5 Things I Gained from Dry January

Woman holding a glass of red wine by the stem on top of pink background

New year, no booze.

I’ve challenged myself to “go dry” many times before. I usually break my vow by 6 p.m. the same day. Oops. That’s not to say I’m a “heavy drinker,” exactly. I’m a regular wine-drinker and have been for a number of years, with a real uptick in 2018. Nearing the age of 30, though, I thought it was about time I really challenge myself and commit to trying out a Dry January.

Here are the five things I gained in my five weeks without drinking: Dry January - WELLNEST

Week 1: Productive Weekends

I start off feeling extremely grumpy. By day three, my head space feels slightly clearer—but who knows, it may just be a placebo effect. I feel as though I’m more focused at work, but then hit heavy fatigue around 4 p.m.

However, my weekend is much more productive than normal. I get a lot of errands done, build furniture, purchase new plants, and wake up feeling hydrated and well rested! Maybe there’s something to this?

I notice the biggest shift in attitude on day six when someone hits my car in the garage. Normally I’d go into a stage-five freak-out, but I’m able to handle it calmly. Still, by day seven, I feel a very strong itch for a glass of wine at 6 p.m.

Dry January - WELLNEST

Week 2: Healthy Eating

The second week starts off more easily, but the end-of-day itch is still strong. I realize that pouring a glass of wine is an end-of-workday ritual that’s now left a bit of a hole in my routine.

I’m also aware that I’ve been choosing wine over dinner. I prefer to eat my bigger meals earlier in the day as it is, but with a glass of wine in hand, I’ll often skip dinner completely. When I was younger, I got into the habit of either drinking or eating—not both. This habit carried on with me to adulthood.

I learn that contrary to what I thought, drinking instead of eating can still contribute to weight gain and bloating. So now, I start implementing regular dinner meals back into my routine.

Cooking more regularly again is a nice change. In fact, I also begin meal prepping for lunches. I always thought drinking enhanced my food’s flavor. However, after only drinking water, I notice I’m more sensitive to salt and sweets, which only makes me reach for more water to wash it down.

By the end of the second week, I’m drinking almost three gallons of water daily. I feel like I’m becoming a jellyfish.

Dry January - WELLNEST

Week 3: A Full-Body Detox

A big bonus to doing Dry January is losing my cravings for hangover foods. I seamlessly adopt a healthier diet with less processed and greasy foods. I crave fewer carbs with my meals. But then something weird happens. At week three, I start experiencing body aches and headaches. Then out of nowhere, my period starts early, which is especially bizarre because I’m on birth control.

Panicked, I do some research and talk to our HUM nutritionists. They suspect my body is responding to my new lifestyle changes. My body is detoxing and even purging from areas I wouldn’t have thought of (mostly my skin and tongue). Although it’s a natural and healthy process, it doesn’t feel great and makes me miss wine more than ever. Instead, I simply reintroduce more carbs back into my diet to help my body adjust better.

Dry January - WELLNEST

Week 4: Great Skin and Compliments

This week I really hit my stride! I’m sleeping well, waking up feeling optimistic, and people start commenting that I look better overall. The way my clothes fit is only further evidence that Dry January is offering real physical benefits. Also, several people are complimenting my skin! I long suspected that wine was causing my dry, blotchy skin. Before, I’d often wake up thirsty and relied on nightly hydration masks, but now my skin no longer needs them!

Dry January - WELLNEST

Week 5: A Sense of Accomplishment

The final stretch! Dry January was incredibly difficult for me. I knew it’d be challenging, but I didn’t mentally prepare myself for what a “disruption” in my daily life it would cause. That being said, I noticed that my days didn’t drag on the same way I felt in the first two weeks.

In the end, the studies I read about potential Dry January benefits proved to be true: losing weight, sleeping better, having more energy and—most importantly to me—feeling more in control of my drinking habits.

My key takeaways this month are that drinking didn’t support my mental health or physical goals, and relying on wine for the better part of 2018 did more harm than good. The mental clarity and milestones I’ve reached this month are further motivation for me to continue on my new, healthy habits throughout 2019. But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a libation here and there. Let’s face it: Drinking is still fun (in moderation).

If you want to try a dry month yourself, begin at any time! There’s need to wait until next January. I suggest finding yourself a buddy to do it with—it’s easier to stave off temptation that way!

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