!!!

  20. kristy says 2.2.18

    Congrats! I was attempting Dry January too, but I had one slip up (my friend’s restaurant opening with open bar…oopsy!). I wholeheartedly agree though – you feel better, you save money, and you think of other ways to spend your time! I also became addicted to La Croix haha. Keep it up – fun doesn’t need to come in a bottle. I also find it easier in the winter, when I myself am hibernating. Come summer and vacations it becomes a little more challenging, but balance, right!?

    • I think it’s fine to slip up every now and then! LOVE La Croix – it is my fav! xo

  21. lara says 2.2.18

    great post, grace! i am newly pregnant and am missing the social aspect of having wine with my husband – we get real into it and its just something for entertainment. i am feeling lame lately getting bigger and feeling like i dont get to have my usual fun but havent put any effort into figuring out “what fun is now” during this period. thank you for your honesty!

    • Haha! Read the Sober Dating post. There are a lot of fun ideas/things to do!!!! 🙂

  22. Roxanne says 2.2.18

    I appreciate your honest and positive experience! I participated too and like you, learned a lot about myself, my habits, and my body. And you’re right – blogger events are the worst, haha!
    –Roxanne
    http://glassofglam.com

  23. Deirdre Zahl says 2.2.18

    Yay! Good to hear you enjoyed your dry January. I enjoy a run or a good hang out with you equally as much as a good glass of wine. And isn’t it amazing how kombucha can become such a great substitute! Still Whole 30’ing over here but not missing wine as much as chocolate. xoxo

    • Thanks so much friend!!!! I agree. It really is amazing what a good substitute kombucha is.

      I miss you! We need to hang out soon.

  24. Missy says 2.3.18

    Grace, as always, thanks for your refreshing directness (hahah about blogger events – I never would’ve known; it sounds so glamorous to outsiders but now I can totally see it!). I personally don’t drink anymore at all and applaud you for making thoughtful decisions about what’s right for YOU. There’s a movement called Hello Sunday Morning I think you’d find interesting. The creator did a TED talk on it. It’s inspiring. Anyway, keep doing what works for you!