Trying out Dry July this year? Drinking less alcohol is always a good thing – alcohol is linked to a whole raft of negative health and wellbeing factors including risk of cancer, heart disease and depression.
But alcohol is also part of our social fabric and many people just like it. So it can be hard to give up, even for a month. Here are Fitfood’s top tips for staying true to the mission this Dry July.
Do it for you
Be clear why you want to do Dry July. If you’re just doing it for kicks, you might fail. There are lots of reasons people take part. Staying free of alcohol, even temporarily, improves mood, gives you more energy, improves sleep, helps with weight loss and improves your physical performance.
Do it for a good cause
In New Zealand, the concept of Dry July is promoted by the Dry July NZ Trust, which raises money for organisations that support people affected by cancer. It’s a great opportunity to sign up to the challenge and raise money for a good cause. You’re also more likely to succeed if you’re being held to account. Check it out at dryjuly.co.nz.
Rope in a buddy
Like we said, you’re more likely to succeed if you’re held to account. Try and convince a friend, colleague, family member or life partner to join you in the Dry July challenge. Talk with them about how you’re getting on and enjoy the social experience.
Eat well and exercise
Supplement your good decisions around alcohol with good decisions around food and exercise. When your body is feeling great, you’re less likely to crave the stuff that’s bad for you. Avoid fried foods, and eat plenty of plants, healthy fats and proteins. Walk up the stairs, jump on your bike, go for regular runs or swims.
Have a plan for social gatherings
Thankfully, non-alcoholic options at bars are getting better all the time, so you don’t have to resort to sugary soft drinks or lukewarm tap water out of a jug at the end of the bar. But it is definitely worth coming into these things with a plan. Remember you don’t have to drink anything at a bar if you don’t want to – enjoy the social scene or have a dance. Going to a BBQ or potluck? Bring a non-alcoholic bevvy you’d enjoy. Home-made iced tea is easy to make, tasty, low-sugar and something other people will want to try. There are also fantastic non-alcoholic beers, wines and even spirits available in liquor stores and supermarkets.
Accept and acknowledge the urge to drink
Had a hard day? Mates cracking open some cans over a game of poker? Watching your favourite TV show and just need a glass of red? These are the toughest times when you’re taking a break from alcohol. Psychologically speaking, it’s important that you don’t try to “avoid” these thoughts and feelings. They’re a part of life, and there’s nothing inherently bad about wanting something that you like. When these situations arise, it’s helpful to notice that you’re wanting alcohol, acknowledge the thought, and think about the reaction you’re having to it. Let the thought be in your mind and observe it, like an animal in a zoo. Thoughts by themselves can’t hurt you!
Don’t binge in August
It’s almost a natural reaction to “being let out of jail” – once booze is back on the table many people take the opportunity to overindulge and undo some of the hard work done in July. Nobody’s saying you have to give up alcohol forever – that’s a personal choice. But when you go to pour that third glass of wine, be mindful of the harm you’re doing and remember why you did Dry July in the first place!