Yes, this really is a thing. If you’re not from the UK you may be unfamiliar with the concept and unfortunately, no, it doesn’t refer to the weather. The idea is to not drink any alcohol at all for the whole of the month of January.
It appears to have been started by Alcohol Concern who registered the term as a trademark in 2014 and teamed up with Public Health England in 2015. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_January It takes advantage of the general feeling of over-indulgence, not to mention hangovers, most people experience on New Year’s Day along with the traditional making of resolutions that often include cutting back, losing weight, getting fit or eating healthily. Alcohol Concern have a calculator on their website that claims to measure the impact of your weekly alcohol consumption on your weight (calories) and on your wallet (cost) while raising your awareness of how much you drink in a week. There’s an app you can download and, oh yes, raise money for them. http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/dry-january Other charities have also jumped on the bandwagon along with lots of other app makers.
Am I starting to sound a bit cynical? While that’s probably my default setting but I do remain to be convinced. Aimed at social rather than dependent drinkers, I’m definitely in their target range and who wouldn’t be tempted by the claimed benefits of losing weight, saving money, sleeping better and having more energy?
With alcohol containing almost the same amount of calories as pure fat, abstaining for a month should reduce weight. I’m told fat accumulates in the liver as a result of drinking and that two weeks abstinence can return your liver to good health, reducing the risk of alcohol-related liver disease. As for improving sleep, well, that’s something I could really do with. Sure, I want all of that. But I like wine. I don’t particularly want to be drunk although the evening tends to be more fun if everyone is a bit “merry”. And there’s the rub.
Alcohol, wine in particular, is a fundamental part of my social life. “Drinking White Wine in the Sun” is not just a Christmas song, it’s a lifestyle choice. When we meet up with friends eating and drinking is involved. What do you drink with a meal if not wine? The only suggestions seem to be smoothies, sickly, sweet mocktails, fizzy drinks or water and, for me, plain water is the only one that is bearable with food. Wine positively enhances the flavour of food while anything sweet is just a non starter. And sugar is the new smoking, right? Aren’t we supposed to be ditching that, too? Maybe if you’re a beer drinker the availability of alcohol-free makes this a choice and it has improved in flavour over the years but alcohol-free wine doesn’t really exist and certainly not in Spain.
So I decided to do a bit of research, just a casual bit of googling. What I found was that last year there were lots of articles popping up that were having the debate about whether abstaining from alcohol for a month was a good thing or not. This year I couldn’t find a single item in the popular media that wasn’t overwhelmingly positive. So case proven? Well, that just makes me suspicious.
I read an article recently http://health.spectator.co.uk/the-great-alcohol-cover-up-how-public-health-bodies-hid-the-truth-about-drinking/ and it made alarm bells ring. Last year the Chief Medical Officer for the UK reduced the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption. Upon announcing this, she also asserted that there is no safe level of drinking and that the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption were ‘an old wives tale’. The article goes on to say
“… in order to trust this latest piece of health advice from our Chief Medical Officer, we must believe not only that every previous Chief Medical Officer got it wrong but that every other country in the world has got it wrong. That requires a degree of patriotism that I am unable to summon up, particularly since the current advice bears no relationship whatsoever to the scientific evidence”
“What is a safe level of drinking? Sally Davies says there isn’t one. In so doing she is encouraging the public to believe that the only safe level is zero. But that is not what the epidemiology shows at all. It would appear that you can drink significantly more than 14 units a week — or two units a day — and have a lower mortality risk than a teetotaller. Why would she misrepresent the evidence?”
Interesting, eh? I really do recommend reading the whole article.
You may well say that I’m looking for reasons not to give up alcohol for a month and you are probably right. Friends have done it, felt the benefits and will be doing it again this year. Nevertheless, I won’t be joining in. Reducing my intake is certainly a good idea but I would have done that naturally after Christmas and all that goes with it. We already have at least two completely dry days a week (5:2 diet) and usually more.
All I know for sure is that we’re in Spain where Dry January is never going to catch on. For a few short months we have some of the best food and wine in the world on our doorstep and I don’t want to miss a month of enjoying all that it has to offer. Maybe I’ll go for a “Damp January” – one day at a time.