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How going alcohol-free can make you fitter, healthier and happier

The sober curious movement is gaining momentum in Australia and many women are using booze-free challenges like Dry July, Ocsober and Feb Fast to take a break from alcohol and feel fitter, healthier and happier.

For many of us a glass (or three) of wine after work feel like a stress reliever, and weekend lunches with girlfriends over rosé is part of our social life, but what happens when it starts to become more regular than you feel comfortable with? If you find yourself googling “am I drinking too much?”, feeling anxiety and worry over how much alcohol you are consuming, or you’re just curious to see how you feel without alcohol in your life, then having a dry month can be a great circuit breaker and an opportunity to recalibrate your relationship with drinking. 

You don’t need to have a drinking problem or be an alcoholic to quit. Abstaining can be a great opportunity to improve your fitness and health, as well as boosting your mood. 

What happens in the days, weeks and months after quitting alcohol? 
According to Hello Sunday Morning, in the first days of being sober your body is busy clearing the alcohol from your bloodstream which, depending on how much you had to drink last, may take up to 72 hours. Drinking water and eating healthy foods will help your body through this process.

One week without alcohol
The first week is often toughest for cravings, and attending your first social event sans drinks can be a daunting experience. But lots of women report once you get past this hurdle it becomes much easier.   

In the first weeks of ditching the booze
Then, after a couple of weeks to a month, you’ll likely experience better sleep with more vivid dreams. While you might credit a drink in the evening to helping you get to sleep more easily, you generally have poorer sleep and wake more often later in the night or early in the morning when your body and liver is processing the alcohol.

Better sleep leads to a better mood through the day and more energy. You’re likely to find this will have flow on effects to other areas of your life — better relationships, greater performance at work and improved workouts. 

At the end of an alcohol-free month 
At the four-week point, the most significant improvement in your skin occurs and you’re likely to also see brighter eyes and reduced puffiness when you look in the mirror.

If you choose to resume drinking after the month is over you’re likely to reduce your consumption from previous levels. Mindfully drinking in moderation is an opportunity to still enjoy alcohol on occasion with a greater understanding of how it impacts your body and mind. 

Will I loose weight when I stop drinking? 
If you’ve tried losing weight, building muscle or hitting a PB and aren’t seeing the results you want you might find quitting alcohol helps you reach your fitness goals. Improved hydration, better nutrition and no empty calories will all help you with your progress. Plus your extra energy will make sure you’re not skipping workouts, and giving your best effort when you’re exercising. 

One thing to be aware of is if your drink of choice is sweet or high in sugar, like wine or spirits with soft drink mixers, you may also experience sugar-withdrawals and cravings and find yourself replacing the sugar and calories in alcohol with chocolate, lollies or sweets instead. 

Tips to reduce your alcohol intake
— Plan an early morning exercise session, preferably with a friend for accountability. You’ll feel great when you wake up with energy and smash that workout! 

— Don’t keep alcohol at home. Instead keep some non-alcoholic wine or mocktail ingredients on hand (the ritual of a drink on a sunny day or after work can still be enjoyed sans alcohol)

— Have a plan for social occasions. Be the designated driver or suggest catch ups that don’t involve drinks — like a workout or a movie.

Want to join a challenge, be inspired, or keep your motivation for being alcohol-free going? Here are some books and websites to check out:

Hello Sunday Morning
One Year No Beer
High Sobriety by Jill Stark
The Sober Revolution by Sarah Turner and Lucy Rocca 
This Naked Mind by Annie Grace