During the month of January, Kim and I are conducting two simultaneous experiments. First, we’re not eating carbohydrates. Second, we’re not drinking alcohol.
The “no alcohol” experiment is for me. Last January, at the request of my therapist, I went dry. I also cut out caffeine and any drinks that contained calories. Basically, the only thing I allowed myself to drink was water. At the end of the month, I felt — and looked — great. Slowly, however, I reintroduced caffeine and alcohol (and milk and juice) into my diet. By the end of 2013, I felt like I was drinking too much again, so I decided to do another dry month. Kim agreed to join me so that there’d be less temptation.
Meanwhile, Kim’s naturopath has been begging her to cut carbohydrates from her diet. She’s found that tough to do because I eat a lot of carbs.
Because Kim agreed to do no alcohol with me, I agreed to do no carbs with her, but with a caveat: My current fitness program calls for three “super shakes” a day, and those include fruit. I haven’t given those up.
For nearly three weeks, we held strong with no alcohol. We’ve done fairly well with the no carbs thing too. On occasion, one of us will have a piece of whole-grain toast with almond butter, but the only major deviation came last Saturday, when I ate a cookie with my lunch. (One interesting and unsurprising finding: On the days I have my super shakes, I don’t crave carbs. On the days I don’t have them, I do. And if I go two days without a super shake? I crave carbs intensely.)
Well, yesterday we biked into Portland to visit the science museum. After we finished, we stopped to have a late lunch at Olympic Provisions. By mutual agreement, we ordered mimosas to go with our meal. Later, at home, Kim opened a bottle of red wine to use in a beef stew. Because we’d already had mimosas (slippery slope!), we decided to drink the rest of the wine.
Obviously, we didn’t drink a lot of alcohol yesterday. We had three drinks each over a period of several hours. We went to bed at 9:30 so that Kim could get up for work at five in the morning.
Here’s where things get interesting.
- Though we fell asleep quickly, neither one of us slept well. This is par for the course with alcohol. As a depressant, it does make sleep easier to come by. However, the quality of that sleep tends to be poor.
- Both of us slept hot. I tend to sleep hot by nature, and that can be a challenge. We recently had to return a new mattress because I felt like I was burning up every night. Our new mattress has been fine. I can tell my body’s putting off heat, but the bed pulls it away from me. Well, last night I wasn’t uncomfortable, but I was definitely warm. I actually thought we’d left the thermostat set too high, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, as often happens, my body was trying to burn off the “poison” of the alcohol as I slept.
- My mind is slow this morning. I’m not dumb, but I’m sluggish. It’s hard for me to concentrate, even after taking my ADHD meds.
- At my morning weigh-in, I was a pound heavier than I ought to have been, and my gut was about a centimeter wider than expected. Plus, my face looked puffy. (This is another common side effect when I drink.)
After nineteen days of not drinking, three glasses of wine were enough to create noticeable after-effects the morning after.
Kim and I didn’t have time to talk much before she left for work, but I suspect I know what we’re going to decide. We both like wine (and I like whisky), so there’s little chance that we’ll ever give up alcohol entirely. But I can see both of us drastically cutting back our consumption. We might, for instance, drink only on Fridays and Saturdays or when we’re on vacation.
For me, there are two larger issues at stake.
First, and most importantly, I want to live a long and healthy life. Despite the occasional research that shows modest benefits to drinking a small amount of red wine every day, alcohol consumption in general has a strong negative correlation with longevity and quality of life. On a personal level, I’ve experienced three great weeks of physical fitness. My body feels and looks great, and I think a lot of that is because I haven’t been drinking.
Second, I know that my work suffers when I drink. I’m slow to get going in the morning, my mind works more slowly, and I have trouble focusing. This is true even if I’ve only had a couple of glasses of wine the night before, but it’s especially true if I’ve been hanging out with friends, and not monitoring my alcohol consumption.
This blog post isn’t meant to convince you to give up beer or wine or cocktails. Far from it. My goal is to put down in print the effects I’ve noticed in myself so that I can refer back to them in the future. I want this to be a motivational tool. I want to be the best person I can be — mentally and physically — and apparently reducing my alcohol intake is a great way to do that.