How about a dry January? Here’s how cutting out alcohol impacts weight loss and your overall health

  • 3 Minutes Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

If you are trying to lose those recently acquired holiday pounds, read on to learn about dry January and how cutting out alcohol for a month can accelerate weight loss.

Cutting out alcohol weight loss

How cutting out alcohol will impact weight loss during your dry January

Whether you overindulged during the holidays or are simply looking for a way to press the reset button with your health, dry January can help.

Essentially, dry January is just like it sounds; you give up alcohol for the month. The concept has expanded, though initially, it was a public health campaign meant to bring awareness to alcohol habits in the United Kingdom. Today it is known worldwide as a way to step back from drinking to get a sense of alcohol's role in your life.

How much calorie-saving can you expect from cutting out alcohol?

The average alcoholic beverage contains between 125-300 calories per serving, with wine lower than most other alcoholic drinks.

If you consider yourself a “moderate drinker,” defined by the Dietary Guidelines as up to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women, the calories add up. At two alcoholic beverages per day, a man consumes about 2,800 additional calories per week. Consuming one alcoholic drink per day translates to an extra 1,400 calories per week for a woman. If you couple these liquid calories with typical holiday eating, you quickly see the recipe for weight gain.

Alcohol also indirectly impacts your energy balance. Many people notice that they “let their guard down” when drinking, which means eating foods they’d usually avoid or eating larger portions without realizing it. The bottom line is this: cutting out alcohol for a month is a straightforward strategy to jump-start your weight loss– no meal planning or special diet plans required!

Health benefits of dry January

Besides weight loss, there are numerous reasons that you may consider hanging up your “alcohol hat” at the start of a new year. Alcohol intake above “moderate drinking” can negatively affect health in the short and long term. To learn how alcohol impacts different body organs, click here.

Dry January makes those early morning workouts that much easier

Research shows that alcohol consumption negatively impacts sleep. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy, causing you to fall asleep faster. However, you won’t sleep as well. Alcohol blocks REM or restorative sleep; thus, you don’t get in as many high-quality Zzs. Less REM leaves you feeling tired and unfocused in the morning.

Cutting out alcohol can help improve the quality of your sleep, allowing you to feel more energized and potentially more productive the next day. Then you won’t be as tempted to press the snooze button. You'll make it to that 6 A.M. workout class after all!

Time for reflection–A health benefit of dry January

Cutting out alcohol for a month allows you some perspective to examine alcohol's presence in your life.

Do you find that your social life revolves around eating and drinking? Do you use alcohol as a coping mechanism to manage life's ups and downs? Giving up alcohol for a month provides some space for reflection. It allows you to see how alcohol aligns with your values.

A dry January may be just the reminder you need to realize that you don’t need a drink to have fun, decompress, or enjoy your weekend. Plus, your abstinence may inspire others to evaluate their drinking and its impact on their health.

Low-calorie, non-alcoholic options to help you stay the course during your dry January

Want to keep up with your weight loss while cutting out alcohol? Try these low-to no-calorie beverages.

Some things to consider before cutting out alcohol to benefit your weight loss

While not drinking for a month can create a calorie deficit, it can also play games with your mindset. For some people, cutting out alcohol may lead to a greater chance of binging after a month of abstinence.

These effects are similar to someone who goes on a diet for a set amount of time only to binge on all the foods they avoided after the diet is over. Consider how you’ve approached diets and health challenges in the past. Do you find it motivating to make temporary changes in your eating and activity? Make sure to think through what a dry January would look like for you and what you’d like to happen when the month is over.

There are many potential health benefits of a dry January. Whether you are looking for a way to jump-start your weight loss or examine the role alcohol plays in your life, a dry January may help. You may be surprised to find you have more energy and productivity and feel better in your skin!

If you are struggling with alcohol and are finding it hard to quit drinking, support exists

Professional help with alcohol

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcohol Addiction Hotline

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Holidays / Parties->New Year's
Dec 25, 2023
Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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