The New Year is a time for resolutions, and one common resolution is to cut back on drinking alcohol. If you’ve committed to a Dry January this year, we’re here at the halfway mark to cheer you on – you can do it!
Check out the tips below on how to cut back on drinking, or abstain altogether, for the month of January and beyond.
What Is Dry January?
“Dry January” is an initiative that encourages people to abstain from drinking alcohol for the month of January. The name is a registered trademark of Alcohol Change UK, which introduced the campaign in the UK in 2013.
The idea caught on in the UK, the US, and elsewhere, and now Dry January is a common New Year’s resolution. It’s good timing after all the indulging of the holiday season, which often involves drinking.
Benefits of Dry January
Better health is one of the biggest reasons to cut back on drinking, whether you abstain for a month or as a permanent lifestyle choice.
Heavy alcohol use is associated with serious diseases like cirrhosis of the liver and various kinds of cancer, but recent research from the UK shows that even light and moderate alcohol use adversely affects the brain. It’s a compelling reason to stop or reduce your alcohol intake.
Some other benefits of Dry January include:
- Better mental health and mood
- Better sleep
- More energy
- No hangovers
- Saving money
- Improved judgment (because inhibitions aren’t lowered by alcohol)
You might wonder if one month is enough to see benefits. According to research, yes, it is!
Can You Lose Weight During Dry January?
Yes, you (potentially) can.
Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, so cutting out just one daily drink, which could contain anywhere from around 100-400+ calories, could save you several thousand calories during the month of January. If your eating habits otherwise remain unchanged, this could translate to modest weight loss.
Alcohol consumption is related to increases in weight in other ways, too. It has appetite-stimulating effects. Long-term consumption raises levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s associated with increased abdominal fat. And lowered inhibitions from drinking may lead to other bad habits like eating junk food or simply eating too much.
In short, cutting back or cutting out alcohol entirely during Dry January can indeed help you lose weight if you’re a moderate or social drinker.
Note: There’s an exception when it comes to the weight-loss scenario – people with alcohol use disorder. Rather than gaining weight, they often experience weight loss and may be underweight.
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Tips for Dry January
Set a SMART goal
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based.
Maybe you want to stop drinking altogether, or drink only on the weekends, or cut your drinking in half. Whatever your goal is, make it clear. After all, you can only achieve your goal if you know what that goal is.
HEALTH WARNING: If you are a heavy drinker, stopping cold turkey can be dangerous to your health. Please consult a professional for help so you can reduce alcohol consumption in a safe and healthy way. Talk to your healthcare provider or get in touch with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) online or by phone (1-800-662-4357) for more info and next steps.
Avoid your drinking buddies
One big roadblock to cutting out or cutting back on drinking is how it can affect your social life. If your friend group’s main activities include drinking, it can be extremely hard to avoid alcohol while spending time together. Don’t rely on your own willpower to get you through. You may really want to stick to soda at the bar or club, but pressure from well-meaning friends can easily lead to “just one drink” against your better judgment. It’s best to sit out for a few weeks and avoid temptation altogether.
Or, get your drinking buddies on board
Another option is to recruit some of your friends to do Dry January with you. Agree to avoid places where drinking is the main focus and pick locations and activities that don’t tempt you, like coffee shops, the movie theater, the park, or board games at home. Hold each other accountable and encourage each other in your progress.
Get a new go-to drink
You can easily reduce the amount of alcohol you drink without changing your lifestyle simply by ordering a different drink. Instead of a regular glass of wine, try a wine spritzer. Instead of a heavy beer, get an American lager with a lower ABV (alcohol by volume). For spirits, choose vodka, and look for brands that are 20% ABV rather than the typical 40%. If you’re out at a bar or restaurant, ask the bartender to use a half shot in your drink rather than a full shot – they’ll happily oblige!
Find an alcohol-free alternative
Cut out alcohol altogether and replace it with alcohol-free alternatives, like:
Water. If plain water doesn’t do it for you, infuse your water for flavor. It’s as simple as adding smashed berries (like raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries), sliced fruits and veggies (like cucumber, watermelon, and orange), and muddled herbs (like mint, rosemary and basil) to a glass, mason jar, or pitcher of water. Let it steep at room temperature for up to two hours or in the fridge overnight and drink within a few days.
Soda. You can even make your own fizzy drinks at home with a Soda Stream that offers a big variety of flavors from cola to fruits and blends.
Juice. Make delicious juices at home with a juicer like this cold press juicer from Ninja which lets you choose how much pulp you want (No, Some, or Lots) and is easy to use and clean.
Smoothies. For delicious smoothies, you need a powerful blender like the Vitamix ONE. (It’s perfect for making soups, sauces, purees, dressings, and more, too!)
Tea. Enjoy it hot or iced. Up your tea game with this cool digital kettle from Sur La Table that automatically steeps your tea for you and prevents it from overbrewing with presets for different kinds of tea.
Coffee. If part of the pleasure you get from drinking comes from the mixology and the ritual of creating a beautiful drink, then consider coffee as an alternative. With an espresso machine, you can create amazing barista-level drinks yourself. Alternatively, savor the process of creating a cup with a simple pour-over coffee maker like this one from OXO.
Lookalikes. If you’re at a bar or party and don’t want any questions about why you’re not drinking, ask for a plain club soda with lime (looks like a gin and tonic), a soda (looks like rum and cola), or keep an empty beer bottle in your hand.
Don’t let a slip-up derail you
So you cave and have a cocktail with a friend. Or get a second drink when you promised yourself you’d stick to one.
It’s okay. You’re human.
Just don’t use your slip-up as an excuse to go back to your old ways. Tomorrow is another day and another chance to recommit to your goals. Keep going!