dry january image

planning a dry January?

Where did Dry January come from, what are the benefits how to stick to it.

Should you consider a dry January ?

According to Alcohol Change UK, “Dry January started in 2013 with 4,000 people. It has come a long way since then with over 100,000 signing up and 4 million taking part in 2020.” The non-profit partnered with alcohol behavior change expert Dr. Richard de Visser from the University of Sussex to collect research on the effects of participating in the campaign. The collective data showed:

  • 93% of participants had a sense of achievement
  • 88% saved money
  • 82% think more deeply about their relationship with drink
  • 80% feel more in control of their drinking
  • 76% learned more about when and why they drink;
  • 71% realized that they don’t need a drink to enjoy themselves
  • 70% exhibited generally improved health
  • 71% slept better
  • 67% had more energy
  • 58% lost weight
  • 57% had better concentration
  • 54% had better skin.

What is the point of planning a “Dry January” anyway?

Nearly everyone talks about “New Year’s Resolutions,” right? Just about everyone has some health goal – to lose weight, eat healthier, drink less, exercise more, etc. The problem with these resolutions is that they are so vague! They are airy-fairy wishes without a grounded, crystal clear goal/outcome. Plus, the intentions behind these “wishes” are nowhere to be found because no one has been taught to understand and investigate the WHY behind what they want. 

When you can connect to the WHY behind your wants, you’re more likely to commit and make plans to achieve the goal instead of falling off the wagon three weeks into the new year. 

With that in mind, let’s postulate WHY people might want to plan and endure a “Dry January.” 

  1. It’s a health goal. 
  2. It’s a specific thing that people can aim at. 
  3. Maybe they’ve indulged in too much during the holiday season and want to cleanse the body of the poison ingested (yes, alcohol is poisonous to the body!). 
  4. It’s something they can do with a group of friends, family, or a significant other – meaning because there’s accountability readily available, they’re less likely to quit trying. 

These are pretty much what I call the “surface reasons” for going dry for a month. “Surface” means that anybody can come up with these reasons. They aren’t specific enough to hit you emotionally, and emotions are powerful things. They shape our behavior and decisions, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

So, what’s a more powerful reason to go dry?

I’m going to pepper in some of my own reasons as well as some I’ve received from polls of others who have also gone dry for a month. 

  • To give the body time to reset and cleanse itself from the [poison] alcohol. 
  • To give [myself] an opportunity to better me while also integrating the removal of sugar and carbohydrates. 
  • Partying too much and hanging around a crowd of people who were negative influences. 
  • To get my significant other to stop drinking so he/she can realize who they are without alcohol. 
  • Because I am sick and tired of drinking for fun and entertainment.
  • Because I want to be a better version of myself and alcohol isn’t going to get me there. 
  • Because I wanted to feel clean on the inside. 
  • Because I am sick and tired of using alcohol as an escape to numb my emotions instead of actually feeling them and addressing the problem.

If you’re still questioning this, the reason has everything to do with intention and emotion when it comes to commitment. 

The Online Etymology Dictionary defines intention as 

intention (n.) late 14c., entencioun, “purpose, design, aim or object; will, wish, desire, that which is intended,” from Old French entencion “intent, purpose, aspiration; will; thought” (12c.), from Latin intentionem (nominative intentio) “a stretching out, straining, exertion, effort; attention,” noun of action from intendere “to turn one’s attention,” literally “to stretch out” (see intend). Also in Middle English “emotion, feelings; heart, mind, mental faculties, understanding.”

If you have no idea what your intention is behind why you set the goal in the first place, you’re doomed to failure. Inside your intention is where the emotional connection lies. Allow yourself to go to that emotionally intentional space so you can actually connect with WHY you want to engage in a Dry January in the first damn place! There’s a reason, so go figure it out! 

My Story

I haven’t done a Dry January specifically. But I have finished three planned out dry months (not consecutive). WHY did I do them in the first place? I wanted to feel clean and cleanse my body. I felt gross, fat, lethargic, and depressed. I also combined the dry months with food cleanses because I wanted to change the way I was eating. I knew that my food choices were also creating the “gross” feeling, not just alcohol consumption. 

Each time I had two things to help me get through it – accountability partner(s) and a meal plan to follow. Twice I did it with my husband, and the third time with a coaching group I am a part of. It’s super helpful to have someone talk to you about what you’re struggling with because we need a sounding board to know we’re not alone and a voice of reason and encouragement. You’re less likely to fall off the wagon if you have to check in with someone. 

When it comes to the “meal plans,” I’ve done two. The first is the Whole 30. This one really got me off eating so many processed foods and back to what I really love doing – cooking! Things to avoid during this 30-day food cleanse are added sugar, real or artificial, alcohol (not even cooking with it!), grains, most legumes, dairy, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, baked goods, junk food, or recreating your favorite foods with approved ingredients. 

I lost around 20 pounds from this one, but it was hard to maintain as I have a serious sweet tooth and sugar addiction. I highly recommend buying and reading the book to learn about all the shit that’s hidden in our foods and not apparent in food labels. The loopholes will make you sick and pissed off! 

The second plan I followed is the Thorne Mediclear Detox and Allergy Elimination. This one is similar to the Whole 30 in that you basically eliminate the same things and a whole lot more because the point is to detox your liver over a three week period, then slowly reintroduce certain food groups, one at a time, to decipher what your body is “allergic/sensitive” too. This means it has difficulty digesting the item and causing you to have gas, bloating, or diarrhea. 

This plan also involves purchasing protein and fiber to drink for the 21 days before the reintroduction phase. I really like this one because it has an easy guide to follow and offers lists of what you can and cannot eat, a few recipes, and a week by week plan. After my second time around  October 2020), I decided to stay away from gluten and dairy because they bloat my stomach and make me look pregnant! 

Also, I need to share that your poop will change a bit because you’re purposely cleansing your liver and flushing a lot of toxins out of your digestive system. Talk to your doctor if it becomes really concerning to you. Talk with your doctor in any case before you undertaking any kind of nutritional cleanse!

Do you need another reason to try this out?

An article printed in the National Center for Biotechnology Information cites why general practitioners are getting on board with the campaign started in the UK. GPs are apparently wary of talking to their patients about limiting their alcohol intake, especially in countries where alcohol is a major part of the culture. Here are several reasons your doctor likely wants you to know as well:

“Alcohol is linked to over 60 medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes, depression, and hypertension. Although it can be difficult to ask patients about their drinking behavior, Dry January is a great way to broach the topic in a nonthreatening way, nudge patients to consider their drinking levels, and encourage them to cut down.

In fact, almost all patients seeking medical treatment would benefit from taking part in Dry January since:

  • In the cold and flu season, drinking alcohol won’t aid recovery and can disturb sleep.
  • Alcohol can negatively interact with medications.
  • Alcohol contributes to anxiety, low mood, and depression. Dry January is a great opportunity to encourage patients to look at lifestyle issues that may be affecting their wellbeing
  • Cutting out alcohol can help people achieve weight loss goals.
  • Over 10% of high blood pressure in men is alcohol-related.

Convinced, committed, and need some support to see this through?

Check out the Alcohol Change UK website, where the whole movement started. You can read the story behind it, connect with the Try Dry tools and blog, learn about the charity and how you can bring the movement to your community or workspace, and even access a support system if you’re struggling.

Download the Dry January Planning Sheet below!

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