Name Daryle Knight, 31
Job Finance Manager
Goal Lose weight and look younger by giving up alcohol
Claim According to a recent University College London study, people who gave up alcohol for four weeks lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, while also shedding kilos and improving their concentration and sleeping.
Renouncing all booze at New Year is as unoriginal a resolution as it is typically unsuccessful. Even so, I’m still tempted to join the throng of teetotallers. At first glance, my body appears untouched by my fondness for a drink – but the cracks are starting to show. In fact, they’re beginning to hurt.
I kick off by looking at my vital stats. At 180 centimetres, my 83 kilograms edges me into the extreme upper limits of the “healthy” category, according to the Heart Foundation’s online calculator. My cheeks are a little flushed and I have permanent dark circles under my eyes. And, despite my three-day-a-week gym habit, I still have love handles. I’m spending $100 a month to maintain my 33-inch (84cm) waist, while making zero progress.
Finally (and somewhat reluctantly) I jot down my drinking habits. I realise I’m out between three and five times a week, and drinking up to a bottle of wine a night. That’s almost 37 units a week.
It’s motivation enough to put down my glass for 28 days. I pledge to replace alcoholic drinks with juice or water, to keep my body hydrated and replenish the stores depleted by former nights out. I decide to post about the challenge, too, after reading that the sense of accountability that comes from doing so keeps people honest. There’s even a website, stickk.com, that lets users create and share a “Commitment Contract”.
The first four days are pretty easy; my strategy is simply to decline any social invites. It’s easier to stay in and drink water than face temptation in the pub. But my first trial soon appears in the shape of a colleague’s birthday. The phrase “Go on, just have one, don’t be boring” is repeated ad nauseam and some time around midnight I briefly consider caving. Instead I leave early.
My next big do isn’t scheduled until a day after the challenge is over, mercifully, but I make a point to pencil in a few extra non-alcohol-related social events so that I don’t start to feel like a pious monk, locked out of sight.
On the upside, my body has already started to transform. I spend more time in the gym after noting that it’s the only location where people are guzzling water out of choice. Over the next three weeks my strength shoots up. Before, I’d lift 45kg on the shoulder press, now I can do 60kg. A clearer head has me more focused on pushing my limits. I increase my biceps curls from 14kg to 18kg each arm, while my weighted crunches promptly double. I find it’s easier to squeeze out all my reps, whereas I previously had a somewhat flabby tendency to quit before the set was done. Little wonder new definition is starting to emerge.
I also have extra energy, which nutritionist Dr Susan Lanham-New explains is due to a more balanced diet and better sleep quality. It turns out that the reason my hangovers felt like jetlag is because alcohol affects normal sleep patterns. With the extra get-up-and-go, my three weekly workouts extend to five or six. I’m also finding time to cook at home; grilled chicken served with piles of steamed greens has replaced my takeaway steak baguettes.
Day 26, and the finish line is finally in sight. Having a cut-off date provides a helpful shot in the arm for my flagging motivation. On the final day I look in the mirror and gratefully notice how prominent my abs are. My waist is a whole size smaller – I guess the cash I saved can go on new jeans. My BMI is firmly back in the healthy range, and my sleep, diet and physical activity have all improved considerably.
The results are impressive, but what have I learned? For the most part, I’m happy my dry month is over. It felt too restrictive to be sustainable – going beyond 28 days would require serious willpower. There’s a reason the pubs are full come February. Moderation is my new resolution. I’ll be opting for two weeks on, two weeks off, while trying to plan more social events where alcohol won’t be involved. I want to give my body a break, but without contractual abstinence. It’s the rebound binge that will sink you.
Your Drinking Gains
BEFORE AND AFTER
Quitting booze could help you drop 1.5kg a week
LEAVE SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE GYM
Burn off the kilojoules from Daryle’s typical night out
Vodka Red Bull: 470kJ
Sweat it out: 12 minutes on the rowing machine
Sweat it out: eight minutes on the badminton court
Rum and coke: 540kJ
Sweat it out: 15 minutes of freestlye in the pool
Steak baguette: 4450kJ
Sweat it out: 65 minutes of squash
FACE UP TO THE FACTS
Refresh your complexion with dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting
SWELLING AND PUFFINESS
The downer: excessive alcohol makes your mug appear bloated.
The fix: a high-intensity interval session on the treadmill – cardio helps redistribute built-up fluid in the tissue, flushing it out of your face.
The downer: sugar in booze is inflammatory.
The fix: Look for creams containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.
DARK CIRCLES UNDER EYES
The downer: drinking lowers sleep quality.
The fix: steep and cool two teabags and place on your eyes. Caffeine and low temperatures constrict blood vessels, ridding you of that glazed, up-all-night stare.
YOUR DRY-MONTH MENU
Add these to your diet to enhance your abstinence
Maximise the benefits of deeper sleep by trading your espresso for L-tyrosine: an amino acid that makes you alert.
up your fats
Cook in coconut oil or organic butter. These fats boost energy and brain function for an ultra-productive booze-free month.
Alcohol depletes potassium and B vitamins. Restock with a smoothie made of pineapple, banana, yoghurt and wheat germ.