Doing Sober October? Prepare your smug face.
Cutting down on the booze? You’re not alone: research from Heineken shows that 59 per cent of millenials are limiting their alcohol consumption on nights out, and 36 per cent admit to suffering from ‘social shaming’ after an embarrassing drunk snap ends up online. A staggering 38 per cent of us moderate how much we drink every time we hit the town – a move that’s helping us to feel more confident and in control of our choices (and the outcomes – The Fear is real, folks).
Reducing your alcohol intake, or cutting it out completely, obviously lessens your chances of waking up full of regret (and kebab), but it also brings tons of positive changes to your body – both inside and out.
So whether you’re doing Sober October/Dry January, or in it for the long haul, here are the amazing things that happen to your body when you give up on hitting the bottle. We’re not saying you have to go teetotal, but you can’t argue with the facts…
- You could lose weight
If you’re substituting your bevvy with family-sized bags of M&Ms, you can’t expect to suddenly shed a dress size, but if you’re eating like usual and dropping drink from your diet, you might find your favourite dress fitting a little less snugly. “Many of us are often unaware of the amount of sugar and number of calories there are in some of our favourite alcoholic beverages,” Jake Williams, Lifestyle Health Adviser for Bupa UK told Cosmopolitan UK. “A large glass of wine, for example, has the same amount of calories as an ice cream, and a pint of cider has the same as a doughnut. And, as many of us tend to consume a few drinks at a time, the calories will soon tally up.”
As well as just how calorific alcohol is, it also increases your appetite – in fact, research has shown that people who have just two drinks consume 30% more food than someone sober. Try Cancer Research’s calculator, which allows you to work out how many lbs and how many £ you can expect to save in just one month. You’ll be surprised how much it adds up.
- You could improve your insides
Right, let’s get the obvious klaxon out of the way – we all know liquor is bad for livers. However, what you may not realise is just how quickly it starts to recover when you stop drinking. “The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate itself, so the damage is reversible,” explained Bupa’s Jake Williams. “If you stop drinking for a few weeks, your liver should start to repair itself and get rid of any excess fat that’s built up over time. There are also a few other ways you can help your liver repair the damage. Try to combine a month of drinking no alcohol with regular exercise and a diet that’s full of liver-friendly foods such as fish, pulses and brown rice, as these can help too.”
- You could get better sleep
Studies have shown that drinking before bed messes with a certain kind of alpha wave in your brain, increasing its frequency and disrupting your much-needed shut-eye. Even when you do manage to get to sleep after a heavy night, the quality is much worse – giving it up means you can expect to get a much better night’s rest, leading to benefits like better concentration and improved memory. In one UCL study where participants gave up drinking alcohol for five weeks, ratings of sleep quality rose after just a couple of weeks, leaving participants feeling brighter and more productive. If you’re eyeing a promotion, you might be wise to lay off the rose for a while…
- You could have glowing skin
Yep, booze face is a real thing, and even a small amount of the hard stuff can have an impact on your face. Sticking to soft drinks not only hydrates your skin far better, alleviating dryness and often calming symptoms of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema, it reduces the redness and irritation that alcohol can introduce, and eases puffiness, leaving you looking healthy and radiant without the need that very generous smear of Benefit High Beam. WINNING.
- You could improve your Positive. Mental. Attitude
Okay, so it sounds cliché, but taking a pause from drinking can make you feel refreshed, and better mentally as well as physically. “Alcohol affects your brain chemistry and increases the risk of feeling anxious or depressed. If you’ve noticed you’ve been feeling low, then giving up alcohol could help,” advises Williams. In one study of female heavy drinkers, it was revealed that women who drink a lot were more likely to feel depressed than their light-drinking counterparts. Researchers also found that a reliance on booze can make you more prone to stress, and worse and managing it too. Soo, happier, healthier and less stressed, from giving up one vice? We’ve heard worse ideas…
- You could see more success in the gym
Sorry to tell you, but alcohol has a negative effect on your performance in sport and exercise. “This is because it dehydrates you and reduces how much blood sugar your liver produces (which is important for exercise),” explains Williams. “So going tee-total for a month will help you get the most from your workout and allow your body to perform at its best when exercising.”
- You could reduce your all-round risk
As part and parcel of the whole healthier organs deal, lessening your alcohol amounts also gets you a reduced risk of lots of nasty diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, pancreatis and cancer. Of course, your likelihood of developing these conditions in the first place is significantly higher if you’re a very heavy drinker, but another benefit of reducing your alcohol intake is realising just how much you were drinking in the first place. Awareness is the first step to taking control, so even if you do incorporate alcohol back into your life, you might find yourself less likely to binge.
The recommended amount of alcohol for women is 14 units spread across a week. If you are having trouble controlling your intake or are concerned that you may have a drinking problem, see your GP or visit drinkaware.co.uk.