It’s late into Saturday evening, my boyfriend Dan and I are with some friends at a bar and it’s absolutely packed. Dan and his friends are deeply engrossed in a game of hockey during the playoffs, their eyes glued to the TV. Sidney Crosby scores, the bar erupts in cheers, glasses are tinkling together and there are more booze filled fist pumps and high five fails that than anyone should ever have to witness. And if you haven’t guessed it from the title of the article, yes, we’re both 100% sober. As our friends raise their glasses triumphantly for a cheers I can’t help but laugh as my boyfriend joins in with sweating glass of crisp, hearty, lemon water.
When I remind my boyfriend the next day that we have reached 60 days he is genuinely surprised and is ultimately impressed at how fast the time went. Now, I’m sure some of you are saying that 60 days without a drop of alcohol isn’t much of a feat or even a silly milestone to be writing about. For those people and as someone who rarely drinks myself I can appreciate where you’re coming from. However, for my boyfriend 60 days was something for him to be proud of. Seriously, I remember him at day 1, 2, and 3 dragging his feet around like he was heading to the gallows. It has been the longest time he has gone without drinking in quite some time. Alcohol has played an active role in his life for as long as I have known him and much longer than that. This doesn’t necessarily mean that he spends his life bumbling around like a drunkard in an early Irish novel. But when the weekend comes he will unashamedly greet it with a case of beer, pizza and a wry grin. So why would someone who enjoys alcohol in moderation and does so without it negatively affecting their life (or so he thought) give it up, cold turkey, for two months? Well that’s where I come in of course!
As you know I’m a yoga teacher, health advocate, all natural lover and an aspiring nutritionist. None of these should come to your head when you think of regular weekend binge drinking. That being said, I have learned extensively in the past year at CSNN (Canadian School of Natural Nutrition) about the effects of alcohol on the body and mind and it really motivated me to want to cut alcohol out of my diet for an extended period of time. Going into this 60 day endeavour I knew that the results of my experiment wouldn’t be as prominent as what I have come to expect from my learning. Simply because I don’t drink that often, probably only once every 6 weeks or so. But I knew if I were to somehow convince my boyfriend to do it the results would probably be pretty astounding. I will spare you all the gory details and bizarre sales pitches I used to convince him and simply say that yes Dan did agree, hence the blog post. Anyway, after 60 days of zero alcohol we noticed a lot of fascinating things occurred: eczema and rosacea reduction, improved skin, weight loss, energy gained, sleeping improved, muscle healing, productivity increased and money saved.
Before we go into the nitty gritty results I want to explain a bit why we decided to go booze free for 60 days. Dr. Rogers Williams says “No one who follows good nutrition practices will ever become an alcoholic, and are far less likely to become addicted to any drugs at all”. This is because addiction, whether it be alcohol, tranquilizers, cigarettes or heroin, is less likely to occur in those who are well nourished, for a number of reasons. First, the use of stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, or cocaine are more attractive if you are constantly tired. Secondly, the use of relaxants such as alcohol or tranquilizers is more attractive if you suffer from anxiety. The more your brain chemistry is out of balance, due to lack of proper nutrition, the more you will crave and indulge in these substances. Alcohol can have many lasting negative health consequences on both men and women. When you consume alcohol in excess GABA and dopamine are released into your brain. Too much of these two neurotransmitters can cause a multitude of problems which include high blood pressure, night terrors, poor sleep and depression. Endorphins are also released when you drink and although endorphins are associated with pleasure, too much can result in the opposite, causing depression and fatigue among other things. The liver is also acutely affected by alcohol and when you consume a drink the liver turns it into acetaldehyde which is potentially cancer causing. In addition, drinking excessively can cause fatty liver disease, a disease that prevents the liver from preforming properly because it has been clogged with fat. This disease can then have other very negative effects on other parts of the body.
