Why ‘Dry January’ is like starting a New Year diet!**
My husband and I decided to have a go at Dry January. I don’t do diets anymore (!) so it seemed like a good idea to try an alternative challenge.
I like the idea of Dry January in principle.
I can see numerous benefits of not drinking- waking up feeling perky every day(!), having more energy, and better health. Part of me wonders if total abstinence with alcohol is ‘easier’ than with food, since we have to eat in order to live. We don’t need alcohol to function, (unless one has an issue with alcohol I suppose).*
But, I’ll admit I was apprehensive because I know I sorted out my mindset around food by letting go of ‘rules’ and changing my mindset around it….and I am conscious there is a big crossover between our relationship with food and how we ‘use’ other things to deal with life- whether it’s alcohol, drugs or cigarettes etc.
And how am I getting on with Dry January?
I didn’t even get through 24 hours. And this is how I felt about it:
Before I even succumbed. I felt like I was letting my husband down- because we were planning on doing it together. I thought about wine a lot more than I usually would. I could hear my inner voice saying “Blow it, I’m going to have some” and the drink I wanted to enjoy (like I usually do) was tinged with something that felt a bit, well, nasty. I’d ‘failed’ because I couldn’t even last 24 hours.
I sat in the single chair in our front room (I’m usually on the sofa) trying to hide the wine glass from my husband! What on earth?!
At this point, alarm bells started to ring for me.
Though in all honesty, they were already ringing. Partly because in the Dry January advertising they were talking about one potential benefit being weight loss…grrrrr….I should probably explain why I have a problem with that.
This is the short explanation.…It’s not weight loss in itself that I’m against, it’s the pursuit of weight loss- because that sends us down the rabbit hole of trying to adapt what and how we eat in order to change the shape of our bodies. And that’s a slippery slope into disordered eating, mental turmoil and eating disorders too. I’ve written a blog about that, which you can read here.
Admittedly, alarm bells were ALSO ringing because, those who know me personally, will know I don’t do rules. I don’t like being told what to do (by anyone) or even imposing rules on myself!
Being told (by myself) I can’t drink something makes me want it all the more.
This is what happens when we diet. We try to resist and the food develops a power over us. We crave it and eventually, eat more than we need.
I am sure a better strategy for me is mindful drinking, where I work on making more conscious decisions around alcohol in the same way I do now around food. I don’t want to do the all or nothing approach because it just doesn’t feel right. It feels too diet-y for me.
Tell you the other thing I’m not doing. Guilt. I’m over that one. A big part of what I teach is self compassion and understanding what is behind our behaviours. It’s only when we understand what is driving us, that we can address it and I KNOW (from experience) that positive change does not come from a place of blame.
According to Kristen Neff, self kindness is one of the components of self compassion. Many of us are so used to judging ourselves through our inner voice we see it as normal. We need to understand our behaviour instead of condemning it and learn to find other ways to soothe ourselves. Learning to foster self kindness is about treating yourself as you would a best friend. How many of us treat ourselves badly yet would never say the things to a friend that they say to themselves?
So, I’m letting go of Dry January because it won’t serve me. It will just give me something to feel bad about. I’m focusing on making mindful choices with food, and alcohol and in my life generally. I’m focusing on self compassion and understanding and NO RULES!! x
I help women find peace around food and weight without dieting.
I use a mindful approach to help you understand why you eat in the way you do and unlearn diet thinking. You move towards being the expert in yourself.
My philosophy is based on ‘Health at Every Size’ which is weight inclusive and values all bodies.
*I’m not professing to be an expert on this. I know there are lots of Facebook groups out there offering support to people who want to give up alcohol, I want to talk about the parallels for me with dieting and how this episode made me feel.
** For me, anyway.