Four surprising ways quitting drinking can help you lose weight
This week we have a guest blog from a member of our social media community, Vickie King. She talks about the ‘quadruple strike’ of the four ways drinking alcohol leads to weight gain – and a surprising way she turned it all around to lose weight and quit drinking!
I haven’t consumed a drop of alcohol since 23 September 2017. Sounds like a long time doesn’t it? It is and it isn’t. But what hasn’t changed in all that time, is how much better I feel for it.
You don’t have to have a drinking problem, for drinking to be a problem
I wasn’t an alcoholic. I didn’t drink every night. I didn’t binge drink on weekends. I didn’t consume vast quantities or have blackouts. But what I did do was have 2–3 glasses of wine on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. To relax, with a cheese platter, bar snacks, or dinner – all very civilised.
But the problem was I had started to rely on it to relax and unwind from a stressful job. However, I wasn’t happy about how it made me feel, or how it made me look. Inside and outside the booze wasn’t doing me any favours.
I was unmotivated, unfit, overweight, bloated, puffy-faced, and feeling pretty crappy about myself.
Four strikes a charm?
You see booze sets you up for what I call the ‘Quadruple Strike’
- You’re enjoying yourself, but you’re drinking a bunch of calories that have ZERO nutritional value – strike 1
- You’re drinking so you get snacky and end up ordering fatty fries or consuming a whole creamy brie with crackers – strike 2
- You’re riding the cocktail (or beer, or wine) highway till late. The next day you’re dusty … so you skip the gym – strike 3
- Being a little under the weather the next day, you need a big plate of greasy, salty calorific goodness – You’re out!
Swap the bad, for the good.
I decided to draw a line in the sand. I stopped drinking and started going to CrossFit. CrossFit is good for the couch-potato boozer as it has a strong focus on injury prevention, competing only against yourself, and it’s ALL about community. So not only did I get exercise, but I also got to socialise and meet new people without alcohol.
For me, joining a normal gym where you go to anonymous classes or work out alone, wasn’t going to work. If I wasn’t going to the bar, I needed somewhere new to joke around with friends. CrossFit fitted the bill perfectly, so I went twice a week.
Becoming fitter and starting to take care of myself made it a whole lot easier to clean up the food too, because it’s hard to hate a body that you’re looking after. So it was easier to get the motivation to eat well and exercise because my body was responding and giving me encouragement. You start to build a wonderful momentum that carries over into other parts of your life (but that’s another blog post altogether!).
Results that speak to me
Over a period of eight months I did lose weight – 14 kg to be precise! It just fell off me. I dropped 3 dress sizes and had to buy a whole new wardrobe (sorry not sorry). I felt better. Looked better. Thought better. And I had made a bunch of new healthy friends and found a place to socialise that didn’t require alcohol. It literally changed my life.
If I can do it, you can too. And trust me, it’s so worth it.
Salt, sweat and tears – healing through water
They say the best way to get through a tough emotional time is by turning to salty water, sweat and tears. For some people the best way to calm themselves if they are feeling anxious is to go for a fast run and let the blood pump through the body and the sweat pour. For others feeling a bit blue, diving into the water is their way to refresh themselves and ‘wash off’ any negative feelings, and of course, for some a good cry is just as helpful.
Why is water healing?
Humans are made up of 60% water and many can report feeling peaceful next to a big body of water, whether that’s a lake, an ocean or a river. You often hear of people taking holidays by the sea side, or a long walk by the river. The water is medicine for many – surfers, divers, swimmers – a remedy for relieving stress and helping them feel healthy and full of vitality.
A study by The University of Exeter showed that people who live near the ocean report feeling less stress and have better health than those who don’t. The study suggests that the calming atmosphere gives people a more positive outlook.
Sweat, sweat, sweat
Exercise generally puts you in a better mood as sweating it out releases endorphins that can help change our mental state. Sweating can also flush the body of alcohol, cholesterol, and salt. The body releases toxins by using sweat as the conduit.
Have you ever put on some motivating music and channelled your anger or hurt through a run or a gym session? Put on a playlist that makes you want to move your body, and whether that’s going for a run, dancing by yourself in your room, lifting weights or searching for a youtube workout that suits, sweating out our shitty feelings always make us feel better and get us out of a negative or heavy headspace.
Tears are the river of life
A good cry always makes you feel better, because you’re allowing yourself to just let it out. It is the body’s way of releasing a build-up of emotional tension. Crying reduces stress by releasing toxins through our tears and has also been shown to cause the release of endorphins, our body’s natural pain killer, thus making us feel better.
Try out this experiment from our Daybreak mobile program to help you deal with challenging times in your day.
HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely and Tired. These are the types of feelings anyone reducing their alcohol intake may experience. It is important to learn how to cope with these feelings and be aware of them to reduce the risk of having a slip up.
When you experience an urge, begin by looking for an underlying feeling you may be experiencing.
Try this experiment to help you find what to look for.
1. HALT for the next 30 seconds. Stop and pay attention to what your body is telling you. Take a moment to scan your body and notice any particular sensations.
2. Hungry. Are you hungry? If so, go and eat. Prepare something yummy or try something new.
3. Angry. Are you angry? If you are, tell someone about it, vent to a friend, exercise to release the excess energy, or squeeze or punch a pillow.
4. Lonely. Are you lonely? If you are, surround yourself with friends or loved ones. If all of your friends drink and you are finding that difficult, start to make new friends by exploring new groups you could join or new activities you can try out or write a post on the community feed in Daybreak.
5. Tired. Are you tired? If you are, you simply need to rest. Take a nap or chill out by watching TV or listening to some music.
People often forget to take care of themselves, as they don’t monitor these particular feelings. Learning to do so is an important skill; just as important as learning new strategies and skills for drinking in moderation or taking a break from drinking altogether. Spend the next week paying attention to these four feelings and notice which ones you tend to experience when you feel an urge to drink. Maybe a good cry, a swim or a sweaty exercise session will do you wonders!
How to replace habits with healthier choices
For someone wanting to cut back on their drinking, getting into healthier lifestyle habits can be an effective way to replace habits and change their relationship with alcohol.
People often have the tendency to replace one bad habit with another, like giving up smoking and binge eating sugary food. Whether it be exercise, art and creative therapies, picking up a new hobby or practising meditation, the replacement suggestions below are an important step in changing old habits and replacing your drink with something better for your mental and physical state.
When you start to develop new habits, passions and hobbies, you start to create new goals for yourself and the determination to improve in these areas can be a great distraction from drinking. You won’t want to drink on a Saturday night if you have an art course with a highly regarded teacher, or the waves are forecast to be clean and offshore the next day!
Replace habits by getting active
Alcohol releases a chemical in our brains called dopamine, the reason why you feel pretty good when you first start drinking. The great news is that exercise also releases these feel-good chemicals and endorphins into your body, so you don’t have to drink to get this effect! Plus, you can’t get a hangover from a jog or boot camp. As well as helping to replace habits, exercise works as a great stress relief, boosts your mood and helps you sleep better.
Getting active does not have to be all about spending a day in a stuffy, sweaty and uninspiring gym. There are so many activities you can try to see what you enjoy the most, whether that be:
- Personal training
- Group fitness classes
- Outdoor meetups, like sailing or kayaking
- Running/ running groups
- F45, aerobics, spin classes, or cross fit
- Boxing or martial arts
- Triathlons or marathons
- Ocean swimming
As long as your chosen activity gets the blood pumping and the mind present, you’re on the right track!
While sitting in on an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting recently, I heard people talk about their progress or their relapses and what really struck me was that over 50% of the people in the meeting spoke about how they deal with their anxiety or frustration by meditating.
Meditation does not have to be bound by any ‘right’ way or technique. Sometimes just sitting still and breathing can actually increase the feeling of heaviness and depression, or sitting still is not physically possible because of anxiety. Luckily, there are different techniques of moving meditation that helps move these negative energies around the body instead of sitting still. If you’re in this frame of mind, moving that energy around and out of the body can be the most effective. Some of these techniques include ancient mindfulness practices like Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga Asana, Kundalini, and Aikido. There are also group meditations, guided meditations, apps, books, workshops and endless resources to help get you started and replace habits.
“It’s helped me find my centre, helped me tone down and control my reactiveness, rebuilt the part of my brain that was affected by alcohol and pot and food addiction, given me control over my negative mind, pulled me out of depression again and again, allowed me to connect to that greater thing outside of me (or inside of me — however you want to look at it), and more than anything, become the number one coping mechanism in my life — for stress, anxiety, anger, blues, bitchiness — it fixes everything.”— Hip Sobriety
Art therapy is a type of treatment that guides people to use the creative part of their brain and express their emotions through creation to replace habits. Art therapy has been proven to boost self-esteem and confidence, reduce stress and anxiety, and stimulate different experiences and feelings by encouraging people to use their hands, paint and other mediums.
The Professional Association for Arts Therapy Australia says art can be an outlet for some and can encourage people to:
- Express feelings that may be difficult to verbalise
- Explore their imagination and creativity
- Develop healthy coping skills and focus
- Improve self-esteem and confidence
- Identify and clarify issues and concerns
- Increase communication skills
- Share in a safe, nurturing environment
- Improve motor skills and physical coordination
- Identify blocks to emotional expression and personal growth.
