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I Gave Up Alcohol For An Entire Month and Saw Serious Results

Thinking about doing a Dry January? Here’s how it made me feel.

Let's be clear—when I say serious results, I'm not talking about weight. I guess I should note I did lose some—a mere three pounds. But the "serious results" I saw when giving up alcohol for an entire month was a complete improvement of my physical and mental health. And it was motivating enough for me to drink significantly less than I once was.

I admit, I was one of those people during the pandemic that turned to alcohol in times of stress. I wouldn't say to an unhealthy degree; a glass of wine or two at night, and a few cocktails on the weekend. But it was significantly more than what I was normally drinking before the pandemic hit—and my body was feeling it. I constantly woke up with headaches, felt bloated, and constantly fatigued.

At first, I chalked it up to stress and anxiety due to pandemic woes—but after a while, it became clear it was my drinking habits. If I drank more than usual one night, I would feel horrendous for a few days after.

So I decided to test my theory and give up alcohol for a month, unintentionally doing a "Sober October" this year. I stopped cold turkey, choosing to drink seltzers and mocktails instead of alcohol for 30 days straight. And, unsurprisingly, I felt immensely different…proving my theory was right.

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I felt less bloated overall.

While the number on the scale didn't move much (which I know can be the motivation for some people when giving up alcohol), my body looked and felt completely different. The bloating in my stomach, my face, and my arms were completely gone. I honestly looked like the after picture for one of those juice "cleanses" but in reality, I didn't cleanse at all (because they are terrible for you). I kept eating the same balanced diet I normally did.

This is likely due to the fact that alcohol is known as an inflammatory substance. According to a review in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, alcohol causes swelling in the body and can create an imbalance of microflora in your gut. When the bacteria in your gut is unhealthy, it causes your "defenses" to go down and leads to inflammation in the gut, which causes frequent bloating and even digestion issues.

I had renewed energy.

Despite getting adequate sleep, working out consistently, and even eating a nutritious diet, I still had moments of exhaustion. Which, of course, completely vanished after going sober for 30 days. And it's all linked to sleep.

Although alcohol is known as a sedative, the negative effects it has on your sleep far outweigh the positives. When consumed, alcohol can raise your body's level of epinephrine—a stress hormone that increases your heart rate and stimulates the body, which Harvard Health says can cause restless sleep. Drinking alcohol has also been linked to sleep-related breathing problems, and causes issues with digestion—which can also disrupt a good night's sleep.

Thirty days later, I was more energized than I had been in the longest time. Maybe even before I started drinking at all.

I was happier and more confident.

Drinking a glass of wine with your friends certainly can loosen you up and make you happier for the moment. But as any drinker would know, it's a temporary happiness that doesn't last.

But the happiness I felt after 30 days without a sip of wine?  Elated is an understatement. I woke up every day shocked at how good I felt, and that happiness carried with me throughout the day. My improved mood alone was motivating enough for me to say no when someone offered me a drink.

More importantly, I felt confident in my body. I'm proud now to say I'm not a stick-thin person—I have curves that my Italian grandmother blessed me with. But I didn't always feel that way, and drinking alcohol sure didn't help.

Nevertheless, after my Sober October, I actually felt confident about my body—even if the scale didn't change much compared to 30 days prior. My mood about it just changed.

After my 30 days, I admit I've enjoyed a few drinks throughout the holiday season. What's absolutely fascinating to me is how my body went right back to how it was before—bloated, less energized, easily irritated. It's wild how alcohol can affect my body in these ways, and it has me completely rethinking my current habits. I'm motivated to change my rhythms around alcohol in 2022…and maybe even stock up on some zero-proof spirits.

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Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
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