Friday, January 31, 2014

Teetotally Surprised

This isn't exactly related to Paris or veganism, but the last 31 days of not drinking have certainly been an adventure.

I embarked on this intentional dry spell for a few reasons, beginning with willpower. Do I possess any? I've been able to dig in and move past some other toughies over the years--a wicked nicotine addiction lasting more than a decade being the biggie. But--as anyone who knows me well will attest--I LOVE drinking. More specifically, I love the taste of a good red wine (or white. or rose. sparkling or not.).

I also adore the relaxing effects that alcohol delivers. Another thing most close friends and family know about me is that I'm an anxiety case. It's gotten better over the years, and I've never had to rely on pharmaceuticals to see me through it--because why should I? I've got booze! Alcohol really worked for me on that level, but deep down, I've always felt there were probably healthier ways to deal with those worrisome feelings.

And finally, I've really been wanting to take control of my health, but just have't been able to lately. I've gained a few pounds (five, to be precise) since moving to France, and it's really eroded my confidence as it relates to body image. And I've also experienced bouts of acne in the last  few years that I suspect are hormonal, but knowing that the liver helps regulate hormones, I wondered if a taxed organ might be impeding my body's ability to heal itself.

The experience was wonderful and weird and interesting. I expected to have wine cravings, but I really didn't. I did end up craving sugar, which is what our bodies convert alcohol into, so that made sense. I ate chocolate for breakfast probably 25 out of the past 31 days. But not before downing a glass of lemon water, followed by another glass of water with a dropperful of milk thistle, a powerful herb that supports liver health.

The hardest part of living "clean and slobber" (as my old friend Chris from my SF/SPCA days would quip) was the social aspect. Attending events where the wine was flowing and not engaging in the liquid experience was so overwhelmingly incongruous to my normal habits that my brain didn't know how to handle it. It sometimes felt like I was having an out of body experience, watching a tray of Champagne flutes float by and saying "non, merci."

Mostly, I said "no" to social engagements--especially parties or gatherings at old watering holes. I just didn't think it would be fun without booze, which got me wondering: Is going to bars and cafes just a big waste of time?

Three weeks in and feeling good!

Unexpectedly, my anxiety actually seemed to decrease without alcohol in the picture. I don't know what that's all about exactly--especially considering I would often drink coffee in those moments when I'd normally order un verre de vin rouge--but I welcomed it. And I didn't have problems sleeping like I thought I might. In fact, I slept really, really well, nearly every night.

On a purely superficial level, the best part about my month-long booze fast is that my skin really looks a lot better. More hydrated. Less acne. Less redness. Just better. And while I can't say for sure, I think I've lost weight. I'm really happy about that.

Another surprise is that I didn't really feel any different, physically. Not really any increased energy or anything like that. I don't know what I was expecting, but it seemed a little strange that besides clearer skin and possible weight loss, there were no real physical effects. I asked Jeff if I seemed any different, personality wise, as a drinker vs. non-drinker, and he said no. OK. Interesting!

Today is Chinese New Year. I'm having friends over for dinner and I may or may not have a drink. I love the thought of moderation, of not being dependent on anyone or any thing, and also of letting go of things that don't serve me well. I hope that it's not a slippery slope, and that an evening of social drinking won't "undo" the nice changes that have transpired in the last month. It's the year of the horse, and in the spirit of holiday, I'm charging forward at a good gallop, bringing good habits with me into the new year.

8 comments:

  1. You certainly did DIG deep Aurelia , and you "smoked" I would never of thought it . If you have only put on 5 pounds since moving to Paris you are very lucky. I like it ! "Charging forward at a good gallop" :-)

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    1. Thank you, Anne! I'm feeling really good about 2014. I hope you're feeling good about the new year, too--Chinese or otherwise! xoxo

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  2. Good on you! I've been trying to get up the strength to do a month without alcohol for a while now, this is just the push I need :)

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    1. You can do it! Seriously, if I can, anyone can. One thing that I forgot to mention is that It helps to have a replacement beverage for evenings at home or social occasions when you might normally indulge. At home, my elixir of choice is hot tea (Earl Grey, je t'aime!), and out, I find coffee to be a good replacement, because it's a social beverage with a built-in chattiness factor. Bon courage to you!

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  3. You might like to read this http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10607040/Getting-thin-why-is-it-the-ultimate-female-ambition.html

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    1. Oh, guilty as charged. Being thin is definitely an important component of my mental/physical well-being, but not completely out of vanity's sake. I feel healthier with less body fat--more mobile, flexible, and lively. I think other women look lovely with curves or more weight on their frames, so it's not just aesthetics! Just a personal preference for my own body.

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  4. Drinking less alcohol is always a good idea, and living in Paris can mean drinking more often than in the US. We dropped our usual "no alcohol during the week rule" while in Paris, but we actually lost some weight because we were walking more. Can I make a suggestion? Do some strength training - Google bodyweight exercises. Push-ups are great, and one-legged squats are difficult for me, and I squat 120% of my weight at the gym! Google an image of 1 lb of fat and 1 lb of muscle to see why it's a good idea to build muscle if you want to lose a few lbs, plus there are numerous health benefits to strength training, too

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  5. Yeah, you should keep your dietary regiment. Then look for something that fits your situation so it doesn't have adverse effects. It's amazing how quick the findings develop and mature into something else unlikely and previously not contemplated. Seize the knowledge of these information so that you can plan an even better day.

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