Gardening and horticulture therapy
Gardening and horticulture therapy are often promoted as a tool to help people get outside and boost general wellbeing. Horticulture therapy is now practised in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, mental health programs and addiction rehab to replace habits. As it is also a caregiving type of role, gardening can often provide a sense of purpose and structure.
Research has shown that gardening can reduce aggression, anxiety, depression and improve concentration and even self-esteem. Getting into projects like creating a vegetable garden can be a great way to feel motivated to work outside, and often you will find that time just flows by when you stop to smell (and plant), the flowers.
Despite what people may think, you’re never too old to take up a new hobby. The best part about taking up a hobby is that it is something you are choosing to do because you enjoy doing it, and you don’t need anyone else to be involved, or even like it! To list all potential hobbies that you can explore would take up pages and pages of this blog, so here are just a few hobbies the team at Hello Sunday Morning are into:
- Dragon boating Collecting art
- Dancing- salsa, ballroom, No Lights No Lycra
- Computer games
For a heavy drinker to replace habits, these alternative therapies should be used in conjunction with talking to your GP, psychologist, and a consistent support platform such as the Daybreak program and community.
I danced sober in the dark on a Monday night with 100 other people
We have turned July into our dancing month, where we will explore different forms of creative expression to music and encourage you to do the same, as dancing can provide an outlet for a lot of built up baggage. Hello Sunday Morning is inviting you to come along on our journey to experiment with the boogie and increase your groove.
It was sweaty, it was loud, it was electric, and the best part of all? It was Monday night.
We walked into a completely pitch-black room; the walls and floor were vibrating with beats from the speakers and DJ in the corner. When our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, dimly lit by a few community hall EXIT signs, we were just able to make out the silhouettes of the dancers all around us.
For the next hour, we found ourselves slowly losing all inhibitions and moving parts of our bodies that have not moved for a long time. Hips were swinging, butts were bouncing and clapping, laughter and yahoos were made out over the blasting of music from old school swing music to classic ’90s hits from Destiny’s Child.
What is this magical dance universe, you may ask?
No Lights No Lycra started in Australia and has grown to provide this community experience in countries all over the world. Check out your area to find your nearest NLNL:
“The dance night grew through word of mouth and within a few months the hall was full of people who shared the same yearning for a dimly lit space to dance as freely as they do in their living rooms.”
Who says you need alcohol to dance?
The darkness at No Lights No Lycra helps you forget about that self-consciousness that stops most of us from expressing ourselves fully. Naturally, you may feel a little tense at the start as we are so used to worrying what other people might think of us. But give it 10 minutes and you’ll notice the endorphins crawling over your skin and words belting out of your mouth as you sing along and crawl out of your protective social shell to move in ways you never knew you could.
There’s no other feeling like it, a smile was glued on my face, a stitch prevalent in my rib cage and my legs ached until the next day.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Would I recommend to a friend? Absolutely.
Do I think dancing will cure the world? One Monday night at a time.
Have you got a list of things you’d like to try? If you want to share an experience with us that inspires others to start doing the things they have always wanted to do, we would love to hear about it! Email your story with photos (if you have them) to email@example.com
How to develop a fitness habit and actually stick to it
Finished in time to still be #hellosundaymorning!Posted by Hello Sunday Morning on Saturday, September 17, 2016
Last Sunday one of our amazing Hello Sunday Morning members, Ruby, totally smashed the Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon. But I know many of us are thinking, “Gym? Who’s Jim?” And boy, do I know that sentiment. When it’s been so long since you’ve exercised, all fitness related terms begin to sound like a foreign language. But you’ve tried to hop back onto the exercise bandwagon. We’ve all tried. The thing is, the routine just doesn’t stick. Or at least it hasn’t, yet.
So how do you start and maintain an exercise routine? We have some ideas.
How to start and maintain an exercise routine
Although it can be tempting to write this off as no big deal, starting a fitness routine can be a genuinely tough task. In fact, it doesn’t hurt to talk to your Doctor about your plan to start exercising, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while and/or have other health concerns. If that’s not for you, jump ahead and start making yourself a fitness plan.
One of the biggest mistakes that we make is not setting appropriate goals when we plan our exercise routines. Have you heard of the SMART criteria for how to create good goals? What this means in terms of exercise goals is that they need to be targeted, show measurable progress, and be realistic.
