Just two weeks of going without alcohol can come with a myriad of benefits - from having more money to visibly healthier skin. Although it’s worth noting that if you’re not experiencing some of the more visible benefits yet, it’s only a matter of time.
“We’ll all experience benefits of Dry January at different stages depending on how much we were drinking before, what our habits are now and just because our bodies are different,” Dr Richard Piper, CEO for Alcohol Concern, which spearheads Dry January, told HuffPost UK.
To motivate you to continue with an alcohol-free lifestyle this month (hurrah for mocktails), we spoke to Dr Piper and Dr Luke James, from Bupa, about the effects you may have noticed so far.
The most obvious benefit of giving up booze is that you’ll have spared yourself a few days of feeling hungover. The main benefit of this is that you’ll have actually enjoyed those weekends where - in a parallel universe - you wouldn’t have even left the house. And if you used to go out on a work night then you’ll definitely be more productive in the office this month.
It’s no secret that cutting down on your booze intake will have saved you some cash. It’s estimated that in the UK in 2016, the average weekly household spent £7.80 on alcohol consumed in the home, while £7.50 was spent on alcohol consumed outside of the home. Tot that up and you’ve got a solid £30 saving so far, and £60 by the end of the month.
For those who frequent nightclubs, the saving could be even bigger. The average cost of a night out in the UK is £61.58, according to statistics compiled by the UK’s largest operator of late night bars and clubs The Deltic Group. If you make up the 60.1% of people who go on a night out at least once week, you could have already saved yourself £120.
While alcohol helps you drop off to sleep easily, it can wreak havoc on your sleep quality in the long-run.
“If you’ve been drinking you’ll typically only have one to two cycles meaning you can wake feeling exhausted and irritable,” Professor Paul Wallace, chief medical adviser to alcohol education charity Drinkaware, previously told HuffPost UK.
Immediately after quitting drinking, it’s likely you’ll experience a few nights of bad sleep but this doesn’t last long. Two weeks in, most people will be sleeping better.
Dr Piper explained: “That’s because, while alcohol can help us to drop off, we sleep less deeply when we’ve been drinking so feel less well-rested.”
FYI, getting your full six to seven cycles of REM sleep per night is the key to waking up and feeling refreshed.
Some people taking part in Dry January might already be experiencing “clearer, less dry skin”, according to Dr Piper.
Drinking booze typically leads to dehydrated skin. Meanwhile heavy drinking has been linked to skin disorders like Rosacea and can lead to facial swelling, puffiness and weight gain.
Dr Luke James, medical director for Health Clinics at Bupa UK, summarised: “Alcohol dehydrates the body including your skin. Drinking a lot is also thought to stop your skin getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs.
“If you stop drinking and keep yourself hydrated, your skin will likely thank you for it.”
Better performance at the gym
You might not know this, but alcohol has a negative effect on your performance in sport - so if you’re hitting the gym and going out drinking, they’re probably counteracting one another.
“This is because alcohol dehydrates you, and it also reduces how much blood sugar your liver produces (which is important for exercise),” explained Dr James. “So it follows that an alcohol-free body will allow your body to perform at its best when exercising and you’ll get the most from your workout.”
He added that giving up alcohol, even for a short amount of time, may allow your body to recover.
Yes, amazingly in as little as two weeks your liver will start to repair itself and get rid of the excess fat caused by regularly drinking too much, according to Dr James.
It’s really important to give your liver a break as the fat build-up can lead to more serious health problems in the future. For more on how giving up alcohol benefits your organs, click here.
Alcohol can be pretty calorific - meaning the more you drink, the bigger the impact on your waistline.
“Embracing an alcohol-free existence may be all you need to do to shed unwanted pounds,” explained Dr James. “The most obvious reason for this is the high amount of sugar in alcoholic drinks.
“For example, in terms of calories, a large glass of wine is the same as eating an ice cream. A pint of cider has the same amount of calories as a doughnut. And, as many people tend to drink a few pints per sitting, the calories will soon tally up.”
Additionally, if you’re not spending January drunk, you’ll be more likely to make better food choices and less likely to head to the kebab shop at 3am on a Saturday morning. It all adds up.
Better relationship with booze
Ultimately, the biggest benefit of Dry January comes from resetting your relationship with alcohol, said Alcohol Concern’s Dr Piper.
He added: “Dry January is your bootcamp to learn the skills you need to be able to say no when you don’t fancy a drink, so you can make healthier, happier choices all year round.”
We’ll drink (a hot tea) to that.