One word, ALCOHOL.
Okay, so now that I have your undivided attention, let’s cut to the chase. We like cold beer at those summer country concerts and music festivals. We like a glass of wine (or five) with dinner on ladies’ nights. We take shots on holidays and down mixed drinks at the bar with our friends on the weekends. Alcohol as we know it has become representative of friendships, relationships, family get-togethers, and the solo “Netflix and chill” sessions. It’s part of our culture.
All aboard the crazy train: I gave up alcohol, caffeinated beverages, sweet tea, Kool-Aid, sodas…you name anything but water…for 30 days. No, this wasn’t an experiment. I actually made a bet with someone at work, all in good fun, to see who could go longer without any of those beverages. It was a game of self-discipline, getting healthier (than we already had been at our respective gyms and solo workouts), and building a better lifestyle.
So here’s what happened over those four weeks.
Week 1: Every time I walked past the soda machine at work, I thought I was going to die. My family doesn’t keep much of it in the house, so it’s not like I was drinking Pepsi or Mt. Dew at home. What I didn’t realize, though, is how much of it I was drinking while I was at work six days a week. I had to tell myself every single time I walked into the kitchen at work not to grab a small cup of Pepsi and sit it on the shelf. In terms of the alcohol, you can basically say I kissed my social life after work and on the weekends goodbye. That Saturday night, I sat there eating grilled chicken and drinking a lemon water while everyone else has a margarita or beer in hand after a long night at work. But during week 1 alone, I felt better waking up every morning.
Week 2: My craving for any overly sugary or caffeinated drink had drastically gone down by the middle of the second week. The one thing I really noticed this week was the difference in my running and workouts. Usually after a long run or a shorter, more intense workout, I would feel exhausted to the point where I would literally lay down right after I got home and fall asleep. By day 13-14, I didn’t even feel winded or tired after my workouts. Of course, I was sore (duh). But my energy level was completely different than it was two weeks ago.
Week 3: By this point, any faint idea of popping a shot or having a cold one after a busy Saturday night had disappeared, too. It was actually kind of nice getting off work and going straight home to clean up, relax, and wind down for the night instead of getting cleaned up just to go back out for the night again. The person I made the bet with at work and I were checking in on each other frequently to see how we were coping with the sans-sugar/alcohol/caffeine thing, and there was one thing we both found in particular this week: the amount of uninterrupted sleep we were getting had changed. I was getting an average of five to six hours of sleep a night before. Now, I was getting anywhere from 8-10 uninterrupted hours of sleep. I never realized how much I truly missed sleep until now. Sleeping the right amount and being more self-aware of my health status had really just made me feel all-around more pleasant.
Week 4 (and beyond): Because this was the week leading up to Christmas, things were a little difficult in terms of watching every other person I know get together for drinks and dinner over conversation to catch up, but that ended up fading really quickly when I realized how much muscle tone I had built up and random weight I lost over the last several weeks. By day 30, I lost 14 pounds of untoned messiness and for the first time since my high school track days, I saw some pretty intense muscle tone in my abs and legs. I also noticed that while I still remained friends and held conversation (at work) with coworkers and others, I was hanging out with different people than I had been in week 1. Yes, these people enjoy a drink or two on occasion, but I have been going out and actually doing other things with these people (i.e. paint nights, workouts, walking around art studios, city adventuring, hiking, dinners, book hangs, etc.), and it’s been really enjoyable getting to do other things while not even considering a sugary or alcoholic beverage.
I’m past day 30, and I’m still going with whatever challenge you can consider this now. Neither one of us caved in those 30 days, and neither one of us has to this point yet. The healthier, more rewarding lifestyle I’ve found in ditching the messiness behind overly sugary drinks and alcohol is pretty intense to imagine over just a month’s time. If you’re willing to try this, I have some suggestions for you:
Be prepared for your social life to change. It will change whether you want it to or not. Your influences in friends will change, and you won’t be invited to everything. But that’s okay, assuming you’re willing to make those lifestyle changes.
Hide the goods or ditch them altogether. During that time, I didn’t really have an option of whether I wanted to be around those beverages or not. I work in a restaurant, people. I don’t think you realize how difficult those first few days were alone. But, if you’re thinking about trying this out, I highly recommend weeding any energy drinks, sodas, coffee, and alcohol, what have you, out of your home. It will make the transition ten times easier, trust me.
Try new workouts along the way. You’ll surprise yourself. One of the things that really kept me going on a health kick and still has is keeping fresh ideas in my workouts. Whether running or rock climbing, lifting or cross training, always keep your eyes towards the end result. Switching up a dull and dreary routine with a little excitement here and there will get you to where you want to be over time!
You will be stressed. Deal with it. If you rely on soda, coffee, or alcohol to de-stress or stay awake, think again. Go for a walk, go for a run. You’ll manage.
Take a break from alcohol with a friend. This may have started out as a friendly bet, but I’m actually happy that both of us have cut it out completely (for now) while we maintain our “get-buff” lifestyles. Knowing I wasn’t pained alone by the image of Pepsi-Cola floating around on a soda machine at work made me feel a little better on those tough days!
Good luck to you if you accept this challenge, and may the odds be ever in your favor!