The key word here is realistic. Many of us jump the gun when creating these sorts of goals. Expecting yourself to run five kilometres every day, right off the bat, is a great ambition –– but not a realistic goal. So take it easy and ditch the all-or-nothing frame of mind. Your body and mind will thank you for it.
Everyone’s realistic goal will look different. Maybe when you’re a week in, the plan is to go for a run three times a week. At this stage, your indicator of success may simply be: did you get out the door? You might’ve walked the whole way, but as long as you got out of the house when you intended to, you checked off the box.
Further down the track, when you’re more comfortable with your three-day-a-week walk/run, you might set the intention to run for 30 minutes on each occasion without taking a break. Maybe you could start adding other activities to your routine, like resistance training. Perhaps throw in a longer run on the occasional Sunday. Soon enough it will be like brushing your teeth – a healthy habit.
Mix it up and see what works
Try different activities
Usually, when we think of the word ‘exercise’, we imagine either toned people cheerfully running in the sunshine, or Schwarzenegger’s figure pumping iron at the gym.
But you’ll be happy to hear that there are so many other activities that count as exercise. Rock climbing, Zumba, yoga, team sport, parkour, dancing – the list goes on (and on, and on …).
You could even try one of those workout plans that everyone’s always raving about at the water cooler. Typically these provide you with an interesting and specific exercise routine, access to a community of fellow exercise-ees, and sometimes even a nutrition plan. Kayla Itsines, we’re looking at you.
Try exercising at different times of the day
Some people try exercising in the morning and it becomes their everything. And it’s true: this is a great way to start the day, giving you the energy and headspace you need to kickstart your morning.
Here are a few tips if you’re planning on giving the morning workout a go:
- Lay out your workout clothes the night before;
- Plan the workout you’ll be doing. If you’re going to a class in the morning, book it in. If you’re doing your own thing, maybe consider roping a friend along to hold you accountable;
- Set an alarm: don’t snooze. As soon as the alarm goes off, that’s it. No second guessing. You’re up. Dressed. Out the door.
P.S. a secondary tip here: keep your alarm away from your bed so you actually have to get up to turn it off.
- If you’re anything like me, with a tendency to remain half-asleep for at least an hour after rousing, consider writing yourself a morning to-do list. Brush teeth, water plants, drink coffee. check, check, check.
For those of you who groan at just the thought of waking up to see the sun rise, there is always the trusty old evening workout. This is actually an excellent way to de-stress at the end of the day. Plus, there is the obvious benefit of getting to snooze a little longer in the morning. Pack your exercise gear with you when you leave in the morning for work. The key thing to remember here is that if you go home before exercising, you’ll probably just end up eating a snack on the couch. (It’s okay, we’ve all been there!) Again, classes are a great idea in the evenings.
It all just depends on how you roll.You’ll figure out what exercise time is best for you.
Try exercising both alone and with others
Solo work-outs mean you get time and space for yourself. It means that you can work at the level that best suits you and really absorb yourself in the exercise task.
On the other hand, exercising with others also has its benefits. Primarily, you’re held accountable for turning up. If you’ve promised your mates you’ll turn up on Sunday morning for a doubles tennis match––unless you want to be “that guy”––you know you’re going to go.
If you’re serious about this, eliminating excuses should become your priority.
At least at first. Once exercise is a part of your routine, you can begin to work your life around your fitness schedule.
But the biggest excuse we tend to pull out of our back pockets is time. The thing to remember is,no one has time to exercise. Not even those people who do exercise regularly. You have to make time to exercise.
Other excuses might include:
“I don’t have access to a gym,” to which we say, there are plenty of workouts you can do outside of a gym.
“I don’t have a babysitter,” in which case we suggest ways to get fit with kids in tow.
Even, “I actually just hate exercise” simply means talk therapy might help.
The list of exercise excuses is neverending. But if you look hard enough there’s a reasonable counterpoint to each one of them. Eliminate excuses and you’re halfway there.
You don’t need to become an Exercise Person
You definitely know who I am talking about when I describe Exercise People. These people are persistently posting health food and fitness photos on Instagram, and invariably touting activewear at all times, even when they’re not actually exercising.
But, really, you don’t need to become an Exercise Person (i.e. change everything about yourself) when you begin to exercise regularly. Just because you brush your teeth every day doesn’t mean you’re “super into dental hygiene,” although that’s probably a good thing if you happen to be. Think of exercise in this way: it’s just another part of your average day.
Get to it
Our final piece of advice? Frankly, now’s the time to just stop thinking and start exercising. So hop–step into your sneakers and grab some H20 on your way out the door, because it is time to get physical! Don’t forget to applaud yourself for every workout. And voilà! You’re on your way to starting and maintaining an exercise routine.