This year, I’m inviting you to join the Eat Fit Alcohol-Free for 40 Challenge.
Go alcohol-free from February 26th (Ash Wednesday) until Easter. WHY DO IT? We all know that excessive intake of alcohol is associated with serious health risks, both physically and mentally, as well as to others. However, it can also be easy to justify cocktail hour because “it’s good for our hearts, it helps manage stress, it’s how we celebrate wins, and it’s how we end a rough day.”
THE CHALLENGE: Alcohol-Free for the 40 days of Lent
While there has been a lot of hype on the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, the truth is that the negative health consequences of alcohol (at any level) likely outweigh any benefit.
Alcohol increases the risk for certain cancers. For example, just one alcoholic drink a day can increase breast cancer risk in both pre- and post-menopausal women, and as little as a single serving of wine or beer a day increases pre-menopausal breast cancer risk by 5 percent and post-menopausal risk by 9 percent. And, the more you drink, the higher your risk.
It also interferes with sleep. Sleep deprivation can take a toll on our energy, increase food cravings, alter our mood, and have a negative impact on our hormones and skin. From a mental health perspective, alcohol is linked to depression, anxiety and dementia.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Before you begin abstaining, record your baseline metrics. Do this before February 26th, before you stop drinking. To do this, gather the following info:
Record your weight Take a close-up photo of your face so that you can see the details of your eyes and skin. Ask your doctor to run the following labs: CBC (Complete Blood Count) CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel; includes liver enzymes AST & ALT, as well as electrolytes and indicators of kidney function) Lipid Panel (includes triglycerides, which can be affected by alcohol) GGT (Gamma-glutamyl transferase, a specific liver test that’s most affected by alcohol) Vitamin B12 and Folate Panel hs-CRP (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein; a marker of inflammation) ESR (sedimentation rate; a marker of inflammation)
WHY TAKE THE CHALLENGE?
This self-experiment isn’t about cutting out alcohol forever. Nor am I saying that alcohol is inherently a bad thing.
There are some reasons giving up alcohol for a dedicated period can benefit us, maybe an evening cocktail has become a habit or a crutch. You may mindlessly participate in a nightly cocktail and not realize how that habit could be negatively impacting your health or day-to-day life. The simple act of surrendering a daily habit and replacing it with healthy alternatives like hot tea, sparkling water, or an evening walk can help instill more mindfulness and self-awareness.
WHAT YOU’LL NOTICE
Within a week or so, you’ll likely notice more energy – both when you wake up and in the evening. You will think and sleep better. You’ll probably notice less puffiness, especially in your face and around your eyes. You might even shed a few pounds. You may even surprise yourself at how much more engaged you are with your kids and spouse.
Not to mention the empty calories, which over time can contribute to unwanted weight. With continual over-drinking, our whole-body well-being isn’t as good as it could be. We just get used to it, accepting a less-than-good feeling as “normal.”
I know the thought of going alcohol-free for 40 days may feel a little intimidating or overwhelming. But the truth is, you have nothing to lose, but instead the opportunity to see just how good you could feel. See it as your own self-experiment to experience the impact it has on your mind, body, spirit, relationships, work, etc.
For the 40 days of Lent, give up your cocktails, including beer, wine, and shots (if that’s your thing) and replace them with mocktails.
The cravings for alcohol will dissipate and you will notice that the habit of your evening cocktail becomes easier to replace with other habits. THE BOTTOM LINE This won’t last forever – it’s only 40 or so days. Going alcohol-free may not be something that you choose to continue long-term, but depending on the results of your own personal #AlcoholFreeFor40 challenge, you may decide that it’s worth it to at least dial things back a bit over the long term.
Ready to take the challenge? Visit our website for more details.
Eat Fit Acadiana items meet the nutritional criteria designated by Ochsner Health System, supported by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation and Lafayette General Health.
Download the Eat Fit app to find participating Eat Fit restaurants throughout Louisiana and visit our website EatFitAcadiana.com to learn more.