Last month my partner and I decided that we would not drink for the whole of September. I planned for this for two weeks, building it up in my head as a big deal. I blocked out my calender every day with ‘No Alcohol’. I said no to every social event invite. I bought alcohol-free beer to substitute for the real thing. I was ready, and I’m smashing it.
Before the pandemic hit, I wasn’t a big drinker, but my intake increased once we were locked inside with nothing to do. I didn’t turn into an overnight disgrace, it was moderate – probably one beer or glass of wine 3 nights a week then 2 nights of multiple drinks. This was still considerably more than I was used to and my body and mind were taking a hit.
Why I Halted Drinking
Pausing to reflect on your current situation is a powerful thing to be able to do. If you do it right, you can objectively identify areas in your life that through small change, can make a big impact on your wellbeing. For a while, I have known that my weight had increased to a level that I wasn’t happy with. I wasn’t ready to start an aggressive exercise plan or running. So I decided on what I thought would have the biggest effort (little) to impact (most) ratio – give up drinking. I was also sure this habit change would lead to more wide-reaching changes in my life.
I’ve always understood that it is far easier to create a habit by not doing something than by doing something. I gave up meat once as a challenge to myself for 6 weeks – that was 7 years ago and I’ve not eaten meat since. In contrast, I joined the gym a few years ago, went twice then cancelled my membership.
To not act (stop eating or drinking something) is simpler than to act (going to the gym).
My not drinking isn’t going to go the way my meat eating went, but I can see a future where I drink less. One surprise change that I didn’t expect is how well alcohol-free beer has replaced my normal tipple choice. My partner and I have also tried alcohol-free wine and gin, both incredibly good options.
It takes a long time for the physical effects of increasing anything to become apparent in the shape of your body. Overconsumption is the evil twin of regular exercise, they do different things to the body but they both take a long time for changes to take effect.
I had entered the category of a physically inactive drinker.
Between March 2020 (the start of lockdown) and August 2022, I gained around 16lbs (7.25kg). At the end of August, I was roughly 182lbs (82.50kg) compared to 166lbs (75.25kg) some two and a half years earlier. According to the BMI scale – 182lbs would just tip me into the overweight category! I’ve never been this heavy.
On my 30th birthday, I made a deal with myself that I would never let my weight go above 12 Stone (168lbs, 76.25kg). I knew if I set that strict goal I would always remain in reasonable physical shape. My Great Grandfather was able to do a handstand well into his 80s. He would complete the feat daily, knowing that the day he could no longer stand on his hands was the day he had become an old man. If my Great Grandfather could do a handstand in his 80s then I can maintain a healthy weight in my 30s.
In 2015 I purchased a ‘Smart Body Analyzer’ (a fancy term for scales). Over the years I’ve used these scales in fits and starts. There has been a distinct correlation in my weight between regular monitoring and during long droughts of not. When I’m not stepping on the scales at least once a week, my weight slowly goes up. If I’m tracking my weight, it generally decreases or is maintained.
Just like when you buy a new car, you immediately notice the same model everywhere. This isn’t because suddenly everyone has bought the same car as you. It’s because you are paying attention.
With my experience of routinely weighing myself, I knew that adding this habit back into my life would better my chances of completing my month-long sobriety and hitting my 12-stone target.
The planning that I put into my not drinking schedule spilt over (no pun intended) to other aspects of my life. I seized the opportunity to incorporate other healthy changes into my lifestyle. With a clearer head, I wanted to start reading more. With more energy, I’ve made time for daily exercise. Combining this with other habits I already had in place such as – no food before noon, I’ve created great changes to my routine. James Clear the author of “Atomic Habits’ calls this process habit stacking.
I wrote an article on how I created a reading habit, in my writing, I describe the One Minute Rule that has helped keep me on track with my atomic changes throughout September. Every small change I’ve implemented has had a snowballing effect that has built a significant change in my physical and mental health.
Continuing the Success
September won’t turn into a life of sobriety for me, I will have another drink. I enjoy the social side that comes with drinking. I enjoy the flavours of alcohol, especially Craft Beer. What I will do in the future is more regular and longer stints of no drinking. A friend of my Brother has a two months on, one month off rule – I like that. Alcohol-free drinks have come into my life in a big way, I will certainly be replacing most of my home drinking with a NoLo (no or low alcohol) option from October. But what has surprised me most, I haven’t missed alcohol.
More From Me
This is just the start of my writing on self-improvement, productivity and lifestyle. If you enjoyed this article, please consider following me on Twitter or signing up for my newsletter. To find out more about my September endeavours, read ‘Browsing Bookshops and How I Created A Reading Habit‘.