Dry January: all you need to know
Dry January is now definitely a “thing”. Doctors have long recommended alcohol drinkers to take occasional sober sprints for health reasons. In the UK a sober January has also become a big fundraising event, with Alcohol Concern and Cancer Research running major campaigns each year, and thousands of people signing up to raise funds for good causes. And of course millions will just not drink any booze for a few weeks, for many reasons including health, fitness, saving money, or taking on a personal challenge.
Benefits and what to expect
The health benefits of a dry January were poorly understood until recently. So much so that some people still claim that it is unhealthly (we have more to say about this below). The New Scientist magazine conducted a small experiment a couple of years ago, and the results surprised the doctors and scientists who helped with it. The people who took a month off booze saw remarkable changes: their liver fat fell by 15% (very good news for their liver health), and their blood sugar and cholesterol levels were significantly improved. These findings have been confirmed in a later, larger study as well.
And the benefits can also be easier to see in your day to day life. Many people report having more and better quality sleep and better concentration. But everybody is different, and the benefits will be different too. And it has to be said that some people can find the experience uncomfortable, with feelings of irritability, fatigue and other such symptoms.
Weight loss: will I lose weight?
Losing weight is one of the biggest reasons people consider a dry January. Alcohol has lots of empty calories, so giving up on the beer or wine should lead to weight loss too. In the New Scientist study the participants lost an average of 1.5kg during their sober month. But be warned: not everybody will lose weight during a dry January, especially if you eat more sweet things, which you may well feel like doing, as your body gets used to the absence of alcohol.
But even if you’re not losing weight, there is one undeniable benefit. We polled Club Soda members last year, and the average member saved over £200 during their dry January!
Is it good or bad for you? More harm than good?
You may come across articles claiming that doing a dry January is bad for you, or that it does more harm than good. These writing usually have two main claims about the supposed harmful effects. The first is that people will drink more in February, after a dry January. This claim may sound plausible, but is actually not true. A 2016 study found that people drink less than they used to, even six months after a dry month. We have found this to be true with people who have completed our Sober Sprint programme too – almost everyone says that they are drinking less and feeling healthier six month after the programme ended.
The second type of mythical harm from a month off booze is that 30 days is not long enough for your liver to fully recover, or something similar. This is true, but ignores the fact that a month still does a lot of good for your liver, and ignores all the other health benefits as well. So really, it is hard to find any actual evidence for dry January being bad for you at all.
Tips, hints, recipes, mocktails and other drinks
Some people find it easy to stop drinking for a bit, others not so much. Club Soda has posted several articles over the years with our best tips, tricks and hints to help you make it through the month. We will post regularly during January, and you can also search the older articles. And if you are really dreading the month, or struggling, our Sober Sprint online programme will give you daily emails, videos, and exercises to get you to February.
One of the most common questions and worries is finding something new to drink, especially if you’re going out to a pub or bar. For that very reason, we have dozens of drinks ideas and reviews on our site. Mocktails are often mentioned, but if you never, or rarely drink alcoholic cocktails, are you really going to start making them during your liver vacation? We’ve found that non-alcoholic beers, ciders and wines are a much better option for most of us. Especially the latest 0% beers are so good, that sometimes you barely notice you’re not drinking any alcohol at all. If you want to try some, we highly recommend the great choice at the online shop Dry Drinker. And with our special discount code you also get 5% off your order!
Charity fundraising ideas
Many people take a month off booze as part of a charity fundraising challenge. In the UK. Alcohol Concern runs the official Dry January campaign, where you can collect money for over 11,000 local and national charities. And Cancer Research UK organise their own Dryathlon campaign. Both attract thousands of participants each year.
Club Soda Guide has a great blog post if you are looking for some great and quirky dry January fundraising ideas, from mocktail nights to mindful pub crawls.
Resources and how to sign up
The Alcohol Concern and Cancer Research UK websites have lots of information and other resources. That is also where you can sign up to their fundraising campaigns. (Did you know that Dryathlon participants are also known as dryathletes?)
If you follow Club Soda on Twitter, you will also get daily tweets about all things sober during January – and the rest of the year as well! We also offer a month-long online support programme called Sober Sprint, if you think you need a bit more help in your month off booze. And the Club Soda Facebook page and our amazing private Facebook group are always ready with further advice and encouragement too.
Is there an app?
And finally, that most modern of questions: is there an app for it? Well of course there is, several in fact. Alcohol Concern have their own Dry January app. And there are of course many others you can use. We reviewed one of them, the Drink Less app recently, and listed some other popular ones.