There is plenty of science to suggest alcohol is a gateway drug to other drugs. A few pints pave the way to a few lines, a few smokes or worse.
But let’s turn this idea on its head. At OneYearNoBeer we have discovered that ‘giving up’ alcohol is also the gateway to a healthy existence. Here’s why:
1. QUITTING ALCOHOL CLEANS UP YOUR DIET
Everyone knows there are lots of extra calories in alcohol. We don’t need to tell you that one pint of strong beer is equivalent to a hot dog and fries – imagine eating 10 of those on a night out?
But what about all the hidden costs of alcohol that get missed in the fog of hangovers?
After a boozy night, what happens? We scoff junk food on the way home. Furthermore, when we wake full of hangover we crave more rubbish food, so pizza and burgers reign supreme. This monster calorie fest is enough to destroy the best of healthy eating plans along with your waistline.
THE GAME CHANGER FOR YOUR WAISTLINE, VITALITY AND LIFE
Once the booze is removed, you instantly drop those obvious calories from alcohol. But the real game changer is that you no longer crave the late night kebab and pizza the day after. This is where the big gains are made. By taking alcohol out of the equation, you negate all those hidden extras from kebabs, pizzas, fizzy drinks and general junk.
Another bonus of this alcohol free lifestyle is that you will start to notice how certain foods affect your mood and body. No longer can you blame the afternoon slump on last night’s drinking session. It has to be connected to the food you’re eating. For example, high sugar foods cause your blood sugar to soar and when they come crashing down so does your energy. This is not rocket science – you are what you eat. As the fog of hangovers lift, there is a real opportunity to build on this vitality through dietary choices. Once again, quitting alcohol provides the space to review everything about your life.
This newfound awareness brings into focus your eating habits. From awareness comes action. Perhaps replace the pasta with sweet potatoes, the morning cereal with a smoothie. Experiment with your life, your world and your way of being. Try new foods, see how you feel, look at different lifestyle choices.
THERE IS SO MUCH CONFUSION ABOUT WHAT TO EAT
Here’s a suggestion: why not align with a tribe? It matters not so much what you eat, but that you care. Those who care about their diet are already on the right path. Too many people are dragged around by primitive desires, making a whole host of poor choices along the way without even thinking.
So have a look around; there are some amazing tribes out there all willing to take the brain work out of choice. We all want an easy life, as Barry Schwartz suggests in his wonderful book, ‘The Paradox of Choice’. If we are faced with too many choices the easy option is to do nothing. So there is a tendency to stick with bad habits over trying something new.
Could you align with a new tribe to lead your dietary choices in the right direction? Here are some of the best around. They all have a different take on the same subject, but ultimately share a similar goal – to help you thrive through a nutritious diet.
THE BODY COACH
Joe Wicks, aka The Body Coach, is the man of the moment and his relaxed style is working wonders. His mantra: lean in 15 combines short HIIT cardio sessions with quick nutritious food. We are massive fans of Joe and would highly recommend you take a closer look. ‘GUIIIIIILTY!’
THE NO MEAT ATHLETE: HOW A PLANT BASED DIET CAN MAKE YOU FITTER, FASTER AND HAPPIER
Matt Frazier is already a OYNB hero having recently taken the challenge whilst also inviting myself onto his podcast to promote OYNB. Matt’s approach is a plant powered existence. His non-preachy style combined with running challenges is very similar to OYNB. On a personal note, I have adopted this plant based lifestyle purely for health and productivity reasons. If I can do it, anyone can. Only a few years ago I was the world’s no1 salad dodger, who lived for meat!
ROBB WOLF: THE PALEO SOLUTION
For those who could not bear to give up on meat, this could be the perfect lifestyle for you. Wolf combines the latest science from anthropology and genetics to provide a dietary style ‘that works with your genetics’. Check out his websiteand read the book. This is another fascinating, convincing and healthy way to live better.
For general informative suggestions on diet and the science behind what works and what is good for you, have a look at the two Dr’s.
DR RHONDA PATRICK
If you want to go deeper into the science behind nutrition check out Dr Rhonda Patrick. Her website and podcastprovide an amazing resource into the science behind food.
DR MICHAEL GREGER
Dr Greger is the author of the brilliant book ‘How Not to Die’ and his website is the one stop shop for evidence based dietary information. It is amazing, please check him out.
2. MOTIVATION TO EXERCISE
Ask any personal trainer and they will tell you the number one reason people cancel on PT sessions is due to a hangover. Of course the clients don’t say this as it’s too embarrassing, so they use other excuses: I am not feeling well, think I strained a muscle – whatever! They are hungover and can’t be bothered. It’s sad, but true and we have all been there.
The beauty of the alcohol free client is that they are full of life and energy. Their levels of motivation jump along with vitality to train. Suddenly exercise is back on the cards in a big way. For many there is a real opportunity to get a decent streak of exercising under their belt without it being ruined by a stray night on the sauce. Much to the delight of personal trainers all over the land.
For those that like to train in the classic sense this makes a massive difference. Suddenly you can plan and execute those long held exercise routines that are too often destroyed by alcohol. So if you are taking on a challenge or have something BIG to achieve this year, consider dropping alcohol as part of this process. If you are a Sunday morning footballer or aspiring athlete, you owe it to yourself to perform at your peak and quitting alcohol will make a difference.
