Hello and welcome back as we are nearing the middle of January a lot of people will be nearly into an up and coming public health campaign commonly known as ‘dry January’. For those who don’t know dry January is the phrase used when an individual pledges not to drink alcohol for the entire month. Some see it as a challenge, or as a new year’s resolution but some will see it as a detoxification period after Christmas and I’m going to explain how and why this can have an impact on the body.
As well as other popular public health campaigns such as movember, stand up to cancer, mental health week, world heart day and world health day, dry January has seen a significant rise in popularity since its start in 2014. Last year over 4 million people signed up to take part alone. So what actually are the benefits when it comes to cutting down on alcohol?
The first thing that you will notice and for some this is the most important in January is weight loss. Alcohol has a staggering number of calories in with a lot of sugars and fats which aren’t digested in the same way as normal food. Alcohol also makes you very hungry if consumed in large amounts, this can also increase weight because you’re eating a lot more. I have produced some very broad averages of the different types of alcohol consumed and how many calories are in each:
Wine – 605 calories per bottle
Beer – 180 calories per pint
Spirit – 51 calories per shot
Spirit + mixer single – 105 calories per cup
Spirit + mixer double – 156 calories per cup
If you add on to this kebab shop food:
Kebab – 620 calories
Cheesy chips – 525 calories
Pizza – 410 calories
These are very rough figures and shouldn’t be used as a guide as different drinks contain different amounts of calories. If however for example you are going out for the night and consume half a bottle of wine, three double gin and tonics and on the way, home had a portion of cheesy chips, then this would add up to a whopping 1,293 calories! This on top of what you’re already consuming in the day. This is okay occasionally however making this a regular occurrence will make you less likely to lose weight in the long run.
Better brain function
Brain function is another important factor that has an impact on our everyday lives and can in fact be improved with less alcohol. It is thought through more modern research that your brain is in fact not actually full developed until your early 20’s or even as old as 25. Due to alcohol making your brain think differently when you drink it, this damages parts of your brain over a longer period of time if done consistently.
Alcohol can in fact inhibit cell growth in the brain however research on this is not extensive. Memory loss can become a more prevalent thing with dementia setting in earlier than usual in your more elderly years. Although you may not think about it now, your brain may deteriorate as you get older and you’ll have your younger self to thank for that. Most people won’t have many problems related to alcohol but these are things to bear in mind when considering taking on dry January and can see improvements straight away.
Improved mental health
One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding alcohol is that it makes you feel better. Sometimes, yes alcohol can release your stresses, make you feel confident and forget about your worries but this is only temporary. The bottom line is that alcohol is a depressant, it makes you more tired, can bring out negative emotions and ultimately will leave you feeling worse mentally the next morning.
A lot of people will over excessively drink when they’re going through a difficult time to try and make themselves feel better however this is only temporary and in the long run won’t make you feel any better at all. The less alcohol you drink, the better your brain will function and the better mood will be and therefore improving relationships with others.
Less risk of heart disease
Drinking alcohol in high quantities regularly is known to lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) which puts unnecessary strain on the cardiac muscle and there is strong links and extensive research to suggest this. This in time can lead to cardiovascular disease meaning you are more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. If you were to cut down on alcohol then this can significantly reduce your chances of any of the above factors entering your life.
Boost energy levels
Sleeping is usually impacted in a negative way as a result of consuming high levels of alcohol. This is because you are less likely to fall into a deep sleep which is needed to allow your body to recover and reset for the next day. Your also likely to get a lot less sleep than you normally would leaving you tired for the duration of the day.
Alcohol can have an impact on your immune system meaning that it is weaker and not as able to fight off illness and more susceptible to getting ill. If you were to drink less alcohol then not only would you increase your sleep which boosts energy levels, you would also be able to fight off illness a lot easier which is better for your general health.
The biggest factor that turn a lot of people to doing dry January is that it does in fact save you a shed load of money. With the average pint in the UK costing £3.67 (varies dependent on location), you will find that you will be keeping a lot of your wage packet that you could then spend on other things. Just to put this in perspective if you drink on average 4 pints per week for 52 weeks of the year:
£3.67 x 4 = £14.68
£14.68 x 52 = £763.36
That’s a staggering amount when added up at the end of the year. Here are just a few things you could buy with £763.36
- Apple iPhone 11 – £729
- Gucci shoes – £600
- Louis Vuitton ‘Nano speedy’ handbag – £700
- Second hand car
- Big chunk (if not all) of car insurance
- A holiday or city break
- Save towards deposit for a house
- Fitbit Versa 2 (newest when writing) – £200
- Chelsea football club season ticket – £595 (cheapest ticket)
- Men’s Wimbledon final centre court ticket – £225
Ultimately, dry January isn’t for everyone however it’s designed as more of a message that we should all cut down on alcohol levels. As I have shown above cutting down alcohol has plenty of benefits and can help your general health and wellbeing in the long run and is recommended from time to time.