So you’ve taken the FebFast challenge and committed to 28 alcohol-free days – well done. Far from a well-meaning charity gesture and test of your self-control, drinking less may just come with a bunch of health benefits.
Alcohol is an accepted part of the social structure in Australia, but it is a substance that has the potential to cause a great deal of harm. The effects of alcohol on health are well described and unfortunately, most of it is on the negative side of the health ledger.
Alcohol is a major cause of road injury and a significant contributor to domestic violence while higher rates of heart disease, liver disease, cancer, mental health problems and excess weight are all consequences of long-term heavy drinking. And let’s not forget about the ‘next day’ ill effects from an evening of over-exuberance.
Fortunately, most Australians who drink alcohol do so at levels that have few adverse problems. Low levels of drinking may have some favourable benefits on cardiovascular disease risk (at least in middle-aged people), but other health activities like exercise and eating well can give even greater benefits for a whole range of health issues.
Instead of treating your alcohol FebFast as just an exercise in willpower, use it as a chance to give your attention to other healthy changes you can make in place of the alcohol you are giving up. If you feel you are drinking too much and it has become a habit, FebFast may just be the way to kick-start changes to that habit.
The key to changing a habit is not eliminating it, but replacing it with something else. And that something else will be a healthier habit. Using these swaps gives you a ‘go to’ when faced with triggers for the habit you’re try to break.
With habit swapping, focus on what you are gaining, not what you are losing. Here’s some tips to help you with this.
- Make your home as free from alcohol as possible and put away out of sight alcohol that you have stored such as wine and spirits – you don’t want the reminder of what you’re giving up when you get home from a hard day.
- In place of that after-work drink, use a juicer to come up with some speciality fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies. Don’t have a quality juicer? The money you’ll save from not drinking will easily finance this.
- Take prime advantage of waking up not feeling seedy on a weekend as a chance to get out for some early morning activity. Checking out the weekend Farmer’s markets would be the perfect way to stock up on healthy food for the week.
- Social situations involving alcohol may be hard to avoid, but if you have any control, suggest other places to meet up with friends that don’t normally involve alcohol such as weekend brunch.
- Don’t do it alone, friendly support and a small dose of competition is a great motivational tonic so team up with someone else doing the FebFast.
Confused about the mixed soup of nutrition messages being stirred through the media? Tim maintains an active nutrition blog at www.thinkingnutrition.com.au  where you'll find the latest nutrition research and controversies discussed in straight forward language, distilling out what you need to know for your better health.