Above what alcohol does to the brain and liver it is the greatest anti-nutrient of all! That’s right, alcohol is well proven to deplete almost every single nutrient in your body. Just reading the mountains of research on how alcohol destroys nutrients in the body is sobering. After a night of moderate drinking you will have depleted almost every vitamin (A, B1, B2, B6, folic acid, B12, C, D, and E), mineral (calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and selenium), amino acid (tryptophan, taurine, glutathione, etc.), essential fats (omega 3, omega 6) as well as disturbed your blood sugar control. Someone who drinks every weekend will be massively deficient in a large number of areas, even if they do consume a balanced diet it would be very hard to make up for these depleted nutrients. That being said, consuming all essential nutrients in optimal amounts will dramatically reduce your craving for alcohol. Therefore, when trying to quit or cut back make sure you are eating a balanced diet and or supplementing your nutrients!
These are very high level descriptions of how excess alcohol can negatively affect your body and if you have a desire to learn more I would suggest looking at this book “Optimum Nutrition for the Mind” by Patrick Holford. He has a great section on alcohol and drugs and goes into detail about how nutrition and addictions go hand in hand. If you desire to cut alcohol out of your diet for an extended period of time I suggest doing your own research first, recognizing that alcohol affects virtually every aspect of our body from the stomach, heart, pancreas, bones, colon, intestines, and so on.
But without further ado, here are the results of our 60 day booze free adventure:
Skin Problems: After 60 days we noticed a pretty staggering transition in Dan’s skin. His rosacea and eczema had almost entirely cleared up and his overall skin tone had improved greatly. The complexion of his skin was also much better and the blemishes and pimples that he occasionally gets were gone. Alcohol is known to trigger all of these conditions so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to see these results!
Weight Loss/Muscle Gain and Repair: Although Dan exercises fairly often during the week he noticed that despite this he always had somewhat of a gut. After 60 days he had shed 12 pounds and the excess fat circulating his abdomen had all but vanished leaving the abs he had always promised were hidden under there. He also noticed that he was able to work out longer and harder and was finding that the weekend drinking was affecting his ability to recover from exercise. Despite typically only exercising during the week and strictly drinking on weekends only.
Energy/Sleeping: Since cutting out alcohol Dan noticed that he has had significant more energy throughout his work days, especially Mondays, and has developed a better, more routine, sleeping schedule. In addition, he has been sleeping much more soundly and rarely waking up throughout the night, a problem that used to leave him feeling unrested in the morning. This is because alcohol disrupts your cortisol levels and secretion. By cutting out booze he has been able to maintain a schedule of sleep that allows him to function optimally every day of the week.
Finances: This is a huge one! I didn’t realize how much money went into booze and alcohol related activities until I made Dan make a budget at the start of his experiment. After monitoring it closely for 60 days he told me he had saved close to $500 from abstaining from alcohol. Of course this wouldn’t have all been spent on beer but there are underlying costs that also need to be considered. No more cab rides, 8 dollar beers, late night pizza orders, hangover breakfasts and every other expense you can think of that’s related to a night of drinking!
Productivity Time & Clarity: Dan often complained that his weekends went by way too quickly and he never had enough time to do everything that he wanted and accomplish every task he needed to get done. However, during our experiment he noticed he was getting up much earlier than before, as mentioned above, and was no longer shaking the booze induced fogginess from his mind every morning. He has been able to fit a lot more into his weekends and hasn’t sacrificed his social life at all. We have now gone to the local market early every Saturday morning for the past 8 weeks, a trip that we wouldn’t normally make until closer to noon!
As you can see, Dan has experienced numerous health benefits from this experiment both mentally and physically. The only thing I wish we did differently was consult with our doctor beforehand so we could have actually tested his blood to see the nutrient levels before and after the 6 weeks. Any time you are dramatically changing anything health wise I would suggest seeking guidance from your family physician, nutritionist, or naturopath. Now that we have seen these results first hand we are going to continue to have a diet very low in alcohol consumption, only drinking for special occasions possibly a few times a year. And when we do so we will stay mindful making sure we are well nourished and not over indulging.
Stay connected with me for some healthy non-alcoholic summer cocktail recipes!