Another key point here is that exercise is not all about the obvious gym session. With hangovers out of the way, there is a chance to build stealth exercise into your life. Could you add exercise into your commute, for example? Why do we obsess about parking right outside our destination? Why not park 2k from the office and walk? Or jump off the bus two stops early and jog the balance. Use the stairs and stand where possible. Keep moving all day and organise walking meetings – you get the idea. You will be amazed at the extra calories this burns whilst improving your mood and blood work.
THE EXERCISE PLACEBO
In her brilliant book ‘Maximum Willpower’, Kelly McGonigal describes an amazing study which reveals that the way we ‘think’ about exercise can make a massive difference to the way our body reacts. A group of cleaners were informed that their job provided them with lots of previously unnoticed exercise. They were told that the manual labour involved, such as hoovering and cleaning, was very similar to exercise routines that people might perform in the gym. The researchers then tested this group vs. a control group who were not informed of the exercise benefits, and were amazed to discover that a few weeks later when they retested the ‘work is exercise’ group, they had all lost weight and lowered blood pressure vs. the control group. The placebo effect of their minds viewing the job as daily exercise turned their bodies onto reacting in a healthy way. How amazing is that?!
As the healthy snowball rolls, the energy to exercise is now supported by better nutrition, which leads to even greater motivation to train. The gains from exercise and a better diet shrink waistlines, pump up the pecs and generally have you looking great. People start to notice and guess what? You receive more motivation to stick with your training regimen because of these compliments.
3. YOUR MENTAL WELL-BEING SKY ROCKETS
Alcohol is terrible for your mental health. Hangovers produce anxiety and very often their own onslaught of depressive symptoms. Imagine bringing this mental pain on yourself week after week through your own doing. This emotional hammering kills motivation, zaps energy and drains vitality. And the result? You hide away, eat rubbish food and have zero interest in exercise.
Of course quitting alcohol is not a panacea for those that suffer from anxiety, but it does provide a massive boost to those who suffer these debilitating feelings after a drinking session. With a clear head from zero alcohol the world is brighter, whilst your emotional well-being avoids the weekly/daily battering. Having the brightness in your eyes to take on the world sends this upward spiral of wellbeing even higher.
At these lofty peaks there is a higher chance that you will seek more ways to improve your emotional wellbeing. This can often spark the interest to meditate, which has scientifically been proven over and over to offer a whole host of well being benefits from reduced anxiety to better sleep.
If you want to learn more about mediation in a really simple, jargon free cool way then check out the wonderfulheadspace meditation app.
On a side note: At OYNB we are working very closely with the amazing people at www.alustforlife.com to help break the stigma around mental health whist providing an amazing hub for all things wellbeing. Please check these guys out.
Here is an unbelievably powerful video from alustforlife founder, Niall Breslin (aka Bressie), the former rugby international turned rock star, who is currently a judge on the Irish Voice. We urge you all to watch this guy.
By now hopefully it is becoming clear that all of these wellbeing benefits are linked and quitting alcohol kick starts this amazing chain reaction of positive change. As your mental wellbeing jumps so does your vitality, helping you to stick with a healthy diet and exercise plan. And so begins the wonderful upward spiral of wellbeing.
4. SLEEP IS SO UNDERRATED, YET ESSENTIAL TO HEALTH
Sleep is so underrated, yet key to a healthy lifestyle. Let’s not beat around the bush: alcohol destroys sleep. Late nights deprive you of precious hours, but the real damage is caused by poor quality of sleep. Only a small amount of alcohol has been shown to break sleep patterns by not allowing you to reach deep healing sleep. Therefore, your body does not recover sufficiently and you wake feeling tired, lethargic and full of anxiety. Many people make the mistake of using alcohol to send them off to the sandman, but fail to recognise that the quality of this sleep is so poor they are left constantly tired. It’s a false economy.
Those who have used alcohol as a sleeping pill might find things tricky at first, but the members who persevered, reported life changing benefits from this newfound quality of sleep.
Dr Richard Wiseman’s fascinating book: ‘Night School’, provides many scientifically backed examples that help bust those sleeping myths.
Below are just two of many examples:
DRINKING A SMALL AMOUNT OF ALCOHOL BEFORE BED IMPROVES SLEEP: MYTH
Even small amounts of alcohol means spending less time in restorative sleep, you have fewer dreams and are more likely to snore!
SLEEPING IS FOR WIMPS AND PRODUCTIVE PEOPLE SPEND LESS TIME IN BED: MYTH
If you don’t get enough sleep you will:
- Struggle with concentration
- Become accident prone
- Lack willpower
- Become less productive
- Increase your chances of a heart attack
- Raise the chance of you becoming overweight
And if that is not enough, you increase the risk of dying early!
Shawn Stevenson latest book ‘Sleep Smarter’ and website provides 21 strategies to sleep your way a better body, better health and bigger success. I first discovered Shawn via Rich Roll’s brilliant podcast. Not only is Stevenson a really cool guy, but he is fast becoming the sleep guru. His also has a wonderful well-being based podcast that is worth checking out – The Model Health Show.
In summary, sleep provides fuel for all the wellbeing benefits listed above. Motivation to exercise, eat well and your mental wellbeing are all improved with a decent sleep. This is yet another reason why quitting alcohol is the gateway drug to optimal health.
Original Article : IS ALCOHOL A GATEWAY DRUG TO HEALTH?