Nutrition & You or Me: Doing what you think you cannot do......
I have been a student of health & fitness since the early 90's, before you could find your desired dietary answer on the google machine. Academically, experientially, additional education, studying, reading and learning from other professionals has kept me active in enhancing my life. In the work we do with clients, nutrition is critical and we are constantly trying to debunk poor nutrition information. Personally, I am constantly working to optimize my nutrition practice not because I want to improve how I look or lose weight (those are just bonuses) but because I want to be healthy inside and out which to me is do what I can do to prevent disease and stay out of the Dr's office and because I want to have abundant energy to keep up with my life and be a good role model for others in my daily work. SO, in August, I did the thing I said I could never ever do! I went an entire 30 days with no alcohol. I LOVE beer, good craft beer (and wine). But lets' face it, there is no nutritional value to alcohol in your diet, end of story. It is calories, gluten, and more calories. So I just decided, after feeling like I had had my fill, that I just wanted to take a break and reset my body a bit without the influence of alcohol for 30 days. I have heard it 100 times over in my studio and have said it myself many times, I just could never give it up entirely. I am here to tell you, you can!!! My level of resolve may be pretty well developed when it comes to behavior change compared to others but anyone can do it. I am strong believer in not "leaning" your life to the point of no enjoyment. Cutting all the "good stuff" sucks the fun out of life. It also has adverse short term impacts the one time you put something in your body that is not "clean" after a long period of clean eating! So let me provide you with my top 5 outcomes of abstaining from alcohol for 30 days:
- Energy: This is not necessarily an area that I struggle with, but give me a beer or glass of wine and the day is over. In the absence of alcohol I never got sluggish. Alcohol is a depressant and always drained me no matter how much or little I had.
- Improved overall nutrition: It is well proven that drinking alcohol leads to less optimal nutrition selection especially when in social settings. So in the absence of alcohol I saved on empty calories and ramped up my nutrition density by not having that slip in choices and decision making no matter the setting.
- Improved overall healthy behaviors: If I was not making alcohol part of my life for 30 days, what was I going to do with that time? I got more rest, I read more, I wrote more, I enjoyed nature more, I managed my time better, felt less stressed and when my husband finally asked why I was not drinking (it took 2 weeks), he started reducing his own consumption.
- Reduced Body Pain: A number of years ago an integrative medicine Dr. told me that 100% of people who reduce gluten intake will feel better. Gluten is found in anything made from wheat, barley or rye. So cutting my consumption of beer for 30 days meant no gluten (no I did not cut gluten from other aspects of my diet) which also meant none of that full feeling and reduced inflammation in the body. Of course not drinking alcohol meant I was drinking a lot more water because if I am not drinking coffee, I am drinking water. I am not going to give up alcohol and start drinking something else because that would be sugary beverages. One of my personal nutrition rules is don't drink your calories and do not give up one bad habit for another. So increasing water (GOOD OL' FASHIONED WATER) is always a great way to make your body feel better and reduce pain.
- Apparently I look Younger: So after my 30 days was up I celebrated with a beer (not what I preach to clients about rewarding yourself). I went to the beverage store in search of a Maine Beer Company IPA, found exactly what I was looking for and was immediately carded by the cashier and when I assured him I was plenty old enough he proceeded to make my day and maybe even my year by telling it me I look far younger than what my ID indicated. So yes, how I look to myself and others still matters in some way shape or form. I had not been carded in quite a while! That beer was very good but I think I was more satisfied by not drinking!
Consider for a moment how easy cutting alcohol from your diet is compared to other nutritional change. You do not need to read any labels or consider any facts. You simply need to say no. When trying to cut processed ingredients or sugar from your diet or reduce calories, you need to scan labels and perhaps do some google searching on different foods and understand terminology to make good choices. Alcohol is alcohol, you either consume it or you do not. SIMPLE!
Do the thing you have been telling yourself you could never do. Do it just because change does a mind and body good. Do it to see how you look, feel and how others respond to what you are "working on." Do it because you never know what will other great things will manifest in your life! Stay tuned as I am on to two other challenges over the next couple months!
(Picture Credit: Anchorage Brewing Company, AK Owned & Operated by a former Rutlander. This beautiful brew was enjoyed on our last day in Alaska in 2017 and has stuck with me as one of the best beers I have ever had aged in a red wine barrel with rose petals).