Why Dry January Didn’t Work: Wine & Moderation

Didn’t Make it Through Dry January?

December’s cookies and cocktails lead to a bloated and exhausted January. The concept of “Dry January” is a pledge to stay sober for one month to start the year off on a healthier note. People report weight loss, clearer thinking, more energy—it all sounds rosy on January 1st when you’re recovering from one too many glasses of wine. But with a wiser perspective from January 29th, most people decide that Dry January doesn’t work quite the way they planned.

Most people give up on Dry January. Don’t feel bad if you did!

The Psychology of Dieting

Moderation and a healthy lifestyle are positive practices, but it’s human nature to obsess about something once you deliberately decide not to think about it. Try it now. Don’t think about a Pink Dinosaur. Absolutely, under no circumstances should you think about that Pink Dino!!!

…So, what were you thinking about? Probably a pink T-Rex! So while you’re trying to avoid alcohol, it occupies a bigger space in your mind, making it irresistible. Most people make it a week or two before giving up on Dry January with a fat glass of red wine after a rough run-in with their boss.

The Bings & Shame Cycle

Dry January doesn’t work for most people because the health benefits of a few weeks of sobriety don’t outweigh the pleasure of drinking. And let’s be real, one month of not drinking doesn’t make up for partying the other 11 months of the year. In the end, most feel guilty and ashamed for giving up (even though most people don’t make it until February 1st). Even worse, most people break their booze-fast by binge drinking, in the same way a foodie on a restricted diet indulges in emotional eating after their willpower runs short.

Willpower Fatigue

Psychologists compare willpower to a muscle that gets fatigued from overuse. Willpower exhaustion is the same culprit that makes people committed to their diet in exercise in the morning and a couch potato at night. If you need to give up alcohol for health reasons, you can counterbalance the psychology of desire for a glass of Cabernet with the desire to live a healthy life. If you’re already feeling fit and don’t plan to give up alcohol for an extended period, the battle will be significantly more challenging.

Moderation for Long-Term Results

Rather than practicing yo-yo sobriety, inch towards moderation. There are numerous health benefits related to a glass of red wine every day, including lowered blood pressure and regulated blood pressure. Plan to consume only a 5-oz glass of wine, or decide in advance which days of the week you’ll skip the cocktail. It’s much easier to commit to sobriety when it’s only for a night or two.

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