I had a tooth extracted last week. 

I managed to crack it somehow, likely from an unruly piece of popcorn or a nut. But for whatever reason it was raising a painful ruckus in my mouth and needed to come out. (Fortunately, it’s towards the back of my mouth so no one’s the wiser except for my dentist.)

Now I must wait until it heals so we can pop in a new one in a few months. 

This situation combined a few common fears balled up into one perfect storm: dental work + pain + bleeding

Still, most people would opt for this over the topic I’m about to discuss.

Can you guess it?

It’s one of these:

  1. Receiving a jury summons
  2. Emptying the dishwasher
  3. Abstaining from alcohol for a month

I think we can all agree all these are equally horrifying. But I’m talking today about a practice some have dubbed a “Dry January.”

Here in Southern California we assume it has to do with the fact that the drought has gone on so long we have babies born since last year who’ve never seen rain.

But no.

It means acting as if we’re in the era of prohibition, only without the threat of arrest if you fall off the wagon.

Wait! Hear me out before you hit the delete button.

Because here’s the thing I’ve learned over the 20-plus years I’ve worked as a trainer.

That harmless looking glass of wine or two (or three…) does more than add calories; it’s the impact of the alcohol on your body in other ways that work against you.

For example, since alcohol cannot be stored by the body it’s metabolized immediately and burned. This may sound good but it’s not, because it’s at the expense of fat burning.

In other words, your body holds off on metabolizing fat until it’s burned off the booze circulating around your body.

At the same time it also slows your metabolism. A serious lose-lose if you’re striving for weight loss.

Plus, calories in alcohol are nearly that of fat:

  • Carbs = 4 calories per gram
  • Protein = 4 calories per gram
  • Fat = 9 calories per gram
  • → ALCOHOL = 7 calories per gram

Allow me to illustrate my point with a real life example…

Years ago, I worked with a client who argued with me over her wine intake. She told me she drank a couple glasses a night, but I suspected this was a conservative estimate.

She complained about being unable to lose weight, and I suggested (among other changes) she abstain from alcohol for ONE week. “Let’s just see what happens,” I said.

She didn’t believe me and wanted to prove me wrong. Whatever it takes.

Finally she caved and gave up wine for one week.

The result surprised both of us: She lost FIVE pounds.

In one week!

Granted, a lot of this was likely bloat and water, since losing five pounds of fat is nearly impossible in such short time.

Nonetheless. I proved my point. And she, a lawyer accustomed to winning arguments, acquiesced.

Did she keep off the weight? No, because she didn’t stop drinking.

But now she knew the dramatic impact dropping the alcohol from her diet would do.

A study  conducted by the University of Sussex of over 2,800 people reported the following effects reported by people who gave up drinking for a month:

  • 80% feel more in control of their drinking
  • 71% realized they don’t need a drink to enjoy themselves
  • 70% had generally improved health
  • 71% slept better
  • 67% had more energy
  • 58% lost weight
  • 57% had better concentration
  • 54% had better skin

In addition, many people reported feeling healthier and happier and ended up drinking less afterward as a result.

[Note: And yes, I know a glass of red wine a night is deemed beneficial to heart health, but experts caution against starting to drink if you are do not currently a wine drinker. And even moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer.]

If you currently unwind with a glass or two of wine each night, try substituting hot tea or another, calorie-free, non-alcoholic beverage and see what happens.

Your turn… If you enjoy wine or alcohol, will you or have you tried going without any alcohol for a week or month? If so, let me know what happened by leaving a comment below… I’d love to hear from you!

Other posts you may enjoy:

How to create habits that stick

A weight loss hack that backfires

Reality checks you must cash in if you want results

Your Ageless Body Coach,