Yikes: This Is What Casual Drinking Actually Does to Your Body
A few years ago, people would balk if you said you were ditching alcohol for a month "just because." But when I did a call out on social media to ask if any friends had tried the lifestyle shift, the response was overwhelming. It seems that everyone has a story about the crazy physical and emotional changes that happen when you decide to go "dry"—and they're dying to tell anyone who'll listen.
Their glowing tales of better sleep and more energy aren't an exaggeration, says Courtney Baron, Thumbtack health coach and founder of Baron Health and Wellness. "You'll feel more mentally and emotionally stable, experience fewer sugar cravings, sleep better, drop some pounds, and be illness-free," she says. Why wouldn't you try it?
If social drinking has been ingrained in your lifestyle for years, don't worry. Baron says it's not too late to reverse the negative health effects. "The damage is certainly not done. The body is an extremely smart biocomputer, and it has an incredible way of healing itself on its own when given a fair shot."
Considering going "dry"? This is what actually happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol for one month.
Your Body Starts to Detox
Your body works quickly and efficiently to cleanse your system of alcohol as soon as you put that glass of wine down. "Once the [hangover] aftermath is through, your body will begin to strip the alcohol from its system and work to restore your blood sugar levels to a normal state," Baron says.
To speed up the detoxification process, she recommends altering your diet. "Assist the process by hydrating like crazy and eating lightly. Stick to protein-rich vegetables and legumes rather than meat, which could make you feel heavy and require your digestive system to use more energy that should be used for recovery."
You'll Have More Energy
The first change you'll notice is an improvement in sleep quality and a spike in your energy levels, Baron says. "People like to have a drink before bedtime, and use it as a sleep aid. Yes, alcohol helps you fall asleep, but studies have shown that it reduces REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep," she says. "This is the stage of sleep that matters most; where our bodies restore themselves. Alcohol intake disrupts this good night's sleep leaving us to feel drowsy, lazy, and unfocused the next day."
Bek, 25, says she struggled to maintain energy throughout the week due to the long hours she worked as a nurse. When she stopped drinking, the change was dramatic. "I found it hard to get through any days off work without taking a nap and seriously struggled to get through 12-hour shifts at work. Now, I definitely have more energy overall."
If you crave the ritual of drinking wine at night, she recommends substituting it with a healthier drink. "I realized that I used wine to de-stress after work. Now, it's about finding a healthy alternative, like herbal tea, that works for me."
Your Sugar Cravings Will End
"Drinking alcohol in excessive amounts can do quite a number on our blood sugar levels, creating symptoms such as intense cravings for refined carbohydrates (bread, cereals, cakes, cookies) and sugar, fatigue, headaches, amongst a slew of others," Baron says.
Eating processed foods and drinking alcohol also go hand in hand with a sedentary lifestyle. "It basically makes us want to do nothing except stay in bed with Netflix," she says. By removing alcohol, "you'll feel an increase in focus, ready to hit the gym, and [will have] a stronger desire to make healthier food choices. Give it two weeks!"
Katrina, 30, noticed that most social situations involved alcohol and says going "dry" encouraged her to shift this dynamic. "Living in New York meant every after work catch-up involved drinks. Then, after that, dating would also be heavy on drinks," she says. "After several years, it became a really unhealthy way to catch up with and connect with people. I took moving to L.A. as an amazing opportunity to cut it, which meant catch-ups became hikes."
Your Weight Will Drop
Yes, it is realistic to lose weight while you're doing a one-month cleanse. "It's really a no-brainer. By simply eliminating alcohol from your diet, and making no other changes, your body will begin to shed pounds over time because of the lack of excess calories from alcohol," Baron says.
Fast-track the results by following her diet and exercise regimen. "Give your body this super-boost, and see what I'm talking about: No alcohol for three weeks, 45–60 minutes of cardiovascular activity four-to-six days a week, and clean eating with plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and one short glass of water every hour. Commit to it, and see the difference!"
You'll Feel Emotionally Stable
If you choose to stay alcohol-free after hitting the one-month mark, Baron says you'll feel more self-aware and in control of your emotions. "By quitting alcohol for just one month you'll feel more mentally and emotionally stable," she says. "If we treat our bodies with love and kindness, we will feel happier, energized, positive, motivated, and beautiful."
That's a sentiment Katrina can relate to. "It's completely changed my outlook. The idea of going drink-free on dates or at big events like friends' weddings seemed overwhelming," she recalls. "Since I stopped, I actually feel like I'm a lot more fun, can stay out later than everyone and out-dance my friends. It's made me overall a lot more confident in who I am—which I love."
Have you eliminated alcohol from your diet? Tell us what changes you noticed.
Last names have been omitted for privacy.